Bible Readings for Friday January 14th, 2011 – The 2nd Week of Epiphany
*Click on each bible passage to expand the text.1. [To the leader. Of David. A Psalm.] I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry.
2. He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.
3. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD.
4. Happy are those who make the LORD their trust, who do not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after false gods.
5. You have multiplied, O LORD my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you. Were I to proclaim and tell of them, they would be more than can be counted.
6. Sacrifice and offering you do not desire, but you have given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required.
7. Then I said, “Here I am; in the scroll of the book it is written of me.
8. I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.”
9. I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation; see, I have not restrained my lips, as you know, O LORD.
10. I have not hidden your saving help within my heart, I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation.
11. Do not, O LORD, withhold your mercy from me; let your steadfast love and your faithfulness keep me safe forever.30. As soon as Isaac had finished blessing Jacob, when Jacob had scarcely gone out from the presence of his father Isaac, his brother Esau came in from his hunting.
31. He also prepared savory food, and brought it to his father. And he said to his father, “Let my father sit up and eat of his son’s game, so that you may bless me.”
32. His father Isaac said to him, “Who are you?” He answered, “I am your firstborn son, Esau.”
33. Then Isaac trembled violently, and said, “Who was it then that hunted game and brought it to me, and I ate it all before you came, and I have blessed him?– yes, and blessed he shall be!”
34. When Esau heard his father’s words, he cried out with an exceedingly great and bitter cry, and said to his father, “Bless me, me also, father!”
35. But he said, “Your brother came deceitfully, and he has taken away your blessing.”
36. Esau said, “Is he not rightly named Jacob? For he has supplanted me these two times. He took away my birthright; and look, now he has taken away my blessing.” Then he said, “Have you not reserved a blessing for me?”
37. Isaac answered Esau, “I have already made him your lord, and I have given him all his brothers as servants, and with grain and wine I have sustained him. What then can I do for you, my son?”
38. Esau said to his father, “Have you only one blessing, father? Bless me, me also, father!” And Esau lifted up his voice and wept.1. In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning
2. until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen.
3. After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.
4. While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me;
5. for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
Ah, Jacob. *sigh*
The man whom God would name Israel: learned, cunning, and infinitely frustrating becuase of the subsequent moral applications of this passage in Genesis 27 by ill-advised men throughout history.
This entire showdown between Jacob and Esau began while the twins were still in Rebekah’s womb. Worried she asked God why they fought so much inside her:
23. The Lord said to her,“Two nations are in your womb,
and two peoples from within you will be separated;
one people will be stronger than the other,
and the older will serve the younger.”
In-utero, Jacob was prophesied to usurp his brother’s birthright, and to illustrate the point, while Esau was born first, Jacob came out holding his heel. Jacob literally means, “heel-grabber” or “usurper”.
I have been reading commentaries where various Rabbis and Christian commentators go so far as to describe Jacob as Issac’s moral, gentle, and wise son. Esau however, gets a more critical treatment being described as violent, untrustworthy, and immoral. Basically, they argue Esau deserved what was coming to him. “Bad things only happen to bad people…”
What?? Where is any of that in Genesis? Talk about a extra-biblical narrative to justify Jacob’s deceitful actions! None of those qualities of each man are even so much as implied in the bible. Jacob sat at home in a tent and hardly ventured out. Esau was a stout outdoors-man. Jacob conned his brother out of the birthright earlier in life by making a desperate and famished Esau swear it over to Jacob before he would share a bowl of stew. That’s it. That’s what we know of their character by this point in Genesis.
And some bible commentators have said that Jacob deserved the birthright and the blessing, because, “Esau had no value in it. No man should give it up so easily”. Therefore, whoever values it more has the right to take it?? Hmmmmmmm, unfortunate consequences have come of that interpretation. It basically allows for wholesale relocation and sacking of peoples and property, as long as the Jewish and Christian invaders “value” what they’re taking more than the victims.
All of this culminates in Jacob’s unlawful deception of Issac, and the stealing of Issac’s blessing of Esau which contained therein the spiritual inheritance of God’s covenant with the descendants of Abraham and Issac. The Messiah, the future of Israel and the Western world depends on a deceit. Fascinating. However this is to show the fragile and transient nature of man’s blessings. While God’s covenant is true and whole, man can alter it’s course. God never stipulated which generations of Abraham would receive the covenant. That decision is up to the patriarchs to contemplate in each generation. Issac was ready to select Esau, his firstborn. Jacob and Rebekah decided otherwise. And history was changed forever.
Does this mean that God caused this betrayal by Jacob? Does this mean God favored Jacob because he allowed Jacob’s deceitful actions to prosper unchallenged? Not at all. It simply shows that God is the seat of fidelity, not man. While through God’s ultimate blessing, free-will, man can choose to be unlawful and deceitful, God will always keep his word to us. And, most amazingly, God can find ways of turning our terrible decisions into some form of good later on. It doesn’t justify us or our actions, but it does show God’s fidelity to us.
However, the New Testament passage from Acts 1 goes even farther to illustrate to what length God will go to express his unconditional love and the everlasting fidelity of his covenant with man. What are the requirements of receiving God’s blessing, through baptism in the Holy Spirit?
- Do you have to be from a certain lineage, like the line of David? No.
- Do you have to be of a certain character? No, the apostles (like ourselves) were notoriously weak and faithless people.
- Do you have to be of a certain class, with means and power at your disposal? No.
The beauty of the New Testament is, empowered by Christ’s sacrifice, God’s blessing through baptism of the Holy Spirit became open and free to everyone! And no amount of deceit or betrayal amongst brothers and friends can change that. There’s nothing to steal away. If Isaac had had another blessing for his firstborn son Esau, none of Jacob’s actions would have mattered.
And so today’s readings teach us never to put our faith in blessings and promises of men. They can be altered, broken and stolen away. We are to put our faith only in the blessing of God, in baptism through the Holy Spirit. Trust in it and rejoice in it, and God’s fidelity to us will always endure. Maybe it won’t always manifest in ways we want, but in God’s wisdom it is always the right way. Sometimes it takes a while for the wisdom of these things to reveal itself…