Finishing Well

Genesis 49:33 “When Jacob had finished charging his sons, he drew his feet into the bed, breathed his last, and was gathered to his people.”

Observation: Genesis 48 and 49 record the deathbed scene of a man still fully engaged. He first blessed Joseph’s two sons, adopting them as his own, which is how Manasseh and Ephraim came to head two of Israel’s twelve tribes. He then spoke a prophetic word over each of his sons, identifying each son’s future with his past character in bursts of unerring accuracy. He spoke his last will and testament, bequeathing a particular ridge of land to Joseph, and then concluded with detailed instructions as to the disposition of his remains in the family plot back in Canaan. Having done all, he drew his feet into the bed and died.

Application: Don’t we love stories with good endings? This one seems particularly good because of its orderliness. Nothing messy left for others to clean up. No detail left unattended. He knew his end was at hand and addressed each of his loved ones in clear-eyed honesty with no sentimental, mushy pabulum of emotion. Sons who merited affirmation were affirmed; those who had been profligate or rebellious were honestly called out. And, having finished all, he simply lay down and died. 

What will it take for me to finish well? Shall only those who have lived a perfect life enjoy such an end? On the surface, the striking thing about Jacob’s death is its perfect timing. Can anyone know when he or she will die? Apparently so. Jacob evidently did. And Moses knew, when he gazed across the Jordan into the Promised Land. Certainly every death-row criminal has a dread sense of certainty as the red-circled day approaches.

So while I might envy Jacob’s tidiness of timing, the more remarkable thing about the story is that, simply, he was ready. Not ready for a specific date, but heart-ready. He finished well, this man who had illicitly connived against his brother and deceived his father. Later the deceiver was deceived into marrying the wrong woman, then spent years surrounded by sons who lied to him about Joseph’s death. Yet he finished well. Somewhere along the way, perhaps when wrestling with the angel, Jacob was finally broken. He yielded to God’s purposes in his life.

My own story must take the same turn if I am to finish well. My history need not impede my future. The hardships of my individual life story need not deter God’s completely remaking me from the inside out. Whether I know in advance the end of my days or am taken by surprise is not the point. But to end well, in Him, is everything.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, my story cannot be my excuse, can it? Thank You for pressing in to bring change where needed. I gladly yield to You, Lord.

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