Glencairn Methodist Church
A Dysfunctional Family (part 1)
Esau (meaning the hairy one) and Jacob (meaning the deceiver) were the twin sons of Isaac and Rebecca, conceived after many years of trying and much prayer. You can read their story in Genesis, chapters 25 to 36. When Rebecca was pregnant, we read that "the babies jostled each other within her" and she asked God for an explanation. The Lord spoke a word of prophesy over her, and said that the boys would each be the father of a great nation, but the older would serve the younger. This indeed came about with Jacob, the younger, becoming the father of the twelve tribes of Israel, and Esau becoming the father of the Edomites. The promise to Abraham that "all peoples on earth will be blessed through you" came eventually through Jacob's fourth son, Judah, and his descendent Jesus. But there was many a twist in the story before this came about.
Esau, an outdoor man, was his father's favourite while Jacob, who preferred to stay close to the tents, was Rebecca's favourite, possibly because of the prophesy. Having favourites amongst one's children is not to be encouraged! Once, after a hard day's hunting, Esau came in, hungry and tired. Jacob was cooking and Esau demanded food from him. "Tricky Dicky" Jacob seized this opportune moment and demanded, "First sell me your birthright." Esau's birthright, as first born son, was to inherit the bulk of his father's estate, and to receive the father's blessing of the firstborn. He would have been his father's successor. Either he didn't understand the significance of this, or else, in his selfish need of the moment, he just didn't care. Either way, there was a flaw in his character, and he agreed to Jacob's demand. Can you imagine Princes William and Harry making such a scandalous agreement? But wasn't Jacob just living up to his name, the devious one? Another flawed character!
Years later, when Isaac was near death, Rebecca and Jacob conspired together to deceive Isaac into blessing Jacob and not Esau with the blessing of the first born. This was irrevocable and when the deception was uncovered, while Esau was also blessed by Isaac, it was a secondary blessing. Jacob had to flee and probably Rebecca never saw him again.
Nevertheless, God, in a dream confirmed the blessing of Jacob, that through his offspring, "all peoples on earth will be blessed". And years later, after many more times of deceiving and being deceived, Jacob, in a great struggle of conscience, was eventually convinced by God that deviousness was no longer to be part of his character. God changed his name to "Israel" to remind him of this struggle. Jacob, or Israel, with the family he had fathered while in exile, returned home and was reconciled with Esau.
So we see that the obvious human choice of a leader is not always God's choice; David is another example. We see that God can redeem even a flawed character and use that person to help fulfil his plan for the salvation of the world; Peter and Paul are other examples. God worked through the dysfunctional behaviour of this family to achieve his ends.
We are all flawed and exhibit dysfunctional behaviour from time to time. Nevertheless God can redeem us and use the most unlikely of us to advance his kingdom on earth.
30 July 2008
NOTE - Previous "Monthly Messages" are archived at http://glencairn.connor.anglican.org/previousmessages.htm