Today’s reading includes Genesis 26:17-27:46, Matthew 9:1-17, Psalm 10:16-18, Proverbs 3:9-0.
Isaac, the promised child. We know about his birth—finally, a son born to Abraham and Sarah! We know about his youth—the object of sacrifice, though spared by God Himself. We know about his adulthood—married Rebekah, who was unable to have children. Isaac married when he was 40 years old (there’s that holy number of cleansing and preparation!) and he pleaded with the Lord on behalf of his wife. The Lord answered and Rebekah gave birth to twins! The Lord gave a clue as to the troubles which lay ahead in Genesis 25:23
“And the Lord told her, “The sons in your womb will become two nations. From the very beginning, the two nations will be rivals. One nation will be stronger than the other; and your older son will serve your younger son.” Even in the womb, the brothers struggled against each other. And the struggle continued throughout their lifetime, though in the end, they seemed to make peace with each other.”
The story of Jacob and Esau was always confusing to me as a child. I knew that Jacob was the chosen one. God made that clear before they were born. But I felt sorry for Esau. I knew that the way Jacob tricked Isaac was wrong, and it was confusing to me that his mother, Rebekah, helped with the deception. Honestly, it still is confusing. But I have learned a few more things about the story since my Sunday school days. You see, Jacob was a deceiver. But Esau was a squanderer. Esau was so wrapped up in what he wanted to do–hunting, fishing, and hanging out with the local Canaanite girls–that he didn’t seem to care much about the traditions of that time or of his family.
In the traditions of those days, the oldest son had a lot more privileges than the younger son did. Esau was going to receive a lot more honor and material things when Isaac died. But he didn’t seem to care about that. One day, Esau told Jacob that if he would just give him a bowl of soup, he would give Jacob all of the rights of the first-born position. That was not very wise of Esau, because Jacob did not forget the promise that Esau made. So, yes, Jacob was a deceiver, but he was not a thief. Esau willing gave up his birthright for a bowl of soup. Maybe that is why Rebekah was willing to help Jacob in the deception. God had told her that Jacob would be in the higher place of honor, and Esau had willing squandered that place.
When I was young, I also wondered why Isaac did not just “take it back”. Why did he not just make his words null and void and say the same thing over Esau. Now, I don’t know all the traditions of the day. But I have learned that in the rules of blessing, once given, it cannot be revoked. But it can be mitigated—made less severe or painful. To Esau’s painful plea, “Bless me—me too, my father… Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me too, my father!”
And his earthly father did dig deep within himself and find another blessing to give to Esau. He spoke of the reality to come and of hope at the end of the struggle.
“Your dwelling will be
away from the earth’s richness,
away from the dew of heaven above.
You will live by the sword
and you will serve your brother.
But when you grow restless,
you will throw his yoke
from off your neck.”
What is the lesson for us? Both of these twins were sinful and selfish. But there is a Redeemer to right all wrongs. As we go through the Old Testament, we see each one glimpsing the consequences of their sin. Have you been a deceiver? I know we all do sometimes. A glance at the perfect pictures and posts on Facebook make us all deceivers at times. Let us repent. Have you been a squander? Have you squandered and ignored God’s blessings and calling on your life? You may have missed out on some of the wonderful things God intended for you, however, if an earthly father can find another blessing for his wayward son, I know our perfect Heavenly Father can, too.
Jacob’s deception is what pushed him out the door and forced him to be on the road to Bethel, an important location in biblical days. He was actually running away from the consequences of his deceitfulness, but even in this, God worked His good plan. As Jacob was running from his self-inflicted troubles, he stopped for the night at Bethel. And tomorrow, we will learn more about how God got the attention of Jacob, the deceiver.