Genesis 25-26: A Promise of Blessing
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The story of Jacob and Esau is really the story of God’s prerogative to bless those whom he chooses to bless. Right from the very beginning of Genesis we hear the words of blessing from God to his creatures, first the airborne and sea creatures (Genesis 1:22), and then to his privileged image bearers (Genesis 1:28). And God continues to bless humankind even after the Fall, after the Flood, and notably, after Babel, God makes a very particular and astounding blessing to Abram (Genesis 12:1-3). It is a blessing by God’s choice, on God’s terms, and guaranteed through God’s power to fulfill his promises.
In this blessing God chooses Abram of Haran out of all the nations and people. God chooses Sarai over Hagar to be the mother of Abram’s promised heir. God chooses the family line of Isaac over Ishmael. And God chooses Isaac’s son Jacob over his twin brother Esau, even while in utero – “two nations are in your womb […] and the older will serve the younger” (Genesis 25:23).
At this point in the narrative of Genesis we should be very familiar with God’s prerogative to bless whom he chooses, and his power to fulfil his promised blessing even in the most impossible circumstances. When God chooses Jacob over Esau, neither the hierarchy of the first-born son, nor the patriarch’s favour, or the potency of hunting skill and physical strength should sway our confidence in God’s choice. God chooses Jacob, Jacob will be blessed. And yet, from the outset, the story of Jacob and Esau is one of struggle and contention for God’s blessing. The twins jostle in Rebekah’s womb, the younger twin is born clutching his older brother’s heel—almost as if to drag Esau back behind him—which earns him the name Jacob. Jacob is a name that literally means “grasps the heel” and is a Hebrew idiom for “one who deceives”.
The story of raising these two boys is going to be characterised by competition and struggle. Even the parents choose a favourite son in this competition! Isaac chooses Esau, Rebekah chooses Jacob. And the story narrates the sordid details of Jacob’s cunning, opportunism, and means of manipulation to secure God’s blessing for himself. It’s a long and captivating journey of trouble, anxiety, and deception. Not always at the hands of Jacob, but in the plans and actions of his mother (Genesis 27), and his uncle Laban as well (Genesis 29-31).
The story is both amusing and engrossing because we are keenly aware that God always intended to bless Jacob. And neither he nor his mother needed to trouble themselves with the drama of trying to secure God’s blessing by under-handed means. God had already promised his blessing! And that should have been enough assurance. Neither Isaac nor Rebekah needed to pick sides because it was never a competition. Jacob didn’t need to deceive his father, because God had chosen him to bless. And, for the same reason, Isaac shouldn’t have tried to reserve the blessing for Esau. Much ill and unkind behaviour could have been avoided if both Isaac and Rebekah believed in God’s promise to bless Jacob. How profoundly that would’ve changed the dynamic in their family and the rivalry between their sons. Jacob, of course, does eventually learn that lesson and his renaming as Israel reflects this transformation: he has “…struggled with God and with humans but has overcome” (Genesis 32:28).
What greater security do we have today than in the promises made by God and secured for us in Christ? It is vital that we minister to young people with security in God’s promises. Not trying to secure their salvation through our own strength, expertise, gimmicks, or charisma. Not trying to manipulate them into belief but demonstrating gospel shaped lives of non-anxious confidence in the firm and secure promises of blessing in and through Christ. There is no other foundation for salvation, nor is there any assurance for life other than the grace and blessing we receive through faith in Christ.
The Lift Up Your Hearts devotional series for the month of March 2021 are provided by Canon Craig Roberts, CEO, and his colleagues from Anglican Youthworks in Australia. Today’s devotion was written by Rev Mike Dicker, Dean of Students, Youthworks College. You can find more of Youthworks excellent resources here.
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India: By the end of January there were reports of 29 attacks upon Christians: threats, assaults, raids on church services. In some States there are strict rules prohibiting conversions. Pray for our brothers and sisters in India: for courage, for wisdom, for God’s protection.
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