Hope

Hope in the Bible is more than “hope” as presently defined in postmodern English, where “hope” is to believe that good and pleasant things will come to us. Biblical Hope is the steadfast belief and confidence that those blessings presently unseen are in fact ours.

. . . having a hope in God which these themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust. Acts 24:15

Through him we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God. Rom. 5:2

For through the Spirit, by faith, we wait for the hope of righteousness. Gal. 5:5

To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Col. 1:27

NonBelievers Trust in Money and Power

Believers are contrasted with the rich, who trust in their positions and power, for it was by these positions and power that they believed that they could bribe their pagan gods into showing them favor.

As for the rich in this world, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on uncertain riches but on God who richly furnishes us with everything to enjoy. 1Tim. 6:17 

There is One Hope

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, Eph. 4:4 

There is only one real hope, it is a hope of salvation. That the Lord’s righteousness will be imputed to us. It is not a hope of earthly life, health, or prosperity. But rather a hope in things unseen at the present time. That when we seen those hidden things we will be in good standing, because of our Lord’s sacrifice. As the old hymn says

Bold I approach the eternal Throne,

And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

from And can it be that I should gain

See Also: Five Crowns

Faith

The Congregation is Firstborn

Here’s a surprise for some. All believers are considered first-borns.

22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering,  23 and to the assembly of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven, and to a judge who is God of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,  24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks more graciously than the blood of Abel. Heb. 12:22-24

We now all have the special blessings and therefore the responsibilities of a firstborn.

The first responsibility is to take care of our mother.

But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. Gal. 4:26

The other responsibility of the firstborn is to take care of the rest of the family.

And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 1John 3:23

So our first thought and action of each morning is to seek the Kingdom of God and to build it up.

Even the Messiah understood that the Father’s will come first.

“I can do nothing on my own authority; as I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.” John 5:30

Messiah as Firstborn

Our Messiah is the firstborn of all creation, as well as the firstborn of the dead, as well as being the firstborn of Mary and Joseph.

Can an unclean things bring forth a unclean thing? Once there was this tomb outside of Jerusalem that did.

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren. Rom. 8:29

Aside from being the great “predestination” verse we are also informed the Messiah is the firstborn of the brethren. He is the pre-eminent leader of His Congregation. The firstborn were to be dedicated to God, they were the head of the family and as such were responsible for the others welfare. No one can or should try to usurp His firstborn status. He is our leader. We have no king but Messiah.

He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; Col. 1:15 

This is not to mean as some cult teach that Messiah is a creation. The Greek is actually prototokos pases ktiseos which is, born before all the creation. The word, with only the change of the accent, prototokos, signifies actively the first begetter or producer of all things. The firstborn here is used in the sense of His pre-eminence.

He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that in everything he might be pre-eminent. Col. 1:18

He is the head of the Congregation as ancient kings were heads of the kingdoms. He is the head of the government with the right to make and enforce laws. The Greek is arche, prototokos ek o nekros, beginning, ruler, principle, born or the dead.

Ephraim is my Firstborn

ephraimThere is a lot of odd teachings about Ephraim out there. They all center around this group or that group or Christians in general being Ephraim. Why would anyone of Gentile decent want to be of Israel. They are under God’s judgment. Is it not enough to be adopted into the Family of God? His love is for the individual who will follow Him, not some group that must have the right parentage.

With weeping they shall come, and with consolations I will lead them back, I will make them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble; for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my first-born. Jer. 31:9

The tribe of Ephraim had gone astray from God, was no more worthy to be called a son, a first-born son and as such is to be given the double portion.

The same reason that was given for their release out of Egypt is given for their release out of Babylon; they are free-born and therefore must not be enslaved. They are born to God and therefore must not be the servants of men.

However the odd thing here is that Ephraim was not taken by Babylon but rather Assyria. They were relocated with the rest of the Ten Northern Tribes in Persia, now called Iran. (See Also: The Ten Lost Tribes)

In pure birth order Ephraim is the last born of the tribes, as he is Joseph’s second son.

The name of the second he called Ephraim, “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.” Gen. 41:52

At the time of the blessing of the tribes Judah/Israel gives Ephraim the blessing of the firstborn.

13 And Joseph took them both, Ephraim in his right hand toward Israel’s left hand, and Manasseh in his left hand toward Israel’s right hand, and brought them near him. 14 And Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it upon the head of Ephraim, who was the younger, and his left hand upon the head of Manasseh, crossing his hands, for Manasseh was the first-born. Gen. 48:13-14

So he blessed them that day, saying, “By you Israel will pronounce blessings, saying, ‘God make you as Ephraim and as Manasseh”; and thus he put Ephraim before Manasseh. Gen. 48:20

The Curse of rebuilding Jericho

The city of Jericho from the ruins of the old walls

The city of Jericho from the ruins of the old walls

A little known passage about Jericho.

Joshua laid an oath upon them at that time, saying, “Cursed before the LORD be the man that rises up and rebuilds this city, Jericho.  At the cost of his first-born shall he lay its foundation, and at the cost of his youngest son shall he set up its gates.” Josh. 6:26 

And yes someone over 400 years later did rebuild Jericho.

In his days Hiel of Bethel built Jericho; he laid its foundation at the cost of Abiram his first-born, and set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, according to the word of the LORD, which he spoke by Joshua the son of Nun. 1Kings 16:34

The Law of the Firstborn

We see a great deal of strife thought out the book of Genesis in the family dynamic of the chosen family of God. For various reasons the firstborn is rejected.

Issac and Ishmael

And Abraham said to God, “O that Ishmael might live in thy sight!” Gen. 17:18

Jacob and Esau

Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your first-born. I have done as you told me; now sit up and eat of my game, that you may bless me.” Gen. 27:19

And you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD, Israel is my first-born son, Ex. 4:22

Jacob’s Sons

This is interesting for it is exactly what happened with Jacob’s children. However it was not because of how Jacob felt about them but rather because of their rash actions. Reuben the first born slept with his father’s concubine which lost him the right of the firstborn. Next came Simeon and Levi who for the sake of their sister Dinah killed all the males of Shechem. So the scepter passed to Judah.

 3 Reuben, you are my first-born, my might, and the first fruits of my strength, pre-eminent in pride and pre-eminent in power.  4 Unstable as water, you shall not have pre-eminence because you went up to your father’s bed; then you defiled it — you went up to my couch!  5 Simeon and Levi are brothers; weapons of violence are their swords.  6 O my soul, come not into their council; O my spirit, be not joined to their company; for in their anger they slay men, and in their wantonness they hamstring oxen.  7 Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce; and their wrath, for it is cruel! I will divide them in Jacob and scatter them in Israel.  8 Judah, your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons shall bow down before you.  9 Judah is a lion’s whelp; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as a lioness; who dares rouse him up?  10 The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.  11 Binding his foal to the vine and his ass’s colt to the choice vine, he washes his garments in wine and his vesture in the blood of grapes;  12 his eyes shall be red with wine, and his teeth white with milk. Gen 49:3-12

Manasseh and Ephraim

Joseph called the name of the first-born Manasseh, “For,” he said, “God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house.” Gen. 41:51 

3 And Joseph took them both, Ephraim in his right hand toward Israel’s left hand, and Manasseh in his left hand toward Israel’s right hand, and brought them near him.  14 And Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it upon the head of Ephraim, who was the younger, and his left hand upon the head of Manasseh, crossing his hands, for Manasseh was the first-born.  15 And he blessed Joseph, and said, “The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has led me all my life long to this day,  16 the angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and in them let my name be perpetuated, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.” Gen. 48:13-16

The Law of the Firstborn

We don’t find out what all these special rights are until Deuteronomy.

. . . 16 then on the day when he assigns his possessions as an inheritance to his sons, he may not treat the son of the loved as the first-born in preference to the son of the disliked, who is the first-born, 17 but he shall acknowledge the first-born, the son of the disliked, by giving him a double portion of all that he has, for he is the first issue of his strength; the right of the first-born is his. Deut. 21:16-17

No matter what a father feels about his children’s mother the rights of the firstborn are not to be abridged.

Who are the First Born?

In our culture we no longer honor firstborns the way they did in agrarian societies. In the culture of the Bible the firstborn was given a double portion of the inheritance. Part of his double portion was that all the father’s land usually came to the firstborn undivided. With this extra wealth came extra responsibilities, for the firstborn was responsible for his widowed mother and any unwed sisters. This is why we see at the cross Messiah handing the responsibility for His mother’s care to John. It was probably not because he felt his brothers were unworthy but rather His knowledge that John would live longer.

There are several passages concerning firstborns in the Bible. Over the next few weeks we will look at all of them. There are the firstborn of Egypt, the first born of Israel, the Levite who become the firstborn, the curse on the firstborn of any who would rebuild Jericho, our Messiah is the firstborn of the dead, and last of all the congregation is the assembly of firstborn.

First and Foremost the Firstborn is one who must be Redeemed

Egypt’s Firstborn a type of Israel’s Firstborns

For when Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the LORD slew all the first-born in the land of Egypt, both the first-born of man and the first-born of cattle. Therefore I sacrifice to the LORD all the males that first open the womb; but all the first-born of my sons I redeem.’ Ex. 13:15

Because the Lord had taken the firstborn of Egypt He now requires the service of the firstborn of Israel. These firstborn were to be consecrated to the Lord as priests. However things are changed after the tabernacle is built. In Numbers 3-4 the Levites and their cattle replace all the firstborns of the other tribes, and those of the other tribes are redeemed and no longer must serve the Lord and his temple.

And you shall take the Levites for me — I am the LORD — instead of all the first-born among the people of Israel, and the cattle of the Levites instead of all the firstlings among the cattle of the people of Israel.” Num. 3:41

Every time a newborn came into a family this law is reemphasized as five shekels were to be paid to the high priest.

FYI: A shekel is not a coin but rather a unit of measure. Coins don’t come into existence until just prior to Alexander the Great. Five ancient shekels amount to just about 100 grams of pure silver. This fluctuates to modern currencies see Silver Gram Price Calculator
Joseph – Rachel’s firstborn son, was sold by his brothers for twenty silver pieces, the equivalent of five shekels. This established that the standard “price” for a (firstborn) human is five shekels, which are given to the priest to redeem the child.

The changing of the law is troublesome because God never changes.

But thou art the same, and thy years will never end.” Heb. 1:12b

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever. Heb. 13:8

What must be remembered is that He is not changing the need for redemption but rather who will provide the required sacrifice. The change in the law of the redemption of the firstborn is a type for the change in the law of the insufficient sacrifice of the blood of goats and bulls to the one sufficient sacrifice of His own Son.

. . . he entered once for all into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves but his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. Heb. 9:12

For it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins. Heb. 10:4