God’s Ways Are Not Our Ways
“But Jacob crossed his arms as he reached out to lay his hands on the boys’ heads. So his right hand was on the head of Ephraim, the younger boy, and his left hand was on the head of Manasseh, the older.” – Genesis 48:14 NLT
The danger in reading these Old Testament stories is to read them as just that – stories. In other words, we can end up reading them as simply some kind of ancient recounting of the lives of men and women who lived a long time ago in a culture and setting with which we can’t relate. In doing so, we miss out on the real message behind the stories – the message of God’s sovereign power and His redemptive plan for mankind. These are not the stories of Jacob and Joseph, they are the stories of God unfolding His divine plan for man’s future restoration through His own Son. In these stories we are given a glimpse of how God was working behind the scenes to orchestrate His plan, in spite of the fallen condition of men. You see this in the story of Jacob (Israel) blessing the sons of Joseph. We are told that in his old age, Jacob requests that Joseph bring his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim to him in order that he might bless them (Genesis 48:8-9). But an interesting thing happens as he blesses the two boys. The text says that he crossed his hands, putting his right hand on the head of the younger son and his left hand on the head of the older son. The text emphasizes Jacob’s extreme old age and seems to leave the read with the idea that he was just confused. Even Joseph sees what is happening and attempts to remove his father’s hands and correct the situation. This shouldn’t be happening! As the older son, Manasseh should be receiving the blessing. It was tradition. It was the way it had always been. Yet here was the old and seemingly senile Jacob giving his blessing to the wrong son!
Joseph was not happy with this turn of events. He wanted the blessing to go to Manasseh. But God had another plan. A plan that Jacob seemed to be in on. When Joseph attempted to remove his hand from the head of Ephraim and place it on the head of Manasseh, Jacob responded quite confidently, “I know what I’m doing, my son,” he said. “Manasseh, too, will become a great people, but his younger brother will become even greater. His descendants will become a multitude of nations” (Genesis48:19 NLT). This was not a mistake. This was not a case of dementia. And Jacob was not showing favoritism. It was part of the divine plan of God. Matthew Henry makes this assessment in his commentary on the Old Testament:
Jacob gave him to understand that he knew what he did, and that he did it not by mistake, nor in a humour, nor from a partial affection to one more than the other,but from a spirit of prophecy, and in compliance with the divine counsels. Manasseh should be great, but truly Ephraim should be greater. When the tribes were mustered in the wilderness, Ephraim was more numerous than Manasseh, and had the standard of that squadron (Num. 1:32, 33, 35; 2:18, 20), and is named first, Ps. 80:2. Joshua was of that tribe, so was Jeroboam. The tribe of Manasseh was divided, one half on one side Jordan, the other half on the other side, which made it the less powerful and considerable.
God had a plan for Ephraim. It did not follow the plans of men. God’s ways are not our ways. His plans trump our own. He may choose to do things differently than we would like. But in the end, His plans are always best, and His plans are always right. Matthew Henry goes on to say:
God, in bestowing his blessings upon his people, gives more to some than to others, more gifts, graces, and comforts, and more of the good things of this life. He often gives most to those that are least likely. He chooses the weak things of the world; raises the poor out of the dust. Grace observes not the order of nature, nor does God prefer those whom we think fittest to be preferred, but as it pleases him. It is observable how often God, by the distinguishing favours of his covenant, advanced the younger above the elder, Abel above Cain, Shem above Japheth, Abraham above Nahor and Haran, Isaac above Ishmael, Jacob above Esau; Judah and Joseph were preferred before Reuben, Moses before Aaron, David and Solomon before their elder brethren. See 1 Samuel 16:7. He tied the Jews to observe the birthright (Deuteronomy 21:17), but he never tied himself to observe it. Some make this typical of the preference given to the Gentiles above the Jews; the Gentile converts were much more numerous than those of the Jews. See Galatians 4:27. Thus free grace becomes more illustrious.
The real star of the Bible is God. This is about Him. It is about His plan. It is about His gracious interaction with fallen mankind and His orchestration of a flawless plan to redeem men from the effects of the fall. It is about grace. John Wesley said this about the story of the blessing of Ephraim over Manasseh: “Grace observes not the order of nature, nor doth God prefer those whom we think fittest to be preferred but as it pleaseth him.“ God always does what pleases Him. He always does what is best. We may not understand it or even like it, but we can rest assured that God’s ways are always better than our ways. His plan is always better than our plan. And He is still working that plan out through our lives today, just as He did in the lives of Jacob, Joseph and Ephraim. Are you willing to trust God with your life today?
Father, I want to grow in my trust of You. I want to become increasingly comfortable that things will not always work out the way I think they should, but that’s OK, because You are in control. You are working Your plan. You are doing things that I cannot see. I don’t have to panic or demand that You do things my way. I can even give up on my plans and expectations and not worry about it, because You are going to work out all things according to Your divine plan. You will do what pleases You and I will continue to learn that that outcome will always end up pleasing me. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men