Today’s reading is Genesis 26-30, Psalm 6, and Matthew 11-12.
The majority of Genesis is about Abraham, his son Isaac, his grandson Jacob, and his great-grandsons, the Twelve Patriarchs of Israel. To the Jews, Abraham was their father (remember in Sunday school singing “Father Abraham”?). He and his son, grandson, and great-grandsons were heroes of the faith who God visited and established His covenant with.
When we teach these stories in Sunday school we teach them as stories to look up to, stories of God’s faithfulness, and stories of God’s providence. And they are. But I so often have a hard time seeing the line between them all: what was God’s providence and what human choice? where was God being faithful in spite of humans’ sins?
For instance, in regards to God promising Abraham a son, Abram and Sarai decide to take matters into their own hands and “make” that promise of a son happen through Hagar. But that wasn’t God’s providence. God wanted a son between Abram and Sarai. So although Abram and Sarai take matters into their own hands, God shows His faithfulness and His providence by allowing Sarah to conceive Isaac. Although Ishmael was not supposed to be a part of the equation, although he was not part of God’s providence, God was still faithful and promised to care for Hagar and Ishmael, allowing Ishmael to become a great people just like Isaac (it just would not be the people the Messiah came from).
Then we have the stories of Jacob and Esau, how God reveals to Isaac that Esau would serve Jacob and the Jacob was God’s chosen instrument for whom the promise to Abraham would descend, but Isaac still chose Esau as his favorite. So Rebekah decides to force the promise, instead of allowing God’s promise to happen providentially, and she sends Jacob into Isaac to receive the blessing through deceit. We do not know how God planned for Jacob to be the one who would be blessed, but we know Jacob was His choice. And even though Rebekah forced Isaac’s hand in blessing Jacob instead of Esau, God was faithful and followed through with He plan with Jacob.
It seems deceit ran rampant in this chosen family. First, Abram and Sarai go to Egypt to escape the famine and Abram makes everyone believe Sarai is only his sister, not his wife as well (Genesis 12). An occasion Abramham repeats with Abimelek (Genesis 20) and an occasion Isaac also repeats with Abimelek, saying Rebekah is only his sister (Genesis 26). Apparently in this father-like-son motif they were so scared for their lives because of their beautiful wives, lying to those around them for their own safety instead of protecting their wives. Of course, in all instances God is faithful and protects the women, keeping them from being sexually assaulted by other men.
Next, Jacob gets Esau to sell him his birthright for a bowl of stew (Genesis 25). While this isn’t actually deceit since Esau agrees, Jacob does use a moment of Esau’s weakness to extorted. (Granted, Esau should not have allowed his stomach to master him.) This of course leads to Jacob and Rebekah deceiving Isaac into blessing Jacob instead of Esau.
In all of these stories, the three people God chooses to have His people come act dishonestly, deceitfully, and for their own interests. As I read through Genesis I keep asking the question: “Why are you not seeking God?”
God has a plan for His people. We learn of His plan in
- Genesis 3 after Eve and Adam have sinned
- Genesis 9 after Noah and his family disembark the Ark
- Genesis 12 when God first calls Abram
- Genesis 13 after Abram and Lot separate and God points out all the land that will belong to his descendants
- Genesis 15 when God establishes His covenant with Abraham
- Genesis 17 when God establishes the covenant of circumcision and He tells Abraham that Ishmael will not be whom the blessing is received
- Genesis 18 when the three visitors come and promise Sarah will conceive and bore a son
- Genesis 22 when Abraham is tested
- Genesis 25 when God tells Rebekah about the two babies in her womb.
- Genesis 28 when God appears to Jacob, who is on the run from Esau, in a dream at Bethel
- Genesis 32 when Jacob wrestles with God
- Genesis 35 when God renames Jacob as Israel
- Genesis 37 when God gives Joseph dreams
- Genesis 41 Joseph is put over all of Pharaoh’s household
- Genesis 46 when God tells Jacob to take his family to Egypt
- Genesis 49 when Jacob tells Joseph about God appearing to him at Luz
God does not keep His plan, His promise, or His providence a secret. He shares it openly with His chosen people and He is faithful to not only see it through, but to continue with it when it is thrown off course by human choices.
The people of God are not perfect. They are sinners and deceivers who try to take the plan of God into their own hands. They stop trusting that God’s will will be accomplished in His timing.
And we are no different. We sin. We deceive. We do not seek God for what choice we should make and we take matters into our own hands. We look at life’s timing, and much like Sarai, think we know better, think we know how life is supposed to be, and rush what is supposed to be.
And just like with Israel, God is faithful. When we throw His plans of course, He adjusts. When we decide we know better, He allows life to play out, consequences and all, while staying with us.
When I read Genesis, I see the fathers of Israel – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the Twelve Patriarchs – as the chosen heroes that they are, but I also see them as the failed humans we are. God loves them and God uses them. God loves us and God uses us. But they are not the real hero of the story. God is. God is the faithful orchestrator bringing about a promise of redemption. Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Leah all got to be a part of that faithful orchestration to bring about that redemption. And we do too.
I don’t know what part of the story was God’s plan and what part was man taking the lead. Did God plan for Jacob to “buy” Esau’s birthright? Did God plan for Abraham and Isaac to lie about their wives? Did God plan for Laban to deceive Jacob into marrying Leah when he only wanted Rachel? I don’t know. I think most of those are man taking the lead, of man not consulting God. But I do believe that God orchestrated His promise to come from these man-made decisions.
Genesis reminds me to stop trying to orchestrate my own story and allow the faithful God of the universe take the lead.
Join me in finishing this year by reading through the Bible through a Psalm a Day. Find my reading plan here.
All Scripture used on Oregon Christian Girl comes from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Unless otherwise noted.