One of our greatest frustrations in life revolves around unmet expectations.
And Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on the head of Ephraim, who was the younger, and his left hand on the head of Manasseh, crossing his hands (for Manasseh was the firstborn) … 17 When Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand on the head of Ephraim, it displeased him, and he took his father’s hand to move it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. 18 And Joseph said to his father, “Not this way, my father; since this one is the firstborn, put your right hand on his head.” 19 But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know. He also shall become a people, and he also shall be great. Nevertheless, his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his offspring shall become a multitude of nations.” 20 So he blessed them that day, saying, “By you Israel will pronounce blessings, saying, ‘God make you as Ephraim and as Manasseh.’” Thus he put Ephraim before Manasseh. – Genesis 48:14, 17-20
Joseph positioned his boys exactly as he wanted them. He situated them according to the customs of his day – the older under the blessing of the right hand (the better blessing) and younger under the left-hand blessing (sorry for all you lefties out there, but this blessing was not quite as good). Since his father was old and his health was failing, Joseph helped the old man out by having the boys stand in the right spot. He had Manasseh stand in front of Jacob’s right hand and Ephraim stand in front of his left. All Jacob had to do was raise his hands to give the long-awaited blessing to his grandsons. But, much to Joseph’s surprise, Jacob crossed his hands. The sight took Joseph off guard. But, it wasn’t a mistake. For Joseph, it was an unexpected crossing and defiance to the way he expected things to work. But for Jacob, it was exactly as he intended to give the blessing.
If we’re honest, one of our greatest frustrations in life revolves around unmet expectations. We are caught off guard when God crosses his hands in our circumstances, too. Yet, this is the beauty of the gospel. As Jesus steps onto the pages of history, he does so with his ‘hands crossed.’ He makes audacious claims like, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they shall see God.” He tells us the meek will inherit the kingdom, the first will be last, and the servants in God’s kingdom will become the greatest. In many ways, the reign of Jesus is a ‘hands-crossed’ type of reign! It’s a subversive and revolutionary.
There are many times I’ve prayed back to God, “Father, did you intend to cross your hands like that? Can’t you straighten them out and do things the way the world does? His consistent answer is, “No, I intended to cross my hands like that – but thanks for your input.” As you spend intentional time with God today, use this prayer by explorer Sir Francis Drake. He penned these words in 1577 as his way of embracing the ‘hands-crossed’ nature of God, and stepping into the flow of how God works in His world.
Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.
Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.
Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.
We ask You to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push into the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.
By Ryan Paulson