Tag Archives: Set Apart

Thoughts on Birth Order

…for all the firstborn are mine. When I struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, I set apart for myself every firstborn in Israel, whether human or animal. They are to be mine. I am the Lord.”
Numbers 3:13 (NIV)

A lot has been made of birth order through the ages. In modern society psychologists have famously argued that certain traits seem to commonly accompany children born in a particular place within their family’s birth order. Some of it is attributed to how parents commonly respond to children in each place of the order, while some is attributed to the unique psychological development that happens for children in each place within the order. An only child typically has their own distinctive traits, as does the youngest child in the family (I’m one of those) no matter the number in the order.

In the ancient days of Moses the firstborn was set apart (e.g. “hallowed” or “sanctified”) for God. This is why Mary and Joseph took Jesus, as the first born, to be dedicated according to the law when Simeon and Anna prophesied over Him (Luke 2:22-38). The practice goes back to the events of the Exodus and the Law of Moses, as we read in today’s chapter. Throughout history, the firstborn male has been afforded special significance in many societies, especially when it comes to matters of inheritance.

The differences in birth order are fascinating to observe and discuss. Any parent can tell you stories about how different children are in different places in the birth order, and groups of parents will find that there is commonality in certain traits. Along life’s journey, however, I’ve found that it’s foolish to make too much of such things, just as it’s foolish to dismiss them entirely.

Through the Great Story there are significant characters from different birth orders. Jacob/Israel was the second born and usurped the birthright of his firstborn brother. Joseph and David were both the babies of their respective broods. And, so on.

This morning I’m thinking about birth order. One article I read this morning gave this set of common traits to mark the baby of the family:

  • Fun-loving
  • Uncomplicated
  • Manipulative
  • Outgoing
  • Attention-seeker
  • Self-centered

Ha! I want to embrace a few of the traits on the list and deny the others, though I have to own up to the fact that an argument can be made for every one describing me in some way, especially as a child. It doesn’t make me better or worse then my eldest sibling, just different, and perhaps suited for very different roles in life.

C’est la vie.

While God set the first born apart in ancient days for a particular significance, it doesn’t diminish the unique role each person plays in the story. Psalm 139 says each one of us are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” Our place in the birth order doesn’t make us better or worse, though it may uniquely develop us for a particular role. I’ve learned in theatre that a key lesson in life is to fully give myself to, and enjoy the role I’m given, no matter the size of the part. Embracing this is the pathway to a tremendous amount of joy and contentment.

Chapter-a-Day Numbers 6

via Flickr and elsie

“Also, for the duration of the consecration you must not have your hair cut. Your long hair will be a continuing sign of holy separation to God.” Numbers 6:5 (MSG)

Many years ago I had a client I visited on a quarterly basis. In the client’s office was a man who stood out from the crowd for many reasons. Chiefly, he stood out because of his long hair. It was extremely strange to see a professional man his age with hair that long. It fell almost down to his butt. After my first double-take, I figured the man was spending his after work hours trying to live out a teenage dream of being in a 80’s hair band.

As my colleagues and I got to know Mr. Hair Band Man over several business trips, we began to learn the much deeper purpose of his long hair. He told the story of a friend who had lost his way and ended up in prison. In an attempt to share the love of Jesus in a tangible way, he told this friend that he was going to take a Nazirite vow like the one described in today’s chapter. He would make a special consecration to God and would not cut his hair until his friend got out of prison. It was almost ten years when his friend was released and he finally cut his hair. His vow and his long hair became a powerful witness to his friend of his love, faith and commitment.

Looking back over my journey, I realize that there are stretches of life’s road that call for special times of consecration. There are periods of time when we may be called to be “set apart” for a special purpose; we may need to consecrate ourselves to God in a unique and more radical way. The purpose of this time of consecration may be public and relational, or it may be private and deeply personal. Either way, vows of consecration and their faithful maintenance can pave the way to new and powerful spiritual horizons.