We are familiar with the phrase spoken by Jesus, “The last shall be first and the first shall be last.” (Matthew 20:16) We have seen how this statement applied to the Children of Israel and later, the Jews. The intent of the Lord was that Israel be His “June Bride” when the Law (in intent a “marriage agreement”) was given on Mount Sinai at Pentecost. But the “bride” committed spiritual adultery with a false god, a Golden Calf.
However, this theme of the first being last was established even before the giving of the Law. The first example we see are the two sons of Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac. Ishmael was fourteen years older than Isaac and Abraham loved Ishmael. But Isaac was the Child of Promise. It was through Isaac that the lineage of Abraham “would be reckoned.” (Genesis 21:12)
Later, Isaac married Rebekah and for twenty years she was unable to conceive. Like Sarah, Rebekah was “barren.” Isaac prayed and the Lord responded with twins. While she was carrying the babies the Lord told her that the older (the first) would serve the younger (the last). (Genesis 25:23) Esau was born first, but the blessing went to Jacob.
Again, before the Law at Mount Sinai, Tamar was carrying twins. At the time of birth one of the babies, Zerah, stuck his hand out and the midwife tied a scarlet thread to his wrist to indicate the first born. Perez was actually delivered first but Zerah had been the first to breach the womb as the “firstborn.” (Genesis 38:27-30) However, the lineage of Jesus is accounted through Perez, the second born.
While Joseph was ruler in Egypt, two sons were born to him, Manasseh (the eldest) and Ephraim. When Joseph’s father, Jacob, came to Egypt to escape the famine Jacob blessed the two sons of Joseph. Joseph placed the boys so that Manasseh was at the right hand of Jacob. The right hand was the hand of blessing, just as Jesus sits at the right hand of God. But when Jacob blessed the boys he crossed his hands and placed his right hand on the younger son, Ephraim. Joseph thought his father was confused and tried to correct him, but Jacob was adamant. He placed the younger son, Ephraim, ahead of the firstborn son, Manasseh. (Genesis 48:14)
When Samuel was directed to the house of Jesse to anoint the future king of Israel, David was not even considered. His seven older brothers were presented to Samuel, but David was in the field tending the flock. Of course, we know that the Lord had chosen David, the youngest son. (First Samuel 16:5-13)
When David was old, Solomon was chosen by the Lord to succeed his father. Solomon was not the eldest son of David. In addition to sons by other wives, the first child born to David and Bathsheba was Shammua. In First Chronicles 3:1-9 Solomon was the last son listed as born to Bathsheba.
We Gentiles see from the beginning that the Lord had plans for those of us not chosen first through the physical lineage of Abraham. For He has grafted us into the Abrahamic lineage (Romans 11:17) somewhat like the second or last child. Hear the words of the Lord from Isaiah 65:1.
Praise His wonderful name for including us in His gracious Plan.