The Hebrew “Bechor” and Jesus’ Discipleship Legacy

In recent years, we witness unprecedented leadership changes in governments, state institutions and big corporations. With such changes, new teams with their new heads will somehow aim to outdo or even eradicate the legacy of their predecessors. Instead of building on the good work of the previous team, the new team seems bent on proving that they are better.

Perhaps Singapore is an exception. To date, we have always enjoyed smooth transition from each Prime Minister to the next, with each building on the legacy of the previous good administration, public institutions and excellent international reputation. Most of the time, our ruling government attempts to improve the system as well as keeps up with the times with the aim of meeting the aspirations of her citizens … this is a very commendable effort despite the generation gaps in Singapore.

The Question?

This leads to the question concerning the passing of legacy among Christians of every generation in this island.

What is Jesus’ legacy for us? What did Jesus leave behind for us, the so-called modern 21st century Christians of generations X, Y and Z to fulfil?

Many Singapore’s pioneer generation Christians would remember the Great Commission charged to them namely, Matthew 28:18–20: Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

How do we fulfil Jesus’ legacy, especially after more than 2000 years or several generation gaps ?

To fulfil Jesus’ legacy, we need a Bechor. For the family, legacy is defined as something that is passed on to someone from a family, be it money or property, including reputation. However, parents who wish to pass their good values down to their children are often confronted by the challenges presented by what is termed today as the generation gap. While children often look up to parents as role models and emulate their behavior (positive or negative), the differences in the two generations often present some issues. For instance, a daughter may wish (perhaps unknowingly) to marry someone who has the traits of her father but the men that she encounters often may miss the mark as the latter are probably young and have yet to assume family responsibilities. In contrast, parents live in a different adult world with obligations such as bringing home the bacon so to speak, attending meetings, and bringing their ageing parents for medical appointments etc. So how does a child learn and assume any of the adult roles?

Who is the Bechor ?

In earlier Bible days, there is a Bechor in each family, which is the firstborn. This child serves as an intermediary between the two generations as he or she is both closest to the parents and the siblings. The firstborn is usually the first to be taught the values of the parents. When this child-leader imbibes and lives out the parents’ values successfully, he or she takes the noble attributes and breathes life into it, thereby transforming it into behaviour that makes sense in a child’s world. This kind of behaviour then becomes a real and living possibility for the other children in the family of that generation to emulate.

Just like earthly children naturally wanting to emulate their parents’ values, we humans somehow likewise would like to emulate their Heavenly Father and Creator as we are created in the image of God. God is indeed looking for a Bechor to bridge the gap between Him and other humans on earth.

Why is the Bechor so important ?

It is interesting to note that after God has revealed to Moses and the Egyptians who God (YHVH : was, is and will be) through the 10 plagues, the last of which involved the firstborn. Exodus 4:22-23. Moses said to Pharaoh, ‘This is what the LORD says: Israel is my firstborn son, and I told you, “Let my son go, so he may worship me.” But you refused to let him go; so I will kill your firstborn son.’ ”

Looking at the scriptures again, we would have notice something unique about the tenth plague. For the first nine plagues, Israel’s children were automatically shielded from the effects of each of them. For instance, in the fifth plague, Egyptian livestock were struck but Israel’s animals were not affected. During the ninth plague, darkness covered the land of Egypt but not the Israelites. One may wonder why God did not instruct the Israelites to walk out of Egypt since the Egyptian were shrouded in darkness.

Strange as it seems, the children of Israel were no more granted “immunity” in the tenth plague.  Somehow, in the last plague the Israeli firstborns would have perished along with the firstborns of the Egyptians unless the Israelites did two things God commanded … they were to bring a Passover offering and place blood at their doorposts.

On the one hand God is teaching the Egyptians a final tragic lesson where all firstborn had to die. On the other hand, He was also teaching the Israelites that they needed to make a commitment to serve Him, failing which their firstborns would suffer the same fate as the Egyptians. God was asking the Israelites if they would be His Bechor.

We may ask why God struck the firstborns of the Egyptians. Perhaps this is so because the Egyptians would not be able to transmit their pagan values from generation to generation without the benefit of the Egyptians Bechor child-leader. What about the Israelites after the Passover? A new nation was born after the Lord passed by their houses with doors smeared with blood. Effectively Israel has become “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” for God (Exodus 19:6).

Why is the Bechor still important for the 21st Christian generation ?

In the 21st century, the Christian (who functions as the Bechor) serves as a bridge between the generations. This carefully nurtured Bechor will have internalised the legacy of Jesus which is the Great Commission and live it out in the modern world. With God’s help through the Holy Spirit, when this Bechor-leader does that successfully, he or she takes Jesus’ teachings and breathes life into them together with the Holy Spirit, transforming them into behaviour that make sense in this modern world. This kind of behaviour then becomes a real and practical, living possibility for other non-Christians to witness.

One thing which stands out about a priest or a Bechor (Exodus 19:6) is that his or her life is essentially selfless; theirs is a mission, one great act of service. The minute we accept Christ as our Saviour, we are likened to have passed through the “blood-smeared door” i.e. through Jesus. Blood is often associated with birthing; likewise, through the blood of Jesus, we non-Jews have become the children of our Almighty God and He has become our Parent. A good parent, heavenly or earthly, loves all his children and a Bechor is meant to perpetuate the purposes of that love, helping God and children connect more effectively. A Bechor who ignores the existence of other Christians or non-Christians, and chooses to bask in his own perceived exclusive relationship with the parent subverts his mission and becomes a failure.

The mission of Israel only makes sense because God is intensely interested in having a relationship with all humanity. It is up to Christians never to betray or lose sight of their mission of the Great Commission. By constantly reviewing and focusing on the Great Commission, one will be guided in Christian conduct, worship and methods of evangelism and not straying too far from the Hebrew teachings of Jesus.

Our Lord Jesus is indeed the Bechor… The First Born

Romans 8:29 – For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. The Supremacy of Christ : Colossians 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. Indeed the ancient role of firstborn sons carries great significance and they were allocated double portion of the inheritance.

The Mirror Method to train the Bechor disciple

Perhaps, every Pastor, worship leader or Sunday school teacher could be mindful of training a Bechor disciple in order to carry on the Legacy of a good ministry laid down by a previous Minister. First the Bechor disciple to be needs to be Christ-Like as Christ is the reflection of the Father God. The right-hand man of D. L. Moody, Drummond once remarked that the best way is through “reflecting Christ” through relationship. All other method such as copy the virtues of others, making new-year resolutions (one at a time) or some formulaic sanctification are not wrong but somehow success will be poor. 2 Corinthians 3:18 says we all, with unveiled face reflecting as a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

Concluding Thoughts

The question remains i.e. where are the 21st century Bechor Disciples who are willing to carry the legacy of the Great Commission to the next generation. A tragedy happens when a child relates to his parents as a mere authority. What good is a family if the children do not know they are a part of it? And when they know they are a part of the family, the Bechor will need to perform his duty so that Jesus’ legacy of the Great Commission can continue.

One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts. Psalm 145:4.

I also shall make him My firstborn, The highest of the kings of the earth. Psalm 89:27 .

Dr Phil Chan is a theoretical high energy particle physics professor at the National University of Singapore. He was a student at the Disciples’ Leadership Development Institute (DLDI) hosted by the Methodist Church of Singapore in the 1980s.  Since then, he continues to share God’s love and make disciples as Jesus leads. 

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