Serving God

is supposed to be hard.

Genesis 49:1-7 (ESV)

Then Jacob called his sons and said, “Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you what shall happen to you in days to come.

“Assemble and listen, O sons of Jacob, listen to Israel your father.

“Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might, and the firstfruits of my strength, preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power. Unstable as water, you shall not have preeminence, because you went up to your father's bed; then you defiled it—he went up to my couch!

“Simeon and Levi are brothers; weapons of violence are their swords. Let my soul come not into their council; O my glory, be not joined to their company. For in their anger they killed men, and in their willfulness they hamstrung oxen. Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce, and their wrath, for it is cruel! I will divide them in Jacob and scatter them in Israel.”

Jacob doesn’t call this a blessing, though it’s reminiscent of blessings Abraham and Isaac gave.

But this time it’s not so simple. Abraham and Isaac weren’t faced with dividing the covenantal promise among many sons. One son was the heir of the covenant and one son wasn’t. Now Israel has to dole it out.

It’d be a stretch to call this a blessing, since these three sons get chewed out. So Jacob describes this literally. It’s what shall happen to you in days to come.

Reuben is lucky to not get completely disinherited, given what he did with Bilhah. He loses the preeminence due to the firstborn, but he’s still in the family.

Simeon and Levi are punished for massacring the men of Shechem. Jacob isn’t buying the excuse they gave him in Gen 34:31. It shouldn’t satisfy us either; Simeon and Levi’s double dealing with men who were mostly innocent bystanders was reprehensible.

It’s good to see Jacob follow through on this.


How awesome it is to think that God’s punishment of Levi is to make his descendants priests. We just saw how Pharaoh’s undeserving priests got favored in the distribution of food. This is the typical way of the world, but God does the exact opposite with His priests.

This fits with how following Christ is difficult by design. The priesthood of all believers means the suffering of all believers. At least that’s the way it should be.

Americans almost never suffer for their faith. But there ought to be something more to this than just singing and studying and having fun.

Sure, we do a lot of charity, but is that it?


The weekly study guides, which include discussion questions, are available for download here:

https://www.ailbe.org/resources/itemlist/category/91-deep-studies

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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