Today’s text: Genesis 25:19-34.Have you ever heard the expression, “That person was born ______?” You can fill in the blank with whatever adjective or verb that characterizes a person’s lifestyle. Some people are born talking, or selling, or rich, or talented, or, on the other end of the spectrum, some are born worrying, complaining, or afraid.
Today’s story continues the process of framing God’s big story of working with the nation of Israel. The original promise was made to Abraham, and the son of the promise was Isaac. Now Isaac has a barren wife who miraculously gives birth to twin boys who are born…fighting.
There are two practical lessons for us to glean from this story today. They are reminders of how God works in the world, and will hopefully be an encouragement to you.
First, God bring life out of barren places. We see this theme through the story. Sarah has Isaac. Rebekah has Esau and Jacob. Hannah has Samuel. Elizabeth has John. Mary has Jesus (she wasn’t barren, but was a virgin). Keeping with the larger theme of cultivation, we can find comfort in the fact that God can take hard-packed heart and till them into fertile soil.
What seems barren in your life today? Do you feel empty and alone? Do you feel like nothing is working? Keep the faith. God’s not done with you yet.
Second, life is struggle, and God is in the thick of it. Many Christians can get caught in the idea that their lives are supposed to be perfect, and if it isn’t, then God must not be blessing them. This is a trap and leads to heartache. Show me one perfect family in the Bible. There aren’t any. Nor have I found any in my experience, certainly not my own.
Life is a continual power struggle and God’s big story continually reminds of this. We saw it with Cain and Abel and it continues with Esau and Jacob.
Julianna Claasen says,
One should keep in mind that these narratives are told from a pro-Jacob/pro-Israel perspective. The portrayal of a God who sides with the powerless, the weak, the younger brother, the barren woman is moreover a theological perspective that reveals something of Israel’s self-understanding as a tiny, powerless people who lived in the midst of much stronger nations — a reality that became even more evident in the run-up to the exile with superpowers who were quite able to crush a people like Israel without blinking.
Finally, one should not miss the fact that in this narrative, Jacob is also not characterized in the most favorable of ways. Jacob is depicted as “grabbing” his brother’s firstborn right which will be continued in the characterization of Jacob as trickster that in subsequent narratives will mark Jacob’s way in the world. Not only his brother Esau, but also his father Isaac and his uncle Laban will eventually be outwitted by the younger brother. This portrayal makes the election of Jacob by God all the more remarkable. There is nothing is Jacob’s behavior that deserved God’s favor — actually God’s favor comes in spite of Jacob’s actions. This line of interpretation makes a strong case for God’s grace — a God who already is involved with people in their mother’s womb, within the very messiness and conflict of relationships.
No matter how messy your life may seem today, remember that God is with you in the mess, making it into something beautiful.