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Sep 4 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

September 1, 2013 – Genesis Chapter 25

Learn to Read

Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was barren; and the LORD answered him and Rebekah his wife conceived. But the children struggled together within in her; and she said, “If it is so, why then am I this way?” So she went to inquire of the LORD. The LORD said to her,
“Two nations are in your womb;
And two peoples will be separated from your body;
And one people shall be stronger than the other;
And the older shall serve the younger.”
Genesis 25:21-23

INTRO: We’ve jumped into a story already in progress

The chapter began by wrapping up Abraham’s story
– he had married a second wife and had more children
• his wisdom is revealed in the way he provided his sons enough for a good start in accumulating their own wealth
• then sent them away in the opposite direction of Isaac
– after that last piece of business, Abraham died content with his many years

Abraham’s two sons who have been featured in his story tended to his burial
– I’m curious as to when Isaac (and, perhaps, Abraham) reconnected with Ishmael
• was it after Sara died?
• had Isaac always kept in touch? or did he locate and notify Ishmael only after Abraham died?
○ at any rate, it is beautiful he could see past his mother’s hard feelings
– afterward, it was Isaac in particular that God blessed (v. 11)

Ishmael’s presence at Abraham’s burial makes for a smooth transition
– his genealogy wraps up his story
– his descendants form twelve tribes – which now seems to be a pattern
• Abraham’s brother (Ge. 22:20-24)
○ we are being prepared to see Jacob’s twelve sons as a normative development
– Ishmael’s death

This brings us to Isaac, whose account begins the same way as Ishmael’s
– therefore, what we expect is another genealogy
– but instead, we’re in for a surprise
• Isaac’s genealogy is not a list of names, but a story that begins with his prayer for his wife
• Rebekah goes from infertility to a difficult pregnancy

So the chapter begins with final days and death of Abraham, Isaac’s father and ends with the birth of his twin sons
– this is the rhythm of an individual life — birth and death, death and birth . . .
– years ago, after visiting someone in a hospital in Long Beach, I stepped into an elevator on my way out
• a woman also entered the elevator and asked, “Do you know what floor is the maternity ward?”
○ She went on, “I just watched a friend die and now I want to see new life”
– eventually, we each discover rhythm of our own lives
• and each life’s rhythm carries forward the work of God
• so in the great chain of human lives (genealogies), there is progress
○ God is moving history forward to its goal

Vv 24-34, The character of each twin is revealed right away

In four vignettes, we immediately get to know them

  1. In the womb, they struggled together
    – this was a look at the future – two nations in conflict
    – the younger twin would become the dominant nation
  2. In their birth
    – not certain what Esau means – perhaps “rough”
    • but two other words relate to region he settled — red (Edom) and hairy (similar to Hebrew word, Seir)
    – Jacob, wasn’t going to let Esau leave the womb without him
  3. In their development – with note re: relation to parents
    – Esau subscribed to Field and Stream and Guns and Ammo
    – Jacob, to Home and Garden and Interior Design 
  4. In their personal interaction- from start, we have to wonder why Jacob is cooking up this stew
    • Jacob knew the value of having birthright
    • regarding Esau, several commentators have noted how he is characterized by the four rapid-fire verbs in verse 34

Shimeon Bar-Efrat, “Esau is characterized by these verbs as a man of action for whom immediate pleasure and the material things of life are most important.” “ . . . a man of action who does not spend time in contemplation.”

– it’s not surprising that his name describes his appearance
• he has no depth, he approaches everything physically
• Jacob means, “take by the heel” – but also, “Yah protects” or follows (tracks)
○ Jacob is obviously a more complex character
– did Jacob have to connive to get birthright?
• later on, it didn’t seem to do him much good
• he will waver between trust and trickery

What can we take home?

A spiritual resource – something I believe really helpful

Rebekah’s pregnancy troubled her
– there’s no way to embellish her pregnancy to make it look beautiful
• experts tell us that when a woman is pregnant with twins, everything is doubled
○ morning sickness, weight gain, aches and pains
• it didn’t feel normal or seem right
○ we have to assume her midwives weren’t much help
– so she “went to inquire of the LORD”
• and the LORD answered her

What is remarkable about this interaction with God, is that the storyteller doesn’t treat it as remarkable
– it’s like saying, “So she saved her questions for her next doctor’s visit”
• only she wasn’t going off to see a doctor
– “she went,” where? – “to inquire,” how?
– this is a strange story in the way it treats the supernatural as if it were natural
• in what kind of world does this happen? In what world is it this easy?
• it’s like she has God’s address, so she just goes off and knocks on his door

What if we could inquire of the Lord like this?
– it may not be this easy, but we can inquire of God
• in fact, we’re told to ask him for wisdom and insight (e.g., Jas. 1:5)
– we have lost much of our heritage from Christian spirituality
• one practice that has been recently recovered for all Christians is the Lectio Divina
• lectio, “to read” – divina, divine or sacred — a prayerful, contemplative reading of scripture
– this is a way of inquiring – to bring God:
• our questions, our issues, our problems and concerns, but mostly our hearts
• we read a passage of scripture and then silently listen to the words
○ we keep our activity simple – calming our emotions and quieting our spirit
○ something that we read will stand out
○ we stay with whatever stands out until an insight emerges
– it isn’t about being analytical or doing detective work in a passage
• and we are not listening to our thoughts
• our brains can always come up with something
○ it’s listening for God’s voice – a gentle tug on heart
○ we have to go away, like Rebekah – from cell phones, radio, TV, and all the noise

Once we learn to lectio scripture, can widen our use of it

  • Fr. Romuald once said, “We must learn to lectio our day”
    – what one event, statement, moment, or person stands out?
  • Lectio our life – by reflecting on the crucial turning points
  • Lectio our body
  • Lectio our feelings and emotions

Eventually, it won’t seem like a spiritual exercise so much as a way of life

CONC: There’s a world of difference between asking, “O Lord, why did this have to happen to me?” and
“Lord, what is really happening here and what should I do?”

The first is a complaint and it leads nowhere

The second is to inquire of God and it brings us to him


Leave a comment
  1. bill roy / Sep 25 2013

    can you recommend a good introduction to lectio divina?
    i looked it up in wikipedia, and it seems fascinating.
    i cannot attend your sessions though, as i live near philadelphia.

  2. Chuck Smith, Jr. / Oct 13 2013

    You know, Bill, as I thought about it I could remember one book I read on Lectio Divina and it wasn’t that great. Mostly I’ve come across it in other books. I did write a chapter on it that’s “okay” in my book Epiphany and if you like I can copy that chapter and put it up on a blog site. I would be happy to do that for you.


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