Isaac and Trust (03-07-21)
Bible Reading: Genesis 25:29-26:4,6
Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. He said to Jacob, "Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I'm famished!" (That is why he was also called Edom.) Jacob replied, "First sell me your birthright." "Look, I am about to die," Esau said. "What good is the birthright to me?" But Jacob said, "Swear to me first." So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left. So Esau despised his birthright.
Now there was a famine in the land and Isaac went to Abimelek king of the Philistines in Gerar. The Lord appeared to Isaac and said, "Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live. Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you. For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham. I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed." So Isaac stayed in Gerar.
I remember at the start of the pandemic how panic buying emptied the supermarket shelves of many so-called essential items: bread, toilet rolls, pasta and hand gel. While a deep sense of community support was growing in some areas, fear and a desire for self-preservation was showing the opposite side of human nature. There was always enough of everything to go round but rationing in some areas was needed to ensure a fair distribution.
These two consecutive passages about Isaac and his sons Esau and Jacob show three contrasting reactions to need.
Esau is the first-born son and, as such, would become head of the family and inherit the family wealth when Isaac died. He was a skilled hunter and impulsive by nature. Coming home, famished from a hunt, he is persuaded to sell his birthright to his brother Jacob for the price of a bowl of stew. For Esau the needs of the moment override any thought for the future.
Jacob, as the younger son, would always be beholden to his older brother and would not inherit from his father. But Jacob was scheming by nature and saw the opportunity to exploit Esau’s situation and deprive him of his birthright. He would also later scheme to deprive Esau of God’s blessing, passed down from Abraham to Isaac. Jacob, rather than Esau, would become one of the forefathers of the nation of Israel.
In contrast to this Isaac, in a time of severe famine, sought help for his family from a neighbouring tribe, but obeyed God in not going to Egypt for help. Egypt, in biblical terms, is more than a geographical location, it represents the worship of materialism and the slavery that Israel would later endure under Pharoah. Isaac chose to trust God rather than lead his family into a situation that would compromise their worship.
Are there times you have looked to satisfy your needs or desires through short-term fixes that have not honoured God? Can you bring them to him now in confession and know his forgiveness?
Forgive me, Lord, for the times I have sought comfort from short-term gain. Help me to trust in your promises to bless and to provide,
and to worship and honour you in all the decisions I make.
Blessed be your name