Commentary by Walter Albritton

October 7, 2007


God Uses Broken, Imperfect People to Accomplish His Purposes 


Genesis 25:19-34


Key Verse: 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

          If the Bible does anything, it gives hope to broken people. From Genesis to Revelation there are stories of people whose lives are shattered because they failed to obey God. Still God does not give up on them. He continues to use broken people to accomplish his divine will. And his grace is continually available to one and all, for it is not limited to a select few.

          One wonders why God identifies himself to Moses as “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” Why Isaac? What did he do in order to deserve God’s favor? Evidently he did very little. Check it out.

          When Isaac was born he made Sarah and Abraham laugh. So what? When his wife Rebekah could have no children, he prayed for her to conceive and God answered his prayer. He reopened the wells his father Abraham had dug. He became wealthy. Isaac built an altar at Beersheba and worshiped God there. That sums up the positives of Isaac’s life.

          Much more can be said about the negative side of Isaac’s life. As the twin boys grew up Isaac loved Esau more than he loved Jacob. He said nothing as Rebekah made Jacob her favorite son. As the head of his family, he could have insisted that his affection, and that of Rebekah, be equally divided between their two sons. So he actually assisted the intense rivalry between Esau and Jacob to grow into hatred.

Isaac was a coward and a liar in the same way his father Abraham had been. Like father, like son. Out of fear for his life he passed off Rebekah as his sister. This behavior did not distinguish Isaac as a role model for godly husbands.

After Isaac became blind in his old age, he allowed Jacob and Rebekah to trick him into giving Esau’s blessing to his deceitful brother Jacob. It is difficult to feel sorry for the old man when Esau weeps out loud, having found out that his cunning brother had cheated him out of his father’s blessing. No doubt Isaac was weeping as well. What a sad scene: two men broken by deceit and now suffering the consequences of their foolish and irresponsible behavior.

The phrase “sibling rivalry” originated in Bible stories. Brothers have always struggled with each other. Cain and Abel were the first. Then come Esau and Jacob, and later Joseph and his brothers. Esau and Jacob started fighting before they were born! Their story is all the more pitiful because their parents by choosing favorites agitated their sons to hate each other..

Esau proved himself to be very foolish by selling his birthright for a bowl of stew. Jacob proved worthy of his name (Jacob means “heel-grabber”) by “grabbing” his brother’s birthright instead of graciously sharing supper with his hungry brother.

These, then, are the people God chose to make the world aware of his love for them. A motley bunch they were – every family dysfunctional – yet God favored them with his grace rather than giving up on them. God saw in them what they could become – people useful for his purposes in the world. He kept working with Jacob until the conniver had a new name (Israel),  a new character, and a new future. Esau finally outgrows his intense desire to kill Jacob.

How can we explain the way God gives his favor to people? The most obvious answer, of course, is that God does what he wishes to do. He does not check with us nor does he owe us an explanation. He is God.

The Apostle Paul offers an answer that is good enough for me. Paul reminds us that God does not always choose the people who are wise, strong, and morally good for his mission. Instead he chooses the weak, the foolish, and the lowly to share his message with the world (1 Corinthians 1:27-29).

The unsettling thing about Isaac, Esau, and Jacob is that we are very much like them today. We too are conniving, selfish, and self-seeking people. Our families are dysfunctional too. But that is why the gospel is good news! God is willing to work with us – to forgive and cleanse us when we turn to him and admit our need to live under the Lordship of His Son, our Risen Savior.

We too can become people with new names, new character, and a new future. We can find ways to be reconciled with our family members and become channels of healing, hope, and love for our community and our world. Should we not all give thanks that God does not give up on dysfunctional families but is willing to use people like us to share the good news of his love? That really is good news!

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