- Isaac gained preeminence over Ishmael
- Jacob gained priority over Esau
- Joseph gained priority over Reuben and the rest of the brothers, who, in the end are bowing down to him, begging for food and mercy.
- Isaac was born to Sarah when she was past the child-bearing age (21:1-2) (that is why she had tried to use a surrogate).
- Isaac’s wife Rebekah was barren until she became pregnant with Jacob and Esau after Isaac prayed (25:21).
- Jacob’s wife Rachel was also barren before God “opened her womb” and gave her Joseph (29:31) (she also had used a surrogate).
- Isaac was obviously favored at first by his mother over Ishmael, but also, ultimately, by Abraham. God tells Abraham, take your son, your only son, who you love…” (22:2)
- Jacob was his mother’s favorite (and not his father’s) in the beginning, but in the end he received a better blessing from his father, showing his preeminence.
- Joseph was explicitly his father’s favorite (37:3), and the robe may have been a symbol that he was going to get the inheritance.
- Isaac and Ishmael: Ishmael had issues with Isaac (21:8).
- Jacob and Esau: Esau vows to kill Jacob for stealing everything from him (27:41).
- Joseph and his brothers: The brothers hate him for being the favorite and for his visions (37:4).
- Isaac is taken to be sacrificed, but there is also a sense in which he is sent to be sacrificed. According to tradition as well as textual clues he goes willingly. He wasn’t fighting his father over the situation – he has to give himself up as a sacrifice.
- Jacob is sent by his father to get a wife.
- Joseph is sent by his father to check on the brothers.
- Isaac was essentially dead to his father as he raised the knife. The son of inheritance is tied to an altar.
- Jacob was gone for more than 14 years, working as a hired hand away from the place in which he would gain his inheritance.
- Joseph sold into slavery in Egypt and his father thought he was dead. He went from wearing the coat of many colors to Egyptian prison rags.
- Isaac had to allow himself to be tied with ropes and placed on the altar. He was a living sacrifice but there is nothing said about a struggle.
- Jacob had to keep working for fourteen years. He certainly was a bit shady in some of his dealings, but when it came to sticking to his end of the bargain to secure his wife, he did it.
- Joseph had to remain faithful especially when tempted by Potiphor’s wife.
- Because of his willingness to sacrifice Isaac, God renewed and extended his promise to Abraham (22:15-18), making Isaac the centerpiece of that covenant.
- Jacob left Laban with great wealth, and the last verses in the account of Jacob (35:27-29) tell of him coming home to his father as a very important man.
- Joseph is reunited with his father as the ruler of Egypt, basically with all the authority and power of the king. Their lives are in his hands and if it wasn’t for him, the family would have died out.
- Jesus is part of a supernatural family line, not a natural one. (We will talk more about the difference between the family of promise and the natural worldly family below, but for now let’s note that there is a difference between the family of man (which is a result of natural earthly processes) and the family of God (which is a result of supernatural processes).
- Twice God speaks directly from Heaven about who Jesus is: at his baptism and the Transfiguration. Both times God says “this is my son, whom I love” (Matt. 3:17 and 17:5). That is the same phrase used when God called Abraham to sacrifice his son, whom he loved.
- 1. One of the most obvious types of Christ in the Bible is Isaac. (And Jesus is not just Isaac in that story, of course, but also but the lamb who was sacrificed in his place.) Jesus is the son whom God the father presents as a sacrifice for the remission of sins. Just as Isaac carried the wood for the sacrifice on his back up to the top of Moriah, Jesus carried the wood that would be used to kill him up to the top of Moriah. The picture of Abraham offering his son is the picture of God offering his son for the sins of the world.
- 2. However, that is not the only reason Jesus was sent, and not the only picture we have of Jesus’ mission. Like Jacob, Jesus is also sent to woo his bride, his church. He is the bridegroom inviting people to a wedding banquet. Just like Jacob worked in anticipation of that wedding day, the culmination of Jesus work is the bride presented to her husband
- Rev. 19:7, 21:2, 22:17 tell us of the church dressed as a bride for her husband.
- In 2 Cor. 11:2 Paul promises his readers “to one husband, Christ.”
- In the parable of wedding banquet (Matt. 22) and the parable of the virgins (Matt. 25), Jesus talks about himself as the bridegroom, as he does in Matt. 9:15 and John 3:29.
- 3. Jesus is sent to check on mankind.
- This recalls the parable of the tenants in Matt. 21:33-45. After sending his servants (the prophets) to check on his renters (mankind), the landowner sends his son and the tenants kill him. Just like Joseph is sent to his brothers and rejected and killed, Jesus is sent and rejected. As John says “He came to that which was his own but his own did not receive him” (John 1:11).
- being thrown into a pit,
- then sent as a slave to Egypt,
- then thrown in jail in Egypt.
That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. (Eph. 1:20-23)After suffering and humiliation, Jesus is exalted as far as exaltation can possibly go. So we’ve see clear parallels between Jesus and Isaac, Jacob and Joseph. Now, what about Jesus’ relationship with his “older” brothers? Does that fit in? We noted that Isaac, Jacob and Joseph were
- the younger and the “non-natural” brother
- and they ran into conflict with the older
To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”
Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are ready to kill me, because you have no room for my word. I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you do what you have heard from your father.”
“Abraham is our father,” they answered.
“If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do the things Abraham did. As it is, you are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. You are doing the things your own father does.”
“We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.”
Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”Notice again the difference between Abraham’s descendents (seed, genetic family) (v. 37) and Abraham’s children (v.39). Jesus is telling the religious leaders that if they do not accept the truth and become children of God by faith in him, they will remain part of the fleshly line of Abraham only, instead of part of the spiritual line of Abraham. The “children” of Abraham are different than the descendents of Abraham. Genetic descendents of Abraham are in the same boat as all genetic descendents of Adam: under God’s judgment as children of the devil. (That is the point Paul is making in Romans 3 when he says all have sinned – Jews and Gentiles are the same when it comes to being under God’s judgment) To be saved even the religious Jewish leaders must become true children of Abraham by following Jesus. This is why Jesus said to Nicodemus that you must be born again!
“How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!” Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. (John 3:4-6)Of course this led to conflict with the children of the world, with the “older” “fleshly” brothers. Just as Isaac, Jacob and Joseph were persecuted, so also was Jesus persecuted by man. As he explains in that same chapter of John: “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. (John 3:19) So the lives of the beloved sons of God in Genesis tell us something about Jesus and what he came to do. As the new Adam, the beloved son of God came to build the family of God. What this Means to Us as Children of God These lives also tell us something about our lives as children of God. You see, we are now the beloved sons of God (assuming we have given our lives to Jesus and are in Christ and Christ is in us). The Church is the beloved son of God. Do we really think we can avoid this pattern? Do we think that these guys did it so we wouldn’t have to: “Isn’t it nice that they humbled themselves and were persecuted and worked for God at the expense of family and friends so that I wouldn’t have to? No! This life is the pattern of life for all beloved, supernaturally born children of God, including us. These guys are so similar because this is what all of God’s children go through. This is how God raises children. This is how mature adults are made. God supernaturally give us life and then calls us to face the same things that every other child of God has to face. I sometimes get the impression that we think God’s will is for us to just slide into heaven without having to love sacrificially or work or suffer or face temptation. No, we have to do all those things! We are to: 1. Sacrifice ourselves to the will of the Father and to others in love. As Paul says in Ephesians 5:1-2: “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. We are to “present our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God” (Rom. 12:1) Jesus and the rest didn’t sacrifice so we wouldn’t have to; he did it so that we could - so that we could die to self and live to Christ. Jesus said “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) Paul claimed, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal. 2:20) Bonhoeffer said that when Jesus calls a man, he bids him come and die. That is exactly right. Why? Because that is what love is, something I’ve talked about in previous sermons. 2. We are going to face hardship and persecution. If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. (John 15:18-20) “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him” (Phil. 1:29) But this suffering is to be accepted and frankly welcomed because we know that it produces maturity (James 1:2-4) and that it will lead to a reward, which leads us to another parallel. 4. The great thing is that when we remain faithful in our suffering, God will exalt us. The same prize that awaited the other sons of God awaits us. Therefore, we can “Count it all joy when you face trials because you know that they produce perseverance and perseverance must finish its work so you can be mature and complete” (James 1:12). That is why Paul can say, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” (Phil 3:10-12) Why does Paul welcome suffering and want to become like Jesus in his death? Because he knows it is the path to maturity and exaltation. This is the same guy who wrote Romans, after all. Romans 8 is all about the ramifications of what we have been talking about today: living in the spirit; that is to say, living a life not as a natural born child of sinful Adam, but as a spiritually born child of God. You see, we are the heirs – the children of promise who get the big prize at the end of the story! The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. (Romans 8:17-19) Now, let’s understand that this is not arbitrary – this is the way to maturation. As immature, sinful babes in Christ, the only way to grow is through trial. Holiness is union with God, so we need to see Heaven and Hell as the natural ends of a particular process. 5. So we must remain faithful and increase in holiness. 1 John 3:7-10 Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother In this we will make Jesus clear to the world around. As the church we have a mission to be Jesus to the world. We, with our “unveiled faces” (2 Cor 3:18) show the world Jesus. That’s an interesting phrase; it reminds me of Joseph finally revealing himself to his brothers as well as Jesus revealing himself to the beloved disciples at the transfiguration. Well, we are Jesus to the world. We are to shine like stars to those around us. (Phil. 2:15) Conclusion We started by talking about the curse on all of creation because of the fall. Family was broken and split apart and arable land was made difficult to farm. What is the solution to that problem? Sometimes people talk as if God just forgives the curse – waves a wand over it and treats it as if it never happened. Others talk about God reversing the curse – going backwards to cure the land and bring the people back together; some kind of healing process. I don’t think either is quite right. God doesn’t ignore what is broken or give it a new name or even just fix it. He starts again. He makes something new. Even as the natural, sinful order of things careens toward its final destruction, God creates a new family, a new order of things, and places it within the old order. One day those two orders will be irrevocably split and we’ll see the new heavens and a new earth for that new family to inhabit. Jesus is the first fruits of that new creation and we are his offspring. So now we are in an in-between time. We are still part of the old, fallen order, but we are also part of the new. We are like the beloved sons of scripture, awaiting our full inheritance while putting up with troublesome older brothers and in fact trying to save them. And we groan, waiting for the consummation of all things but taking heart in the fact that the story is not over yet. Let’s close with two final passages: Phil 3:13-21: Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. 1 John 3:1: How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!