Thursday, July 13, 2017

Lentil Stew (Genesis 25:19-34)

With the “records of the generations of Isaac” we really get into the story of Jacob. It starts, as is often the case, with his birth. It is a vivid account. A fraternal twin, Jacob comes out second fighting with and grasping at his brother. And he could not be more different than Esau—both in appearance and personality.

For the longest time, I read my own misunderstandings into the story of Jacob and Esau. I would always use the story of the lentil stew to excuse Jacob’s deception. Sure, Jacob lied to his father and stole the blessing that belonged to the first born; but Esau had sold that right to Jacob, right? That misses the point of the story, and is likely an attempt at self-justification. We always look for a way to say that we deserve God’s favor.

The truth is that the picture of Jacob and Esau here is one of two broken, despicable people. Esau does disdain his position in life. He does not value the blessings God has to offer. He throws away that abstract but real value, to satisfy a more tangible, temporally passing, physically fulfilling itch. But Jacob is conniving and double-dealing. He sees his brother in need and takes advantage of the situation. Once again, this is a bowl of beans! That is hardly something worthy of Esau’s birthright.

And, even though the story is recounted here, it is hardly something we should expect Esau to be held to. It does not justify what Jacob does later on. It shows us that both of these brothers are not the sort of people we would chose if we were trying to save the world.

Ultimately, that is the point. We wouldn’t choose one of these guys, but God did. He chose Jacob before the boys were born. Before they could do anything (or fail to do anything) to merit such a choice. God works throughout history with sinful humanity to accomplish His purposes (showing our desperate need for Him) right up to the point where He breaks into creation and saves us Himself.

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