The End In Mind.
And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. – Matthew 24:14 ESV
It is so easy to see the Bible as 66 isolated and independent books written by a variety of authors and covering a timeline thousands of years in length. But it is important to remember that the Bible is the revelation of God, not a record of historical events written down by men. It is, in essence, one book written by one author and dealing a single storyline: the redemption of mankind by God. The stories of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph are essential to the overall plot of the book, but are not to be confused with the central theme and the primary character: God Himself. One of the benefits of reading the Old and New Testaments simultaneously is that it provides a constant reminder that there is really a single story going on. It’s a story with a beginning and an end. The death of Jacob does not end the story. The arrival of the people of Israel in Egypt is not the climax of the plot. The rise of Joseph to power in Egypt and his wise handling of the famine is simply just another plot twist in the bigger story of God’s plan for the restoration of mankind to a right relationship with Him.
What does this passage reveal about God?
Jacob, near death, reminded his long-lost son, Joseph, about the promise of God. “God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me, and said to me, ‘Behold, I will make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will make of you a company of peoples and will give this land to your offspring after you for an everlasting possession'” (Genesis 48:3-4 ESV). This was a long-standing promise originally made to Abraham and confirmed over and over again by God to each of Abraham’s descendants. “I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God” (Genesis 17:6-8 ESV). Once again, we see the promise being passed down to each successive generation. Even though he was close to death, Jacob knew that God was not done yet. His passing would not negate the fulfillment of the promise, because its impact was to be cross-generational and international in scope. Even before Abraham had ever set eyes on the land of Canaan, God had told him, “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3 ESV). The story wasn’t going to just be about Abraham and his descendants. It wasn’t going to be limited to the people of Israel. God’s story was about the fate of mankind and His plan to deal with the sins of mankind in a just, holy, and righteous way. God’s story includes the creation, the fall, and, ultimately, the redemption of man through the coming of Jesus Christ. Everything points to that moment and God’s Word must be read with that end in mind.
What does this passage reveal about man?
Every man who has ever lived has had a plan for his own life. There is a natural bent in each of us to see our lives as central to the storyline. We view our moment in the spotlight as paramount. We want to be significant. We want to have an influence. There is a natural tendency to focus on self and to see the world from our limited and somewhat selfish perspective. But when reading the stories of Abraham, Jacob and Joseph, we see that each of these men, while important, were not indispensable. They were not the point of the story. Each of them played a limited part, but there was a much greater story going on behind the scenes to which they were, for the most part, oblivious. To each, the blessing was important. Which is why they were so adamant to make sure that they or their children received the blessing. Joseph was upset when Jacob laid his hands on the wrong sons, saying, “Not this way, my father, since this one is the firstborn, put your right hand on his head” (Genesis 48:18 ESV). Joseph had a plan and it included his firstborn son, Manasseh. But God had a bigger plan. He was operating with a far greater plot in mind than simply the blessing of a single son or a solitary generation. Our greatest problem is that we too often think the story revolves around us. We see ourselves as the main characters in the plot and view God as a glorified screenwriter whose job it is to craft our story according to our own self-centered, self-satisfying notions.
How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?
But God is doing something far greater than any of us can even imagine. Abraham had no idea just how big God’s plan was. Isaac was oblivious as to the magnitude of the storyline God was writing. Jacob and Joseph were unaware of the incredible nature of what God was doing behind the scenes. Men would come and go. Generations would pass from existence. And yet God was still at work implementing His plan for mankind. No one individual or nation would be more important than any other. Kings and slaves, Jews and Gentiles, men and women … they all would be used to accomplish God’s divine plan for the future. His mind was focused on the end. He knew what had to be done for mankind to be restored to a right relationship with Him. He knew the blessing was about more than promised land and progeny. It was about salvation and redemption from slavery to sin and the condemnation of death that every man was under. I need to have that same mindset. It isn’t all about me. The world doesn’t revolve around me and my desires. I don’t exist for my own satisfaction and I should not live to seek my own limited will. I exist for God’s glory and am part of a long-standing line of men and women whom God has used to accomplish His greater plan for the good of mankind. I am to live with the end in mind. I am to focus on the reality that my life and my short time on this planet are not the point of the story. I am to live faithfully focused on the end. Jesus told His disciples, “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:44 ESV). Interestingly enough, not one of those men lived to see the second coming of Christ. And yet they were told to live with that event in mind. They were to be ready. And so should we be. We are to live with the end in mind – not our end, but the one God has planned for all mankind. It is the end of the story, the culmination and conclusion of His plan.
Father, keep me focused on Your plan and not my own. Constantly remind me that there is something far more important than my own selfish, self-centered satisfaction and comfort. I want to be a faithful servant who is found doing what You have called me to do when Your Son returns. I may not live to see that day, but I want to conduct my life as if I will. I want my greatest desire to be Christ’s return and the conclusion of Your plan. Help me to live with the end in mind. Amen.