Disappointments are a part of the human condition. We imagine our lives unfolding in an orderly way, making progress towards our goals /stability… then come the disappointments, our visions are halted…. You thought for sure you’d get that job and go down a certain career path, but then a door is close. Nobody ever imagines their children being ill, losing a job, divorce, pain. A phrase so many dozen times over the years it’s become a proverbial saying: “Children are not supposed to die before their parents.” The script is switched. Disappointments are always your story unfolding in an unexpected way that is less than what you imagine.
Joseph is in Egypt. His father, Jacob, is ill. Joseph goes to his father with his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim. Jacob recounts the great promise of God of the promised land; since Jacob is about to die, it is time for him to bless his children… (wouldn’t that be great if we could make a formal blessing part of our culture… for the older generation to envision for the younger generation what God has in mind for them….) There are actually two surprising switches in Gen. 48. Joseph doesn’t seem to mind the first switch because Jacob decided to bless him first, putting him in place of the older brother Reuben… we like it when a better script is switched…
but then there is a second switch. Jacob decided to bless Joseph’s two sons, that’s not a problem because to bless Joseph’s children is a blessing to Joseph…. By blessing Joseph’s two sons this means Joseph receives a double blessing…it’s called math. Now instead of dividing the estate by 12 for the 12 sons, it is divided by 13 ~ two portions for Joseph’s line… in this case the blessing is primarily a future inheritance of land in the promised land …. A double blessing.
All this is fine with Joseph. To Joseph, this is a better story that is being written. Joseph positions his two boys so that the older boy, Manasseh, is by Jacobs right hand, and the younger boy, Ephraim, is by his left hand. What does Jacob do…. He switches his hands. He changes the script. Joseph is not pleased: READ Gen. 48:17-20.
I don’t know if glimmer of the old nature of Jacob is in play when he switches hands, the old Jacob that tricked his father into receiving the birthright from his older brother… One of the important principles of reading the Bible is that just because a Bible hero does something doesn’t mean it’s right…. Maybe in making a switch Jacob is acting according to a divine inspiration and this is entirely a providential God thing. The Bible doesn’t say.
I don’t think it matters if Jacob is being selfish or faithful, because the result is the same, and God is always bringing good out of our sinful ways… when a completely unexpected storyline is dumped into my lap, whether it’s the result of a pre-God-ordained plan or the cause is evilness, the one thing I know is that God is with me. I do not believe destruction, sin, pain is ever part of God’s plan, yet in the mystery of God the Lord Jesus Christ can redeem all of our pain and transform our lives into a beautiful new creation, like the Japanese artform that repairs the cracks in pottery with gold. I can never explain tragedy. I can never explain war. I can’t explain terrorism. I can’t satisfactorily explain any disappointments. But I know God is the midst of it all… It doesn’t matter if Jacob’s motive for switching his hands is part of God’s grand design or if it is the old nature of Jacob up to his old tricks… God still creates a beautiful fresh story….
God’s presence is emphasized to Joseph in the last verses of Gen. 48. Jacob is saying that maybe Joseph doesn’t like Ephraim getting the greater blessing, but the bottom line is God’s presence: READ Gen. 48:21. Disappointments or not, the bottom line is ALWAYS that God will be with you… and he will fulfill his promises. Maybe your plans have unexpectedly changed/switched… When you are disappointed because of unexpected twists in your life, hold on to the promise of God’s presence. He is the author of your story. He is writing your future.
Jacob’s life is a testimony to the promise of God’s presence. When Jacob was young he saw a vision of a stairway to heaven, and God told Jacob in Gen. 28:15, READ. Year’s later, after Jacob has lived away from the promised land, and built a family, he is told to return to the land of his fathers, and God reassures him with these words in Gen. 31:3 READ. The growing believer in the Lord can find assurance in God’s promises for the future and the past. READ Gen. 31:5. Looking back at life’s journey through all the disappointments and victories of life, there was never a time God’s hand was not upon those who trust God. Is it any wonder, now that Jacob is dying, he blesses Joseph with the same promise of assurance. READ Gen. 48:21. The old man of faith is assuring his son that no matter what happens, God’s presence and his promises are sure. I don’t know any other way to overcoming disappointment than to cling to the assurance of God’s presence….
A word for older Christians, you who have influence over young people, children… in this world of uncertainty, the greatest thing you can do for the children/ young people is assure them God is faithful! God will be with them. Mature Christians must give assurance that God is faithful, God is amazing… how do you overcome disappointment…you teach the younger generation and tell them what you have seen….
This week the glass was changed in the S.S. room. I followed the workman to the truck…he obviously wanted to talk… wanted to move… because that is where his daughter committed suicide 2 years ago…. Talk about the script being switched… That cannot be God’s plan but it is a hard world… and it is part of this man’s story… so we prayed, Larry, Dena and I held hands… the reassurance that God is still present, that he is faithful even when facing extreme disappointment… YES, this man is a man of faith…
Jacob switched his hands on his grandsons. I don’t know why. But this switch impacts the unfolding story of God’s people. Ephraim’s tribe grows larger than that of Manasseh (Nub. 1:32-34). From day one of the switch, Ephraim is almost always mentioned prior to Manasseh which is a sign of prominence. In many places of the O.T. Ephraim’s name is used interchangeably with Israel: when the writers are talking about the nation they say Ephraim. When the nation divides into the southern and northern Kingdom the capital of the north is located in Ephraim. Later, when the Israelites are captives in Babylon, I Chron. 9:3 tells us that Ephraim and Manasseh are the only 2 tribes from the Northern Kingdom that go home to Jerusalem.
The switch shaped Ephraim’s life. God brought good out of the switch. How do you overcome disappointment when life takes an unexpected twist? Wait upon the Lord and he will bring you peace and purpose. He is the author of the new story you were not expecting…he will bring good ….
When your world collapses because of an unexpected switch trust God and his promises to keep going. Later in the N.T. it says we do not grieve as those who have no hope… the grief/disappointment is real, but somehow, to see God in the mix brings a measure of stability…
The script being switched is a running theme in the whole of Genesis… the unexpected twists and turns from the Fall, one brother killing another brother, story after story of God bringing redemption out of a unexpected switching story. Jacob made switching into a fine art when he stole Esau’s birthright… later Jacob goes against custom and wants a women for a wife that has an older unmarried sister. Jacob’s plan is to marry the younger sister, but then at the last moment Jacob’s father-in-law switches the older sister for the younger sister… constant switching is a major theme. (Like our lives!) the story we imagine often is not the way the world turns out…” Stability is found only in God. Only God is constant. It is fitting for Jacob to switch his hands on his grandsons, one more reminder that not everything unfolds as we imagine.
I don’t always get why our plans are switched, but there are many times we benefit. The greatest switch in history is for our gain:
Jacob switching his hands on Ephraim and Manasseh foreshadows God making an even greater switch. Jesus Christ served as a substitute on the cross in our place. Centuries before the cross Isaiah saw what was coming. READ Is. 53:4-5.
This switch is made explicit when Jesus, who is hanging on the cross, cries out “My God, my God why have You forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:45-46) // Why have abandoned me? Why have you switched your hands?
Christ is the firstborn. He is God. He is one with the father. Yet, He leaves his place of prominence, lays down His life, comes to earth, and is crushed on the cross. (Phil. 2:6-8). God places His left hand on Christ. But on whom does God place his right hand? Who takes the place of greatest blessing? You and me. That which Christ deserved we have received. That which we deserved Christ has received.
The switch is for our benefit. Gal 4:7 – 7 “So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.” What was His is now ours. His home becomes my home. His position in the family becomes mine. His relationship with the Father is now my relationship. I can now boldly approach the throne. It’s humbling to go from second place to first. Disappointments come when a cruel switch takes the place of our plans, but in the economy of God, the greatest switch is to our benefit, that which we don’t deserve.
How do you overcome disappointments? Try to limit how much time you try to psyche out whether God ordained it or allowed it. You don’t say to a person facing the death of a loved one that God had a better plan… sometimes the switch is the result of a sinful world. You cling to the promise of God’s presence no matter how the script got switched. You go forward knowing God is always going to write the final draft. You live by the assurance of his promises that he will take you through the pilgrimage of life and his promises are always certain, even in seasons when it is hard to imagine how he’ll bring beauty out of the ashes. And sometimes, maybe more often than we imagine, the switch is a far better story, for the greatest switch in history is the Lord Jesus Christ taking our place in death, elevating us to the highest place, that we might have the abundant life with Christ, a far greater place than we deserve. Amen.