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Jacob was a Jerk – part 2

            Well, how did we do last week? Were you kind and nice to one another, or were we jerks like Jacob? I know that I wasn’t too kind in my thoughts when I took more than 3 seconds to respond to the green light and the guy behind me hit the horn. But other than that, I tried not to be too much like a jerk. It is a learning process, and even at my age I find I still have a great deal to learn.

            So for those of you who weren’t with us last week, we are looking at the story of the relationship of Esau and Jacob. These twin brothers are the children of Isaac and Rebekah and they are dealing with an extreme case of sibling rivalry. In the midst of that process we heard last week that Jacob took advantage of Esau in a weak moment and got Esau to sell him his birthright of their father’s inheritance for a bowl of red lentil stew. While I am sure the stew was good, it was not a good deal for Esau, and this is part of the reason I say, Jacob was a jerk.

            This week we are going to look at another story from the relationship of Esau and Jacob. So we would be hoping that Esau would be wise to Jacob’s ways, and additionally that Jacob would soften his heart and reform the way in which he approaches his twin brother. That would be our hope, however, from what you already heard in the scripture in Genesis 27, this is not what took place.

            In the scripture for this week we begin with Isaac advancing in years and is beginning to think he is going to die. Now I have to say I don’t know exactly how old he is with this incident, but he was 40 when he married Rebekah, was 60 when Rebekah was pregnant, and I would anticipate he would have had to have been at least 80 when Esau sold his birthright to Jacob. So assuming that several years have passed we see at a minimum Esau is at least 40 before the event about to be spoken of happens, so therefore Isaac has to be over 100 now. But that is really my own conjecture here because while being over 100 seems like a logical time to be contemplating his own mortality, we also know from Genesis 35 that Isaac lived to be 180 years old; so at 100 he was barely past middle age. So hearing that Isaac is old and his sight is fading, he may be well over 120 or 130 when this event takes place. What we do know is that Isaac can no longer see and is being cared for by his family.

            We do hear that Isaac may be going blind, but his taste buds are still working as he requests his favorite son, Esau to go and get some wild game and prepare it in the way that Isaac so enjoys. As I think about this it makes me think I should call my youngest son Noah. So Noah if you are listening, you can get out the smoker and make me some of those bar-b-que ribs I love so well, since “I am now an old man and don’t know the day of my death.” If it worked for Isaac, maybe it will work for me as well.

            But Isaac makes an important declaration here that once Esau brings him the food Isaac is going to give Esau his blessing before he dies. So let’s take a moment to consider what this blessing is all about. As I read in Warren Wiersbe’s commentary we are reminded that the blessing, or good wishes, for Esau would be a prayer Isaac would give for offer a good future and God’s presence to be with Esau in a special way over and above Jacob. A father was told there was only one “blessing” to be offered to one’s children. Now in this case there are a couple reasons why the one who would receive the blessing seemed unusual. First, normally the blessing would go with the oldest son – point 1 for Esau. However, as we heard last week, God had told Rebekah that Jacob would rule over Esau, and this means Jacob should get the blessing – point 1 for Jacob. But then we read in Genesis 26:34-35, “When Esau was forty years old, he married Judith daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and also Basemath daughter of Elon the Hittite. 35 They were a source of grief to Isaac and Rebekah.” This is point 2 for Jacob to receive the blessing. But Esau is still Isaac’s favorite, so that evens up the score to 2 to 2.

            There is a wonderful saying that we have all heard before that goes, “Behind every good man is a good woman.” I have found that to often be very true. In this case we have to scratch our head a little though. Rebekah, Isaac’s wife “overhears” the conversation between Isaac and Esau and hatches a plan to make sure her favorite son, Jacob, receives the blessing. So once Esau leaves to go hunting Rebekah begins scheming, along with Jacob, to make sure Jacob receives the blessing despite her husband’s wishes.

            In this scripture we can look at Rebekah and claim she is just trying to make sure God’s claim that the older will serve the younger is why she does what she is doing.  And that could be true, but I don’t believe we have any true evidence of that. I believe she is just playing favorites. And in an interesting twist of the story, when she presents her plan of deception to Jacob, Jacob at least asks a question that shows some character. Jacob says, “What if my father touches me? I would appear to be tricking him and would bring down a curse on myself rather than a blessing.” Jacob appears to be growing a conscience, even if it is out of fear of having a curse brought upon him. But Rebekah assures him, It’s all good. She says, “Let the curse fall on me. Just do what I say.”

            Before we give Jacob a complete pass here, let’s consider his actions following that exchange. Lie 1 – verse 19, “Who is it?” Reply, “I am Esau your firstborn.” Lie 2 –verse 20, “How did you find it (the game) so quickly?” Reply, “The Lord your God gave me success.” Lie 3 – verse 24, “Are you really my son Esau?” Here is the chance to come clean, but instead the reply is, “I am.” Lie 4 verse 27. “When Isaac caught the smell of his clothes,” Jacob was wearing Esau’s clothes, “he blessed him in the end.” Yes, despite it being Rebekah’s plan, Jacob, a grown man, lied at least 4 times in order to deceive his father and rob his brother once again.

            We can debate whether or not it was done with good motives. We can debate if Jacob was just following orders to honor his mother, but it seems like a jerky thing to do to his brother again. But sometimes we can also get a better understanding of a situation by seeing the results of our actions. Maybe the results prove to show a deeper understanding than we would have thought.

            In this case, Esau comes in the room just after Jacob receives Isaac’s blessing. After Esau identifies himself, scripture says, “Isaac trembled violently.” At that moment do you think Isaac was thinking to himself, “What a clever boy Jacob is?” Or is he thinking, “Jacob is a jerk!” I go with the second, and this is why Isaac is violently shaking, and states in verse 35, “Your brother came deceitfully and took your blessing.” It is at this moment Esau finally lets it sink in that his brother, for a second time, has taken advantage over him, and this time he realizes the full consequence of what Jacob has done.

            Once again, this is a different time than we live in now. This is a time period where one’s word was their bond. Even to the point of a fault. Once it was said, there was no taking it back. Yes was yes, no was no, and a blessing once given could not be rescinded for a do over. There is no legal injunction to be filed, there isn’t probate court, it is just done. And in this case, after Esau did what his father asked him to do, instead of a blessing this is what Esau heard from his father; “Your dwelling will be away from the earth’s richness, away from the dew of heaven above. 40 You will live by the sword and you will serve your brother. But when you grow restless, you will throw his yoke from off your neck.”

            How do you respond when you are expecting blessing, but instead receive something harsh? It is a difficult thing for us all to deal with. Too often the world claims that once we follow Jesus, it is all sunshine and rainbows. We talk about the mountaintop moments, but we fail to talk about the dark moments we also will encounter. As Jesus warned his disciples in Matthew 24:9, “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.” This does not sound like the immediate joy we were hoping for. However, even in the midst of trial, there is still reason for hope. God does not leave us with just the curse and without the blessing as Jesus also told the disciples in Matthew 10, “You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” Yes, that ending promise is what Esau was missing in his story with Jacob being a jerk.

            Esau does not see much of a way to work around what Jacob has done to him. Esau has very little hope for his future and decides to take action. Genesis 27:41 tells us this, “ Esau held a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him. He said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.” Jacob’s being a jerk has led his own brother to desire to kill him. That doesn’t sound like a positive outcome.

            Is there hope for these brothers and their family? Is there hope for our families, and us, where jerks are involved? Well, we may have to wait another couple weeks to see that answer, but I assure you God is not done with Jacob and Esau, nor is God finished with us. Let us continue in faith knowing our God is a God of redemption. Amen and Amen.

 Asbury United Methodist Church,   July 19, 2020,   Genesis 27:1-41,     William E. Hastings