During Pastor Scott’s message Sunday on Genesis 27 that focused on the dysfunctional family of Isaac, Rebekah, Esau, and Jacob, he noted that many of us also have been or are part of dysfunctional families as well and acknowledged the difficulty that brings into our lives. But when you think about it, because of sin in the world and in our hearts, every family is dysfunctional to some degree. It’s not something any of us can escape. And this chapter in Genesis really hammers home the pain that sin — and accompanying dysfunction — can bring. Yet it also makes clear the power of God’s redemptive plan.
As we learned in this chapter, Isaac, Rebekah, Esau, and Jacob are a mess. Isaac knew he should pass on his blessing to Jacob according to the Lord’s prophecy, but instead he subverted God and favored Esau. Rebekah knows what her husband should do, but instead of confronting the issue directly, she chose to be conniving instead of honorable. Esau is a manly hunter whose father is wrapped around his finger, while Jacob plays along with Rebekah’s plan to steal the blessing of Isaac from Esau. It all points to lack of faith and trust in God — a very common, very human tendency we all share to “help God out” and do things our own way rather than letting God act in his own timing.
We saw that, incredibly, Rebekah convinces Jacob to masquerade as his brother Esau and offer Isaac food and drink he requested — so duplicitous given that Isaac is over 140 years old couldn’t see very well anymore. Rebekah connived, Jacob lied, and Isaac fell for it and blessed Jacob instead of Esau. When Esau found out, both he and Isaac naturally were distraught and angry. And there was no blessing left for Esau, who subsequently determined to kill Jacob. And then Rebekah told Jacob to leave town so his brother might somehow forget about the deception and not kill him — and Jacob would never see his mother again. What a mess! Yes, their family is just a little bit dysfunctional. And their collective sin — and the consequences of it — is sad to behold.
But what about you and me? Are you one of those individuals who didn’t get a blessing from a parent for one reason or another? The answer is yes for so many of us. And guess what? The answer was very likely the same for many of our parents — and for their parents, and on and on and on. And what has that done to all of our perceptions of God as “father” when our own models of fatherhood may not have been the best? It’s a broken image, at best.
However, there’s good news amid the heartbreaking reality: As believers in Christ, we can look to the Lord as our true Father — a God full of comfort and compassion who can’t wait to pour out all his goodness upon us. And amid our interactions with our family members right now, the relationships we have with Jesus — as we draw on his strength and let him work in our lives — can help all of us overcome our sin natures so that there’s much less tension and more cohesiveness in our own families.
All children deserve a blessing from their parents. That’s where we get that first taste of acceptance and value — affirmation that all of us are individually unique and special. Mothers and fathers who do this have a powerful effect on their children, and we all need it. But if you’re struggling today and if you don’t feel loved, don’t forget that Jesus already does. In fact, he loved you and valued you before you were born! He can fill in the gaps in our lives. Also remember that our church is also part of your family — it’s a place where others can minister to you, deep in your heart. And keep this in mind as well: Through the power of Christ, you can pass on blessings to others — even your parents, others in your family, all those you come in contact with.
What are we seeing in our world today? What are the attitudes we can observe on places like social media? On the streets? You already know, don’t you? Anger. Frustration. Selfishness. Putting others down. And how do we as believers fit in to that? First, if we’re among those who’ve been furthering ungodly conflict, we need to stop it — right now. Second, when others attack us, let’s remember that we already have the blessing … which will remind us to be generous and merciful and humble — and do our best with God’s power to redirect others’ attitudes and get them thinking about Jesus.
One passage that Pastor Scott’s message got me thinking about was the Apostle Paul quoting Psalm 14 in his letter to the Romans: “as it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.’”
That’s quite a downer verse. But when I feel unworthy or get caught up in comparing myself to others, I read a passage like Romans 3:10-12 — or examine the sin-soaked family drama recorded in Genesis 27 — and I feel comforted. No, there isn’t any difference between us and others who we believe have a lot more of it together. Sure, aspects of their lives may be appear to be better, but in the end, the only thing that matters is what stands as righteous before God. And none of us have anything in that regard that stands up in God’s sight, no matter how hard we try.
But praise God that Jesus stands in that gap for us, looks beyond our sin and dysfunction, and takes us in as his very own adopted family members.