Formations 08.29.2021: A Life of Blessing

Genesis 49:1-2, 22-33

I’m thinking about my dad this week…because of something he did for my daughter. My daughter needed her own car so she could drive to observe a teacher in the classroom for her education courses. Dad’s very generous contribution to the cause was only the most recent time when he has blessed our whole family.

Dad is one of those parents who always took seriously his obligation to raise his child—and his grandchild—right. He doesn’t say much, but his actions speak loud and clear. A retired basketball coach, he taught me in my youth how to win with grace and how to lose with dignity, the importance of owing up to my mistakes and of sharing the praise when things went well.

Sometimes with words and sometimes through deeds, he has made it clear that he loved me, was proud of me, and wanted only the best for me. I was always welcomed at home, even long after I flew the nest. I’m blessed for us all to be once again under one roof in these difficult times.

In his prime, Dad wasn’t only a coach and a high school teacher. He was also a deacon, a Sunday school teacher, a church youth group volunteer, and of course a devoted husband and father. He’s pared back a lot of that in recent years. At eighty-five, I figure he’s earned his retirement! But he still blesses us every day. He blesses us with his savings when his granddaughter needed a car. He blesses us with his presence and his continuing example of steadfast faith. He teaches us patience and compassion because he isn’t as quick on his feet as he used to be.

When you’ve spent your whole life being a blessing, you don’t just shut it off.

At the age of 130 (Gen 47:9), Jacob had earned the right to live out his remaining days in peace, too. Our passage today tells of an episode that takes place near the end of Jacob’s life. He gathers his children and pronounces blessings on them all. Though some of these “blessings” reveal moral failings, Joseph’s blessing is thoroughly positive. God has blessed Joseph with abundance and vitality. Jacob reminds Joseph of the value of a father’s blessing: it is “stronger than the blessings of the eternal mountains” (v. 26). The aged patriarch then gives instructions for his burial before finally breathing his last.

Our culture doesn’t comfortably talk about the journey toward the end of life. The prospect that we ourselves will someday die can produce anxiety. Yet these difficult conversations can also be part of a growing faith.

Jacob prepared for his death both by blessing his children and by making known his last wishes. We, too, can bless others through word and deed. And we don’t have to wait until our time on this earth is drawing to a close.

How can we bless the generations that are coming behind us? How can we gratefully accept these blessings and be good stewards of what we have received?

Discussion

• Jacob’s life was not always focused on blessing others. How do you think he got to this point?
• Is it ever too late to start blessing others? Explain.
• What blessings have you received from your parents? What blessings to you hope to pass on to your children?
• How can you bless those for whom a parental blessing never came?

Darrell Pursiful is the editor of Formations. He is an adjunct professor at Mercer University and an active member of the First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia.

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