19 Here is the story of the family line of Abraham’s son Isaac. Abraham was the father of Isaac. 20 Isaac was 40 years old when he married Rebekah. She was the daughter of Bethuel, the Aramean from Paddan Aram. She was also the sister of Laban, the Aramean. 21 Rebekah couldn’t have children. So Isaac prayed to the Lord for her. And the Lord answered his prayer. His wife Rebekah became pregnant. 22 The babies struggled with each other inside her. She said, “Why is this happening to me?” So she went to ask the Lord what she should do. 23 The Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your body. Two tribes that are now inside you will be separated. One nation will be stronger than the other. The older son will serve the younger one.” 24 The time came for Rebekah to have her babies. There were twin boys in her body. 25 The first one to come out was red. His whole body was covered with hair. So they named him Esau. 26 Then his brother came out. His hand was holding onto Esau’s heel. So he was named Jacob. Isaac was 60 years old when Rebekah had them. 27 The boys grew up. Esau became a skillful hunter. He liked the open country. But Jacob was content to stay at home among the tents. 28 Isaac liked the meat of wild animals. So Esau was his favorite son. But Rebekah’s favorite was Jacob.
Isaac was the son promised to Abraham and Sarah by God. The first generation of God’s chosen people, the Israelites, and the forefathers of Jesus. The Lord again prophesied to Rebekah about the destiny of her sons. They would each be the father of a nation; they would always be rivals. One would be stronger than the other, and the elder son would serve the younger.
When Rebekah gave birth to twins, the words God spoke to her must have made sense. The two boys were very different in looks, personality and skills. (This reminds me of Cain and Abel.) It also says that Jacob, the second twin was born holding the heel of Esau the elder, symbolising the birthright he would later take from Esau. God already planned which man he would use to continue the line of his people, and it wasn’t the one that everyone expected. God isn’t limited by birth order or strength or a father’s preference in whom he chooses to use for his kingdom purposes.
Funny how families are never perfect. That Isaac loved Esau and Rebekah loved Jacob would be significant in the way the story developed. Rivalry and favouritism are the aspects of this family recorded here for us. God used them anyway. It is reassuring for me to see that God doesn’t always choose the ones with the perfect Christian pedigree to be his servants in ministry. In fact many of us are like Jacob ‘the deceiver’, with skeletons in the closet. The difference is in being able to listen to God and change direction when he speaks to us.
As Christians we all belong to the nation born out of the twelve tribes of Jacob; we are all bothers and sisters of Jesus. God has a purpose for everyone. Just as God told Rebekah that her second son would serve the first, we should not be limited in our ambitions or our self worth because of external life circumstances. We are who we are inside, in our hearts and spirits, this is what God sees and develops and uses. I don’t want to miss what God has planned for me, I want to walk towards that, rather than staying in the shadows of the past.
Please help us Lord to hear your words for our lives and to believe them and see that as our identity, despite our funny family, our past failings and our fears. Help us to sow into the generations to come, for your glory. Amen.
Written by Dimity Milne