1 Chronicles 26:1–27:34, 2 Timothy 4:1–8, Psalm 89:23–52
When David passed the kingdom to his son Solomon, he organized every aspect. He put someone in charge of all roles and activities. The Bible lists their names: priests, musicians, gatekeepers, officials, the military, tribes, and even who tilled the soil, cared for the vineyards, wine cellars, olive and sycamore trees, the oil, all herds, camels, donkeys, and sheep.
One detail catches my eye. It stands in contrast to an important part of OT culture: the place of the firstborn in each family. The verse says: “And Hosah, of the sons of Merari, had sons: Shimri the chief (for though he was not the firstborn, his father made him chief) . . . .” (1 Chronicles 26:10)
Not very often did the rights of the firstborn go to anyone other than the oldest son, so I did some investigating. The name ‘Shimri’ means vigilant. I could not find the names of Hosah’s other sons, but this father was a gate keeper who guarded entrance to the temple. He would have to be a man of discernment in order to be in that role.
No doubt his discernment extended to his family. My guess is that he could see that Shimri had the qualities that fit leadership and warranted being made chief. Perhaps the brother who had actually been born before him was not nearly so qualified, not only for the position of ‘chief’ but the privilege of being the ‘firstborn.’
Firstborn sons often inherited a double portion and were honored in other ways, but the most significant is that they were considered as ‘belonging to God.’ Because of Hosah’s position as gatekeeper, he opened the temple gates only to those who belonged there. Perhaps Hosah could see that Shimri was a man strong of faith and the older brother was not. Whatever the reason, this father made his son the firstborn rather than his older brother.
This reminds me of the verse in Proverbs that tells parents to raise up children according to their bent, their abilities and giftedness. They even choose names for them that wound up describing their character. If that was the case in this family, it makes sense for this father to give a vigilant offspring a role of responsibility over a son who might have good qualities but not that of leadership.
Today’s NT reading is Paul’s exhortation to Timothy. Other verses indicate that Timothy needed this encouragement. He was criticized for being too young, and was also a timid man. Yet Paul saw beyond these realities to a greater one; the Lord God had gifted Timothy to be a pastor, so he must fulfill that gifting . . .
“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” (2 Timothy 4:1–2) Paul built up Timothy because he could see this young man’s potential.
My children are adults. All three have professed faith in Christ and all three have strong convictions about justice and fairness, even though they have different gifts. Recognizing their gifts, their ‘bent’ and the desires of their hearts is as important now as it was when they were growing up. Like all people, they need encouragement.
The reading from the psalms goes back to the firstborn. This time it is about David, but this is a messianic psalm in that it speaks of the king in terms that fit the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Near the end, it says, “He shall cry to me, ‘You are my Father, my God, and the Rock of my salvation.’ And I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth. My steadfast love I will keep for him forever, and my covenant will stand firm for him. I will establish his offspring forever and his throne as the days of the heavens.” (Psalm 89:26–29)
David, like Shimri, was made the firstborn even though he was the youngest brother. God blessed him, even called him a man after His own heart. Yet veiled in this Psalm filled with encouragement are signposts pointing to a greater reality to come, a King greater than David with a throne that will last for eternity.
The Messiah, Jesus Christ, did not need to be ‘made’ the firstborn for He is the only begotten Son of God. He is the vigilant one, the gatekeeper, the judge of the living and the dead, the great preacher and teacher, our best exhorter, the one who gifts us and urges us to serve Him with those gifts. His love is our love, and because of the covenant in His blood, I am established for eternity.
What a blessing to see connections in the Word of God!