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Pastor Glenn Zimbelman
|Evangelical Lutheran Church in America|
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Jacob and Esau
Sometimes life leads to difficult questions for instance,
Why does a ship carry cargo, and a car carry shipments?
Why do we drive on a parkway and park on a driveway?
If you choke a smurf what color does it turn?
Why do we call it a hamburger if it is made with beef?
The real question for today is?
Why is the story of Jacob in the Bible?
A little historical context. Abraham’s descendants were to be as many as the stars in the sky or the dust on the ground. Family was everything. The birthright was passed down from father to oldest son. That birthright was everything. So this story explains how it came to be that the younger son, Jacob became the next person in line.
Rebekah was pregnant. We read in Genesis 25:22-23
“The children struggled together within her, and she said, if it is to be this way, why do I live. So she went to inquire of the Lord. And the lord said to her
“Two nations are your womb, and two peoples born of you shall be divided. And the ne shall be stronger than the other, the elder shall serve the younger.”
The story continues with the birth. Esau and Jacob are born twins. We read in Genesis 25:26
“Afterward his brother came out, with his hand gripping Esau’s heel, so he was named Jacob.
The name Jacob means cheat or trickster. Jacob will lead up to his name. Rather than me tell you the story I thought it would be fun to let Crosswalk Kids tell the story.
Now this is where truth needs to be told. We often see characters in the Bible as good people. Doesn’t it bother you that Jacob is such a cheat? Doesn’t it seem as if the Bible approves of what he does? In the birthright story two people are at fault. First, Jewish people who valued descendants, tradition and heritage would never, ever sell their birthright. They would see Esau as weak. He is not worthy of carrying on the family line. Secondly, Jacob goes against all things that are family and even against the accepted rules of hospitality. If you invite someone into your tent, you feed them! So like Cain versus Abel, brother is against brother. So in this case both brothers are at fault.
Now we come to the story that is read today. How Rebekah schemes with Jacob to steal the second most important thing a father can give a son, which is the blessing. So Jacob pretends to be Esau and gets the blessing. Who is at fault here? Why Rebekah who favors her younger son and Jacob for flat our lying to his father! Trust me, even though this is in the Bible, God does not approve.
So again why is this in there? Sometimes the Bible has stories to point out how not to act. The end result of Jacob stealing Esau’s blessing is fractured relationships. Jacob now has to flee the family flock and run because he fears Esau’s reaction. So brother is no longer with brother, but Jacob is also separated from mother and father.
Here is what is very important to understand. At this point Jacob is not a follower of God. Jacob is just a human being full of greed, desire and want. Why, guess what, he is just like us, a sinner. God is not his God yet. He is a young man full of young man’s mistakes. So this is a moment of truth for all of you. How many of us have done stupid things in your life? How many of us have said things you regretted? How many of us has gained at the expense of others? We may not be that far from being Jacob. Max Lucado writes the following: This is from one of his devotionals entitled Guard the Gateway
You’ve got to admit, some of our hearts are trashed out. Let any riffraff knock on the door, and we throw it open. Anger shows up, and we let him in. Revenge needs a place to stay, se we have him pull up a chair. Pity wants to have a party; so we show him the kitchen. Lust rings the bell, and we change the sheets on the bed. Don’t we know how to say no?
Many don’t. For most of us, thought management is well, un-thought of. We think much about time management, weight management, personal management and scalp management. But what about thought management? Shouldn’t we be as concerned about managing our thoughts as we are managing anything else? Jesus was. He stubbornly guarded the gateway to his heart.
Now God will use Jacob as flawed as he was and do you know what happens after Jacob’s ladder. The dream leads him to a new reality. He discovers that God cares about him. If God is with him, Jacob suddenly realizes he needs to be with God. So we read in Genesis 20:20
“Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, that the Lord shall be my God”
Now this is a conditional vow. In essence Jacob says, God if you bless me, I will believe in you. What it really means is Jacob than learns the depth of God’s love. Learning the depths of God’s love changes us. We become, why, more Godly. Imagine that! At the end of the day, Jacob grows up. He becomes the person God desires him to be. He will have his name changed from cheater Jacob to Israel.
He will even reconnect with this brother who also grows up, because Jacob recognizes his faults, and Esau, to Jacob’s amazement, forgives him. Another lesson for us to remember.
So why is this story in the Bible? Well it is a messy story about messy humans making a mess of things. But through it all, God does what God does, God cleans up the messes of the world. Isn’t that why Jesus dies on the cross? And Jesus guards the gateway to his heart through prayer, scriptures and a focus on God. It helps to keep the Jacob in us as bay. And yet when Jacob rears his ugly head, we also have that same forgiveness through Jesus on the cross. That is something to also remember. Amen.
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