Today we hear a tale of two blessings. For one person, it was the best of times. For the other, it was the worst. One dared to ask God for a blessing; the other, we are told, “despised” his. (Pause) What will you do with your blessing?
First, meet Esau.
The Birth and Youth of Esau and Jacob
19These are the descendants of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham was the father of Isaac,20and Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah, daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, sister of Laban the Aramean.21Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord granted his prayer, and his wife Rebekah conceived.22The 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.23And the Lord said to her,
‘Two nations are in your womb,and two peoples born of you shall be divided;one shall be stronger than the other,the elder shall serve the younger.’
24When her time to give birth was at hand, there were twins in her womb.25The first came out red, all his body like a hairy mantle; so they named him Esau.26Afterwards 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.
27 When the boys grew up, Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, living in tents.28Isaac loved Esau, because he was fond of game; but Rebekah loved Jacob.
Twins Came OutParody of “Twist and Shout” by The Beatles(Gen 25:24-27)
When Jacob was a baby now (Jake was a baby)
©2010 Parodudes Music, Inc.
Esau Sells His Birthright, which is to say, his blessing.
29 Once when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was famished.30Esau said to Jacob, ‘Let me eat some of that red stuff, for I am famished!’ (Therefore he was called Edom.*)31Jacob said, ‘First sell me your birthright.’32Esau said, ‘I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?’33Jacob said, ‘Swear to me first.’* So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob.34Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank, and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.
Isaac Blesses Jacob
27When Isaac was old and his eyes were dim so that he could not see, he called his elder son Esau and said to him, ‘My son’; and he answered, ‘Here I am.’2He said, ‘See, I am old; I do not know the day of my death.3Now then, take your weapons, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field, and hunt game for me.4Then prepare for me savory food, such as I like, and bring it to me to eat, so that I may bless you before I die.’
5 Now Rebekah was listening when Isaac spoke to his son Esau. So when Esau went to the field to hunt for game and bring it,6Rebekah said to her son Jacob, ‘I heard your father say to your brother Esau,7“Bring me game, and prepare for me savory food to eat, that I may bless you before the Lord before I die.”8Now therefore, my son, obey my word as I command you.9Go to the flock, and get me two choice kids, so that I may prepare from them savory food for your father, such as he likes;10and you shall take it to your father to eat, so that he may bless you before he dies.’
11But Jacob said to his mother Rebekah, ‘Look, my brother Esau is a hairy man, and I am a man of smooth skin.12Perhaps my father will feel me, and I shall seem to be mocking him, and bring a curse on myself and not a blessing.’13His mother said to him, ‘Let your curse be on me, my son; only obey my word, and go, get them for me.’14So he went and got them and brought them to his mother; and his mother prepared savory food, such as his father loved.15Then Rebekah took the best garments of her elder son Esau, which were with her in the house, and put them on her younger son Jacob;16and she put the skins of the kids on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck.17Then she handed the savory food, and the bread that she had prepared, to her son Jacob.
18 So he went in to his father, and said, ‘My father’; and he said, ‘Here I am; who are you, my son?’19Jacob said to his father, ‘I am Esau your firstborn. I have done as you told me; now sit up and eat of my game, so that you may bless me.’20But Isaac said to his son, ‘How is it that you have found it so quickly, my son?’ He answered, ‘Because the Lord your God granted me success.’21Then Isaac said to Jacob, ‘Come near, that I may feel you, my son, to know whether you are really my son Esau or not.’22So Jacob went up to his father Isaac, who felt him and said, ‘The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau.’23He did not recognize him, because his hands were hairy like his brother Esau’s hands; so he blessed him.24He said, ‘Are you really my son Esau?’ He answered, ‘I am.’25Then he said, ‘Bring it to me, that I may eat of my son’s game and bless you.’ So he brought it to him, and he ate; and he brought him wine, and he drank.26Then his father Isaac said to him, ‘Come near and kiss me, my son.’27So he came near and kissed him; and he smelled the smell of his garments, and blessed him, and said,
‘Ah, the smell of my son
is like the smell of a field that the Lord has blessed.
28 May God give you of the dew of heaven,
and of the fatness of the earth,
and plenty of grain and wine.
29 Let peoples serve you,
and nations bow down to you.
Be lord over your brothers,
and may your mother’s sons bow down to you.
Cursed be everyone who curses you,
and blessed be everyone who blesses you!’
Esau’s Lost Blessing
30 As soon as Isaac had finished blessing Jacob, when Jacob had scarcely gone out from the presence of his father Isaac, his brother Esau came in from his hunting. 31He also prepared savory food, and brought it to his father. And he said to his father, ‘Let my father sit up and eat of his son’s game, so that you may bless me.’ 32His father Isaac said to him, ‘Who are you?’ He answered, ‘I am your firstborn son, Esau.’ 33Then Isaac trembled violently, and said, ‘Who was it then that hunted game and brought it to me, and I ate it all* before you came, and I have blessed him?—yes, and blessed he shall be!’
34When Esau heard his father’s words, he cried out with an exceedingly great and bitter cry, and said to his father, ‘Bless me, me also, father!’ 35But he said, ‘Your brother came deceitfully, and he has taken away your blessing.’ 36Esau said, ‘Is he not rightly named Jacob?* For he has supplanted me these two times. He took away my birthright; and look, now he has taken away my blessing.’ Then he said, ‘Have you not reserved a blessing for me?’ 37Isaac answered Esau, ‘I have already made him your lord, and I have given him all his brothers as servants, and with grain and wine I have sustained him. What then can I do for you, my son?’ 38Esau said to his father, ‘Have you only one blessing, father? Bless me, me also, father!’ And Esau lifted up his voice and wept.
Esau, Words by Jenn Lindsay
There’s a lot of chance in how you meet the world
I came in rough, uncouth and for the field.
My quiet crooked brother slipped in on my heel
Stole the heart of Mother and my birthright for a meal.
I always had the body, you always had the brain.
I toil with the beasts; in the tents you talk and play.
You took my body in your hands at a hungry time
You took my body on your arms, you lied and took what’s mine.
Bless me, Father! Have you only one?
I have struggled with him since the womb.
Your own father nearly slayed you on the altar.
Count your blessings for me and Cain and Ishmael.
We disappear. We displease Israel.
Father knew your voice but ate what you had brought.
Shema, Israel, Adonai Echad.
I know Mother helped you, I know she cooked the dish.
Put goats on your arms, saw your fate sealed with a kiss.
A writer writes his story so he can have his glory.
My brother the conniver the survivor with a dowry.
What was I to do? Swear myself to cursing you?
I ALready mistakenly traded life for stew. Refrain
We will meet again, little brother, on the road.
I hope you will wrestle with the truth of what you did.
My fate is to be alone and you are Israel.
Your sons will live your story, so live your story well. Refrain.
It’s true. Jacob – whose name literally means “supplanter” – used cunning and trickery to steal his older brother’s birthright and blessing. But Esau… Esau! He had the birthright! He had the blessing in hand! All he had to do was be who he was—the eldest brother. All he had to do was receive the blessing. That’s all! And he frittered it away. Or should I say, “stewed” it away.
It’s easy looking at Esau’s actions from the outside to poke fun at him or to look down on him or to belittle him for playing so fast and loose with his birthright, which is to say his original blessing from God. But I wonder how often we do the same thing?
Because we, too, are blessed—every last one of us. Simply by virtue of our existence, we have a blessing….the blessing of having been created by God out of love….the blessing of having gifts and skills and unique personalities and the ability to love and share and take delight in things. Do you know—deep down know—that God loves you? Just as you are? God created you to be someone like no other person. God created you like you are for a reason…and God loves you as you are. The psalmist says, “We are fearfully and wonderfully made.” Do you believe that? Have you received and taken in that original blessing? Or have you ignored it or questioned it or despised it? Have you received the blessing of who you were created to be?
About that other blessing….the blessing of Jabez. The prayer of Jabez comes from an obscure passage in an obscure book of the Bible: I Chronicles. The first four chapters of I Chronicles contain a geneaology. The bible—especially the Old Testament—is really big on geneaologies. And, like this one, the sometimes go on for chapters.
If you look at the geneaology in I Chronicles 1-4, you’ll notice that, except for a sentence or two that detail skirmishes and the acquisition of land, Jabez is the only person who receives any narrative in the whole geneaology. The rest is just a list of names…which suggests that this tiny bit of narrative is important. Really important. Hear now the tale of Jabez.
i Chronicles 4:9-10
9Jabez was honored more than his brothers; and his mother named him Jabez, saying, ‘Because I bore him in pain.’10Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, ‘Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from hurt and harm!’ And God granted what he asked.
“Because I bore him in pain…” Can you imagine going through life with the name “Pain.” “Hey, Pain! How’d you get that name?” the other children would ask at the playground. You can see young Jabez sigh his deep, little boy sigh and say, “Because my mother bore me in pain.” Not the best legacy to leave a child.
I don’t know this, but I suspect that many of us here in this room have, at times, felt like our real name is “Pain.” Some childhoods are happy and whole-making and, yes, blessed. But others? Some of us grow up in families that remind us of all the ways we cause pain to others or disappointor annoy or embarrass them. Though all of us are born blessed by God simply because we are born, some of us grow up in families where the blessing doesn’t get through.
You’ve got to think that, with a name like “Pain,” Jabez’s childhood wasn’t exactly happy. And yet? Look at what he does. He prays to God for a blessing. For extended borders and God’s constant presence and to be kept from harm or pain. The King James Version is the only one that translates it like this, but it offers an intriguing interpretation. The King James translates that last line: “That you would keep me from hurting others.” Despite the identity given him by his family, Jabez prayed for God’s blessing, a blessing that would help him overcome the identity he had been given by his family: “one who brings pain.” And guess what? “God granted what he asked.”
So, we’ve heard a tale of two blessings today. One man, Esau, despised his birthright. He had the blessing from the beginning, but “stewed” it away. The other man, Jabez—despite an unblessed beginning, asked for God’s blessing. And received it.
It makes you wonder what might have happened if, instead of asking his father for a blessing after Jacob had stolen his, Esau had asked GOD for a blessing… might he, too, like Jabez, have received a blessing? Esau despised his blessing. Jabez asked for and received a blessing from God. What will you do with your blessing?
In the name of our God, who creates us, redeems us, sustains us, and hopes for our wholeness. Amen.
Kimberleigh Buchanan © 2013