We are working on finishing up a study of the book of Genesis, and have two weeks left. I guess the perfect topic for the end of a series is "How to Leave a Good Legacy."
In Genesis 49, Jacob was 147 years old in Egypt, having lived there for 17 years with his family. He had blessed his grandsons, and then he called in his other sons to bless them --- or rather to give his last remarks. Some are good comments; some are guesses at what will happen because he knows his children so well; some comments are prophetic.
Reuben's rights of the firstborn were taken away for sleeping with his stepmom. The second- and third-born, Simeon and Levi, were violent men that didn't put up with sin and murdered a whole town of men. The Levites stayed that way, turning later into a tribe of priests that were strong proponents of purity. Zebulun's family became rich. Isaachar's family didn't live up to all its potential and were OK with being servants. Dan's descendants were small but powerful; Samson was a Danite. Gadites were strong and brave --- see David's mighty men. Asher's family cooked well. Naphtali had a big, good-looking family. Benjamites were vicious warriors; even using the off-hand they could throw a stone at a hair and not miss.
Joseph received a large blessing, and his father called him "set apart from his brothers." He didn't want to be set apart from his brothers originally. His brothers sold him into slavery, but God used him and brought him to a great place of power and distinction. He looked to God continually and was rewarded for that. Where we look in times of trouble will determine where we end up. Rely on God, and he will lift us up.
Judah, the fourth-born, was addressed last. Why?
He was messed up, like his older brothers. He ended up sleeping with his daughter-in-law, who he thought was a prostitute. Yet, he didn't receive a "blessing" like his older brothers, because the story didn't end there. He repented of all he did; he turned his life around. That led him into a life following God, and that led his descendants into a lineage that included the Son of God, Jesus, the Lion of Judah.
Why could Jacob tell all of this ahead of time? People's choices influence their children for generations to come, whether it be good or bad. You can see that in families, often the way the parents act is reflected in the children, and in their children, and in their children. Your life does not end with you. You leave a legacy, whether good or bad.
But God can redeem our sins and use it for beauty and his glory. He can turn a bad family legacy into good. He can change your legacy.