March 15, 2019

I Like Big "BUTS," and I Cannot Lie

Genesis 49

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Jacob Blesses His Sons

Then Jacob called his sons and said, “Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you what shall happen to you in days to come.

  “Assemble and listen, O sons of Jacob,
    listen to Israel your father.
  “Reuben, you are my firstborn,
    my might, and the firstfruits of my strength,
    preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power.
  Unstable as water, you shall not have preeminence,
    because you went up to your father's bed;
    then you defiled it—he went up to my couch!
  “Simeon and Levi are brothers;
    weapons of violence are their swords.
  Let my soul come not into their council;
    O my glory, be not joined to their company.
  For in their anger they killed men,
    and in their willfulness they hamstrung oxen.
  Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce,
    and their wrath, for it is cruel!
  I will divide them in Jacob
    and scatter them in Israel.
  “Judah, your brothers shall praise you;
    your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies;
    your father's sons shall bow down before you.
  Judah is a lion's cub;
    from the prey, my son, you have gone up.
  He stooped down; he crouched as a lion
    and as a lioness; who dares rouse him?
10   The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
    nor the ruler's staff from between his feet,
  until tribute comes to him;1
    and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.
11   Binding his foal to the vine
    and his donkey's colt to the choice vine,
  he has washed his garments in wine
    and his vesture in the blood of grapes.
12   His eyes are darker than wine,
    and his teeth whiter than milk.
13   “Zebulun shall dwell at the shore of the sea;
    he shall become a haven for ships,
    and his border shall be at Sidon.
14   “Issachar is a strong donkey,
    crouching between the sheepfolds.2
15   He saw that a resting place was good,
    and that the land was pleasant,
  so he bowed his shoulder to bear,
    and became a servant at forced labor.
16   “Dan shall judge his people
    as one of the tribes of Israel.
17   Dan shall be a serpent in the way,
    a viper by the path,
  that bites the horse's heels
    so that his rider falls backward.
18   I wait for your salvation, O LORD.
19   “Raiders shall raid Gad,3
    but he shall raid at their heels.
20   “Asher's food shall be rich,
    and he shall yield royal delicacies.
21   “Naphtali is a doe let loose
    that bears beautiful fawns.4
22   “Joseph is a fruitful bough,
    a fruitful bough by a spring;
    his branches run over the wall.5
23   The archers bitterly attacked him,
    shot at him, and harassed him severely,
24   yet his bow remained unmoved;
    his arms6 were made agile
  by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob
    (from there is the Shepherd,7 the Stone of Israel),
25   by the God of your father who will help you,
    by the Almighty8 who will bless you
    with blessings of heaven above,
  blessings of the deep that crouches beneath,
    blessings of the breasts and of the womb.
26   The blessings of your father
    are mighty beyond the blessings of my parents,
    up to the bounties of the everlasting hills.9
  May they be on the head of Joseph,
    and on the brow of him who was set apart from his brothers.
27   “Benjamin is a ravenous wolf,
    in the morning devouring the prey
    and at evening dividing the spoil.”

Jacob's Death and Burial

28 All these are the twelve tribes of Israel. This is what their father said to them as he blessed them, blessing each with the blessing suitable to him. 29 Then he commanded them and said to them, “I am to be gathered to my people; bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite, 30 in the cave that is in the field at Machpelah, to the east of Mamre, in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought with the field from Ephron the Hittite to possess as a burying place. 31 There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife. There they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife, and there I buried Leah—32 the field and the cave that is in it were bought from the Hittites.” 33 When Jacob finished commanding his sons, he drew up his feet into the bed and breathed his last and was gathered to his people.


[1] 49:10 By a slight revocalization; a slight emendation yields (compare Septuagint, Syriac, Targum) until he comes to whom it belongs; Hebrew until Shiloh comes, or until he comes to Shiloh
[2] 49:14 Or between its saddlebags
[3] 49:19 Gad sounds like the Hebrew for raiders and raid
[4] 49:21 Or he gives beautiful words, or that bears fawns of the fold
[5] 49:22 Or Joseph is a wild donkey, a wild donkey beside a spring, his wild colts beside the wall
[6] 49:24 Hebrew the arms of his hands
[7] 49:24 Or by the name of the Shepherd
[8] 49:25 Hebrew Shaddai
[9] 49:26 A slight emendation yields (compare Septuagint) the blessings of the eternal mountains, the bounties of the everlasting hills

I Like Big "BUTS," and I Cannot Lie

Key Verse | Genesis 49:24-25

"[Y]et his bow remained unmoved;
his arms were made agile
by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob
(from there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel),
by the God of your father who will help you,
by the Almighty who will bless you
with blessings of heaven above,
blessings of the deep that crouches beneath,
blessings of the breasts and of the womb."

Bio | Sarah Fifer

I was Sarah Bowlin, BUT now I am Sarah Fifer. 

I wanted three biological kids, BUT God blessed us with two biological daughters (now teenagers!) and a number of foster babies (still counting). 

I was a teacher, a Starting Blocks coordinator, a tutor, and an administrative assistant, BUT now I am "just" a mom of teenagers and infants.

I was a girl whose life was marked by legalism, pride, and self-reliance, BUT now I am free, knowing that I am a treasured child of the King by His grace alone.

Central Truth

The trajectory of our lives depends on many things: family, circumstances, giftedness, opportunity, sin struggles. However, some of the most powerful words in our Bible are "BUT GOD." These two words can change everything! 

Devotional | Genesis 49

As I read through this passage the first few times, I was a little saddened by the words. I was sad for Jacob's sons as he "blessed" them by saying words like "[t]urbulent as the waters, you will no...

As I read through this passage the first few times, I was a little saddened by the words. I was sad for Jacob's sons as he "blessed" them by saying words like "[t]urbulent as the waters, you will no longer excel" (Genesis 49:4, NIV) and "[c]ursed be their anger, so fierce, and their fury, so cruel!" (Genesis 49:7, NIV) I was saddened that Jacob could see the sin in his sons' lives and predict some of the horrible outcomes that would come because of that sin. It made me think of my own life and my children's lives. What voices have I allowed to "speak into" my life to predict who I will be? How do I do that to my own children? Do I look at their personality traits or sin patterns and assume that certain things will happen? 

Then I read the "BUT" (Genesis 49:24, NIV) when Jacob was speaking about Joseph's life. Joseph's life was going to look different from the others. Why? Because he was stronger or more gifted or smarter? No, "because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob . . . because of your father's God, who helps you" (Genesis 49:24-25, NIV). Joseph's life was not marked by his own sins or the sins done to him, but it was marked by what God had done for him, in him, and through him. That is my story as well.  

If my dad had "blessed" me using my own "résumé" as his foundation, words he may have used would be "selfish, self-reliant, prideful, arrogant, angry." What a horrible "blessing" that would be! So I am beyond thankful for the "BUT" in my life. I am thankful that because of Christ, I am a new creation. The old has gone, and the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17). I'm thankful that when Christ came into my life He took the fruit of my flesh and replaced it with the fruit of His Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). I'm thankful He changes our stories. That's a pretty powerful "but"!

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Discussion Questions

1. Have you allowed others or the world to "speak into" your life in negative ways? Have you done this to others? How can you change the narrative to allow for a "BUT GOD" moment knowing that He changes us and can change our story? 

2. I looked up the words "But God" on Bible Gateway, and 612 references came up. Many of them were something horrible happening, BUT GOD in His amazing glory redeemed whatever it was. What are your "BUT GOD" moments? They can either be a circumstance that God stepped into and changed or a sin struggle that He took away or gave you victory over. Share your "BUT GOD" moments with someone today. 

3. By far, my favorite "BUT GOD" moment is Romans 5:8 (NIV): "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." That "BUT GOD" changes everything. I did not have to clean up for Him. You do not have to clean up for Him. He chose to die for you and for me, and because of my belief in that, my eternity is changed. Do you believe that truth? If not, please reach out in the comments below or to someone you know who knows this God personally. It will be the best decision you will ever make.

15 Comments available

Jay Caruso 2 months ago

He took the fruit of my flesh and replaced it with the fruit of His Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). I’m thankful He changes our stories. Thank you for a wonderful story

Marina Delgado 2 months ago

My best “BUT GOD” moment came when my daughter (today, a happily married young adult) was born. At that moment, I felt that all my past experiences, good or bad, were nothing compared to the blessing of becoming a mom and accepting the challenge and responsibility of loving her with all my heart and taking her along with me throughout the most amazing journey of life. The Lord helps us, parents, to use our “BUT GOD” moments to love our children with our actions.

Sarah Fifer 2 months ago
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Thank you all for the comments! Thankful you are all blessed through God’s Word today!

Sharhonda Conner 2 months ago

Great devo Sarah! Miss seeing you and your family around starting blocks!

I love the reminder “But God”. It has so many hopes that wrapped up in that phrase. Some of my favorites are in regards to His mercy being new each morning, Christ dying for me as a sinner, seeing His goodness now and not just in heaven, loving me with an everlasting love and so many others.

Michael Scaman 2 months ago

On the subjects of blessings: An interesting article on curses and blessings in Genesis

God gives 3 blessings in creation in early chapters God gives 5 curses with the fall

A turning point with Abraham

God gives 5 blessings to Abraham

Blessings for Abraham’s descendants. Then following 81 blessings to his descendants in the book and 3 mentions of curses

greg jones 2 months ago

I read the title. I almost, but God wiped away my tears, helped me catch my breath and all of me is still here.

Q2 What are your “BUT GOD” moments? “BUT GOD” moments for me are realizations. Manifestations of what I have realized are different. Using Galatians 5:22-23

I was __comma but love. I was , but joy. I was, but peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Fill in the blank.

That person was kind, but I was ___ period. A example of what manifest a need for continued “BUT GOD” realizations. My knowledge of what God desires grows with each realization. My intimacy with God doesn’t grow with each opportunity of manifestation missed.

I like this devotional, and I can not lie.

Sue Bohlin 2 months ago

Sarah–great title, great bio, great devo! Bless you!

The prophetic nature of Jacob’s blessing isn’t limited to that long-ago day. As parents we have the power to imprint a blessing or a curse on our children, whether bio-children or spiritual children. One of the concepts I learned in college (elementary education major) was the self-fulfilling prophecy, and those prophetic words come from somewhere. Usually parents. We live out the words spoken over us, whether with repetition or even just once if they are traumatic enough. What a world of difference there is between “You’re useless and a sad excuse for a kid” and “You are a blessed and gifted instrument in God’s hand for His kingdom.”

amy stephenson 2 months ago

Thanks , Sarah. Love this devo. Boom! How have I let other “ voices” define me? But God, what a game changer. It took a while , ok 52 years… Why am I Not patient with others as well and using every opportunity to encourage and point out the good qualities in them? Thanks for the devo. ( love the title!).

Jon Rydberg 2 months ago

This was incredibly encouraging. What a great reminder, His grace is sufficient!

CATRICE HINES 2 months ago

Lol - excellent devotion - I must say that the title caught my attention!! It! I’ll be reflecting upon my BUT GOD moments today as I reflect upon the hand of God in and over my life!

Elizabeth Erickson 2 months ago

Sarah, this was one of the best journey Devo’s I’ve read. You incorporated the story of the brothers and Jacob and Joseph and the truth of the gospel so well. Thank you for the reminder to catch those voices in our head and hearts that are not from God. For me and my marriage and as I parent this is crucial! How you have blessed us by sharing your daughter and now sharing this… thank you! This really challenged and blessed me today. I’m up at Mayo Clinic with my mother and it’s been hard but good. This was a great reminder the Lord has us in his hands!

Michael Scaman 2 months ago

Near the beginning of Genesis was a promise of ‘the seed of the woman’

Now at the end of Genesis a promise of someone called Shiloh

Michael Scaman 2 months ago

This is a really carefully made blessing. Jacob has blessed his grandsons and now blesses his sons ‘with blessings appropriate to each’ and then…

" … he drew up his feet into the bed and breathed his last and was gathered to his people."

Hugh Stephenson 2 months ago

In Prodigal we teach that the promises and blessings of God are forever - and so are the consequences of sin.

It saddens me to read what Jacob prophesies about Reuben, Simeon and Levi. I have seen in my own life how the passions, pleasures and anger of a just a moment can lead to sin whose consequences last forever. As men now saved, I am sure they had immense remorse. I was crippled by mine.

In the prophecy for Judah I see the redemption that comes from true repentance. In re:gen we learn the sequence of confession, repentance, forgiveness and amends. It leads to new life - which is exactly what Judah demonstrates and whose blessings he now enjoys.

Being forgiven much he now loves much, (Luke 7:47).

To me, the blessing is seeing the immense chasm…and then seeing Judah’s descendant Jesus breach it for me.

Julie Newmeyer 2 months ago

As I read through ch 49 this morning, I must say the types of questions you wrote in the 1st part of the devotion came through my mind:"What voices have I allowed to “speak into” my life to predict who I will be? Do I look at their personality traits or sin patterns and assume that certain things will happen?"But, I too, remembered that God is bigger, His death crossed out those things, & I am a new creation in Christ!

Thank you for the devotion this morning!

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