Friday, August 12, 2011

A World Turned On Its Head

God turns the world upside down.

If you ever read through Genesis swiftly, you might notice a peculiar pattern. On four occasions, the blessings of the birth order are reversed in the genealogies.

It first happens with Abraham in Genesis 16. Even though Ishmael was born first to Abraham and God promises to bless him, the Abrahamic blessing still goes to the second born, Isaac. Perhaps this was a case of the birthright going to the first legitimate son, but this is not the only case of reversal. In the very next generation (Genesis 25), Jacob steals the birthright and blessing from his older twin brother Esau. Despite Jacob's underhanded methods, God used these events to work out his plan, for he declares "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated" (Malachi 1:2-3, Romans 9:13).

Twice more the birth order is switched. First, in a minor account, Perez and Zerah trade places during birth in Genesis 38:27-30. And finally, at the end of the book, Jacob blesses Ephraim over Manasseh though he was the second born to Joseph. This result of this is seen in the established nation of Israel; Ephraim is the dominant tribe in the North, and the Northern Kingdom is often represented by the name of this ancestor.

A Biblical Pattern

This historical pattern points to a spiritual pattern of God's dealings with man. Role reversal shows the sovereignty of God. Human history has unfolded according to the will of God, not the strength of man. This works out in very practical ways.

1. God Exalts the Humble (and Humbles the Proud)

Much energy is spent throughout the Bible to show that God tears down the lofty and raises up the lowly. This is nowhere near an exhaustive list, but intended to give a sample of God's attitude toward humility and pride:
  • The Tower of Babel (Genesis 10-11)
  • God's choice of David as King (1 Samuel 16)
  • Psalm 8:2
  • Proverbs 16:19
  • The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:2-12)
  • Jesus famous phrase, "The last shall be first, and the first last" (Matthew 20:16)
  • "God Opposes the Proud but Gives Grace to the Humble" (James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5)
2. God Replaces the First Covenant With the Second

When God established the pattern of reversing the first and the second, he was pointing toward his replacement of the first covenant with a second. The summary of this theology can be found in Hebrews 10, with the culmination in verse 9, "He does away with the first in order to establish the second."

3. God Fulfills the Pattern by Sending Jesus Christ

The very idea of Infinite God becoming man is the ultimate role reversal. "Though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men" (Philippians 2:6-7).

The King of the Universe became the Suffering Servant (Mark 8:31).

The typology of replacement with the Second is ultimately fulfilled in Jesus Christ. He is the Second Adam, and because the Perfect and Righteous becomes our representative to God the Father, those found in the Second Adam will be saved. "For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive" (1 Corinthians 15:22).

By humbling himself, Jesus is exalted by God and acceptable for our salvation:

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:8-11 ESV)

But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:27-31 ESV)

-- to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen. (Romans 16:27 ESV) 

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