Sonship, part 19: Sons are servants first
As we continue our studies about the principles of sonship, we find yet another aspect of the principle of a double portion being inherited by the firstborn son. In this case, however, we are moving away from the strictly physical and literal sense to examine one of the figurative meanings of the word “son.” A person who is a follower or disciple of a teacher can be called his “son.”
2 Kings 2: 9 And it came to pass, when they were gone over, that Elijah said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me.
10 And he said, Thou hast asked a hard thing: nevertheless, if thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee; but if not, it shall not be so.
11 And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.
12 And Elisha saw it, and he cried, My father, my father, …
Elijah was Elisha’s teacher; hence, he called him “father.” It is obvious that Elisha was his number one pupil; therefore, we have the idea of the firstborn in the figurative sense here. Consequently, Elisha requests a double portion, not of any physical possessions of Elijah, but a double portion of the spirit of Elijah.
Of course, Elisha did receive Elijah’s mantle, which has come down in history to be a metaphor for someone inheriting the position of their predecessor. In view of the double portion idea, we find that the Bible records twice as many miracles being attributed to Elisha as were to Elijah.
15 And when the sons of the prophets which were to view at Jericho saw him, they said, The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha.
Here again, the phrase “the sons of the prophets” means the disciples or students of the teacher-prophets. From all this—and it is certainly found elsewhere as well—we derive the fact that the principles of firstborn, double portion, and sonship are, and can be applicable, to more than just the literal, physical family relationship.
A Nation as a Son
That then leads us to the idea that a whole people, an entire nation, would be considered as a son; and a firstborn son at that. And who might that be? Israel, of course. This is verified in Exodus 4 where God is instructing Moses on what to say to Pharaoh when Moses goes back to Egypt. And immediately following this is the incident with Moses’ wife, Zipporah, performing a bit of emergency surgery in the form of circumcision on Moses’ firstborn.
We expounded that passage on the circumstances and symbolism of this circumcision in much greater detail in our Tabernacle series of studies, in particular, CDs #341 &342, entitled The Bridegroom of Blood. (Available for $4 ea. plus $4 shipping = $12. You can also order via emailing us your request and donating; see PayPal-Donate button at top right of home page.) That lecture links the concepts of circumcision and baptism.
Exodus 4:21 And the LORD said unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go.
22 And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD, Israel is my son, even my firstborn:
23 And I say unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me: and if thou refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay thy son, even thy firstborn.
There are a number of things to be examined here. Let’s remember that Jesus is the Pattern Son. He is the template for all others who would become sons of God, both on an individual level and on a corporate level.
In verse 23 God says to Pharaoh, Let my son go, that he may serve me. Did you know that sons are supposed to serve their fathers? Did not the Pattern Son serve His Father by divesting Himself of His glory and entering the womb of a virgin and humbling Himself to the extent that He died as a criminal on a cross?
Did He not serve all mankind by making that supreme sacrifice? Did not the Father say “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased?” We find Paul alludes to this idea in his letter to the Philippians.
Philippians 2:19 But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state.
22 But ye know the proof of him, that, as a son with the father, he hath served with me in the gospel.
That’s the individual level. Now observe in Romans 9:4 as Paul speaks of corporate Israel.
Romans 9:4 Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth … the service
When God prophesied through the mouth of Malachi about how He would pity and have mercy on Israel, notice what is at the end of this verse.
Malachi 3:17 And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.
In one sense, a good son always serves his father—Jesus certainly did and still does—but in another sense, a son serves and is treated as a servant only in his immature stage. There comes a time when he is graduated from the servant realm and is on a par with his father in terms of authority and responsibility. We will pick up on this idea later, but I just wanted to mention it now in relation to …
Galatians 4:7 Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.
The distinction there is between an immature son, who is treated as one of the servants, to the time when he becomes a mature son. The Greek word there for “son” is huios. You see, just as we saw in this series on sonship that there is a progression of maturity from little children to young men to fathers, the same idea can be said of a progression from sinner to servant to son. (To be continued.)