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Crossed Hands or Restoration (11: 20 - 22).
pp. 181 - 188
The insistence of Heb. 11: upon the peculiar characteristics of faith, brings into
prominence some incidents in the lives of the patriarchs that might otherwise have
remained in the background. This is specially the case with Joseph, for who, unguided by
God, would have picked out of that wonderful life the commandment concerning his
bones? In the verse before us we have a pair of witnesses that have to do with "blessing",
but blessing given with some rather unusual accompaniment or in some rather unusual
"By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come. By faith Jacob,
when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the
top of his staff" (Heb. 11: 20, 21).
It is very evident to the most casual reader that these two acts form a pair. In both
cases the old man, the father, is partially blind. "His eyes were dim, so that he could not
see" (Gen. 27: 1). "Now the eyes of Israel were dim for age, so that he could not see"
(Gen. 48: 10). In both cases, two sons are connected with the blessing; in the first
Jacob and Esau, in the second Ephraim and Manasseh. In both, the younger is blessed
above the elder, and in both there is an attempt to interfere with the Divine purpose by the
fondness of the parent for the firstborn. We have already demonstrated that Heb. 11: is
occupied with a series of seven pairs, and this close parallel is but added confirmation.
Grace not law.
We take it that the reader is sufficiently acquainted with the narrative of the two
passages of Genesis, to enable us to proceed at once to the lesson intended by the apostle
when writing to the Hebrews. One of the stumbling-blocks in the path of the early
church was the necessity to set aside generations of racial pride and the privileges of
circumcision. The Hebrew section could not readily relinquish their connection with the
law and their position as the firstborn, and around this difficulty a great deal of the
argument of Galatians and Romans is written:
"And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the
law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make
the promise of none effect. For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise:
but God gave it to Abraham by promise" (Gal. 3: 17, 18).
"Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be
sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the
faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all" (Rom. 4: 16).
These two passages make it very clear that the promises of God do not move along the
line of works, law or race, but that the promises originally made to Abraham and his seed
included both the Jew and Gentile in their embrace. Rom. 9: 7-12 throws further light
upon the question, revealing that deeper motives and purposes are involved: