Today’s One Year Bible reading in Genesis 27 is the sad but familiar account of Jacob stealing his older brother Esau’s birthright under the direction of his mother Rebekah.

But the story doesn’t start there. This family had been dealing with a certain level of dysfunction for many years. Demonstrating great faith, Isaac’s father, Abraham, had followed God’s call to leave his home and culture and go to a new land which God would show him. Abraham is rightly commended as a man of great faith. Along the way, however, there were a couple of instances when his faith faltered, and he passed off his wife Sarah as his sister. Fortunately, God intervened, and prevented Sarah from being taken from Abraham.

Sarah’s faith in God had faltered also, resulting in two half-brothers—Ishmael and Isaac—with hostility between them that continued for generations.

By the time we get to today’s reading, Isaac is an old man who is going blind. Unsure of how much longer he might live, he wants to pass on the traditional blessing for the firstborn to his firstborn—and favorite—son, Esau. But Isaac’s wife Rebekah wants the blessing to go instead to Jacob, the younger son, who is her favorite. (So husband and wife aren’t “on the same page” here, and are playing favorites with their sons.) Rebekah hatches a scheme in which Jacob willingly participates. (I find it interesting that when Rebekah shares her plans with Jacob, his response wasn’t about whether the plan was right or wrong, but about how to do it.) The plan succeeds—and results in hostility between these two brothers that continues for many years.

Many years earlier, when Rebekah was pregnant with Esau and Jacob, God had predicted that Jacob would rule over his older brother Esau (Gen. 25:23). And, in fact, Jacob had already purchased the birthright from Esau some time earlier for the price of a bowl of stew (Gen. 25:30). So in a sense, in Gen. 27 Jacob didn’t steal the birthright, he simply took delivery of the thing he had bought earlier.

Through the generations from Abraham to Isaac to Jacob, there were many instances of faith as well as deceit. But throughout it all, God’s purposes were supreme. God used even the deceitfulness of people to accomplish His purposes.

Our lives doubtless include both faith and failure. And just as with Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, and Esau, God uses both our faith and our failures to accomplish His purposes. His sovereignty overrules our dysfunction.

by Darrel Eppler, Chairman of the Elder Board

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