I was the oldest in my family. As the oldest, I always felt like I was given extra responsibilities and expectations. Most of the time, I liked being the oldest brother, because that meant I had someone younger to boss around (actually, my sister would never let me boss her around). Being the oldest also meant I got to do things that my sister could not do. I had a later curfew, got to drive before her, and usually got more privileges. I also tended to have my special days that made my sister jealous. I had my high school graduation the same year she had her eighth grade graduation. I graduated from college and got married the same year she graduated high school. These things made her jealous and angry.
Being the older also had it’s problems. I always thought my parents were harder on me and expected more. I believed that they expected me to get higher grades, and work harder at sports. My sister got away with more than I ever did, and she never seemed to get in trouble. She got to do things at an earlier age, and never seemed to have a curfew.
As a Hebrew, the first-born child always had a special place in the home. As a reminder that God had saved the first-born in Egypt, the first-born of every Hebrew family was to be dedicated to the Lord. This meant that the first-born was to be given to God as a reminder of the wonderful things God had done.
The question we must ask when reading this passage is “why”? Why would God want the Hebrews to give Him their firstborn? Well, I also have a firstborn son, our eldest Andy. There is something different about the firstborn. No, I don’t love him more than our other children. But there is a since in which we were much more careful and paranoid. As new parents, this whole thing was a change of our lives. We couldn’t believe that this small life was our child, our responsibility. And we didn’t know how to be good parents, so we were overprotective. If he had the slightest sniffle, we went to the doctor. We were so careful to child-proof the house and protect him from all the dangers of the world. We tried to catch every moment on video tape. We jumped whenever he cried. By the time Alexandra had come along, we kind of had things figured out, and were not nearly as quick to respond or worried. We knew that she would be alright. And when Josiah showed up, he pretty much had to fend for himself. I guess that is why we are having twins this time.
When you hold your firstborn, you are amazed and shocked that you are a parent. Imagine if you had to take that firstborn child and give him to someone else? This is exactly what God was asking of the Hebrews. He was telling them that their first son was to be dedicated to the Lord in a special way. They were even to sacrifice a lamb to remind them that their child they is God’s. By doing this, they were reminded of the wonderful things that God had done for them, and they were reminded that everything they had was God’s. They were allowed to care for their child, but they always had to remember Whose the child really was.
The amazing thing is that God the Father kept His own law. In Jesus, God committed His firstborn son, and sacrificed Him so that we could be children of God.