When you watch programmes like ‘Downton Abbey’ or read Jane Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’, you realize that one of the most important things for wealthy families down the centuries has been having an heir to continue the family name.
Progeny had been a very big issue in Jacob’s family too, as God had promised that they would become vast in number. So Jacob must have been feeling pretty pleased with himself that he had managed to produce eleven sons! But which of them would be his true, special heir? Tradition has generally allotted this honour to the eldest son, but for Jacob one stood out from the rest. Joseph. The precious long-awaited son of his one true love Rachel, the bride of his choosing. Of course the sons of his other wife Leah had higher regard than those of his concubines, but in Jacob’s eyes, Joseph was his true heir.
I wonder how the other sons felt when Joseph and Rachel were given the safest place in the line as they were going to meet Esau? (Genesis 33:2, 6-7) Did their self-esteem plummet? Did they see themselves of lesser value?
It turned out that probably the most significant of all these children were Judah and Levi (fourth and third sons of Leah repectively). Certainly Joseph had a very important role to play, but it was from Judah that the Jews, and Jesus, were decended; and Levi was the priestly tribe. Not how Jacob would have planned it!
What makes us important? I was third in the family and a girl – how low is that in God’s pecking order? Not low at all it seems. God values us all equally highly. Sure, we may have different jobs to do, and some of those might seem more significant, but each one of us is ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’. And each one of us is precious to him. It doesn’t matter what position in the family you were born in, it doesn’t matter where you sit in church. However rich, clever, healthy, tall, slim, beautiful…or not…don’t let yourself be put down by other people or yourself. God thinks you are wonderful! And when we finally get to heaven, I think there might be some surprises about which of us get the highest honours there.