8 “Judah, your brothers will praise you;
your hand will be on the neck of your enemies;
your father’s sons will bow down to you.
9 You are a lion’s cub, Judah;
you return from the prey, my son.
Like a lion he crouches and lies down,
like a lioness—who dares to rouse him?
10 The scepter will not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until he to whom it belongs shall come
and the obedience of the nations shall be his.
11 He will tether his donkey to a vine,
his colt to the choicest branch;
he will wash his garments in wine,
his robes in the blood of grapes.
12 His eyes will be darker than wine,
his teeth whiter than milk.Genesis 49:8-12
You’ve got four days to get ready for Thanksgiving. The holiday season is in full swing and even though you’ve been prepping for Christmas over the last couples of weeks, it is time to take a few days of and celebrate Thanksgiving. There is a lot to do for this holiday. Food comes to mind first with the turkey, stuffing, potatoes, yams, pies, green bean casserole and for those Pinterest pinners the need to make homemade cranberry sauce. Of course, you will have to plan for all of the food allergies and what the kids or an estranged uncle won’t eat. Then there are the travel plans and strategies for airport pickups and drop-offs. Making sure the house is all picked up so that everyone can come and pick it apart again. All of these plans often empty Thanksgiving Day what we truly ought to be thankful for in our lives. Our reading from Genesis 49 reminds us of the greatest reason to give thanks, King Jesus rules over his people with unending prosperity.
I can’t imagine what it would have been like to have Thanksgiving dinner with Jacob and his family. Genesis tells us that there were over 70 people in Jacob’s immediate family, which is not too surprising considering he had twelve sons. This means that if we go by the generally accepted rule of “one pound per person,” you would need to cook three 25 lbs. turkeys to feed everyone. In our reading from Genesis 49, we hear Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, on his death bed giving out the final blessings to his twelve sons. The final blessing Jacob gave to his sons was more than everyone around the table at Thanksgiving naming something they are thankful for and praying for future blessings. God was with Jacob as he spoke, and his blessings for his sons were guaranteed prophecies of the future. Jacob’s blessings came true for his twelve sons later when each son’s offspring had grown to become the twelve tribes of Israel. The most important blessing and prophecy Jacob gave was to his fourth son, Judah, because his blessing revealed the King of Israel would come from his tribe.
The blessing Jacob gave to Judah, should not have gone to him. Judah was the fourth oldest, meaning his three older brothers ought to have had better blessings given to them. If any one of his brothers was going to be the ruler over the others, it should have been the oldest Rueben, but he had slept with his father’s concubine leaving his father to look for someone else to have the role of leader. The next two brothers, Simeon and Levi had a history of violence, so Jacob did not want them to be in positions of leadership. Instead, Jacob said, 8 “Judah, your brothers will praise you; your hand will be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons will bow down to you.” The fourth son in line was given the role of leader. Judah means praise in Hebrew and that is what he would receive from his brothers. His tribe of Judah would come to lead the rest of Israel into many successful battles and the rest of the tribes would bow to his descendant King David. From David came all the rulers of Israel, both of the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Finally, Jesus was born from the line of David from the tribe of Judah.
Though Jesus was the descendant of Judah and King David, he did not look like a king while in this world. Long before Jesus was born, God gave the prophet Isaiah this description of the Savior in Isaiah 53:2 He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. When we typically picture a king, we think of someone easily picked out of a crowd. The king looks different from everyone else, but Jesus blended right into the crowd. We would also picture the king as having a palace, fortress or save place of some kind, but Jesus tells us in Luke 9:58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Jesus didn’t even have a permanent home while here in this world. He didn’t act anything like a king. Jesus did not look like a king in this world and that is why we can be sure he is our king.
Jesus did not fight to rule this world, but to rule you. So often, we can get swept up into thinking we need to save the world. We can get so focused on the environment, the government, finances, our friends and family, that we forget what really needs saving. See, there is a difference between saving the world and saving the people in the world. It’s like on Thanksgiving when you get so focused on food, flights and clean floors that you forget about the fellowship with those you love. So often, we get swept up into thinking this world needs to be saved and that if Jesus was really the King, he would clean up this world. We want Jesus to fix all the issues with the oceans, politicians, stock exchanges and family relations that we forget what kind of king he is. Jesus is the ruler of the world, he created the world as we read in John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made. Jesus did not come so that this world would be better, but to save you from this broken world as we read in Colossians 1:13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Jesus came to save you, so that he could rule over you. Now that there is peace between you and God through Jesus sacrifice, you are his people and he will rule over you forever.
Jesus’ rule over you has always been a sure thing. Even before, John 1:14 “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us,” Jesus already let us know that he was going to rule over us forever. When Jacob blessed his son Judah, he said, 10 “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his.” This prophecy for the power to rule never to depart from Judah pointed to Jesus.
Jesus proved his rule has never ended by fighting for his people. When any ruler is challenged in battle, the winner takes the crown. In the case of Jesus, the battle was against the devil who turned all people against God. With sin ruling in our hearts, we cannot be God’s people as we hear in Romans 8:7, “The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.” When we are ruled by sin, we are enemies of God, not listening to him and living in any way we can against him. We could only be saved if Jesus took the punishment of our sins and died. He allowed himself to be taken by the devil’s greatest weapon, but even as he was dying on the cross, he knew the victory was his. In our reading from Luke 23, the thief on the cross dying next to Jesus said, 42 “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Jesus knew he would die and then come back to life as said in John 10:17, “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.” Jesus kept his power as your King by defeating your enemies.
With Jesus as your King, unending prosperity waits for you in heaven. When you trust that the prosperity Jesus speaks of will be yours in heaven, it changes how you live now. When Jesus is your King by faith, it allows you to see that your sinful nature wants you to be part of this thoroughly corrupted world. Your sinful nature wants you to love people by accepting their sins, which would be like going to a thanksgiving dinner where all the food is burnt, someone seasoned the green beans and stuffing with sugar instead of salt and seasoned all the pies with salt instead of sugar, and everyone arrived a day late and the host left all the food out so it is cold and rotten. No one wants a Thanksgiving dinner like that. When Jesus is your King by faith, you are able to recognize your own sins, trust in his forgiveness and ask him for the strength to fight against temptation. Also, with Jesus as your King, you trust his Word has the power to show others the better tasting food of Jesus’ kingdom. When Jesus was in the world he ate with sinners, so that they could see his forgiveness, freedom from this broken world and the wonderful kingdom of heaven waiting for them through Christ alone.
You’ve got four days to get ready for Thanksgiving. Be ready for that day by preparing to be thankful for the true blessings you have with Jesus as your King. Be ready for that day so that you can share with all those you eat with the love, forgiveness and blessings that are yours forever because King Jesus rules over his people with unending prosperity. Amen.