Our story in Genesis now turns to Isaac. Like his father, Abraham, he is living in a tent (Genesis 26:17) indicating that he is continuing to live according to the promise that God made to bring him and his descendants to a permanent home that had not yet been identified.
Issac’s presence and success cause some trouble. When he digs for wells and finds water some other people in the area claim the wells. Rather than put up a fight, Isaac simply moves on. He recognizes the situations for what they are (he names the wells ‘argument’ and ‘hostility’) but he takes the high road. I find an interesting parallel in this story to the modern-day existence of Israel. Historical accounts from the 1800s suggest that the land that is now Israel was very sparsely populated back then. Mark Twain even wrote an account of his travels through that area and mentioned that he and his travelling party hardly saw another human being. But once Jews started moving in the early 1900s and once Israel became a nation (1948), suddenly other people laid claim to the land and trouble began.
For some reason it appears that Isaac did not have the same respect that his father had among the area’s inhabitants. But eventually (Genesis 26:31) he lived in peace.
Issac’s son, Esau, marries two Hittite women in verse 34. This is a double sin as he marries two women but he also marries women who are not from within his own people. This type of inter-marrying will happen over and over again as we will see and will always bring trouble. In the very next verse we read that Esau’s two wives didn’t get along with their in-laws. I used to think that just because some event was mentioned in the Bible, like marrying two women, that it was condoned by God. But really God is just showing us how He keeps loving sinful people who don’t always follow His plan for us.
Chapter 27 is a very famous story of Jacob stealing Esau’s blessing. Jacob was getting quite old and had failing eyesight. Esau had already sold his birthright to his brother Jacob but apparently Isaac did not know this. Esau comes to his father in apparent secrecy (v 5: “Rebekah overheard”) and asked for his blessing. The rest of the chapter is a scheme, led by Rebekah, who loved Jacob more than Esau, to get Isaac to bless Jacob rather than Esau. We see how open and honest the Bible is. It fully records the flaws of people. It doesn’t sugar-coat anything. Everyone we will meet in the Bible, with the exception of Jesus (who was God on Earth) will be a mess. But God still loves them and uses them to achieve his purposes. The same is true today. Everyone reading this a mess. So is the author of this blog. But God’s love is unconditional. He loves everyone the same amount – an infinite amount. His love for us cannot be measured.
In our modern day society it can be difficult to understand some of these stories. We wonder why they played out the way they did. For example, why couldn’t Isaac just redo the blessing? Well, the blessing could legally only be given once and had to be given orally since this was a very illiterate society. It was not like today where extensive legal documents have to accompany every decision. Someone’s word meant something back then. It was truly a different world.
In the end we see Rebekah and Jacob’s deviant plan backfire on them and cause trouble. Jacob has to flee for his life and Rebekah no longer sees the son she most loves. It always best to just let God handle things. When we take matters into our own hands we screw things up.
A very interesting passage in Matthew today. Jesus tells a paralyzed man that his sins are forgiven. As always, everything Jesus does is very public and the religious teachers observe this and denounce Jesus for claiming to be God (Matthew 9:3). We know that all diseases and deformities are caused by sin’s existence in the world. So Jesus goes one step further and not only forgives the man’s sins (which, as God, He is perfectly justified in doing) He also heals him as if to say to His critics “See, the man can walk so therefore his sins really are forgiven”. Jesus essentially proved that He was indeed God and did have the authority to forgive sins.
Jesus selects Matthew, the author of this book of the Bible, to follow Him in verse 9. Matthew was a tax-collector. This was the lowest profession in Israel. Tax collectors worked for the Roman occupiers and collected taxes from their own people (the Jews) to send to Rome. Anything above the amount owed to Rome was the tax collectors salary. They were despised as traitors. Yet, Jesus chooses one to be one of His disciples. There is no one that Jesus will not welcome. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks of you. It matters only what Jesus thinks of you! And He thinks you are wonderful.
On a related note God hears the cries of the helpless (Psalm 10:17). People who are “important” in society will not cry out to God because they don’t think they need God. Earthly success often leads to spiritual blindness. Although Jesus will welcome anyone, rich and poor alike, it is more likely that someone with less here on earth will answer Jesus’s call.
We are called to honor God with our wealth (Proverbs 3:9). Everything we have comes from God to begin with. Giving out of what we have is simply a pay-back to God. When you are thankful to someone for something they have done you want to do something to pay them back. Notice that God will reward you again with even more wealth. Its a continuous cycle of giving and receiving.