Crossed Hands of Blessing
I hope and pray that you have been blessed to study Joseph’s story in the book of Genesis these past few weeks in your personal time, in your community group, and corporately on Sundays. Last Sunday, we saw how Jacob, at the end of his life, blessed his children along with Joseph’s sons, Manasseh and Ephraim (listen to the sermon here). Even though the greater blessing was typically reserved for the eldest son, Jacob crossed his hands, putting his right hand (and thus the greater blessing) on Ephraim the younger child, an act that Joseph protested.
Like Joseph, it is easy for us to approach God and ask him to bless what we bring him, only to be frustrated when his blessings aren’t what we expect. Commenting on this passage, Marcus Dods wrote:
“Again and again, for years together, we put forward some cherished desire to God’s right hand, and are displeased, like Joseph, that still the hand of greater blessing should pass to some other thing. Does God not know what is oldest with us, what has been longest at our hearts, and is dearest to us? Certainly he does: ‘I know it, My son, I know it,’ He answers to all our expostulations. It is not because He does not understand or regard your predilections, your natural and excusable preferences that He sometimes refuses to gratify your whole desire, and pours upon you blessings of a kind somewhat different from those you most earnestly covet. He will give you the whole that Christ hath merited; but for the application and distribution of that grace and blessing you must be content to trust Him.”
The story of Joseph as a whole reminds us that life is often full of troubles that we can’t explain. Yet it also reminds us that we never walk alone. The Shepherd of our souls will never abandon us, and he lovingly does all things for our good, a truth that John Newton beautifully captured in the hymn, “I Asked the Lord That I Might Grow”:
I asked the Lord, that I might grow
In faith, and love, and every grace;
Might more of his salvation know,
And seek more earnestly his face.
I hoped that in some favoured hour
At once He’d answer my request,
And by His love’s constraining power
Subdue my sins, and give me rest.
Instead of this, He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart;
And let the angry powers of hell
Assault my soul in every part.
Yea more, with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe;
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Blasted by gourds, and laid me low.
"Lord, why is this?" I trembling cried,
"Wilt thou pursue Thy worm to death?"
"'Tis in this way," the Lord replied,
"I answer prayers for grace and faith."
"These inward trials I employ
From self and pride to set thee free;
And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
That thou may’st seek thy all in me."