Genesis 49:22-25   “Joseph is a fruitful vine, a fruitful vine near a spring, whose branches climb over a wall.  With bitterness archers attacked him; they shot at him with hostility.  But his bow remained steady, his strong arms stayed supple, because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob, because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel,  because of your father’s God, who helps you, because of the Almighty, who blesses you with blessings of the heavens above, blessings of the deep that lies below, blessings of the breast and womb.”

As the aged Jacob lay on his deathbed in Egypt he bestowed a Spirit-inspired blessing on each of his sons.  Joseph’s line would be remembered through his two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, and the ten tribes that would break away from King David’s line after Rehoboam’s unjust rule would commonly be known simply as ‘Ephraim’.

Jacob himself knew that Joseph had had to endure many hardships and difficulties in the process of the LORD’s using him as the means of saving his people (50:20), and the Northern Kingdom of ‘Ephraim’ was yet to experience much trouble.  Nevertheless, Jacob’s unshaken confidence in God – the LORD God who had remained faithful to him in spite of all he had been through – was so strong that he knew where the future hope of all his descendants lay.  Just as this God, his own ‘Rock’, had been the SOURCE of all the strength, help and blessing that had enabled Joseph to survive all the pressures on his life, so he could be trusted to do the same for all who would follow.

What a comfort it is to reflect on all this today as the Church comes under greater and greater pressure from a hostile world.  Jacob’s blessing of Joseph reminds us of Jesus’ promise to his disciples when Peter articulated the ‘rock’ foundation of their faith in him as the Promised Messiah – “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” – giving Jesus the opportunity to make a word play on his name, ‘Petros’, ‘rock’,  by saying “on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” (Matthew 16:16, 18).

Let us never forget the true ‘Source’ of all the help, strength and blessings WE enjoy, especially as we see the Church not only surviving but growing amid persecution, and as we see many people coming to know Jesus as their Saviour, wanting to submit to his rule as their Lord, and experiencing daily his care and protection as the ‘Good Shepherd’ who laid down his life for his sheep, knowing them all personally by name (John 10:11, 14)!