We ended last week with a beautiful theology about first and second sons, about promises and blessings as reflected through the relationship between Isaac and his sons, Jacob and Esau, as a reflection of God's relationship with Israel and the world.
But let's not forget that God also tends to have a soft spot for third sons.
The first third son in the Bible comes all the way back at the beginning, of course, when Adam and Eve give birth to Seth. Cain and Abel were alright, and they certainly have their lessons to teach us, but when God is establishing the descent of the world and the fatherhood of all humanity, it is through Seth that He starts His sacred line. We've heard, of course, that God is the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob, but these fathers were the sons of Seth.
Skip ahead a little, and the next father we see with at least three sons is Noah. On the surface, it doesn't look like the third son of Noah is very blessed; it's Ham, the son who exposed his father's nakedness and became the father of Nimrod, as we looked at last week. But Ham is also the father of Canaan, which became the nation who inhabited the land that becomes the Promised Land. Which means that God has used the third son of Noah to cultivate and fertilize the Promised Land, the land He will promise to Abraham and to which He will lead the nation of Israel after its captivity in Egypt. That's pretty big.
And then we come to Jacob, who is the next father we see with at least three sons. If you follow along in the birth of Jacob's offspring, you see that the third son here is Levi, who is a son of the only wife to this point to give children to Jacob - Leah. Leah's other children were not favored; the special son in Jacob's quiver is and always has been Joseph, hasn't it? The son of Rachel?
But Levi...Levi is the son that God sets apart for Himself. Levi is the tribe that becomes servants of God. Levi is the tribe of priests. They get nothing in the inheritance because the Lord Himself is their promise.
Moses and Aaron come from the tribe of Levi.
It's all very interesting precisely because it is so unexpected. We believe there must be something about being a firstborn son, and we believe it all the more after we see the Passover. The firstborn son must always be redeemed or killed; he is precious and special in the eyes of his father. And we see through Jacob and Esau/Jews and Gentiles that the firstborn is the recipient of the promise.
And certainly, there's something about being a second son, too. It's the second son who we see again and again receive the blessing. Not just Jacob and the Jews, but even with the sons of Joseph - Jacob blesses the second son over the first, then offers the first a promise.
But God has a thing for third sons, and we should never forget this, either. For just look at what He has done through them.
Sometimes, I think it's easy to think of ourselves as Christians as third sons. We're not quite 'the world' (first sons) and we're no longer Jews (second sons), but we're something else...something very special to God and to what He's doing in the world. Something like...a Seth. A new chance at life. Something like...a Ham. Cultivators of the Promised Land. Something like...a Levi. Servants of God.