Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
November 15, 2015
Takers can be changed into givers
There is a tender scene in the 48th chapter of the Book of Genesis. Jacob, the father of Joseph, is an old man, sick and dying. His eyesight is failing and he can hardly see.
Hearing about his father’s illness, Joseph goes to visit Jacob, taking along his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim. Told that his son Joseph had come to see him, Jacob was excited. He found the strength to sit up in bed.
Seeing Joseph’s sons, Jacob said, “Bring them to me so I may bless them.” Jacob took them in his arms and kissed them. Then he said to Joseph, “I never expected to see your face again, and now God has allowed me to see your children too.”
Then Jacob blessed Joseph and placing his hands on the heads of his grandsons, he blessed both of them. Those observing this scene must surely have wept in the presence of such tender affection.
Earlier in his life Jacob had no interest in blessing anyone. From birth he had been a taker. He wanted what belonged to others even if he had to steal it. He cared only about himself. His name meant “Heel-Grabber” and he lived up to it. He grabbed what he wanted when he wanted it.
But God changed Jacob; even his name was changed – Jacob to Israel. So when it came time to die, Jacob/Israel was no longer a taker; he was a giver. In this we may rejoice: takers can be changed into givers.
It may take a long time as it did with Jacob. But finally he got it right. He allowed the Lord to change his heart. So the Bible gives us this beautiful picture of the dying Jacob passing on to his son and grandsons the blessings of the God of his fathers. Jacob had finally figured out the plan: God had blessed him so he could bless others.
Years before Jacob believed the lie his sons told him – that their brother Joseph had been killed by wild beasts. Grief tormented Jacob and he never dreamed he would see his beloved son again. Now, because of the kindness of God, Jacob has seen the face of his son. He knew God had blessed him and he was eager to pass on his blessing.
Jacob wants them to know the mighty God he has served. The God of his fathers has been a shepherd and a redeemer to him. Jacob wants his family to love and serve this same God so that God can keep his promise to make them a great nation.
To share our faith with our children and grandchildren is to give them a precious gift. Children need to hear their parents speak of the several ways God has blessed them. This encourages them to expect God to bless them too.
My father seldom spoke of his faith in God. He was a man of few words. Yet I learned from his example that he trusted and loved God. I sensed my father’s disappointment when I told him that God had called me into the ministry. He had worked hard all his life so that my siblings and I could go to college, a privilege he never had.
Dad was a farmer. He wanted me to study agriculture at Auburn and help him improve our farm. My decision to enter the ministry ended his dream for me though he never verbalized that feeling to me. He said very little. But in saying nothing, he withheld his blessing from me. I realized years later that my slowness to embrace the ministry was influenced by my father’s refusal to give me his blessing.
As the years passed Dad did find ways to give me his blessing. Finally hearing him tell me he loved me and that he was proud of me made a profound difference. His blessing released me into a new freedom to enjoy being the person I felt God had called to be. And it gave me an even greater love for my father.
God blesses us so that we can bless others – and especially our children. Children who never receive the blessing of their parents find it difficult to embrace their true identity and fully enjoy life. Words fitly spoken can cheer the soul. Since we know not what a day may bring forth, we should not delay until “tomorrow” what we can do – and say – today by way of blessing those we love.
Our children and grandchildren need to hear from our own lips about those times when we experienced the kindness of God. They need to know that while we found life difficult, as all people do, that it is the difficulty of life that drives us to realize how much we need God. And that when we turn to God, instead of being angry with us, we discover that God wants to bless us! Then, embracing God’s blessings we discover, as Jacob did, that it is God’s plan for us to pass on his blessings to those dearest to us.
Perhaps, if you are a taker as Jacob was early on, this might be a good time to ask the good Lord to change you like he changed Jacob. Then you can end up being a giver whose memory will be cherished. Is there someone you need to bless today? + + +