September 22, 2013

September 22, 2013

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GodStory, Act III: Israel
Key Event #3 of 37, Selected verses from Gen. 27 and 28
Title: “Jacob: Schemer & Dreamer”

Last week, with the story of “Father Abraham” we entered into the 3rd ACT of the GodStory…we call this ACT “Israel” because through 1 person (Abraham) and 1 people (Israel), God would begin his “mending work” of restoring blessing and wholeness to a GOOD CREATION that had FALL-en into a state of human sin and rebellion against God.

Father Abraham was on the scene approx. 2000 BCE…let’s keep in mind our context here…we’re talking world history events of about 6000 years ago.

Isn’t if fascinating that a 6000 year old story might actually matter in our lives today! That is one of the intriguing truths about the GodStory…this is not a nice fable or fairy tale that we just nod off to as we go to sleep…this is the story of who WE ARE (identity)….how we live together as humans (community)…and how we make sense of our lives (interpretation) even in the year 2013!

May God’s living word…and living story….do a good, restoring work amongst us again today.

We move a couple of generations from Abraham to Jacob…Jacob is Isaac and Rebekah’s son…Abe’s grandson…twin grandson to a boy named Esau.

Esau is classic first-born son (if you believe in the stereotypes!). Strong, responsible, intense, diligent, dutiful.
Jacob is classic 2nd-born [younger] son (if you believe in the stereotypes!).
Not as serious. Annoying. Tag-along. Slacker. Quiet schemer.

We read in Genesis that even in the womb, these twins struggled within Rebekah’s womb. And when they were born, the story goes that Jacob was actually clinging on to Esau’s heel…thus in some interpretations of the name Jak-ob, it means “the one who hangs on” or “the one who takes by the heel” (or the one who meddles and annoys!).

In some ways one could say that Jacob was a schemer from the get go. Annoying. Meddling. Subversively harassing and kniving.

We also read that as they were growing up, there was this desperate encounter that they had where in the midst of being famished and exhausted, Esau begged Jacob for food and nourishment…and Jacob, realizing that he had Esau in a vulnerable position, made Esau make a vow to God that he would give up his birthright to Jacob. In this cultural context, VOWS REALLY MATTERED! They were like verbal contracts;
the birthright was the right for a firstborn son to assume positions of leadership in the family system…spiritual responsibilities or decision-making responsibilities or economic decision-making….Thus when Esau gave his “verbal release” Jacob swindled his birthright from him for a bowl of lentil stew…

And the swindling ways continue as we enter today’s portion of the GodStory in Genesis 27…this is probably 40 years later….Isaac is 120 years old, his twin boys are in their 60’s…and it seems that personalities don’t change a lot do they?
Jacob, favoured and loved by his mother, is still working his scheming ways in the family system…

It’s interesting to note how Ch. 26:34 set the stage for today’s drama… “When Esau was forty, he married Judith…and they made life bitter for Isaac and Rebekah.”
Sound like a familiar theme in any of your family stories? Maybe not in your family (of course!) but think of that crazy couple in your family that makes it sooooo hard on the parents…you know, the tense scene at the Thanksgiving Supper table…
one of the siblings just can’t hold it in and blurts out:
“Don’t you see how hard you make it for Mom and Dad? Can’t you, for once, just give them something NOT to worry about?”
Not to sound too sadistic or morose….but I invite you to go to that place of family bitterness / resentment / cover-ups and con’s …like only families can do….and enter into today’s text – – and though it may feel uncomfortable or irritating… these are the realistic and gritty places where the GodStory lands and redeems…

[begin scripture script here ]

Narrator begins…. 27 When Isaac was old and his eyes were dim so that he could not see, he called his elder son Esau and said to him, “My son”; and he answered,

Esau: “Here I am.”

Narrator: 2 He said, “See, I am old; I do not know the day of my death. 3 Now then, take your weapons, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field, and hunt game for me. 4 Then prepare for me savory food, such as I like, and bring it to me to eat, so that I may bless you before I die.”

5 Now Rebekah was listening when Isaac spoke to his son Esau. So when Esau went to the field to hunt for game and bring it, 6 Rebekah said to her son Jacob,

Rebekah: “I heard your father say to your brother Esau, 7 ‘Bring me game, and prepare for me savory food to eat, that I may bless you before the LORD before I die.’ 8 Now therefore, my son, obey my word as I command you. 9 Go to the flock, and get me two choice kids, so that I may prepare from them savory food for your father, such as he likes; 10 and you shall take it to your father to eat, so that he may bless you before he dies.”

N: 11 But Jacob said to his mother Rebekah,

Jacob: “Look, my brother Esau is a hairy man, and I am a man of smooth skin. 12 Perhaps my father will feel me, and I shall seem to be mocking him, and bring a curse on myself and not a blessing.”

N: 13 His mother said to him,

R: “Let your curse be on me, my son; only obey my word, and go, get them for me.”

N: 14 So he went and got them and brought them to his mother; and his mother prepared savory food, such as his father loved. 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,

J: “My father”;

N: and he said, “Here I am; who are you, my son?”
19 Jacob said to his father,

J: “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.”

N: 20 But Isaac said to his son, “How is it that you have found it so quickly, my son?” He answered,

J: “Because the LORD your God granted me success.”

N: 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. 24 He said, “Are you really my son Esau?” He answered,

J: “I am.”

N: 25 Then he said, “Bring it to me, that I may eat of my son’s game and bless you.” So he brought it to him, and he ate; and he brought him wine, and he drank. 26 Then his father Isaac said to him, “Come near and kiss me, my son.” 27 So he came near and kissed him; and he smelled the smell of his garments, and blessed him, and said,

“Ah, the smell of my son
is like the smell of a field that the LORD has blessed.
28 May God give you of the dew of heaven,
and of the fatness of the earth,
and plenty of grain and wine.
29 Let peoples serve you,
and nations bow down to you.
Be lord over your brothers,
and may your mother’s sons bow down to you.
Cursed be everyone who curses you,
and blessed be everyone who blesses you!”

30 As soon as Isaac had finished blessing Jacob, when Jacob had scarcely gone out from the presence of his father Isaac, his brother Esau came in from his hunting. 31 He also prepared savory food, and brought it to his father. And he said to his father,

E: “Let my father sit up and eat of his son’s game, so that you may bless me.”

N: 32 His father Isaac said to him, “Who are you?” He answered,

E: “I am your firstborn son, Esau.”

N: 33 Then Isaac trembled violently, and said, “Who was it then that hunted game and brought it to me, and I ate it all before you came, and I have blessed him?—yes, and blessed he shall be!” 34 When Esau heard his father’s words, he cried out with an exceedingly great and bitter cry, and said to his father,

E: “Bless me, me also, father!”

N: 35 But he said, “Your brother came deceitfully, and he has taken away your blessing.” 36 Esau said,

E: “Is he not rightly named Jacob? For he has supplanted me these two times. He took away my birthright; and look, now he has taken away my blessing.” …..“Have you not reserved a blessing for me?”

N: 37 Isaac answered Esau, “I have already made him your lord, and I have given him all his brothers as servants, and with grain and wine I have sustained him. What then can I do for you, my son?” 38 Esau said to his father,

E: “Have you only one blessing, father? Bless me, me also, father!”

N: And Esau lifted up his voice and wept.

39 Then his father Isaac answered him:
“See, away from the fatness of the earth shall your home be,
and away from the dew of heaven on high.
40 By your sword you shall live,
and you shall serve your brother;
but when you break loose,
you shall break his yoke from your neck.”

41 Now Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him, and Esau said to himself,

E: “The days of mourning for my father are approaching; then I will kill my brother Jacob.”

N: 42 But the words of her elder son Esau were told to Rebekah; so she sent and called her younger son Jacob and said to him,

R: “Your brother Esau is consoling himself by planning to kill you. 43 Now therefore, my son, obey my voice; flee at once to my brother Laban in Haran, 44 and stay with him a while, until your brother’s fury turns away— 45 until your brother’s anger against you turns away, and he forgets what you have done to him…

CHAPTER 28 – –

N: 10 Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran. 11 He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. 12 And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.

13 And the LORD stood beside him and said,
“I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; 14 and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring.

15 Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

16 Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said,

J: “Surely the LORD is in this place—and I did not know it!”

N: 17 And he was afraid, and said,

J: “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”

N: 18 So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. 19 He called that place Bethel…

THIS IS THE WORD OF THE LORD…Thanks be to God!?!

How do we like the ideas of naming ourselves as “schemers” in order to better understand what God is doing in this story? Perhaps for a group of church-going Canadians like us, the label “schemer” might feel a bit awkward or ill-fitting?
So…we might not self-describe as schemers, but we, like Jacob, might feel like our lives are unraveling or tearing at the seams…even in these glorious sunny September days!

The good news of the GodStory for us today is that no matter how much we’ve schemed or been schemed against, no matter how we’ve resisted or resented the work of our friends or our family or our worst enemy. . .
God’s promise to us is this: “Know that I AM with you & will keep you.”

Though we might feel like all the good things that we have worked so hard to hang onto have slipped through our hands, or we’ve missed that golden opportunity, that great promotion, because of an intentional or not-so-intentional competitor…
Maybe we’ve found ourselves on the run,
out of control, in a place of fear or insecurity,
lacking a foundation, lacking a future, lacking vision
and feeling like the only place we’ve landed is surrounded by rocks and dust…
RFAP places = rock for a pillow!
God’s abiding word to us in this place is this:
“I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

And our simple prayer of response and worship today is to be an echo of the prayer of Jacob: “Surely the LORD is in this place.” [this place that seems god-forsaken – – …this place where we least expect it…this place where we least deserve it…this is the place where GOD SHOWS UP! ]
Surely the LORD is in THIS PLACE…and I did not know it.

In a silent moment, I invite you to allow the HS to renew your mind, as you reflect on the places where you have been this past week, or those places where you go in the coming week…offer of prayers of gratitude (as you look back) or prayers of “hope-full-ness” (as you look forward)…grasp the reality that because we have dwelt in the world of God’s story TODAY, we might recognize that God promises to show up for us in unlikely OR seemingly undeserved places. Isn’t that what grace looks like…God always moving towards us, no matter what we have done or left undone.

In a quite moment, offer up silent prayers of gratitude & hope-full-ness.

Oh God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,
Give us eyes to see you,
Ears to hear of you,
And imaginations to envision your companionship and care for us.
Keep us humble, that we may be a people who allow you to carry us into your future, where we do not passively bask in our blessings, but we, by your grace & empowering presence, join in on your good work of blessing ALL the families of the earth.