Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Fractured Family

Think about the way the story of Jacob and Esau as it has been told.  Each character fits into a neat little stereotype:  Rebekah is the pushy, conniving mother; Jacob the greedy trickster, but kind of a momma’s boy; Esau the jock, not too bright but a good guy; and Isaac, the innocent dupe.  I think I can look past those roles for the first time.  Unfortunately, I learned that nobody was innocent.  Each of these four had his or her own plans, motives, and desires.

Have you ever thought that you’d like God to tell you specifically what was going to happen in the future?  I have.  I always think that that would make life so much easier, but did knowing help Rebekah and Isaac?  It seems like knowing made their lives much, much more difficult.  Rebekah took what God told her and openly favored Jacob.  And from everything I’ve learned in psychology, a parent picking a favorite child, and openly demonstrating that favoritism, sets up all kinds of bad things, even if nothing else is going on.  The first thing that usually happens is that the other parent tends to compensate by favoring the other child, giving us what they call a polarized family.  We can really see that pattern set up in Isaac’s family!  The Bible doesn’t tell us any specifics about all those growing up years before Esau sold his birthright, but can you imagine?  I’ll bet supper in their tent was a fiasco!!!  And once the boys became adults, things got really ugly!

Rebekah took a kind of pride in God’s message that Jacob would be more important that Esau.  It colored all of her actions with her twins, and toward her husband as well.  Contrast that to the way that Mary took the news that her Son would be the Messiah.  Hmmm.

Did Jacob know the prophecy that God gave Rebekah?  I kind of always assumed he did, but I read something this week that implied that he didn’t know.   Does it make any difference, in the long run, whether or not he knew?  Probably not, I was just surprised to read that.  Whatever Jacob knew or didn’t know, he was more that willing to get the best of Esau in anyway he could.  And he started with the birthright.

The birthright was kind of a big deal in that time.  In Patriarchs and Prophets, pages 177 and 178 where Ellen White explains why it was so important.  Jacob and Esau 
“were taught to regard the birthright as a matter of great importance, for it included not only an inheritance of worldly wealth but spiritual pre-eminence.  He who received it was to be the priest of his family, and in the line of his posterity the Redeemer of the world would come.”   
Well, that sounded pretty good to Jacob and Rebekah.  But Esau just wasn’t that interested!  Why?  Because there were responsibilities that came with the good stuff, and apparently, Esau would rather be hunting.  The same quote from Ellen White says, 
“On the other hand, there were obligations resting upon the possessor of the birthright.  He who would inherit its blessings must devote his life to the service of God.  Like Abraham, he must be obedient to the divine requirements.  In marriage, in his family relations, in public life, he must consult the will of God.”
Esau definitely didn’t want that kind of responsibility.  In fact, he kind of went out of his way to avoid a lot of the stuff that his family thought was important.

So then, what was Isaac thinking when he decided to bestow the birthright blessing on Esau.  He knew what God had said, and he still planned to bless Esau.  Rebekah talked with him and tried to convince him to change his mind, but his mind was made up.  I can see, at that point, that Rebekah and Jacob could convince themselves that they were just protecting Isaac from making a big mistake, from going against God’s will.  Rebekah and Jacob decided to help God.  

Can you think of a time in the Bible,, or in your life that that plan worked?  From what I have read, trying to help God accomplish something He said would come to pass almost always ends badly.  In this case, Isaac’s distraught, Esau is devastated, Jacob has to run away so that Esau doesn’t kill him, and Rebekah never sees Jacob again…plus, she has to live with Isaac for however many more years (because he didn’t die like he thought he was going to).   Can you imagine what that would have been like?  I can’t think that that would have been a very happy situation…a lot of silent evenings by the fire.  Ouch!

And all of this pain and anguish for what?  What convinced each of these people that he or she was doing the right thing?  Did it turn out like they planned?  What did they learn from this whole experience?  What should we learn?

I learned there’s hope for all of us.  We’re never so far from God that He isn’t waiting to reconnect with us as soon as we ask.  The vision of Jacob’s ladder/stairway truly tells us that God is always looking out for us, and Jesus is always connecting us to God’s love.

Have you ever felt like you were outside of God’s love because of something you had done?  I think most of us have – we know we’re not living in a way that God wants us to, but have that nagging feeling that God doesn’t want us back.  I think that’s where Jacob was when he has to sneak away from his family.  He was heartbroken, lonely, and homesick.  And even after everything he’s done, God sends Jacob a dream that lets him know that God loves him and is taking care of him.  Angels moving between heaven and earth, taking care of people who lie, cheat, steal, commit adultery, covet, break the Sabbath, and all kinds of other things.  I’m so glad that Jesus bridges the gap that I make every time I mess up, aren’t you?

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