Friday, July 19, 2013

Being Last

Do you ever have a day where you wake up and from the get-go, God seems to have a specific message for your day?  Like wherever you go- there it is!  That doesn't happen a lot for me, but when it does, I can't help but slow down and say..."Ok, God.  I'm listening!  Teach away."

So...Sunday morning I sat down to my bowl of cereal and my giant cup of coffee and a chapter or two of Genesis, which is what I've been reading in the mornings.  I'm pretty familiar with most of the stories in Genesis, but as I was reading Genesis Chapter 48, I found the passage is less familiar than most.  It is about how Jacob is blessing Joseph's two sons before he dies.  Strangely, he crosses his arms while putting his hands on the heads of the two sons.  He puts his right hand on the head of Ephraim, the younger son, and he puts his left hand on the head of Manasseh, the older son.  The right hand symbolized the bigger blessing and their dad, Joseph, gets kind of grumpy about it.  To paraphrase it, he calls his dad out on the mistake...Um,'re pretty old...maybe you didn't realize Manasseh is older...and then Jacob simply replies he meant to do it that way.  So end of discussion! 

Taken out of context this seems like a strange little occurrence, but a little side note in my study Bible caught my eye.  It reminded me that the younger brother had a history of getting the blessing in this family.  So it wasn't so strange!  After all, Jacob elevated Joseph, the second youngest son in his family, to be his favorite.  Jacob also tricked his older brother out of his birthright and received a bigger blessing from his father, Isaac.  And Isaac was given preference and inheritance over HIS older brother Ishmael.  It was a whole long line of the younger brother over the older, totally contrary to the customs of that day, I imagine. what?

Well, I would have filed this under interesting but not really relevant to my life(Hey, I'm the oldest!)...until...I was prodded with the concept of humility for the rest of the day.  There are certain modern day prophets that exist today, although I think they are pretty rare.  I am very fortunate to count Marvin Adams, the director of the Wabash Valley International House of Prayer, as a friend and one of these prophetic and spiritually beautiful people.  Shortly after my Bible reading on Sunday, he posted this on facebook (used here with permission!):

"I know of only one kingdom that isn't based on selfish gain, that is built on servanthood and that you enter through a cross. It's power is based in hiddeness and humility where the first are last and the last are first. I long for that kingdom to be fully manifest and restored to its rightful place. I have an ache til that happens."

BOOM!  And with that, the dots were connected for me.  Abraham and his descendants weren't perfect by any stretch of the imagination.  There was a lot of deception and hurt in those generations taking blessings traditionally held by the oldest son.  BUT.  God had, and continues to have, a large scope of a plan and it was already unfolding.  There were principles already being established in book one of the Bible that would mesh with the coming of Jesus hundreds of years later far down the same family line of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph.  Namely:

The last will be first.

I had to laugh to myself when we arrived at church that evening and I opened up my bulletin to the sermon outline.  First point: Humble ourselves.  Text: All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, "God apposes the proud but shows favor to the humble." (1 Peter 5:5)
Of course!  A verse from the new testament on humility that quotes a verse from Proverbs in the Old Testament!  So, God has intentionally been putting an emphasis and importance on humility in his people for a long time.  I get it!  But...what's the application here?  For me?

Well, Peter was writing to the first century Christians being persecuted and killed for their beliefs.  And even though they weren't high on the social ladder, they were instructed to persevere and also serve each other, too.  My context is as a white, straight, Christian woman in her thirties living in the Midwest of the U.S.A. with her middle class (what DOES that mean???) family in the first part of the 21st century.  By the standards of most of the population of the world and most of the population of my own country, state, and city, I am beyond privileged.  I am no where near last in any measurable category.  Sometimes I feel pretty far down in the athletic ability...but last?  Probably not.  (Unless you count the many 3200s I ran in high school track.  I was last a lot.)

And if I'm honest, I do desire that other people would have the same opportunities as myself.  To have their needs met physically and relationally.  To have access to health and education and to pursue a career and family and not be persecuted and treated like someone without value.  God made everyone unique and valuable enough for his perfect son to die for specifically THEM.  Everyone should not just have equality but an infinite value placed upon their life.  But how do I show others everyday that they do indeed hold this value?  That they are beyond just equal to myself and that they can go first and I can go last?  That is simply hard to live. Extremely hard.  We struggle as a country to ensure equal rights for all and define what that even is.  So how much more is the struggle to put others AHEAD of ourselves?  I'm not trying to get political here.  Really.  I am just struggling to put into motion the huge challenge of Jesus of living a daily life where I put God first and others before myself. 

I don't know about you, but I am guilty of taking the last ice cream treat in the freezer and eating it secretly before my kids find me.  I am guilty of not doing a chore on purpose, and hoping my husband does it instead.  I can't even put my own flesh and blood first with stupid little things, let alone big important things of spiritual impact!  It's hard to get over myself and show others that I think they are valuable because God has made them of great value.  So I ask God to change me and continue to work in my heart so that a life of selflessness and humility grows.  It becomes natural and causes others to ask...why?  It's so backwards to what the world defines as success.  You can't help but stand out when you willingly become last.

So, along with this I think I'm going to study the life of Jesus for awhile to find examples of how he puts others first.  Which is good, because I'm running out of chapters in Genesis.  And I'll ask for examples from my readers.  How do you put others first?  How do you make yourself last (but not forget God has made you valuable, too!  Even Jesus had to take care of himself and rest up!)?

But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first. (Matthew 19:30)
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5)

1 comment:

Christen said...

This is great Beth! I love it when something like this happens & the same scripture pops up in your head in life & it's like "OK! I am listening!!" :) It's awesome.
My Grandfather was the perfect example of humility for me. One tiny example, of so many!!.. would be that he'd volunteer every month at a dinner where they served the needy. He'd stand there & help serve (this was when he was in his 70's mind you) and would not eat a bite until every single other person & helper had eaten. He was known for it, and I didn't even hear about it until after he died. So many people mentioned stories like that where he was always putting others before him. Such a perfect example of a man who was humble before God & before his family, friends, and neighbors!