Hebrewsby Robert M. Solomon
Abraham's son (Isaac), grandson (Jacob), and great grandson (Joseph) are highlighted in this passage as men who had faith. It is by faith that Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau ″in regard to their future″ (Hebrews 11:20). The actual event is a sad tale of deception within the family and the unholy ambition of Rebecca (Isaac's wife) and Jacob the deceiving son. Jacob tricked blind Isaac into giving him the blessing meant for his brother, Esau (Genesis 27). Nearing death, Isaac acted in faith as he blessed both his sons for the future. Though he was deceived by Jacob, by divine providence he was able to predict accurately what would happen to his two sons.
Likewise, Jacob, ″when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph's sons, and worshipped as he leaned on the top of his staff″ (Hebrews 11:21; see Genesis 47:31). Joseph had been sold as a slave by his jealous brothers, but God raised him up to be next in rank to the Pharaoh in Egypt. When the rest of the family was brought to Egypt to escape the famine, Jacob knew that he would die soon and blessed Joseph's two sons, Manasseh (the older) and Ephraim (Genesis 48:8-20). Jacob could hardly see because of old age, and Joseph placed his two sons so that Manasseh could be blessed with Jacob's right hand and Ephraim with his left hand. The idea was that the right hand had better blessings. But Jacob crossed his hands and gave the younger boy Ephraim his greater blessing. Joseph was ″displeased″ (Genesis 48:17) but Jacob maintained his blessings. By faith, Jacob understood God's choice of blessing the younger over the older. So like his father Isaac, he blessed the younger Ephraim over the older Manasseh. He also favoured Joseph over firstborn Reuben when blessing each of his own sons (Genesis 49). All this was done by a faith that could see the future.
Joseph, too, acted in faith as he approached death in his old age (Hebrews 11:22). He could see by faith that Egypt was not the permanent home of Israel's sons. He told his brothers, ″I am about to die″ and that ″God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob″ (Genesis 50:24). By faith he saw the Exodus event led by God and gave instructions for his bones to be brought to the Promised Land (Hebrews 11:22; Genesis 50:24-25). This was fulfilled (Joshua 24:32). Through faith, all three patriarchs trusted in God's promises for the future.
Why is faith necessary in helping us face death? How will faith enable us to trust God for the future? How does one nurture such faith?
If Abraham saw what lay ahead in heaven, the other patriarchs saw what lay ahead on earth. Both visions require faith. How do you exercise such faith?