Tag Archives: family

The Older Brother

This is based on the parable of the Prodigal Son, found in Luke 15:11-32

While I think the story of the prodigal son is very important, what I find quite confronting, and uncomfortable, is the way that the older son reacted. And the reason for this is because as much as I see myself in the prodigal son’s journey of redemption, I also recognise vices of myself in the older son’s attitude.

Luke 15:30

“But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed him the fatted calf.”

This verse exposes the older brother as knowing all along what his younger brother was up to in the world. He knew exactly the trouble his younger brother was adhereing himself to, and he did nothing. He didn’t try and reach out to him, he didn’t check on him to see if he was ok, he just continued working in the field.

As Christians in the church, we often hear of our brothers and sisters who have since left, get into trouble, and yet we do nothing. We think to ourselves “well, they deserve it because of their actions.”

But God says that it’s not up to us to decide what they deserve, that’s up to Him. All that we are required to do is treat them the same way that God treats us, with love, compassion, forgiveness, and mercy. As Christians, this is our duty.

The older son takes great offence because he feels he has been wronged, as his sinful younger brother is receiving a royal welcome.

And what he perceives as special treatment, the father merely sees it as an act of unconditional love.

The prodigal son had sought happiness in the forgetfulness of his father, and he found it not, he realised this, and humbly, he came back. He rediscovered that happiness and love abounded with his father and in his courts.

The older son who had the privilege to abide his whole life in the presence of his father, saw his life as a burden. He took his blessing for granted and it no longer pleased him to be with his father – when it was all that the prodigal son wanted.

Luke 15:29

And he answering said to his father  “Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends.”

The prodigal son saw his father’s richness in love to be granted only through forgiveness and mercy, whilst his older brother saw his father’s richness to be earned through works.

He was not working for his father out of love, but from hope of reward. But the father’s riches is not a wage, it is a gift.

Sometimes we can be so caught up in the destination goal, that we fail to realise the importance of the journey. For us, Heaven is the ultimate goal. It’s where we’ll see Jesus face to face, and commune with our Heavenly Father, and live in the abundance of His riches, and where the streets will be gold. But is it possible to be so focussed on the goal, that we fail to realise the importance of our life on earth? That God made us for a reason, and that He is with us here too. But if we get busy doing works that will get us into Heaven, we will miss out on the blessing of knowing Jesus now, in our lives everyday. We can enjoy His companionship today

E. G. White, COL 211.2

Though you will not join in the greeting to the lost, the joy will go on, the restored one will have his place by the Father’s side and in the Father’s work. He that is forgiven much, the same loves much. But you will be in the darkness without. For “he that loveth not, knoweth not God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:8). 

 

 

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Jacob’s faith

Hebrews 11:21
By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff.

 Genesis 48:13-20
Before he blessed Ephraim and Manasseh, he adopted them Genesis 48:1-6. God wants to adopt us into His family and bless us as His children. We are not to be so enamoured with the offers of this world, that we lose sight of the bigger picture, and the bigger family that we are called to be a part of. 

He adopted them so they fully receive their blessing, as they had an Egyptian mother, and were born in Egypt, they may not have been considered viable options. But as adopted sons, they were eligible to receive all that he had to give through the promises of God.

“A patriarch’s final blessing was important in biblical times as a practical matter of inheritance rights. In addition, some final blessings included prophetic statements that reveal God’s supernatural power through the men of His choosing.” {Got questions}
Jacob adopted two rich princes into his lowly shepherd estate. He then blessed them with a dry desert land that he didn’t even own (Acts 7:5), except for a burial cave. There was no inkling of evidence that God would fulfil His promises, (consider Abraham who did not allow a Canaanite wife for his son, which would have provided a family connection to the land), and yet by faith Jacob gave both Ephraim and Manasseh a full and complete portion of blessings. 

How fortunate, for the two boys, that they had a grandfather that saw past the great and highly esteemed Egyptian abundance; but rather he valued Abraham’s spiritual blessing above worldly fame. That is faith, to not fall for all the world has to offer, however present it may be, and to fully believe that God will provide a way, though you cannot see it. 

Psalm 27:14 

Wait on the Lord : be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord .

Being on the cusp of death is hardly a reason to be joyful. It is notably a time of sadness and of questioning. But Jacob worshipped God. With every last beat of his weak pulsing heart, and his physically failing body, his need and desire to worship his Creator, and Merciful Forgiver, grew immeasurably. 
How often do we let our circumstances dictate our relationship with God? He is ever patient with us, waiting on us to commune with Him. In every situation, God wants us to worship and praise Him. This allows us to be free to receive the blessings and provisions He is longing to give us. 
Though we have faith our whole lives, or at least endeavour to, perhaps the most vital of times to express this faith is on our deathbed. It is how we finish, whether we die believing in God’s promises, that speaks volumes to those that catch us in our last moments. And the best way we can show this, is by singing the praises of the One who brought us through, and by blessing the generations that succeed. It takes great courage to die in faith, but when we honour Him with our patience, our hope, and our joy, God ensures that the promised blessings are sure to be fulfilled.
It was not by his own strength by which he gave his blessing, but rather God’s strength, and Jacob’s faithfulness to Him. 
Exodus 14:15-16 

 And the Lord said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward: But lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea.

By faith Moses obeyed God and used a rod, an inanimate object made of wood, to part the red sea into two. Generations before, Jacob divided Joseph’s inheritance blessing into two, and gave it to Manasseh and Ephraim, whilst leaning on top of his staff. 

It’s not the stick that parts the seas and it’s not the stick that holds us up to give us strength. It’s our faith in God that He will make a way. Just like the serpent on the rod that cured the Israelites from their snake bites. The wood did not save them, it was their faith. It’s God asking us to be obedient, even when it seems crazy and beyond understanding. God is saying “Trust Me!”
Hebrews 11:1 tells us that faith and hope are interlinked. You cannot have one without the other. 
Even though Jacob was sick and harbouring a physically failing body, he still leant all that he had onto his staff and worshipped God. And even though Moses was drowning in the inches of the Red Sea water of which he dared to dip his feet into, and although the prospect of a multitude of deaths was but a gentle wave away, he still trusted God. 

The same faith that portioned a double blessing to two Egyptian royalties, is the same faith that lead Moses on that great exodus expedition, that did eventually see the results of God’s promise to Jacob in the land of Canaan (Genesis 28:13).

Jacob’s eye sight was nearing blindness, thus Joseph was troubled when he realised the swapped positioning of his father’s hands. But Jacob let God lead, and knew what he was doing (Genesis 48:19).

The positioning wasn’t convenient, it was purposeful. Sometimes we like to make provisions for God to bless us, in the way that we see fit. But God knows better, and we must allow Him to bless us, in His way.

 
According to Jewish Sages, growing up, Ephraim was solely focused on doing God’s will. While Manasseh did go according to God’s will, he also concerned himself with the matters of the world. He balanced both, while Ephraim was solely God’s. Much like Jacob and Esau. Jacob was more interested in being a spiritual leader, and Esau was clearly not (as he sold his birthright). Jacob wanted that position as patriarchal leader and a strong pillar for God, and attained it through means of deceit. By blessing Ephraim, he showed God that he had come full circle and that he allowed the younger brother to become the spiritual leader through an honest practice. Jacob had bought his birthright, and Joseph earned it. 
Jacob had faith that the blessings would fall upon Ephraim and Manasseh, and not to Reuben. This was against tradition, but it wasn’t against God’s will. 

Jacob vs Israel
 

{why was the name Jacob used in Hebrews 11:21, and not Israel?}
Jacob represents his timid and passive self. As we can see when Jacob wanted to keep Benjamin back with him in their home, rather than save the family from starvation. But it was Israel that eventually let him go to Egypt (Genesis 42:36-43:13). 

It was Israel that allowed for the destruction of Shechem; and it was Israel that sent Joseph to find his brothers, though he knew that they hated him. Jacob would have kept him home, and hoped from afar that his sons would be ok. But Israel was determined and put it into action. 

So it was Israel that sent Joseph away, but it was Jacob that called him back. In his timidness and frailty, Jacob knew the time had come to pass on his blessings.   

In the first 17 years of Joseph’s life, his father raised him to be a God fearing man and equipped him with strong values that saw him succeed in Pharaoh’s command, which saved the people from the famine. In the last 17 years of Jacob’s life, Joseph cared for him and provided for his needs. Their last 17 years together was a testament of their faith in God that had brought them back together, it was this faith that paved the way for Joseph and his two sons to be blessed. 

He died a poor man in a foreign land, but he died in the faith of God’s promises {Dying faith}.