Fight

Day 13

Fight

 

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” 

Jeremiah 29:10-14

 

Found in Genesis 25-27   

 

The footprints of history are deep, trailing lines in the dusty earth, script lines, lines to live repeatedly-without-thinking by, lines running back through time.  

Lines first spoken outside  a garden long ago.

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Lie, manipulate, defraud and steal and you’re just going to end up running. Running away from all you love in search of a life that you just burnt. Do this to your own family, well you can’t run far enough. You can’t outrun that burn. It will haunt you. For years. 

Jacob: his name meant ‘grasper’,‘grabber’ or ‘deceiver’ and he was. All of these. And more. He knew what he wanted and he reached for it, body-barging integrity and respect to the side.

But Jacob’s name had another meaning…  a meaning he was still understanding himself: ‘God protects’. 

He was still understanding himself. 

And isn’t this how it always works? The two strands in the one tapestry of a life, the wheat and the tares, the light and the dark, the truth and the lies. The life-line strand of a family line “calling on the name of the Lord” and the script-line strand of a family line repeating the patterns of the past? Jacob’s war within between ‘grasping deceiver’ and ‘protected child of God’ was a wrestle he lived in most of the days of his life. 

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And isn’t this the wrestle we all live? This human wrestle, warring within, battling between who we are and who we also are: our Imago Dei being wrestling with a heart scarred by lines, lines of a script scourged into our veins in our formative years. We learn these lines by heart, habituating them, breathing them in through our lungs, drawing them into our veins, running them straight to our heart. And our heart beats in time to these lines laid out, weaving the future with the threads of the past. Break breathe repeat. 

But God. He’s never been a fan of scripts, of repetitive human stories, of habituated brokenness. He draws a line in the sand and calls us into another way to be. Whole. He offers us a new beginning, new footprints to follow, new lines to live. Not script-lines blindly repeating the past, but life-lines breathing new life in Him, song-lines wrestling script-lines to the ground, pinning them down with the anthem of grace. Lines of a lingering ancient song, a song half remembered but almost forgotten, a song first breathed over us in a garden long ago.

And the whole story of the Bible is really the story of this wrestle, God’s freeing Life-line chords, wrestling with enslaving script-line cords. And this very human story, the wrestle between light and dark within, is retold again and again through the story of this one family. The family of Abraham. 

Jesus God

God joined His heart with this family, weaving His ways into one family line, a family line called to be different, different to every other family line on earth, so that this family could become a blessing to every other family on earth. 

“…And all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” Genesis 12:3

A family line showing all people on earth that there is another way of living, a Life-line shaped like justice and righteousness, a song-line forged by grace and kindness, another way to be. Whole.

“For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just.…” Genesis 18:19

God, through Abraham was establishing a new kind of family, a family line with a different heritage than script lines laid out by broken Babel generations. Abraham was to be the new father, the new beginning of this new kind of family a new family line ‘calling on the name of the Lord’, living in His presence and living out His justice and righteousness on earth. 

But Abraham and Sarah, like us, they received two lines, the dead-end script-line from a broken human story and a melodic life-lines woven with chords of God’s grace. The scars of their hearts dictated some of Abraham and Sarah’s actions, but God wove His new story between the lines, holding them together preventing the unraveling. Re-weaving their story with threads of grace, working for their good and the fulfilment of His purpose (Romans 8:28). 

Abraham and Sarah called on God’s name and His name was faithful. And gradually over time they learned to trust. Gradually over time they grew renewed. And they ‘directed their children to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just’ as God had said they should. 

Isaac is born into this family line ‘who called on the name of the Lord’. And so he does the same (Genesis 25:2, 26:25) and so then does his wife Rebekah (Genesis 25:22). 

God walked with Isaac and Rebekah as He did with Abraham, renewing his promises, promising His blessing. 

“…and in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed” Genesis 26:4

“…I will bless you and multiply your descendants for My servant Abraham’s sake.” So he built an altar there and called on the name of the Lord…” Genesis 26:24-25

But, Isaac was raised by humans still learning the wholeness of God, and the dead-end script lines were woven into his heart along side God’s life-giving song-lines, like tares amongst wheat, like dark amongst light. In fear and faithlessness he repeats some of the same mistakes his father does and lies about his wife to save his skin (Genesis 26: 7-9).

But perhaps the greatest mistake he and Rebekah will make, will be to love their children inequitably.

‘And Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.’ Genesis 25:28

An absence of justice and equity in affection will become the presence of jealousy and rivalry in their sons. And this family, held together by God’s Life-line chords, through their injustice create a scarring script-line cording around their family’s calling, strangling their relationships, estranging their sons and jeopardising God’s whole blessing project. 

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Script lines of covetousness and competition weave themselves in among God’s life-giving song-lines. And these two sons (Esau and Jacob) learn their lines by heart, habituating them, breathing them in through their lungs, drawing them into their veins, running them straight to their hearts, hearts beating in time to these lines laid out, weaving the future with the threads of the past. They had begun their lives in a tussle these boys (Genesis 25:22) and will continue the fight for years. 

“When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb. The first to come out was red, and his whole body was like a hairy garment; so they named him Esau. After this, his brother came out, with his hand grasping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when Rebekah gave birth to them.”

Genesis 25:24-26

Jacob and Esau. They were named from the start as the characters they would become. Hebrew names were adjectives as well as nouns, descriptors woven from the threads of birth circumstances, infant characteristics, destiny proclamations and occasionally God’s direction.

But only God can see the true heart of a person, the whole heart and the broken heart.

We are given a name as a child and then we grow our life into this name, we become our name and to all around us our name means who we are. But what if this name doesn’t include God’s plans for us? What if it becomes more of a limiting label than a name? What if you become a deceiver and a grabber because you were called it from your birth? 

Esau, his name meant hairy. And he was. 

Jacob, his name meant ‘grasper’, ’grabber’ and ‘deceiver’. And he did. He lived into this name with a vengeance.  But this other meaning, the other message in Jacobs name, the meaning he was still understanding himself: ‘God protects’. It would take a life time of wrestling to learn what this meant. Would he ever understand himself? 

“The boys grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was content to stay at home among the tents. Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob.” Genesis 25:27-28

As a younger brother and second best in his earthly father’s eyes Jacob was script-line conditioned to fight; fight for the attention of a father whose attention was elsewhere. To battle for his own significance as a son of a father who valued things that he wasn’t. When Jacob coveted and reached for his brother’s birthright and then blessing he was in all likelihood actually reaching for the thing he felt he lacked: Significance. Fatherly pride. The look in his father’s eye that said he was enough. Just as he was. 

Jacob was trying to make a name for himself, trying to outrun his name that labelled him less. But he wasn’t ‘calling on the name of the Lord’, the true value of his true inheritance, which he was yet to understand, an inheritance not as an earthly child of an earthly father but a lasting inheritance as a seen and valued son of God. He wouldn’t be able to receive his true inheritance until he could let go of the earthly inheritance he thought he needed to be okay, to be enough. Jacob, fuelled by his lack, longed for this birthright. 

What we fight for reveals what we value. He valued this inheritance, this birth right, this blessing, this place in the family line, probably because he was dissatisfied with always being second in line. 

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Jacob knew what he wanted and he fought for it, body-barging integrity and respect to the side. And he fought dirty.

“Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. He said to Jacob, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!” (That is why he was also called Edom.

Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright.”

“Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?”

But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob.

Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left.

So Esau despised his birthright.” Genesis 25:29-33

And this is the one strange thing about this God; though He saw Jacob’s lack, He honoured his fight. In some respects God valued the same thing Jacob valued, only more so. More than Jacob could begin to comprehend. 

Esau didn’t. Didn’t value his heritage as a child of the people of the covenant. Just as Eve traded hers for a piece of fruit, Esau traded his birthright for a bowl of soup. 

You have what you fight for. And what you fight for reveals what you value. What you don’t fight for also reveals what you don’t value.

‘…So Esau despised his birthright.’ Genesis 25:34

We make our choices and then our choices make us. God gave us free will and respects our will to choose. Our choices both reveal who we are, and reinforce who we are.  Esau replaced his inheritance as a child of the covenant with a bowl of soup, revealing a heart of apathy and disinterest.  Hate isn’t the opposite of love. Apathy is. 

Isaac’s sons were spiritually slim pickings for God to forge a covenant heir from. Neither Jacob nor Esau had a good attitude towards God’s gifts to this family. But apathy is harder to work with than ambition. Jacob’s fighting spirit at least gave God something to wrestle with. 

Jacob’s ambition continued. He grasped further, grabbed more, and deceived completely. He dressed up as Esau to deceive the ageing Isaac and steal the first-born blessing from his brother Esau, 

“He went to his father and said, ‘My father.’

‘Yes, my son,’ he answered. ‘Who is it?’

Jacob said to his father, ‘I am Esau your firstborn. I have done as you told me. Please sit up and eat some of my game, so that you may give me your blessing.’

 Isaac asked his son, ‘How did you find it so quickly, my son?’

‘The Lord your God gave me success,’ he replied….” Genesis 27:18-20

“…After Isaac finished blessing him, and Jacob had scarcely left his father’s presence, his brother Esau came in from hunting. He too prepared some tasty food and brought it to his father. Then he said to him, ‘My father, please sit up and eat some of my game, so that you may give me your blessing.’

His father Isaac asked him, ‘Who are you?’

‘I am your son,’ he answered, ‘your firstborn, Esau.’

 Isaac trembled violently and said, ‘Who was it, then, that hunted game and brought it to me? I ate it just before you came and I blessed him – and indeed he will be blessed!’

When Esau heard his father’s words, he burst out with a loud and bitter cry and said to his father, ‘Bless me – me too, my father!’

But he said, ‘Your brother came deceitfully and took your blessing.’

Esau said, ‘Isn’t he rightly named Jacob? This is the second time he has taken advantage of me: he took my birthright, and now he’s taken my blessing!’ Then he asked, ‘Haven’t you reserved any blessing for me?” Genesis 27:30-36

Jacob lies to his father four times as he masquerades and manipulates his way into his father’s blessing. But the statement most revealing the state of Jacobs heart is found in verse 20 when he says ‘The Lord your God gave me success,’ Genesis 27: 20. 

YHWH was not yet Jacob’s God. He wanted the status of his family inheritance, but he hadn’t called on the name of the Lord. The script-lines were woven thick around Jacob’s heart, binding him, blinding him. Jacob was still understanding himself. He reached for the right thing in the wrong way and forges for himself a life as a fugitive in the process. 

This story is not about God condoning lying, manipulation and fraud. This is about God recognising who in Isaacs family line most valued the gift He had promised to Abraham. Jacob, though sinful, cared about the right thing, the thing God cared about, even if not in the right way. 

Esau didn’t care.

And it is the same principal here in this situation that Solomon years later applied to the two women who were fighting over a baby (1 Kings 3:16-28). Who loved the child so much they’d sacrifice their right to it? The question is not whose legal right it is, but whose heart is wholeheartedly valuing it. 

Who loved the inheritance and blessing of God so much they’d sacrifice everything to get it? God’s covenant blessing will be safest in the hands of the son who values it most. 

You have what you fight for. Jacob fought for it. And he would be fighting from then on. 

And running.

“Esau held a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him. He said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.”

When Rebekah was told what her older son Esau had said, she sent for her younger son Jacob and said to him, “Your brother Esau is planning to avenge himself by killing you. Now then, my son, do what I say: Flee at once to my brother Laban in Harran. Stay with him for a while until your brother’s fury subsides. When your brother is no longer angry with you and forgets what you did to him, I’ll send word for you to come back from there. Why should I lose both of you in one day?” Genesis 27:41-45

Lie, manipulate, defraud and steal and you’re just going to end up running. Running away from all you love in search of a life that you just burnt. Do this to your own family, well you can’t run far enough. You can’t outrun that burn. It will haunt you. For years.

God is always faithful to His word, whether we deserve it or not. He doesn’t wait until we have it all together to weave Himself into our stories, holding us together, preventing our unraveling. And let’s face it, most of the time, most of us are more in Jacobs camp with integrity and Esau’s with apathy when it comes to faithfulness to God. 

A place in Gods Kingdom for each of us is not contingent on us being a perfect person, from the right family line, the right part of town, with the right theology. It is only ever down to one thing: our heart. Do we want God’s blessing and presence more than everything else we have, like a pearl of great price or a treasure buried in a field? Are we willing for fight for Him and wrestle with ourselves to reach for Him?

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Jacob wasn’t there yet. But he was running in the right direction. Esau wasn’t even in the running. 

But Jacob was about to learn one important thing: You may be able to run away from problems or outrun an enemy. But you can’t outrun God.

Years later, Jacob’s descendants will find themselves in a similar predicament to Jacob. They, like Jacob stopped calling on the name of the Lord and didn’t keep Him on the throne of their hearts. So they too find themselves far from home and far from hope. Not because they were fleeing a disaster they made for themselves, but because that disaster found them when they gave up their relationship with God. They found themselves captured by King Nebuchadnezzar and carried into exile in Babylon. 

But sometimes the journey away, becomes part of the journey back. Sometimes it is only when we realise we are lost, that we begin to look for how to be found.

While these descendants of Jacob were wandering far from home and far from hope like he had, God, through the prophet Jeremiah, sent them this message…

This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” Jeremiah 29:10-14

We find what we truly search for. We grasp what we truly struggle for. We have what we truly fight for. And what we search for, struggle for and fight for, reveals what we truly value. 

We will find God when we seek Him with our whole heart. 

A place in Gods Kingdom for each of us is not contingent on us being a perfect person, from the right family line, the right part of town, with the right theology. It is only ever down to one thing.

Our heart.

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Journey Further

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” Jeremiah 29:10-14

If what we fight for reveals what we value. How much would you say you value God?

 

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