Devotions on Genesis 27:1-4, 15-23, 28:10-17–Jacob and Esau
September 18-24, 2017
Monday, September 18, 2017–Jacob and Esau
“So that I may bless you before I die” (Genesis 27:4).
One of the subplots in the story of Esau and Jacob is the favoritism of their parents. Strong, hairy, outdoorsy, successful hunter Esau (a man’s man) was the apple of his father’s, Isaac, eye. Jacob displayed none of those characteristics. He was more of a “mommy’s boy” and was his mother’s, Rebekah, favorite. Without this favoritism and the resulting rivalry, the story might have taken a very different direction.
Displaying his partiality, Isaac asks Esau to prepare a wild game meal for him so that Isaac could bless Esau. It was assumed that blessings were in limited supply; if Esau was blessed, then Jacob couldn’t be. Thankfully through God’s abundance, we have discovered that blessings are inexhaustible.
Today we do not need to limit our blessings to only one or two people. We can bless and be a blessing to all of those around us. Such an abundance of blessings has the ability to change the life stories of our family, friends, neighbors and co-workers.
Lord, “Make us a blessing, make us a blessing, make us a blessing to someone, today.” Amen.
Tuesday, September 19, 2017–Jacob and Esau
“Then Rebekah took the best garments of her elder son Esau … and put them on her younger son Jacob” (Genesis 27:15).
A common pastime of children, when they are growing up, is to dress up and pretend they are someone else. On Halloween, it’s fun dressing up as our favorite super hero, famous personality or ghoul. In real life, trying to be someone, who we are not, is not fun and can have disastrous results. Jacob had to dress and pretend that he was his brother, Esau, in order to receive his father’s blessing. Though the story has a happy ending, Jacob never saw his beloved mother again, and he was estranged from this brother for decades.
Thankfully our God doesn’t play favorites and we don’t need to pretend we’re someone else in order to please God. The Psalmist praised God for forming him into the person that he was. The Psalmist writes, “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works” (Psalm 139:14) https://www.biblica.com/bible/niv/psalm/139/. Or, to paraphrase an old saying, “God made us, and God doesn’t make junk.” Loved and accepted by God we live boldly, celebrate who we are and who God is, and share God’s grace with everyone we meet.
Lord, thank you for your unconditional love and acceptance of who we are. Teach us to accept ourselves and to love and accept others unconditionally. Amen.
Wednesday, September 20, 2017–Jacob and Esau
“He did not recognize him … so he blessed him” (Genesis 27:23).
Gina Lopez was retiring after thirty years of teaching high school English. Her friends arranged a retirement party for her. As a surprise, they had invited several of Gina’s former students to come and share how Gina had affected their lives. After a lite meal, the students stood up and told their stories. Gina discovered that she had touched the lives of these young people in ways she could never have imagined. She had been a blessing to others and didn’t even realize it.
Her life was a contrast to that of Isaac. He was angry that he had blessed the wrong son. We can choose to be like Isaac and bless only a select few while withholding our blessings from others. Unfortunately, this is still a common choice even in our day in age. Or we can celebrate that, as followers of Jesus, the Holy Spirit moves through us in ways we do not understand and impacts the lives of others in ways we are not fully aware.
Thank you, Lord, for using us to spread your grace and blessings. Amen.
Thursday, September 21, 2017–Jacob and Esau
“And he dreamed there was a ladder” (Genesis 28:12).
“We Are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder” is an African American spiritual that was being sung by 1825. It was one of the first spirituals that was sung by white Christians. The spiritual is based on the story of Jacob and uses this text as its inspiration. The story and the song celebrate the truth that there is a connection between heaven (God’s dwelling place) and earth (the realm of humans). In the story, angels are ascending and descending the ladder. They are our connection to the divine. In the song, the rungs of the ladder are steps that are used to approach God—spiritual disciplines, increasing knowledge of God and discipleship.
With Jacob and the multitude of God’s children, we can celebrate that there is a connection between heaven and earth. Instead of a ladder, this connection has taken the shape of a cross. We can also acknowledge that, as followers of Jesus, we have not entered into a new life with God in order to sit on our butts and bask in God’s radiance. Rather, we have the gifts of the spiritual disciplines and the call to discipleship so that we may grow in faith and be equipped for service. With the ladder/cross as part of our lives, we live so that everyone may experience true and lasting freedom.
Lord, Thank you that we are saved by grace through faith and that this is not a work, but a gift (Ephesians 2:8-10). Amen.
Friday, September 22, 2017–Jacob and Esau
“And the Lord stood beside him” (Genesis 28:13a).
Lamont was not excited about the weekend. He knew that most of his Saturday would be taken up with yard work. Not only did the grass need to be cut, but most of the shrubs needed to be trimmed and there was a significant amount of weeding that needed to be done in the garden.
Lamont’s thoughts cast a gloom cloud over him as the subway car careened toward his home. With downcast eyes, he opened the gate to his yard and walked toward his house. Before Lamont went inside, he looked at the yard and was surprised to see that the grass had been cut and the shrubs trimmed. The door opened and Lamont’s two teenage sons walked out to their father. “How do you like the lawn and shrubs, Dad?” asked the boys together. “Mom suggested that we surprise you by doing the yard work. Yeah, and she also promised to take us out for pizza if we did.” Lamont could only reply, “Wow, Thank you!” and gave both of his sons a hug.
Dreaming about the ladder going up to heaven was impressive to Jacob. What really surprised him, however, was God standing by his side. He didn’t need to climb the ladder in order to get to God. God came down and stood with him.
Sometimes in life the ladders appear too steep, the obstacles too overwhelming and the distance too great. Our faith is weak and our hope almost non-existent. During these times, God may seem far away. Like Jacob, we are surprised to see God standing by our side, walking with us through life.
Lord, thank you for your presence and power in our lives—and for your commitment to never be separated from us. Amen.
Saturday, September 23, 2017–Jacob and Esau
“The land on which you lie, I will give to you and to your offspring” (Genesis 28:13b).
With all that Jacob had done in the past few days, it might have been more appropriate for him to go to confession rather than lay down to sleep with a rock for a pillow. Jacob had robbed his brother of his birthright and his blessing. He had tricked his father and made his father angry. His brother wanted to kill him. For his safety, his mother had sent Jacob off to live with her family. Jacob hadn’t done much right; he had done a lot of wrong.
We would think, when God was standing next to Jacob, God would remind Jacob about how Jacob had made a mess of things and order him to get his act together or else. That isn’t what God did, though. Instead, God came up to Jacob and graciously blessed him. “This land I will give to you and your offspring,” God assured Jacob. This was pure grace.
God enters our broken lives. God does not say, “Shame on you,” or “I told you so.” God comes to us, assures us of God’s love and that God will continue to bless us richly. This is pure grace.
We are overwhelmed by your grace in our lives, Lord, especially when we have done nothing to warrant it. Amen.
Sunday, September 24, 2017–Jacob and Esau
“Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go” (Genesis 28:15).
Jacob was fleeing for his life. He was headed off to meet family members he had never seen before. They were total strangers to him. Jacob’s future was questionable. He had has brother’s birthright and blessing, but they were of no value when he was banished from his family. With such an uncertain, even threatening future, God speaks to Jacob. “I’ll be with you wherever you go.” There are no “ifs” “ands” or “buts” in God commitment to Jacob. God’s words are an unconditional promise.
God speaks the same words to us. God will be with us wherever we go. There will be times when we will take the wrong path. God will be with us. When we are filled with fear and make a “strategic retreat,” God will be with us. In faithful obedience to God, we will go places where we never imagined we would go and do things that never entered our minds. God will be with us every step of the way. As Paul reminds the Christians in Rome, “Nothing is able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39).
Lord, may your promise that you will always be with us free us from our fears and enable us to be faithfully obedient to you.