Here is another extracts from The Glory of the Story, my father’s devotional introduction to biblical theology in the form of 366 daily readings which show how the Old Testament story is fulfilled in Christ. The Glory of the Story is available as a Kindle book for $2.99 from amazon.com and £1.99 from amazon.co.uk. I’m posting extracts from the chaper on the story of Jacob, usually on the first Monday of the month.
The law of primogeniture establishes the right of succession to the first-born child. It is a very ancient and fundamental conviction in the world of Isaac and Rebekah (Deut. 21:15-17; cf. Gen. 25:5). It is something you don’t tamper with! So ‘the older will serve the younger’ (see yesterday) is a revolutionary announcement. It not only challenges the conventions of the day but sets a pattern for the rest of the story. It is essentially a disclosure about God himself and his dealings with us.
1. He is a sovereign God
God gives no explanation for his choice of Jacob over Esau (cf. Gen. 48:14; 1 Sam. 16:11-12). He declares the freedom of his will over every human convention and definition of propriety. Paul refers to Jacob’s election to argue that God, though faithful to Israel, never promises to save every single Jew. He will have mercy on whom he will have mercy (Rom. 9:6-16).
2. He is a subversive God
God’s overturning of conventional power arrangements anticipates:
• God’s frequent alignment with the ‘younger ones’ in Israel – the widows, orphans and aliens (Deut. 10:18; 14:28-29; 26:12).
• The gospel declaration that the first will be last and the last first (Matt. 19:30; 20:16; Mark 9:35; Luke 13:30).
• Jesus’ identification with tax-collectors and sinners (Matt. 9:10-13; 11:19; 21:32).
• Jesus’ description of those belongings to God’s kingdom. Read Matthew 5:3-5.
• Jesus’ call to servanthood (Matt. 20:20-28; 23:8-11)
• Paul’s critique of this world’s wisdom. The God who chose ‘the younger’ is the same God who makes foolish the wisdom of this world through the cross ( 1 Cor. 1:18-31).
3. He is a gracious God
Those who find the truth of God’s election difficult, even scandalous, might reflect on the fact that God almost invariably chooses ‘younger sons’- the outcasts, the helpless and hopeless, the unworthy and unvalued (1 Cor. 1:26). He violates the world’s notions of wisdom and power and is gracious to those who have no merit of their own. In the Parable of the Lost Sons (Luke 15:11-32), the older son rests on his rights and virtues. The younger son, from the point of weakness, trusts himself fully to the mercy of a gracious father. The story finishes with the younger, not the older, brother inside the family home. Such inversions remind us that salvation is all of grace.
Is the western Church today guilty of assuming it has culturally bestowed rights and privileges?