Genesis 49:23-24 – With bitterness archers attacked him; they shot at him with hostility. But his bow remained steady, his strong arms stayed limber, because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob, because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel. (NIV)
I've only tried archery once in my life, which was during a summer Scout camp in the Western Highlands of Scotland. I signed up for the archery course in order to get a new merit badge for my troop. From what I remember, it wasn't as easy as it looked. Drawing back the bow took a lot of strength, and hitting the target was almost impossible. In fact, if the Scouts had produced a badge for "missing targets", I would have been awarded it many times.
As I kept missing the target, my instructor told me that I was aiming too low. My arrow was lined up for the centre of the bulls-eye, but each time I let go of the arrow, gravity pulled it down, so I missed the mark. As soon as I started to do what the instructor told me, I hit the target.
The blessing that Jacob gives to Joseph in today's Scripture is one of strength, focus, and determination. Joseph has triumphed over adversity and evil. Jacob wants him to continue to be a leader amongst his brothers, so he blesses him with the strength of an archer, a hunter, and a warrior. Jacob's God has preserved his son; now the old man wants Joseph to bestow the gifts of perseverance, grit, and determination to the rest of the family.
In our own lives, we often miss the marks of faith that God gives us, simply because we aim too low. We worry about budgets and buildings, programs and projects, ministries and missions, which cause us to look down from where God is and focus on where we are. Only when we begin to look up, see what God is doing, and start to aim high will we be able to reach the marks and achievements, the mountaintops and accomplishments that God wants us to fulfill.
Prayer: Lord God, turn our eyes upward, so that we may begin to see what You are doing in our churches, communities, and countries. Keep us from becoming too preoccupied with ourselves. Help us to raise our focus and meet the marks that You would have us achieve for Your kingdom. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.