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  • Writer's pictureAdam Smith

Humility and Blessing

Genesis 49

This devotional is part of a series through the story of Joseph. You can read the whole series here.


Blessing is a theme that runs all throughout the book of Genesis. In fact, the words “bless,” “blessing,” and “blessed” appear a combined total of 79 times throughout the book.

As one surveys the prominent theme of blessing in Genesis, however, one thing that jumps off the pages is the fact that those who receive blessings are not the best people. Abraham, for example, made several bad choices throughout his life, such as lying about Sarah being his wife (twice!) and fathering Ishmael with Hagar because he didn’t believe God would provide an heir through Sarah. Jacob is another example of someone who receives blessing despite an apparent lack of character, as his life was filled with deception and scheming.

At a glance, Israel’s patriarchs certainly do not seem to be worthy of blessing. Why then did God bestow such blessings upon them?

An answer to that question can be found in Genesis 49, where the theme of blessing continues with Jacob `blessing’ each of his twelve sons. Here the word blessing is used in a broader sense of the term, as Jacob’s blessings serve as prophetic pronouncements over his sons. What is surprising about Jacob’s blessings is that each of Jacob’s first three sons—Reuben, Simeon, and Levi—receive negative pronouncements because of their past actions, while Jacob’s fourth son, Judah, receives a promise of lavish blessing despite his own poor record.

You might recall that it was Judah who who came up with the idea to sell Joseph into slavery (Genesis 37:12-28). It was also Judah who failed to provide a husband for his daughter-in-law, Tamar, and even slept with her thinking that she was a prostitute (Genesis 38:1-23). So why does Judah receive a lavish blessing while his brothers do not? Surely he is the worst of the bunch!

The answer is that Judah displayed a kind of humility that his other brothers did not. When made aware of his sin against Tamar, he immediately confessed his sin (Genesis 38:24-26). Later on, it was Judah who offered to take Benjamin’s place as Joseph’s slave, showing a deep regret over the part he played in selling Joseph into slavery and a willingness to make amends for it (Genesis 44). While Judah did indeed make many mistakes throughout his life, he also led a life of repentance. In the end, it was Judah’s humility and repentance that led to his exaltation.

In the Bible, humility always comes before blessing. As Jesus says in Matthew 23:12: “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” In other words, God’s blessing doesn’t come to perfect people but to humble people. It comes to those who recognize their great need for grace and forgiveness.

In a place like Washington, it is much more common to seek exaltation than it is to seek humility. Here it seems as if there is always another promotion to get, another credential to add, or more money to make. These are the things we’re told will lead to blessing and exaltation—to fulfillment and status. But the Scriptures teach us that true blessing comes by taking a different path: the path of humility.

Where might the Lord be calling you to humble yourself? Are there areas in your life where you need to repent or to make amends? Is there someone in your life whom you need to ask for their forgiveness? Could it be that God is simply calling you to faithfulness and contentment with the things in front of you right now, even if they may seem insignificant in the eyes of the world?

As you consider these things, consider also the promise of Jesus: whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

Adam Smith is a Ministry Associate in Washington, D.C.


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