In this episode we jump into the world of types and shadows. This will probably be an ongoing series this year where we will examine the many type, shadows, like-figures, metaphors, and allegories we find find all throughout the vast reaches of God’s word. To start us out we will begin looking at an occurrence that happens again and again in the Old Testament. The blessing of the family leadership as well as the bulk of the inheritance was always supposed to go to the firstborn child of the family. However, over and over the stories of the Bible reveal a pattern where the firstborn child forfeits the blessing and or inheritance to the other son. What does this mean in relation to Christ and the church today?
The Firstborn Child Loses the Blessing
Cain / Abel / Seth – Genesis 4
We’ll find that giving a blessing to another besides the firstborn happens quite often in the Bible. It began as far back as Genesis 4 where Cain, the firstborn of Adam, made a sacrifice that was not accepted by God. Instead, the Lord blessed Abel (Cain’s younger brother) for his sacrifice. As we know this lead to Cain’s murderous act and his expulsion from the land. Hence, he lost his inheritance which appears to have passed to Seth.
Ishmael / Isaac – Genesis 21
After God makes his covenant with Abram, He promises him a child. Being barren, Sarai his wife offers Abram Hagar the handmaid as a surrogate mother. This is one example, of people trying to help God out. He doesn’t need our help. So Abrams firstborn son is Ishmael. But when Abram becomes Abraham and Sarai becomes Sarah, they together bore a child named Isaac who was intended by God to receive the birthright and blessing. Ishmael and Hagar are forced to leave and Isaac receives the blessing even though he was not the firstborn.
Esau / Jacob – Genesis 25-27
We can’t talk about this particular subject without mentioning the story of Esau and his brother Jacob. This is a strong model that is made in this story in that Esau “despised” his birthright. That means that he did not treasure the responsibility and the blessings. Remember that Esau was slightly older, but he was also the manly child and hence his father’s favorite. Jacob was an indoor clean cut guy prone to study so he was his mom’s favorite. This tug of war culminated in two very important events. First when Esau comes in one day from an exhausting hunt, he over exaggerates his need for food to try and get some of the food that Jacob had prepared. Jacob used this to his advantage and made a deal: the food for the birthright. Esau did not even seem to bat an eye at this. Either he was telling Jacob anything to get the food, or he seriously wanted to forfeit his rights. But when the rubber met the road, Isaac was intent on giving Esau the blessing, but through the help of his mother, Jacob steps in and takes the blessing instead. He must then flee for his life.
Reuben – Gen 30 –
Through the lengthy reading of Jacob’s twelve sons and their issues we find that ultimately Reuben, the firstborn of Jacob did not receive the birthright that ended on Joseph through a series of events.
Pharez/Zarah – Gen 38
The sons of Judah are mentioned quickly here as twins. As they are born, one’s hand broke free and was tied with a ribbon to indicate firstborn. However it was the other child that was actually born first.
Ephraim/Manessah – Gen 48:10-22
Joseph’s sons were adopted by his father Jacob and Jacob blessed them accordingly. However, much to Joseph’s confusion, he blesses the younger one over the eldest.
Amnon/Daniel/Solomon – 1 Kings 1
Look at the tumultuous life of King David and who ultimately received his birthright and blessing. David bypassed two older brothers (Amnon and Daniel) to give Solomon the throne.
Jesus discusses blessing transference
We will see subsequently that Jesus often talks about the transference of blessings from the seemingly deserving to the rather undeserving. Look and the Prodigal Son parable (Luke 15). Look at how the elder brother (note that the Holy Spirit saw fit to inform us that he was older) despised the acceptance of the younger brother’s return. More than once Jesus tells us that the first shall be last (Matt 19:27-30, Luke 13:23-30).
In the parable of workers in Matt 20:1-16, notice the reaction of the workers that had been laboring all day. Although they had agreed to their pay structure, they complained about the new workers who received a similar pay.
But here is really where we start to see the unfolding of the mystery of this model. In Luke 4, Jesus visits his home town of Nazareth where he teaches them. However, they do not accept his teachings because they knew him and his family. Now in the last part of the chapter notice that Jesus mentions that prophets are not accepted in their own country and he begins to teach about Naaman and the widow of Sidon that Elias helped. The Jews there get extremely angry and try to throw Jesus off of a cliff. Why? Because of his point that there is going to be a blessing transference. First he mentioned how there were many lepers in the land, but Naaman (a Gentile king) was the one healed. Then how there were many widows in the land but only the one from Sidon (a Gentile community) was assisted. He was inferring that if the Jews would not accept, him then the Gentiles would. This is what infuriated them so much.
Then look to the Parable of the marriage in Matt 22:1-14. All of these invitees are close family (the ones with a right to be there). But when they do not show up, the people in the street are brought in and accepted as the family members would have been.
The Firstborn were the Jews – Genesis 17:1-8
God chose Abraham and his seed to be his chosen people. He said that they would be his people and that he would be their God. They are the firstborn human heirs of God. By all right, they were chosen to receive the blessings and responsibility of stewardship by the Father. But they forfeited their inheritance by rejecting Jesus in the same way that Esau forfeited his by choosing a meal over his birthright.
The Kingdom expands to Gentiles – Acts 10
Much to the chagrin of many disciples, the Gentiles were accepted in Acts 10 after Cornelius was saved.
The next born was the Gentiles – Acts 28:25-31
Notice how the books of Acts concludes, with a fulfilling of the prophetic statement of Isaiah 6. The people of God refused to hear, so salvation was taken to the Gentiles, because they would listen. The Gentiles are the later offspring like Jacob. And much the same way that he wasn’t deserving of the blessing, we don’t deserve it either. But we desire it from God, the same way that Jacob desired his father’s blessing. Does this mean that the church replaces Israel in all of the promises that God made to her? No. It means that the Gentiles have received a blessing that they once were not entitled to.
Paul’s Ministry to them – Ephesians 3:5-8
Paul’s ministry was focused on the Gentiles. Look at where all his journeys took him. He spent most of his evangelizing in Greece and what we call Turkey teaching the pagan Gentiles.
With this blessing comes a great responsibility. Much the same way that the Jewish firstborn received a blessing and the responsibility of the family. We Gentiles have been given a great blessing, but will we accept the responsibility that comes with it. At least one of the guests at the marriage that we spoke of earlier didn’t. He didn’t bother getting ready for the feast, showed up unprepared and was thrust out. Jesus tells us that whoever much is given to, much is required of him (Luke 12:47-48). Just like in the comic book, Spider-man. The young super-hero is being advised by his elderly uncle who says, “with great power comes great responsibility”. Let’s not forget that advice in our lives. God gave us a stewardship that we have to take care of. Don’t forget the Parable of the talents (Matt 25) where not only the guy with one talent was expected to produce one. Also remember the guy that got ten talents. He was expected to produce the ten that he did.