Then Jacob said ...
... "Bring them here so that I may bless them."
Joseph brought his sons to their grandfather, and Jacob wrapped his arms around them and hugged them as hard as he could. His eyes filled with tears.
"Joseph, many, many years ago your brothers told me that you had been killed by a wild animal. I thought that I would never see you again –
– and now here you are!
"God has truly blessed me!
"And now God has blessed me even more – God has let me see your children!"
Joseph bowed to the ground before his father. And then he had his two sons kneel at the foot of Jacob's bed so Jacob could bless them.
Now, in the time of Jacob, a father's blessing was a special and important thing.
When a father blessed his children, he was saying, "God is with us!"
He was saying, "We are a family that lives under God's care and protection."
He knew that all the good things they had were blessings from God. And so he tried his best to keep his family following God's way. He knew that if you try to go your own way, and walk away from God, you walk away from God's blessings too.
And the wonderful thing is that God wants to bless us! It's just who God is!
All of life is a blessing from God!
There! That breath you just took - you did take a breath, didn't you?! - that breath was a blessing from God!
All you have to do is look around at all the good things God has made for us to see that all of that is true!
Well, just think of it. God could have given us crackers and water to eat, and called it good. But no! God gives us bananas and grapes and figs and pineapples, carrots and broccoli and spinach – chocolate! And ice cream and cookies and a million other good things to eat!
God could have made a flower or two, maybe a dandelion and a skunk cabbage, and called it good. But no! God made roses and daffodils and shooting stars and columbine and a thousand different kinds of flowers – and he scatters them everywhere! God could have put a few stars in the sky and called it good. That would be nice. But no! God put BILLIONS and BILLIONS of stars in the sky for us!
That's how much God wants to bless us!
So some time just go outside and look at all that God has made for us.... the trees and flowers, the big puffy clouds in the sky... and the sun that comes up every morning to warm us and give us light! When you see all those good things God has given us, be happy! That's why God has made them for you! God's blessings are God's love!
And you know what?
YOU are a blessing from God! You are a blessing even more amazing than all the stars in the sky! It's true! The stars are all cool and all, but can they show God's love the way you can?
Can they make someone smile like you can?
Can they do a nice thing for someone who needs help like you can?
God is so good!
Where were we? Oh yeah...
So when a father gave his children his blessing he was putting them under God's care, like putting them under a blanket of God's protection. He knew that if they live the way God wants them to live – if they walk in his ways – God will bring them goodness and joy, and a rich and happy life. Not that they will never have any troubles. Troubles are a part of life too. But when hard times come, God will be with them and see them through.
One day one of the writers of the Psalms will say,
"Even when I walk through dark and scary places, I will not be afraid because I know that God is with me!"
Well, just look at the troubles God brought Jacob and Joseph through!
(That was Psalm 23 – but it won't be written for quite few years yet! Well, quite a few years after the time of Jacob and his family, that is!)
Now in those days, when a father died everything he owned was divided among his children. But the oldest son received twice as much as the others. That was called the Birthright. When a father died the oldest son became the head of the family. It was his job to keep the family living under God's care and protection.
So Joseph put Manasseh at Jacob's right hand, to receive the blessing of the oldest son, and Ephraim at his left hand.
But Jacob crossed his hands – and put his right hand on Ephraim, even though he was the younger son, and his left hand on Manasseh!
And then Jacob blessed them and said,
"May God bless these boys, just as God blessed my father Isaac, and his father Abraham!
May God, who has brought me here to this very day, bless them!
May the angel who watched over me in times of trouble, bless them!
May my name be remembered in them just like we remember my father Isaac, and we remember his father Abraham.
May they have many children! And may their children have many children, and may their children have many children. May they become a great nation!"
But Joseph was upset when he saw that Jacob had put his right hand on Ephraim, the younger son.
"No! Not that way, father!" Joseph said, "You put your right hand on Ephraim! But Manasseh is the oldest! Put your right hand on him!"
But Jacob said, "I know, my son, I know! A great nation will come from Manasseh, but a greater one will come from Ephraim!" If you remember, Jacob received his father Isaac's blessing instead of Esau, even though Esau was the oldest too!
Well, just watch and you will see that God seems to like to do the surprising thing! He puts the little brother above the big brother. He picks the smallest and weakest to become the strongest. The ones who are last, God puts first!
And one day a tiny baby will be born in a stable in a little, nowhere town - and he will save the world!
So Jacob blessed Ephraim and Manasseh. He said, "One day our people will say, 'May The Lord bless you like Ephraim and Manasseh.'"
And then he said to Joseph, "I am ready to die, but God is with you. God will take you back to the land of my father Isaac and his father Abraham."
And so Jacob blessed Joseph and his sons that day.
...all good things – like ice cream sundaes, and sunny days, and even your brothers and sisters – are blessings from God!
Ice cream sundaes, and sunny days, and long life are wonderful things, but the best thing is that they are gifts from God. That's really where the happiness comes from! They let us know that God is with us and that God loves us. Sundaes melt, storms come, and life comes to an end – but God's love never ends.
Live each and every day with God. Live each day in God's blessings. Live each day in God's love!
So here is a blessing for you!