Links Daily Devotional

The Better End

…and Israel worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff. (Genesis 47:31, NIV)

Some people really know how to tell a story. And some of those people are golfers.

A rich story, as we often call it, rises off the page or swirls above the speaker with detail, action, and expression. It may be tinged with notes of humor, even if it’s not all funny. It may hold us in the suspense of perfect timing, even if it’s not a mystery. And it may cause us to stop and think about the way our own life is lived and whether we’re willing to see God’s hand in every circumstance.

If we finish well, we will still be worshiping, still be bowing before the Lord.The story of Joseph, told in Genesis, is unlike any other biblical account in this way. It is truly fleshed out, with character development, the foreshadowing of prophecy, layers of conflict, and an uncertain but satisfying resolution. Remarkably, none of this is the device of the author in the inventive way one would write fiction. It is true and linear.

Where it leads near its very end is where I’d live to dive in and take a peek today.

Joseph’s father, the patriarch Jacob (or Israel, as God renamed him and he is alternately called), had been brought to Egypt by his other sons, where he was warmly welcomed by the once-“dead” Joseph, as well as by Joseph’s boss and benefactor, Pharaoh himself.

After days or weeks of such welcome, with the hospitality of his adopted home still fresh and full around him, Jacob’s mind wandered to the end of his life and he made a significant request of Joseph. “When I come to the end of my days,” Jacob said, “I do not want to be buried here but rather to be taken home to Canaan and buried with my fathers.” Then he asked Joseph to swear to do this. Joseph did.

And then we read the words of today’s verse. Jacob, after all his years on earth, after a life lived with both the lightness of blessing and the gravity of sin and its consequences, still had worship in him. I love the wording of the New International Version; with a praying man leaning on his staff, it suggests finishing well, the very thing Paul endeavored to do, the very thing John heard the churches of the Revelation called to do, the very thing we must do.

We should not miss, however, that translators aren’t altogether certain of how to unpack the Hebrew original of Genesis 47:31. The footnote in the NIV provides the alternate employed by the English Standard Version, for instance: “Jacob bowed himself at the head of his bed.” It is the quintessential picture of prayer—an old man doing as a child would do, kneeling at his bedside to talk with God.

All of us will one day come to the end of our story, the end of our life. If we finish well, we will still be worshiping, still be bowing before the Lord, still be seeking his present help and steadfast love. What a full life that would be!

Jeff Hopper
January 16, 2017
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