More present-age considerations that don’t matter in the coming age

We saw last time that primogeniture is a present-age consideration that does not matter in the coming age, even as it breaks into the present age. There are many other present-age considerations that don’t matter, either, as God looks for willing people to use as agents of his inbreaking redemptive work.

One of the laws in Deuteronomy says that “no one of illegitimate birth nor any of their descendants may enter the assembly of the Lord, not even in the tenth generation” (23:2). This law was likely intended as a deterrent, to discourage births outside of marriage and ensure that children had loving, responsible parents. But even though illegitimate children could not even enter the assembly of the Lord (that is, participate in public worship in the tabernacle and temple, the basic expression of community membership), God chose to use Jephthah, an illegitimate child, to be one of the judges who delivered the people of Israel from their enemies. (Jephthah is notorious for offering his daughter as a human sacrifice after his victory, and while this shows his regrettable ignorance of God’s ways, it doesn’t negate the way God used him to deliver Israel; Jephthah is called one of the heroes of the faith in Hebrews.)

The law of Moses teaches deference to the aged.  “Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God” (Leviticus 19:32). In keeping with this teaching, Elihu waits to speak to Job until after all of his older friends have spoken. Nevertheless, God uses David to defeat Goliath, even though, as Saul objects, “You are only a young man, and he has been a warrior from his youth.” Two of the most godly reforming kings of Judah, Joash and Josiah, assumed the throne at young ages.  Paul told Timothy, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young.” Instead, Timothy was to use the gift that was given to him through prophecy when the elders laid their hands on him–the inbreaking coming age trumps present considerations.

The people of Israel were supposed to observe a strict separation from Gentiles. Nevertheless, God used many Gentiles as agents of his inbreaking redemptive work. Rahab protected Joshua’s spies and was instrumental in the conquest of Jericho. In the book of Judges, Jael, wife of Heber the Kenite, killed the fleeing general Sisera to complete the defeat of Jabin’s armies. Ruth saved Naomi’s life and ultimately became the great-grandmother of David and an ancestress of Jesus. The Persian emperor Cyrus defeated the Babylonians and allowed the Judeans to return from exile; at one point in Isaiah, Cyrus is even identified as one expression of the “servant of the Lord,” whose ultimate identity is fulfilled in Jesus. Jesus himself observed how God showed his reality by rescuing the widow in Zarephath and healing Naaman the Syrian in the time of Elijah, when more faith was found in these Gentiles than in the people of Israel.

Well, I think you see where this is going, but we’ll look at God’s use of women as his agents of inbreaking redemption in the next post.

Bartholomeus Breenbergh, Elijah and the Widow of Zarephath

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