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Saint John's Pulpit (July 12, Sixth Sunday after Pentecost) –
These are the descendants of Isaac, Abraham's son: Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah, daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, sister of Laban the Aramean. Isaac prayed to the LORD for his wife, because she was barren; and the LORD granted his prayer, and his wife Rebekah conceived. The children struggled together within her; and she said, "If it is to be this way, why do I live?" So she went to inquire of the LORD. And the LORD said to her,
"Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples born of you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the elder shall serve the younger."
When her time to give birth was at hand, there were twins in her womb. The first came out red, all his body like a hairy mantle; so they named him Esau. Afterward his brother came out, with his hand gripping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them.
When the boys grew up, Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, living in tents. Isaac loved Esau, because he was fond of game; but Rebekah loved Jacob.
Once when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was famished. Esau said to Jacob, "Let me eat some of that red stuff, for I am famished!" (Therefore he was called Edom.) Jacob said, "First sell me your birthright." Esau said, "I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?" Jacob said, "Swear to me first.” So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank, and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.
Hunger and Thirsty
We all know that the number of Covid 19 tested positive is skyrocketing now. Since the mid of March, all Americans have been patient and followed the order from each of their states, but the decision of re-opening is driving us into another challenge we did not expect. To some degrees, it is understandable. Lots of people have been in huger and thirsty for their socializing, gathering and parties. Job and business have stopped. Their patience is running out. At the same time their stress level is getting higher. However, what we see now shows we should know how to handle our hunger and thirsty carefully and wisely.
The text today is telling about Esau and Jacob. In terms of Jewish culture, this story is dealing with an issue of a ‘primogeniture’, simply speaking a birthright guaranteeing great privileges and huge blessings for an elder son in Jewish family. Isaac and Rebekah had two sons – Esau and Jacob. Indeed, they were twins. Hard to decide who was the first and second one:
When her time to give birth was at hand, there were twins in her womb. The first came out red, all his body like a hairy mantle; so they named him Esau. Afterward his brother came out, with his hand gripping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them. Genesis 25:24-26 NRSV
Their competing birth turned out their competing life. As we know, Jacob strongly wanted to get all privileges and blessings as an elder son, finally with a bowl of soup, Jacob made it to get a birthright from Esau. The Bible has a blaming tone for Esau, because he did not value his birthright. Can we say that “you snooze, you lose!” Esau was so hungry after hunting and didn’t care his future without his birthright. Yes, he should be blamed on it. However, in this time, I would like to say that Esau was not the only one who was hungry. A careful reading of this story makes us know that all people in the story were hungry too! Let me tell about what kind of hunger in each of family members.
Rebekah, who is she? She is a wife of Isaac and mother of Esau and Jacob. One thing about her is this. She was a mom of favor! She loved Jacob, and supported Jacob to get a birthright. What made her do this? Maybe, she was hungry for stability. When Rebekah married Isaac, she might hear a story of Isaac and Ishmael. It was a tragedy! For her, she did not want to repeat this sad family history for her children and grandchildren. Before her delivery, she heard this promise from God.
And the LORD said to her,
“Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples born of you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other,the elder shall serve the younger.” Genesis 25:23 NRSV
Esau and Jacob… were her sons after twenty years of her marriage! How so precious they are! However, she chose Jacob, and relied on him for her future.
What about Isaac? The story today tells he also was a person of favor. His favor went on his elder son, Esau who was an expert hunter and an outdoors man. Isaac loved his game.
Isaac loved Esau, because he was fond of game; but Rebekah loved Jacob. Genesis 25:28 NRSV
Isaac was hungry for his favorite food and made his son Jacob hungry for Dad’s love. It was not the end. Isaac’s favor was inherited to his son Jacob. Jacob became a person of favor later. Jacob’s favor went on his son Joseph. Eventually, Jacob’s favor stirred up his family and endangered his son Joseph by his other sons. What a sad family history!
Esau? Of course, he was physically hungry. Jacob? He was hungry for all benefits given to an elder son. What a great hungry family! Seemingly, they looked stable, healthy, safe, and rich, but they all were hungry! You now see the perfectly dysfunctional family in the Bible!
Satisfaction in God
This story is not about non-believers or non-Christians. All people in the story believed in God. Why did they show this malfunction in their life? This question can be replaced with this, why could they not make God their favor? To their life, why was God not their priority? In Philippians 4:11-13, Apostle Paul explains why we should make God our favor.
Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:11-13 NRSV
Yes, satisfaction in Christ makes us see what others can’t see. Instead of pursuing stability, safety, money, privilege, and benefits, this satisfaction encourages us to focus on the only one, Christ. In him, we can do all things.
Don’t be hungry! Fill your life with Christ!