This Memorial Day seems to have left me with much time, and the luxury of hours beyond my usual early morning limited reflections, where I often race with the clock. I am grateful for the thought behind this wonderful holiday, but as those who know me understand, I am not much of a holiday guy. Perhaps a little later we will build a fire in the fire-pit out back and roast a wiener or two!
I have not been able to get away from my reading this morning, in Genesis. There one finds minimal chapters on Isaac, one of the few among Abraham’s descendants other than Joseph, who seems to have his act together throughout life. There were still a few family moments that eventually would cost him, though it would seem more the fault of others than him. With the exception of duplicating his father’s twice attempted masquerading of his wife as his sister, a response of fear due to the apparent beauty of both Sarah and Rebekah, Isaac would seem to have been a fairly straight up guy.
He was the first born to Abraham and Sarah, if one excludes Ishmael (a mistake the church of today may be reconsidering, given what God is doing among Muslims and radical Islam is doing among Christians). As the story goes, Isaac early on escaped the zeal of Abram, for God would provide a ram for the sacrifice his dad had felt led to offer. By the way, except for the name of the son, a similar story is found both in the Pentateuch and the Quran.
It seems he was otherwise most renowned for digging a few wells. He did carry an obvious favor with the Lord, and after some labored prayer, he and Rebekah bore two sons, Jacob and Esau. Again, he led a relatively stable life given the likes of those both before and after him.
In my Sunday school days, he was all but passed over, other than the Messianic story of the sacrifice, we seemed hurried to reconnect Abram’s story to Joseph and on toward Israel’s Exodus from Egypt. However, his sons did provide some last minute drama as he approached his demise.
Where I am headed is the questions of how this man, Isaac, after marrying a storybook beauty with such a servant heart (24:15-21), could find himself in a situation, near his death, mostly blind, with a wife who stoops to deceive the one she once so richly loved?
It seems that part of her justification were the actions of Esau, who had earlier sold his birthright for a bowl of lentil stew, probably assuming his was getting one over on a naïve Jacob. Esau had also married outside the family as a source of grief for his parents. He then goes on a rampage to kill Jacob once the irony of Rebekah’s plot unfolds and he actually loses the blessing of his father, which the earlier sell of his birthright could perhaps have otherwise assured.
Jacob is then instructed by Rebekah to flee to her Father’s land, though this will not be the last we hear of him or his shenanigans. One day he meets up with the angel of the Lord at Bethel, where his life is transformed and twelve tribes are conceived from his loins. These are action packed stories, yet seldom do we stop to study and apply the secondary plots that underlie the primary, hurrying instead toward Joseph’s dream and the birth of the Israel, God’s promise to Abram.
You see, there were two promises to Abraham (Gen 17:18-20).
This morning as I read, not only was the thought of two mighty “nations” reinforced, but I was struck by how Esau turned out, bad wives and all. In Genesis 33:4, the once wicked Esau he is described as “(he) threw his arms around his (Jacob’s) neck and kissed him.” That’s the spirit of the Father described by Jesus, much later in the story of the prodigal. God’s ways are not our own, which affords me segue into a final comment. Just as Esau, through an act of God, embraced Jacob, could God now be embracing the sons of Ishmael and even others after all these centuries, just as earlier promised to Abram and Hagar?
Perhaps (an overused word in my writings) what is driving all the fear among religious leaders, both Christian and Islamic is that the God of Abraham, the sovereign One, who keeps promises, has been at work for centuries with a redemptive love for all tongues and tribes (the message of Pentecost), despite the ills of our attitudes and the walls we construct with our religious actions.