Meditation on Genesis 25:19-34
Pastor Karen Crawford
The Presbyterian Church, 142 N. Fourth St., Coshocton, OH 43812
July 12, 2020
Audio of Pastor Karen’s Message:
The Crawford household grew by two fur babies this summer. Ah, the pitter patter of little orange fur feet, racing up and down the stairs and along smooth wood floors, stepping on carpet and flying into walls as if they are on a slip and slide. The 2 ½-year old ginger cats showed up in a traveling cage one Sunday afternoon about a month ago, a gift from a church member.
Within days of their adoption, Leo and Loomis became Seamus and Liam, much like the Lord gave Abram and Sarai new names after they began to listen for God’s voice and obey. The difference is that cats don’t listen to human voices, unless we are saying something they want to hear. And they don’t obey, but they might agree with you.
We had trouble telling them apart, at first. They are brothers and look so much alike. It’s part of the challenge of raising twin boys. Looking more closely, you see that one is a darker orange, with a rounder face and the other has a long, aristocratic nose, high cheekbones and slanted eyes. But it’s their personalities that really define them.
Seamus, on the first night, hid in between the walls in the furnace room. No amount of coaxing or bribery would persuade him to come out. He hissed and bared his claws. Liam, on the other hand, was shy, but an explorer, going upstairs and sliding under Jacob’s bed when he realized there was a DOG in our bedroom. They hadn’t lived with a DOG before. Seamus is the most active and destructive, leaping on tall furniture, knocking over lamps and chairs, ripping curtains and chewing houseplants. He is the most curious and impulsive, wandering into the pantry and climbing into the washing machine as I am filling it with clothes. I often think of the saying, “Curiosity killed the cat,” when I am watching Seamus’ escapades. He is also the most playful and energetic, dragging his toys around the house for hours, carrying them in his mouth and batting them with his paws. He has the largest appetite and eats faster than Liam. He would eat Liam’s food, too, if I didn’t stand between them. Seamus is the one who teases the dog and tries to drink out of her water bowl. Yeah, that’s not going to happen. Mabel, our Pomeranian, doesn’t share. He demands attention; if Liam is taking a nap, Seamus often jumps on him and wakes him up. Seamus tends to follow Jim around, meowing, and will climb into his lap and allow him to scratch his head while Jim reads or watches the news.
Liam and I have a special connection. When he climbed into my lap that first morning, I told him the story of Melvyn, my last kitty—how I loved him and how he died and that I was still sad about losing him. Liam looked up at me with such compassion in his eyes. He is the gentle, quiet one. He watches me through a window if I am out working in the yard and sometimes waits at the back door. He stays close when I am home. As I work on my messages, Liam is usually in my lap or sleeping nearby.
While we love both of our ginger boys, Jim adores Seamus. And I adore Liam.
Isaac and Rebekah wait and hope for a child for 20 years. Like Sarah, Rebekah is considered barren. Isaac prays to the Lord and, miraculously, she conceives. She gives birth to twin boys when Isaac is 60! Raising twin boys is a challenge, from the very beginning. The pregnancy is hard on her. “The children struggled together within her,” says Genesis 25:22, and she says, “If it is to be this way, why do I live?”
Rebekah is a woman of faith. She “inquires” of the Lord. God speaks to her directly, assuring her that she isn’t going crazy; there are two nations in conflict within her. One is stronger than the other, and the elder will serve the younger! This isn’t how it is in her society. The eldest inherits everything so that the property would not be divided.
As the children grow, Esau becomes the strong hunter whom Isaac loves because he fills his belly with wild game. He is the impulsive twin and is tricked by Jacob, whom Rebekah loves. He is the smart, quiet man, who prefers to stay at home and help with the cooking. This favoritism leads to conflict, just as it will when Jacob favors his younger son, Joseph, and gives him a special coat.
It’s hard not to play favorites, isn’t it?
Esau returns from a hunting trip, hungry and arrogant. He’s talking trash with his brother—and you get the feeling that this is how the two are used to communicating. “Let me eat some of that red stuff!” he demands, only “stuff” is probably not the word he uses. Jacob has waited for this moment for a long time, perhaps already knows what the Lord told Rebekah when she was pregnant—that the elder would serve the younger. “First, sell me your birthright,” Jacob says, meaning, the inheritance of the first-born son. And Esau falls right into his trap, selling his birthright for some bread and lentil stew. Why does he do this? I wonder. Does he really care so little about his family and future? He seems to live only for the moment, for today’s pleasures, without considering the consequences. “He ate and drank, and rose and went his way. Thus, he despised his birthright.”
I find myself cheering for Jacob throughout this story. I want the clever, quiet man, living in tents, making bread and lentil stew, to receive God’s blessing. I want the nice guy, the faithful one, and not the bully to win. Esau treats his family terribly. Against his parents’ wishes, he marries two Hittite women when he is 40 years old, “and they make life bitter for Isaac and Rebekah.”
Jacob does eventually receive God’s blessing, along with the birthright, the inheritance of the first-born son. He does this by deceiving his father, Isaac, when he is old and blind and pretends to be his older brother. This happens not because of the craftiness of Jacob, but because God has planned this since before their birth. The Lord’s blessing to Abraham’s descendants will continue through the line of Jacob. Jacob is chosen by God to be used by God.
God’s choices are almost always surprising and the opposite of what the world would choose. Paul says in 1 Cor. 1:27, “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” “The message of the cross,” Paul writes in 1 Cor. 1:18, “is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
Now I don’t want to give you the wrong impression about Jacob and Esau—as if one is good and the other bad. The truth is, they are both human and flawed. Esau does end up having a good life. He isn’t cursed. He doesn’t lose his home, family or wealth as Jacob is forced into exile, fearing his brother’s wrath. Both Jacob and Esau will mature. Time heals and life humbles. They grow in grace and gratitude. One day, Esau and Jacob will reconcile after Jacob wrestles with an angel of the Lord and receives his new name–Israel.
I also don’t want to give you the wrong impression about Seamus and Liam, our ginger kitties. The truth is, they are both cats, with all the feline traits that the Lord has given them. All you cat lovers know what I am talking about. They will change as they grow accustomed to us and life in our home. They have already settled down and are putting on weight. Seamus is still more skittish and easily spooked but is learning to trust and accept our love.
Love and trust change us, amen? The love of God, even more than human love, has the power to transform.
You and I have been chosen by God to be used by God. We have been adopted, grafted into the family tree of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. We have a precious inheritance of eternal life with God. We are wanted and accepted with all our flaws and weaknesses. He is working in and with us, at this very moment. Trials and suffering build our character and help us grow in grace and gratitude.
Difficult and frightening times will draw Jacob closer to the Lord and grow his faith. The same will happen for us who are living through a pandemic.
The gift of our two fur babies is just one way that I see the love and grace of God working in our lives. Jim, Jacob and I didn’t even know that we needed two cats to help us find healing and comfort for our hurts. God knew that we needed them—and that they needed us.
Our worship last Sunday at Janie Kinkley’s was a wonderful blessing—another way that I see the love and grace of God working in our church family. For the more than 30 who came on a hot, holiday weekend, we were reminded how when two or three are gathered in Christ’s name, he is with us. We were reminded that the Body of Christ never needed the walls of a church to live a life of worship. We were reminded that nothing is impossible with God and that even a pandemic cannot keep us from becoming the people that God wants us to be, growing in grace and gratitude.
The Lord doesn’t play favorites. He loves everyone, unconditionally. He doesn’t expect payment on the debt he paid for us when Christ died for the sins of the world that he loves. Only that we seek him, love him, and let His word, as the psalmist prays, be a lamp unto our feet, a light unto our path. And when we feel afraid, as we sing in our song of praise, when we think we’ve lost our way, God’s still there beside us. Nothing will we fear as long as God is near. He’ll be near us to the end.
Let us pray.
Holy one, thank you for choosing us and using us to accomplish your wonderful, surprising purposes. Thank you for your word that never fails to speak to us and encourage us as we seek to live faithfully today. May we hear your voice guiding us on your way. Keep our hearts from wandering. Give us patience and gentleness with ourselves and others. Be with families everywhere, Lord. Help those who struggle. Bless the barren woman with the longed-for child. Bring peace and reconciliation where there is brokenness, strife, fear, and hurt. Where there is hunger or other physical, emotional or spiritual needs, may your Spirit provide. Thank you that nothing will ever separate us from your love, shown in Christ Jesus, our Lord. In His name we pray. Amen.