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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Tuesday, July 7, 2020  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  Genesis 25:19–34

These are the descendants of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah, daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, sister of Laban the Aramean. Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord granted his prayer, and his wife Rebekah conceived. 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 in your womb, and two peoples born of you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the elder shall serve the younger.” When her time to give birth was at hand, there were twins in her womb. The first came out red, all his body like a hairy mantle; so they named him Esau. Afterward his brother came out, with his hand gripping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them. When the boys grew up, Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, living in tents. Isaac loved Esau, because he was fond of game; but Rebekah loved Jacob.

Once when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was famished. Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stuff, for I am famished!” (Therefore he was called Edom.) Jacob said, “First sell me your birthright.” Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank, and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright. (NRSV)

Reflection
To fully appreciate this quirky story and understand its relevance to our faith today, we need some context first. In Genesis 12:2–3 God makes a promise to Abraham that sets the stage for the rest of the biblical narrative: “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

These promises establish the grand story of Israel, but how do Abraham’s quarreling grandsons fit into that?

From birth Jacob and Esau’s interactions are wrought with combativeness, manipulation, and impulsivity. Beyond today’s selected reading, Rebekah gets involved in the drama, and the family devolves into deceiving Isaac. This results in a messy mishandling of inheritance and hierarchy, with none of these prominent figures looking great in hindsight.

And yet somehow the broader narrative moves forward. In his book, How to Read Genesis, Tremper Longman III summarizes well what’s happening here: “God works through the foolish things of the world.” Despite shameful behavior by God’s children, the promises that lead to blessing the whole world are undeterred. Given my own propensity for foolishness, it’s encouraging to know God’s renewing work isn’t thwarted by imperfect people. So fumble on, basking in grace.

Prayer
Gracious God, thank you for your patience and willingness to work through me, even despite my imperfections. Today is a new day, and I’m grateful that you go with me through it, wherever I go. Amen.

Written by Michael Mirza, Director of Worship

Reflection and Prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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