15 Nov Living in Reversals
As a firstborn myself, there are some recurring themes in the life of Jacob that don’t sit well with me. Birth order seems to come packaged with sets of unique traits; traits that would be invaluable when looking for the one who would be the father of God’s own people.
Firstborns are responsible, rule-following, and assertive; many times comfortable with taking lead. Isn’t this the type of person you would choose to lead a nation? Not only that, but in this time in history, you would have known from a young age of the responsibilities and blessings coming to you as the firstborn of the family. Wouldn’t you choose someone raised for this position?
Despite our most well-reasoned arguments, this doesn’t seem to be the way that God is working in the world. Instead, in the New Testament, he tells us that he does the opposite: he uses the foolish things of this world to shame the wise (1 Corinthians 1:27) and his power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).
So, who is God according to Genesis 48? He is God: unaffected by human agenda, unimpressed with our best laid plans for the future. He is so wholly and completely outside of our realm of understanding. He is working on a completely different continuum than we are—than I am.
I am a planner. I can easily set a direction for my life and for the lives of others and then find myself expending all of my energy to execute my well-laid plans. It’s something that, left unchecked, could easily spiral downward into the scheming habits of the young Jacob. However, in this passage, Jacob finally seems to be submitting to God and his sovereignty. In verse 15 of this chapter, he exclaims that God has been guiding his entire life, and his angel has been protecting him from harm. And so, when it comes time to lay his hand of blessing on his grandsons, he prophetically reverses the birth order and therefore their future. He’s no longer scheming nor manipulating those around him; instead, God uses him as his instrument in this moment. I long for such a deep and daily dependence on God that he would choose to use me to accomplish his purposes.
As I first considered this account of Ephraim and Manasseh, my focus was on Ephraim. It’s a bit of a Cinderella story, and it’s a testament to God’s provision for Ephraim in a way that did not require his own human scheming. But what about Manasseh? His entire future was altered, and while he was given much with Jacob’s blessing, he did not receive all that he deserved as the true firstborn.
What if, in this life, I am Manasseh? What if God’s purposes and his work in this world comes at great personal cost for me? What if my role in his kingdom is small and insignificant by human standards? What if it’s my blessing that is reversed?
But then, this is the very work of Jesus on the cross. His blessing of the firstborn has been reversed and bestowed on us instead. It’s my prayer that I will be willing to choose this reversal in my life—that each time this choice is in front of me I will choose his kingdom at great personal cost to myself.
Megan is spending her 20’s doing as much travel as her job at Grace Church will allow. She is incapable of letting a day go by without a physical challenge, is terrified of being stuck in an airport without a good book, and holds a particular bitterness towards hikes that don’t lead to waterfalls. Megan attends our Downtown campus.