Joseph is a fruitful bough, Gen 49.22. When Jacob spoke these words of blessing, he spoke into the future. Jacob was aware of the failings of all his sons; some did not receive blessings, others got mixed blessings, and only two [Judah and Joseph] receive full blessing. While Judah received the sceptre, Joseph received something special – fruitfulness. The difference between Judah and Joseph was that the latter paid the ‘price’ for his blessing. Are we prepared to pay a price? The price is nothing but absolute surrender to the will of God, and that price only a few would dare to pay.
Joseph was a fruitful bough whose branches ran over a wall. Though he had but two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, their descendants grew into a numerous and powerful people. We remember that Joshua was an Ephraimite, while Gideon was from Manasseh. Manasseh received two portions of territory, on either side of the river Jordan. However, the historical explanation does not suffice. There is a spiritual explanation for fruitfulness. God is looking for fruit in us, but it is not in mere numbers. While ‘in the days to come Jacob will take root, Israel will blossom and sprout and will fill the whole world with fruit’ [Isa 27.6], it is the remnant of the house of Judah which shall again take root downward and bear fruit upward.’ [Isa 37.31]
What is this fruit? How do we become a ‘fruitful bough’? Careful study of the Scriptures would show that there are seven ways to arrive at fruitfulness, and while this is explained to some extent in the Parable of the Sower and his Seed, I believe that the Bible explains this fruit to us in clear spiritual terms. We need the fruit of repentance [Matt 3.8], followed by the fruit that comes from the implanted word [Matt 13.23]. Then comes the fruit that we receive while walking in the light as children of light [Eph 5.9], and the more abundant fruit that comes from having the ‘fear of the Lord’. Perusal of Psalm 128.1-4 would show that by fearing the Lord and walking in His ways, the blessings flow into the family; the wife becomes a fruitful vine, the children olive plants around the table. And then there are the fruits of the Holy Spirit, which we read in Galatians 5.22,23, when we learn to walk by the Spirit or under the lordship of the Spirit. And then follow the fruit of righteousness [Heb 12.11], which comes from the discipline of the Lord and results in ‘good works’ [Col 1.10, Tit 3.14], whereby men may glorify the Lord. But deeper still is the fruit of travail.
We read in Isaiah 53 of the ‘offspring’ of the travail of the Cross, and how the Lord is satisfied with such fruit. Only a remnant will come to this level. Zion travailed and gave birth to her ‘sons’, Isa 66.8. We remember the barrenness of Sarah, Rebekah and Rachel. They could produce no fruit of the womb until God visited them, and this He did in His own time, after much waiting. That waiting is a tremendous exercise, which brings with it a deep burden in the heart and a longing for the divine answer. The fruit produced by the travail of the soul is enduring fruit which will not perish, which will bring glory to the Lord and blessing to the world. Joseph was a blessing not only to his brothers, but to all Egypt, and in fact to the whole famine-stricked world as they came to him to receive bread from his hands.