“When Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand on the head of Ephraim, it displeased him, and he took his father’s hand to move it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. And Joseph said to his father, ‘Not this way, my father; since this one is the firstborn, put your right hand on his head.’ But his father refused and said, ‘I know, my son, I know. He also shall become a people, and he also shall be great. Nevertheless, his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his offspring shall become a multitude of nations'” (Genesis 48:17-19).
When the world would do things one way, God has a habit of doing things the opposite way. One of those opposite ways is that God loves to exalt the lowly, as we’ve already seen with Jacob and Esau, as the younger Jacob was chosen for the promise. Now Jacob is continuing that blessing as he passes a blessing on to Joseph’s younger son, Ephraim.
Why? Why is it God’s modus operandi to exalt the lowly? I think it is nothing more than the fact that God has a heart for the lesser—the lowly—of the earth, especially that His only-begotten Son would become lowly to exalt all in His death and resurrection. God exalts His lowly people Israel despite their humble identity. Much later, Hannah would confess this attribute of God in her song as a precursor to Mary’s song, the mother of Jesus (1 Samuel 2:1-10; Luke 1:46-55). Christ would be the fulfilment of this in His life, death, and resurrection.
Consider St. Paul’s words, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore, God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:5-11).
By taking on our human flesh, Jesus lowered Himself immensely. Yet He was made low so that He would be exalted, and we with Him, not by anything we have done but solely for the perfect obedience of Christ to God the Father. As Paul says elsewhere, just as Christ died on the cross and was risen from the dead, so by virtue of our Baptism shall we be exalted in like manner (Romans 6:3-5). This exaltation is coming at Christ’s imminent return.
Featured image taken by Joshua Eckstein at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, Augusta, Georgia, USA. July 31, 2020. Unsplash.