Salted throughout the Old Testament between the Fall of mankind and the Incarnation of the Christ are stories of the reordering of Creation. Not unlike the shift that occurred with the bloodshed of Abel, or the focused salvaging of mankind after Noah’s Flood, an obscure scripture in I Chronicles 5:1-2 perhaps holds insight into the nature of the God behind these historical shifts. It appears that at times a divine reordering occurs that denies the laws of man and thwarts all religious principles.
“The sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel (he was the firstborn, but when he defiled his father’s marriage bed, his rights as firstborn were given to the sons of Joseph son of Israel; so he could not be listed in the genealogical record in accordance with his birthright, and though Judah was the strongest of his brothers and a ruler came from him, the rights of the firstborn belonged to Joseph.” (NIV).
What rightfully belonged to Reuben, the legal firstborn of Jacob, was shifted to the “second” firstborn Joseph, the offspring of Jacob and Rachael. It is interesting that Joseph was birthed out of a true love relationship, unlike the former. Joseph would eventually be lauded as the favorite son of Israel. If I were writing the story, this heir would launch all future generations!
Joseph was certainly a Christ type in the way he followed God, rising through the ranks with Potiphar, eventually calling the shots for the Pharaoh of Egypt. His story of righteousness, his denial of the lustful desires of Potiphar’s wife, won him quite the journey from prison’s pit to the royal palace. However, his story ends in Egypt with only the promise that one day his bones be transported to the Promise Land! As I write, I have to admit that my thoughts drift to the possibility that the story of Joseph’s bones may best represent the institutional church in America today!
Reuben and Joseph were the perfect candidates to display a stark contrast between man’s ways and the true nature of God, reestablishing the trajectory of the offspring of Abraham and seeding the eventual incarnation of Christ. However, a third character emerges as the one upon which God would establish His lineage, Judah.
Judah’s name means praise, though Judah’s life seems less than demonstrative of this moniker. Checkered with life challenges, not the least being his illicit affair with his daughter-in-law. Still, he still lives into the prophecy given by his dying dad, Jacob:
“You are a lion’s cub, Judah;
you return from the prey, my son.
Like a lion he crouches and lies down,
like a lioness—who dares to rouse him?
The scepter will not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until he to whom it belongs[b] shall come
and the obedience of the nations shall be his.” (Gen 49:9-10 NIV).
Out of Judah would come the Lion known as the Son of God, the Christ incarnate, Bethlehem’s Child!
God works in mysterious ways often violating the order that man and religion would assume. Perhaps He is doing it again, as we see a radical shift in power on the earth. Most all are claiming to be the offspring of Abraham, each religion struggling to seize the Kingdom for their god. Yet in all that, the One true God patiently delivers the essence of a truth too seldom displayed, perhaps even lost among many in the religions of Judaism, Islam and American Christianity. “God is love”.
Just as our Creator made a way for the next to the last, Joseph, to become the first among the children of Jacob, then reestablishing righteousness out of Judah’s soiled branch. Perhaps another reordering is in process?
While the institutional church struggles to sustain her influence in an America headed the way of so many former Christian nations, it now seems Ishmael’s offspring have begun the struggle to seize front stage. Could this reordering be the answer to God’s promise to Hagar? Hoards of people are on the move across the globe in a violent struggle for life, with their enemy, often a radical sect of their same faith, held at bay only by the power and might behind this second Israel we know as America. Could our nation have providentially emerged in some brief window of history, solely for the purpose of this reordering, as the Ancient of Days finalizes the work of Christ?
We are one people and though different in lineage, the offspring of One Creator! He is sovereign, His banner is love and His ways righteous.