For the week of November 14, 2009 / 27 Heshvan 5770
Torah: Bereshit / Genesis 23:1 - 25:18
Haftarah: 1 Melachim / 1 Kings 1:1-31
How Silly We Can Be!
Then Rebekah took the best garments of Esau her older son, which were with her in the house, and put them on Jacob her younger son. And the skins of the young goats she put on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck. And she put the delicious food and the bread, which she had prepared, into the hand of her son Jacob. (Bereshit / Genesis 27:15-17; ESV)
In this week's parasha (weekly Torah reading), we read of the stealing of Isaac's blessing. Before he died, Isaac wanted to give a special blessing to his older son, Esau. So Isaac asked Esau to prepare for him a special meal of fresh game after which Isaac would give him the blessing. Isaac passing this blessing on to Esau would make him the carrier of God's purposes for the world. Before Esau and his twin brother, Jacob, were born, God had told their mother, Rebekah, that the younger would have precedence over the older (see Bereshit / Genesis 25:22,23). We don't know if she ever told this prediction to Isaac, but when she heard that Isaac was planning on giving the blessing to Esau, she schemed to deceive her husband into giving it to Jacob instead.
This sets up one of the silliest scenes in the Bible. Although Esau and Jacob were twins, they were different in almost every way. Esau was a hairy, outdoorsy sort-of person; Jacob was a smooth-skinned homebody. Even though Isaac's sight was poor at this stage of his life, tricking him would not be easy. When Jacob comes to him covered in goat's skins, Isaac suspects something is up. He recognizes Jacob's voice and wonders how he could have prepared the meal so quickly. Yet when he calls Jacob over to kiss him, the feel of the goat skin and smell of Esau's garments he was wearing are somehow enough to fool him, and Jacob gets the blessing.
Could you imagine how silly Jacob must have looked wearing that goat skin! What a ridiculous scene of Mom and son scheming to trick Dad like that! The fact that their plan actually worked makes the situation even more absurd. Did Rebekah and Jacob really believe that they could manipulate the situation in order to fulfill God's plan for Jacob? Yet it worked! What is anybody supposed to learn from a story like this!
Could it be that the only reason why this crazy plan worked was because God had determined that Jacob would be the recipient of the blessing anyway? We don't have any direct comment in the text as to whether or not Jacob's actions were right or wrong. Yet as we follow his story, we see how God pursues him until he eventually learns to personally trust God. Until then he strives and strives for prosperity and success.
What we have in Jacob is an unbeliever pursued by God. God had determined to bless him and make him a blessing just like his father and grandfather, but he had no clue personally what that really meant. So while his deceitful scheming appears successful, it is only so because God had determined to use Jacob for his purposes. Jacob's heart would one day be for God, but in the meantime, God was at work towards that end. This in no way justifies Jacob's schemes. On the contrary it makes a mockery of human striving.
I wonder how often we are just like Jacob. We must look pretty silly sometimes as we strive to make life work out in our favor. God determines to bless us and use us, but we think we need to take matters into our own hands. We scheme in our attempt to manipulate life's circumstances for our benefit. Yet God is working behind the scenes, so to speak, to bring events to their determined end for our good. We presume that it's our scheming that makes us successful, when all along God in his love and by his power is seeking to draw us in line with himself. Let's stop being so silly and let God be God.
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