What if...?

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Lies and deceit.

That’s what Genesis 27 is about. The fact that the Bible records the shameful deception of an old man and the breakdown of a family, causes some people to believe that God gives at least tacit approval to bad behaviour. They fail to see the bottom line. The Bible acknowledges that men are sinful. It clearly shows the devastating consequences of those sins. It makes no attempt at a cover-up. At the same time, it speaks loudly about a God who takes even the sinful actions of men and works out His purposes despite those sins.

In Genesis 27 we are told how Jacob, at the instigation of his mother, deceived Isaac and won the blessing that belonged to Jacob’s older brother, Esau. It’s not the first clue we have to just how dysfunctional this family was. In Genesis 25 we find parents who play favourites, and we discover how little Esau thought about his privileges as the eldest. He sold his rights as firstborn to Jacob for a bowl of stew—that was Jacob’s price for feeding his brother. In Genesis 26, we find Isaac lying about his wife and maintaining a deception that went on for some time. By the time we get to Genesis 27 the pattern of lies and deceit is well established and even included the mother of the two men, Rebekah.

When we look back at Genesis 25, as the two boys were born, we discover that God had already pronounced what would be the future of the twins. Verse 25 tells us: “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will separated; one people will be stronger that the other, and the older will serve the younger.”

What would happen later had already been prophesied. We might take a fatalistic view of this and say that God wanted this family to be divided by lies and deceit; that His pronouncement at the birth of Esau and Jacob was His will for their lives. God is not a God of lies, deceit, dysfunction and broken relationships. The statement in verse 25 was just that—a statement of fact made by God who knew what poor choices men would make. But did someone think that a simple statement was a permission slip to do whatever it took to make it come true?

But what we learn through the stories of the Bible is something much deeper. God will accomplish His purposes despite the sinfulness of men. Jacob, after deceiving his father and stealing his brother’s blessing as well as his birthright, was forced to leave home. It was not God’s plan that Jacob would stay in a foreign country because it would be through Jacob’s line that the Messiah would be born in the land that God had promised to Abraham. Jacob would have to come back to Canaan.

The story begs the question, “What if...?” What if Jacob had not bartered with his brother for Esau’s privileges? What if Jacob hadn’t listened to his mother and deceived his father into giving him Esau’s blessing as firstborn? What if the brothers had grown up together in relative peace and harmony? The endgame would not have changed.God's purposes would have been accomplished without the pain and problems that the sins of parents and sons caused. Nothing has changed in all the years that have passed since Jacob deceived his father and robbed his brother.

The endgame will always be accomplished. But do we take the promises of God, the statements He makes us as permission to do what we think is needed to get those promises to be true in our lives? I think we do. We manipulate. Sometimes, we even lie. We deceive ourselves and others. We struggle through the consequences of our own evil. And when we get what we want we think it was acceptable to have made the choices we did. After all, didn’t everything turn out well in the end?

But what if we could have arrived at the destination without leaving all the “bodies” behind? Isaiah 55:11 says: “...so my word that goes out of my mouth; it will not return to me empty. but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” We often equate this to the preaching of the Gospel, and rightly so. But it also applies to all that God says He will do. We can trust Him to bring about in our lives what He has promised to do. We don’t have to “help” Him except to cooperate with Him and walk in obedience and faith. We don’t have to leave the “bodies” behind in our attempts to accomplish what only He can do, and what only He should be doing. It's our choice.


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