Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh. “For,” he said, “God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house.” The name of the second he called Ephraim, “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.”
Joseph became an important ruler in Egypt, and Jacob eventually saw his descendants become a large nation. But both men had to go through hardships first. Joseph learned this lesson firsthand. When naming his sons, he thought, “I was the firstborn son and an heir of a noble mother. But I lost everything, and I had no hope of inheriting anything. One must totally forget any material gain he might find in this world.” So Joseph named his son Manasseh in God’s honor, because God had brought him to his knees and to the point where he forgot all about his father’s family. Joseph named his other son Ephraim, because God had lifted him up again and given him children. Later, Ephraim received a wonderful blessing from his grandfather Jacob. Ephraim’s descendants would become the powerful tribe we read about in Joshua, Judges, 1 Kings, and 2 Kings.
We learn from this passage that we are brought down before we are raised up. We must become like Joseph. We must be reduced to nothing. Our human natures find this idea very painful and hard to take. All of creation hates destruction and decay. You can’t cut down a tree or a bush without hearing a loud crash. Even Christ himself was brought low. He cried out from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). That’s why we should have the same modest attitude, as Joseph. Even after receiving honor, he didn’t become proud, but remained humble.
The Ninety-Five Theses is a text that everyone knows, most refer to, but few actually read, writes Stephen Nichols. Nevertheless, it is such a crucial text that it deserves to be read widely. Toward that end, Nichols has prepared this edition with an illuminating introduction, explanatory notes, and several illustrations. Martin Luther has left a legacy that continues to enrich the church through his writings. . ., writes Nichols. All of this may be traced back to the last day in October 1517 and the nailing of the Ninety-Five Theses to the church door.