Heat of moment often leads to bad decisions


By Cynthia Burrows Williams

Esau and Jacob As Rivals
To see how God’s purposes are fulfilled in spite of human brokenness.
Bible Lesson: 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

Our lesson gives us the account of Abraham’s son, Isaac.  The scriptures help us to understand the value of prayer, promise and patience. 

Abraham, who was married to Sarah, prayed for a child. Sarah was barren, yet God promised Abraham that Sarah would bear a child and that Abraham would be the father of a great nation. Sarah’s lack of patience caused her to send her maidservant, Hagar, into her husband for child bearing. Hagar’s son, Ishmael, was not God’s promised child.  Well, 25 years passed before God’s promise was fulfilled. Abraham and Sarah became the parents of Isaac. 

Isaac married Rebekah who was also barren. Issac prayed to God for a child. Twenty years later, God answered Issac’s prayer, and Rebekah became pregnant. Rebekah was not having a good pregnancy because the babies were at war within her. They jostled each other, and she asked the Lord, “Why is this happening to me?” The Lord said to her “Two nations are in your womb, and two people from within you will be separated; one will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.”

It is interesting that the word from the Lord, “One will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger” applies to both families. While Ishmael and Isaac were not in the same womb, there was still family conflict. Esau and Jacob fought from the time they were in the womb.

Esau was the first to be born. He came out red and hairy. He would have been the child to receive the inheritance, the position in family leadership, owner of property and a double portion of blessings. He was a hunter, a man of the wild. He wanted instant gratification. He was very short-sighted; he lacked patience; and one might even call him stupid for giving up his birthright.

Jacob was the second born, but he was clever, cunning and always ready to take advantage of a situation. He was also favored by his mother. In some situations, parents can make bad matters worse when they show favoritism between children. 

Jacob was home cooking stew when Esau came in from a hunting trip hungry. Esau asked Jacob for a bowl of that red stuff. Cunning Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright.” Esau says, “Look, I am about to die. What good is the birthright to me?” You can almost see Jacob’s thinking process at that moment. He said, “First sell me your birthright.” Jacob understood the legality involved in such an exchange, so he then asked Esau to swear to him first, and he did.  Jacob gave him some bread and some lentil stew. He ate, drank and got up and left.

This story is an excellent illustration of what will happen to us in the heat of a moment when we are making bad decisions. How much are you willing to pay for a meal? Esau paid more for a bowl of lentil stew than he will ever be able to regain. The choice is yours. What are you willing to pay for some red stuff?

Oct. 14
Jacob’s Dream At
Purpose: To understand God’s desire to preserve his people even when they flee into the far country.
Bible Lesson: Genesis 28:10-22
Key Verse:  “Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I promised you.” —Genesis 28:15

When Esau learned what he had really done, he was angry with Jacob. Esau did not accept the responsibility for what he had done and threatened Jacob’s life. Esau could not kill Jacob because God promised Abraham that he would be the father of a great nation. If Esau succeeded in killing Jacob, the promise of God would not have been fulfilled.

Rebekah continued to favor and to plot along with her son Jacob against her son Esau. She makes no mention to Isaac, her husband, of the threat against Jacob. She does, however in an attempt to get Jacob to safety, tell Isaac of her displeasure of Esau’s marriage to two Hittite women of the land in which they live.

She strongly suggested to Isaac that Jacob go to foreign land to take a wife. Isaac called Jacob in and told him not to marry a Canaanite woman. Go to Paddan Aram to the house of your mother’s father Bethuel, he said. Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Haran. He set out to travel more than 400 miles. 

He traveled until he got to “a certain place” where he placed a stone under his head and tried to sleep. He did fall asleep, but he dreams of a ladder or a stone stairway that extended from earth to heaven. In his dream, the angels or messengers had no real purpose; they were silent. God spoke to Jacob promising him that God would be with him.

God makes clear the promise made to Abraham and Issac. God told him that he has received the same birthright and blessing given to his father and grandfather. God promises Jacob the gift of the land.

Jacob, the deceiver who cheated his own brother out of the birthright is now the one who will control the hope of the world.

When Jacob awoke, he realized that God had been in this place with him, and he did not even know it. In recognition of this encounter with God, Jacob takes the stone pillow and sets it up as a pillar. He anoints the stone with oil, consecrates it and calls this place Bethel, meaning House of God.

When did God become more than just a word to you? Do you remember your experience where God met you and talked with you? Just as God made promises to Jacob, he has promised never to leave or forsake you. Return to Bethel and fellowship with God.

Oct. 21
Jacob and Rachel
To learn how we can act faithfully in the midst of disappointment.
Bible Lesson: Genesis 29:20-35
Key Verse:  “So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her. — Genesis 29:20

Jacob continued on his journey, and arrived at his uncle’s house in Padden Aram. When he saw Rachel, it was love at first sight. It was the custom of the time for a man to present a dowry to the family of his future wife. This would compensate the family for the lost of the daughter. Jacob had no money to offer, so he offered service. Laban told him to work for him for seven years, and he would allow him to marry Rachel.

Jacob was so excited, that he worked well seven years in anticipation of having the woman he fell in love with at first sight. When the time was up, there was a wedding and a feast. Laban, his uncle, sent his daughter Leah into him. It was late at night. Jacob had been celebrating and did not see the woman he went into until the next morning.

When he realized it was Leah and not Rachel, he asked his uncle, “What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn’t I? Why have you deceived me?”

Laban replied, “It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one.” Finish this daughter’s bridal week, then I will give you the younger one also, in return for another seven years of work.”

It is very interesting how what you do comes back to you. Jacob tricked his brother out of his birthright. His uncle tricked him out of the love of his life. Jacob had a wife for seven years who he did not want or love. Leah did everything in her power to make herself attractive to Jacob. She had three sons for Jacob. With each son, she thought this one would be the one to make Jacob love her. Jacob’s heart, however, was still with Rachel.

Often times in life, women feel a son will hold a marriage together. This story is an eye opener for us today. The son(s) will not make the man love you. As a matter of fact, three sons did not make Jacob love her.

There are two major thoughts here: First, Rebekah showed favoritism towards Jacob. Her behavior created conflict within the family. Her behavior also caused Jacob to have to leave the land they were living and to go to a foreign place. Favoritism in a family is destructive. Second, the one who deceived his brother is now being deceived by his uncle. Deception is another negative tool that will lead to destruction for any family.

How do you respond when your fondest wishes remain unfulfilled? We see that Jacob chose to be patient, continue to pray and stay focused. He knew he had to work another seven years for what he wanted. Anything worth having is worth waiting for. God made Jacob a promise at Bethel to never leave him or forsake him. That same promise is made to us today. God will never leave us or forsake us. He will be with us through all things. You must believe the promise, continue to pray and have the patience to wait on the Lord.

Oct. 28
Esau And Jacob Reconciled
To discover how to give and receive forgiveness.
Bible Lesson: Genesis 33:1-11
Key Verse: “Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.” — Genesis 33:4

It is amazing how the mind works when communication breaks down. These two brothers have been apart for 20 years. The last time they were in each other’s presence, Esau was so angry he vowed to kill Jacob as soon as their father, Isaac died. Fearing their reunion, Jacob sent a messenger ahead with gifts. He hoped to buy Esau’s favor.

How would you feel about meeting with the person who cheated you out of your most precious possessions? Will you become bitter or will you be the bigger person to forgive the one who has wronged you?

Jacob collected his thoughts and decided he needed to pray, “O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, O Lord, who said to me, ‘Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper.’ Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers and their children. But you have said, ‘I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.’”

In the times of trouble, you can run from your situations, or you can pause to pray. Jacob wrestled with God all night long asking for a blessing. He was persistent. God encourages us to be persistent in all walks of your lives especially in your relationship with him.

When Jacob went to meet Esau, he divided the children among Leah, Rachel and the two maidservants. He put the maidservants and their children in front, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph in the rear. He himself went on ahead and bowed down to the ground seven times as he approached his brother. This action was the respect of a king. Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept.

Jacob equated Esau’s face with face of God, for Esau’s actions remind us of God’s love and forgiveness. If you expect God to forgive you, you must be willing to forgive others. We must remember the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” I need you, you need me, we are all apart of God’s body.

It is possible to forgive someone, anyone who has wronged you. Who do you need to forgive today? God is waiting for you to reflect him. Be the bigger person; forgive in the name of Jesus.

Remember, God has promised that he will be with you. He will never leave or forsake you. We benefit from this promise when we pray and are patient. He does not come on our time schedule, but he does come. God Bless.

Williams is a member of St. Paul United Methodist Church in Kingstree, S.C., and lay leader of the Florence District.