How big a lie...

Week 3, Day 3

Genesis 27. 15-23

15 Then Rebekah took the best garments of her elder son Esau, which were with her in the house, and put them on her younger son Jacob; 16 and she put the skins of the kids on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck. 17 Then she handed the savory food, and the bread that she had prepared, to her son Jacob.

18 So he went in to his father, and said, ‘My father’; and he said, ‘Here I am; who are you, my son?’ 19 Jacob said to his father, ‘I am Esau your firstborn. I have done as you told me; now sit up and eat of my game, so that you may bless me.’ 20 But Isaac said to his son, ‘How is it that you have found it so quickly, my son?’ He answered, ‘Because the Lord your God granted me success.’ 21 Then Isaac said to Jacob, ‘Come near, that I may feel you, my son, to know whether you are really my son Esau or not.’ 22 So Jacob went up to his father Isaac, who felt him and said, ‘The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau.’ 23 He did not recognize him, because his hands were hairy like his brother Esau’s hands; so he blessed him.

The question for Abraham last week was, “How much darkness can you bear?” The question for Isaac this week might be, “How big a lie will you believe?”

Everything about this family appears to be broken. Isaac, in his old age, is pretty much alone. Apparently he and Rebekah are not accustomed to sharing their most important thoughts with each other. Jacob, mom’s favorite, engages with his father only to deceive him. Even Esau, dad’s favorite, cares for his father only to the extent Isaac can bless him. Esau has been a reliable hunter, but beyond that has often been a disappointment to Isaac. Rebekah and Esau don’t speak at all and Esau is promising to murder his little brother. (Read all of chapter 27)

And this is the family through whom all the world will be blessed. Sometimes you have to wonder about God’s sense of humor.

But Isaac loves Esau and want to bless him, believing, as people did in those days, that the father’s dying blessing to the oldest son would shape his life and assure him success and prosperity. Isaac probably saw his future—the future of the promise first given to his father, Abraham, as running through Esau. He held to this belief, even though the story indicates (Genesis 25.22-23) that it would be Jacob through whom the promise would progress. Isaac and Esau conspire in private to get the blessing done.

Eavesdropping Rebekah hears their plan and engineers a massive betrayal of her husband and enlists her favorite son in the deception. Jacob’s only reluctance in cooperating with his mother is that he might get caught, and thus earn a curse from his father rather than a blessing.

Here’s a family, with no redeeming quality to any of its members, who have been chosen and blessed by God to change the world—to make the world a place where justice, fairness and righteousness rule. What’s their chance of success?

What do you learn about God from this story? About divine grace and patience? About God’s willingness to work with the material and people at hand; to make something of almost nothing? What do you learn about human nature, our capacity for deceit or the possibility of change?

Jacob will eventually become the hero of this story, but only after he has exhausted every other option. He is falling, and failing, hard. He is about to turn and flee from his brother. He will never see his mother again.

I wonder what he was thinking.

I wonder if the words of Julian of Norwich (1342-1416) apply here: "First there is the fall, then there is the recovery from the fall, but both are the mercy of God”.

Prayer: God, guard our lips from deceit and our hands from treachery. May we forsake our way and travel only and always with you. Amen.

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