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 … “I know what I’m doing, my son.” (Genesis 48: 14, 19)
Jacob was 147, blind and dying. It was time to deliver his parting blessings to his children and grandchildren – a holy and emotional moment.
While blessing the two sons of Joseph, his favorite son, he crossed his hands. In ancient Israel, the right hand was the “good” hand (maybe because they wiped after going to the bathroom with the left hand?), so it represented the greater blessing. The younger son was about to get the blessing that was supposed to go to the older.
Even though he, himself, was a younger son who’d eclipsed his older brothers, Joseph didn’t like that one bit. He grabbed his father’s hands and tried to rearrange them to the expected position. But Jacob said it was no accident.
Which follows a pattern in their family.
Isaac was Ishmael’s younger brother, but Isaac inherited Abraham’s household. Jacob was Esau’s younger brother, but he tricked Esau out of the blind Isaac’s blessing. Joseph was one of Jacob’s younger sons, yet his brothers bowed down to him.
In theory, any son could succeed his father as head of household; in practice, it was considered the oldest son’s legacy. But over and over in the Old Testament, a younger son received the greater blessing.
That’s interesting, but what does that have to do with us?
God is not bound by our norms. There are different norms now, depending on where you live, but our societies and cultures still have expectations and molds they expect you to fill depending on your gender, education, neighborhood, racial or ethnic identity, wealth or poverty, physical prowess or disability, intellectual capacity, etc. God has always called people to bust through these molds, and blessed the people who did, in His name.
Even religious cultural norms. God is not bound by those, either.
You might be the one being told, “That’s not how you’re supposed to do it.” If so, you’re hopefully flush with passion and leaning on God’s guidance for how you’re working out your faith.
But what if you’re the one saying the confused and anxious, “That’s not how you’re supposed to do it”? What if you’re Joseph, the once-rebel who now has a stake in maintaining the cultural status quo?
There is anxiety for both the rebel and the gatekeeper, but the same path is open to both of them. Pray. Read the Bible. Pray some more.
It takes a lot of trust to not be threatened when God calls someone to behave in a different way than your cultural norms dictate. Just as it takes a lot of trust in how God is leading you to oppose your dominant culture. Trust that God knows what He’s doing. Because He does.