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Sneak becomes hero (sermon of August 18, 2008)

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Birth of Jacob and Esau [www.ratnermuseum.com]Remember Jacob and Esau? How Jacob was born holding-on to Esau’s heel?  How Jacob was given the name “Jacob” because it meant “heel-grabber” or “supplanter” or “schemer”?  How Jacob later extorted the family birthright out of his brother?  How he ran for his life—Esau threatening murder—under cover of going to Mama’s folks to find a bride?

And how, when he got there, he awakened the day after his marriage to discover that the bride of last night’s passion wasn’t the girl he’d intended to marry?  Oops.  Now he’d gotten bamboozled (let alone her, but that’s another story).

Jacob stays there at Haran for 20 years: 7 years for Leah, 7 years for Rachel, 6 more tending flocks, raising his own. He gets astonishingly rich.  And then one day, God said “Jacob, it’s time to go home.”

But Jacob’s afraid of Laban (Pa-in-law).  Laban’s been a shrewd dealer.  Kept him there for 20 years, after all.  Who knows if Laban will really let him go?  So Jacob and Rachel and Leah lay a secret plan. Read the rest of this entry »

Small is what big is made of (a sermon)

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Birth of Jacob and Esau [www.ratnermuseum.com]In one artist’s sculpture, Jacob and Esau burst upon the world.

Remember the story?  They’re born as twins, Esau first.  When Jacob follows, his hand on his brother’s heel.  It’s predicted that “the older will serve the younger,” which was odd in an order-of-birth culture.  Esau should get the privileges.  And the hand on the heel, we said, was representative of something like sneakiness.

Years later, they’re young men, Esau-the-hunter comes in starving, and Jacob-the-chef extorts the family birthright out of him in exchange for food.

Then Jacob gave him some of the soup (Valloton)

Then Jacob gave him some of the soup (Valloton)

Later, Esau is furious, and threatens murder – and remember, he’s a tough guy. So, scheming Jacob’s scheming mother Rebecca told his father Isaac that it was time for Jacob to go find a wife, and that back in Haran, where they came from, her brother’s place would be a good place to start. Isaac says “Sure,” and Jacob runs for his life.

On the way, he sacks out on the bare ground, meets God in a dream, and is terrified. Esau was a threat – but God, uh-oh! To Jacob’s astonishment, God comes not with judgment, but with a promise – a renewing of the promise that he’d made to Jacob’s grandfather Abraham. In the morning, Jacob is amazed at his good fortune, and worships there.

As he approaches Haran, he meets and promptly falls in love with Rachel, his cousin. He moves into Uncle Laban’s home – yes, he’d like to have a wife, but of course, he can’t really go home anyway, thanks to the trick he pulled on his brother. But now, Jacob’s inherited sneakiness is going to come back on him through his mother’s family – and on some others, too. Read the rest of this entry »