Families are something else. They are wonderfully and beautifully made with intricacy and intimacy—and wildly off-kilter and filled with brokenness and chaos. We don’t have to just look at our own immediate and extended families to discover this truth, we can look right into the pages of Scripture. Our Genesis 25 passage this week about the birth of Jacob and Esau (and their parents who played favorites!) stands out to me as a role model of what a dysfunctional family often consists of. Author Jon Bloom says it the best regarding our family life and the portrayal of families in the pages of the Bible:
Have you ever noticed how hard it is to find an example of what we would call a “healthy family” in the Bible? It’s a lot easier to find families with a lot of sin and a lot of pain than to find families with a lot of harmony. For example, here’s just a sampling from Genesis:
• The first recorded husband and wife calamitously disobey God (Genesis 3)
• Their firstborn commits fratricide (Genesis 4:8)
• Sarah’s grief over infertility moves her to give her servant, Hagar, to Abraham as a concubine to bear a surrogate child (Genesis 16). When it happens, Sarah abuses Hagar in jealous anger. Abraham is passive in the whole affair.
• Lot, reluctant to leave sexually perverse Sodom, his home, has to be dragged out by angels and then weeks later his daughters seduce him into drunken incest (Genesis 19).
• Isaac and Rebecca play favorites with their twin boys, whose sibling rivalry becomes one of the worst in history (Genesis 25).
• Esau has no discernment. He sells his birthright for soup (Genesis 25), grieves his parents by marrying Canaanite women (Genesis 26), and nurses a 20-year murderous grudge against his conniving younger brother.
Why is the Bible loud on sinfully dysfunctional families and quiet on harmonious families? Well, for one thing, most families aren’t harmonious. Humanity is not harmonious. We are alienated — alienated from God and each other. So, put alienated, selfish sinners together in a home, sharing possessions and the most intimate aspects of life, having different personalities and interests, and a disparate distribution of power, abilities, and opportunities, and you have a recipe for a sin-mess.
But there’s a deeper purpose at work in this mess. The Bible’s main theme is God’s gracious plan to redeem needy sinners. It teaches us that what God wants most for us is that we 1) become aware of our sinfulness and 2) our powerlessness to save ourselves, as we 3) believe and love His Son and the gospel He preached, and 4) graciously love one another. And it turns out that the family is an ideal place for all of these to occur!But what we often fail to remember is that the mess is usually required for these things to occur. Sin must be seen and powerlessness must be experienced before we really turn to Jesus and embrace His gospel. And offenses must be committed if gracious love is to be demonstrated. So if we’re praying for our family members to experience these things, we should expect trouble. In God’s plan, messes become mercies. The family is a crucible of grace. – from Jon Bloom, Not By Sight.
God is not after perfect people or perfect families but redeemed ones to the praise of His glory!
As you prepare for worship this Sunday, read Genesis 25 (especially verses 19-34).
1. What parallels can you find between the family situations of Abraham/Sarah and Isaac/Rebekah? Why would God work in this way?
2. Do you remember the way Abraham responded to Sarah’s barrenness? How does that differ from the way Isaac responds (vs. 21)?
3. In verse 22, the word for the turmoil within Rebekah’s womb is “smashed”—the babies “smashed together” inside her. What physically must this have felt like? Why are we told that here? How does it add to the story?
4. The Lord speaks to Rebekah to explain her troubled womb and to look forward to the future. What do you think Rebekah did with this information?
5. Esau is named for what he looks like, Jacob for what he does. What difference might that make?
6. In verses 29-34, what are the emotions of the two men? Imagine the situation: what is going on here?
7. What is the birthright—from a cultural standpoint and from a redemptive standpoint? What did the world think was Esau’s by birth?