Like Ephraim and Manasseh [Part 1]

By Alan Wright — December 03, 2018

Are you ready for some good news?

God has made you like Ephraim and Manasseh!

Today’s text: “And Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on the head of Ephraim, who was the younger, and his left hand on the head of Manasseh, crossing his hands (for Manasseh was the firstborn).” (Genesis 48:14, ESV)

It’s one of the most remarkable gospel images in the Old Testament. It is a bizarre, breathtaking scene of the aged Jacob blessing the sons of Joseph.

In Genesis 48, Jacob, the son of Isaac, is dying. When Joseph hears of his father’s imminent death, the son rushes to his father’s bedside so that Jacob can bless Joseph’s sons.

Though Jacob spent most of his life struggling and conniving, the dying patriarch has come to see the reality -- that his whole life is a testimony to the unmerited favor of God. He is the grandson of the man who was promised a nation only because of God’s sovereign grace. He is the younger twin brother who struggled for acceptance his whole life not realizing until the end that he had been favored all along.

When the dying Jacob extended his hands to bless his grandsons, he did something so shocking that it was unnerving to the boys’ father Joseph. Joseph had properly placed the older son, Manasseh, under the blind Jacob’s right hand and the younger, Ephraim, under the patriarch’s left hand.  But “Israel [Jacob] stretched out his right hand and laid it on the head of Ephraim, who was the younger, and his left hand on the head of Manasseh, crossing his hands for Manasseh was the firstborn”  (Gen. 48:14).

Joseph tried to correct him, but Jacob refused. Jacob kept his hands crossed and said, “I know, my son, I know.”  He was saying, essentially, I know what I’m doing, I’m putting the undeserving one in front of the deserving. I’m putting the unlikely one first. I’m showing blessing to the second born when I should be showing it to the firstborn.

It was a shadow. For, in the fullness of time, the Father would send His Son into the world. He was the firstborn of all creation who deserved only his father’s blessing. But, on the cross, the Father would cross his hands. The Father knew what he was doing. He was showing blessing to the undeserving second born – to you and to me. And that’s the gospel!

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