Glimpses of Grace and Truth... As we read on Sunday, Jesus used very vivid stories so that all who listened could easily envision: a sower who sows seeds, a farmer who finds weeds, images of roots and fruit, planting and harvesting. While his stories most often included images very clear to his listeners, the stories’ meanings were often more elusive, more hidden. Yet when his followers put forth the effort to listen closely, to think carefully and, when confused, to ask questions, the meaning became as clear as the images. Unfortunately it’s not only Jesus and his parables that baffle us; it’s the more ancient stories of the Old Testament and the more modern stories of everyday life.
Since we’re returning this Sunday to the beginning (i.e., Genesis), let’s recall the original “first family,” Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Esau. You can remember that when Esau came in from a hard day of hunting, feeling like he was dying of hunger, he saw and smelled Jacob’s savory stew and asked for some. You remember how Jacob took advantage of the situation, convincing Esau to sell him his birthright for a bowl of stew. You may remember how Jacob’s sins went from bad to worse, when he deceived his own blind, bedridden father who gave the firstborn blessing to his secondborn son Jacob, whose Hebrew name means deceiver. Genesis 25 reminds us that God cannot work with wishy - washy people like Esau, who sell their birthright for a cup of soup. But Genesis 25 also teaches us that God cannot work with a deceiver either.
Jacob had a long way to go before God could really use him. God was not finished with Jacob; he needed to be redeemed. Jacob’s name would later be changed to Israel, which some say means “wrestles with God,” while others say the meaning lies in the outcome of the wrestling: “God prevails.” After many years of struggling with his own deceptiveness running from others, the lack of integrity in himself and others like his own father-in-law Laban, Jacob is finally changed to Israel. Only at this point is Jacob, or Israel, ready to lead a nation. No longer would his life be built on deception or taking advantage of others. His life, his family, his descendants, his story would be about the name “God Prevails.”
Have you made some bad choices, selling out your birthright for something with fleeting value? Have you been guilty of taking advantage of someone else’s needs, taking from them what others might call a “legal” or even a “fair” price, while God nudges your heart to move above “legal” to what God calls “right"? Have you found yourself wrestling with God, or simply wrestling with events in daily life, which leave us confused and wondering? Genesis, the beginning, might be as deep and complicated as the worst of parables, but the point of all the stories is that “God prevails.” The point, from Genesis to Revelation, is not that God picked a sinless family in Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to do his work. The point of this story is not that Abraham prevails or Jacob prevails. They, just like we, are miserable failures when we try doing things on our own, in our own way or for our own good. The point of the biblical story is not the prevailing of Abraham or Isaac, Jacob or Esau, but rather if we will let go of doing things our way, “God prevails.” When God prevails, you and I go from our sin to God’s salvation, from our mistakes to Christ’s mission, from our failures to God’s Family.
Sincerely glad to walk alongside you as God prevails in, around & thru us: Ed, Lea and the First UMC Family