Monday, July 25, 2011

Sermon notes on Gen 29

The deceiver is deceived. Do you remember the story of Jacob and Esau, how Jacob deceived Esau in selling his birthright? Do you remember ho Jacob got Esau’s blessing by covering himself with lamb-skins? These stories and this one seem to be linked. The Jewish Midrash tells of how Leah was destined to marry Esau (eldest daughter to marry the eldest son), but because of the deception, Jacob was now considered the firstborn and therefore designated to Leah. We read that “her eyes were weak” (NIV), because of her constant crying that she actually wanted to marry Esau, and not Jacob. And so, the deceiver has to eat the fruit of the seed he planted, to face, according to custom of the time, the consequences of what he had done. He furthermore goes on to marry Rachel as well, something that would be considered a taboo in Jewish law later on – for a man to marry two sisters. Perhaps this became the reason for such a law. We don’t know. A complex story. Stories of deception often are. How many stories to we hear of public figures caught in webs of deception? Besides our own public figures, the globe is looking on in interest as the stories of deception in “News of the world” are revealed. As one listens to these stories, they become so complex that one struggles to differentiate between victim and perpetrator. The story of Jacob teaches us a few things.

Deception has a way of coming back to you.

Jacob seems so surprised and angered by the fact that someone managed to pull the wool over his eyes. “Why did you deceive me?” The so-called truth of deception only comes at someone’s cost. Esau carried the first cost. Now that Jacob faced the cost, now all of a sudden it all seemed so unfair! You cannot have your cake and eat it! Truth be told, if Jacob only dealt honestly with those around him, especially his brother, Rachel would have been rightfully his to marry (according to Jewish teaching on this Scripture). So, there is a warning to those who deal in deception: Don’t think you will get away with fooling anybody for your own benefit. The very deception you are dealing out will become your own downfall. The seeds that you plant will produce a harvest, and you will have to eat of its fruit as well.

How people try to make their deception right.

Jacob runs to his mom, Rebekah (who is just a guilty as him)
Jacob goes to his dad and says: “Ok, I’ll go away”
Jacob bargains with God: “If you only let this go away, I promise”
Jacob appeals to Laban: “But I paid my dues”
Jacob makes a covenant with Laban
Jacob sends gifts to Esau
If it made headline news, it would probably read: “Problem, what problem?”
The point is that in order to deceive people around you and to think you can get away with it, you first have to deceive yourself in thinking that it will all turn out alright in the end. Fact is, it doesn’t. The seeds we plant will produce a crop from which we too have to eat. So, where is God in all this?

Jesus encourages his followers to sow seeds that will have good consequences.

As Christians, we learn from Jesus that the Kingdom of God is about sowing seeds that will have good consequences, where everyone can experience the love and presence of God in their lives. Jesus calls this “The Kingdom of Heaven”. It doesn’t come about by a sudden change or transformation. It comes about by sowing small seeds of goodness, love, compassion, and in this instance honesty and integrity and it will grow into a tree that will benefit even the birds of the air. So, we start off with doing the small things right.
Secondly, we learn from Scripture that the Spirit intercedes for us so that we can grow in truth and in the love of God, for in God’s presence there is no room for deception. But perhaps the most profound teaching is that despite Jacob’s rich history of deception, God is still able to use him to become instrumental in fulfilling the promise God made to his grandfather, Abram and to his father, Isaac. As the new firstborn and as he grew in his relationship with God, he became a recipient of grace. God did not abandon him, but pursued him, wrestled with him made him painfully aware that God is a God of justice, but also of grace and forgiveness.

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