The story of Jacob and Esau is a story of violence that begins before birth. It’s a story of trickery, of deceit. There’s even an element of parental strife, as father, Isaac, and mother, Rebekah, play favorites. On the surface, this isn’t the cheeriest of stories.
But then, I don’t believe we’re meant to read scripture on the surface. There’s something more here. This is a story about answered prayers—of direct and personal relationships with God. Isaac prays for a son; Rebekah prays for understanding. Both receive an answer. But there’s still more.
It’s a story of supplanting—Jacob is born holding his brother’s heel, and his name means “holder of the heel” or “supplanter.” Of course, Jacob later takes a different name: Israel. Names are important in the Bible. Jacob has a destiny.
On the surface, it’s hard to sympathize with Jacob, the trickster who steals his brother’s inheritance and, later, the blessing. I imagine, though, that the Israelites held a different view. Israel, after all, was a tiny nation surrounded by empires—Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, and then the Persians, Greeks, and Romans.
An all but inevitable awareness of their situation must have made the Israelites appreciate stories about underdogs, about reversal of the so-called natural order between strong and weak. We see that reversal again and again in Genesis. Don’t we like to cheer for the underdogs too? For the weak who, with God’s help, somehow triumph? Especially when we’re the underdog?
In this story, God reminds us that we too can overcome the so-called natural order and triumph. We’re not predestined to suffer oppression or defeat. God roots for us; we are born for something greater—something of spirit, not just of the world.

O God, may we remember that you know all outcomes and that you will guide us when we pray . . . and listen—especially when we read and reread the scripture that troubles us. Amen.

Pray the Scriptures Using Audio Lectio
Read Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

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Lectionary Week
July 10–16, 2017
Scripture Overview

Genesis 25 marks the beginning of the narrative of Jacob’s life. The theme that stands out in starkest relief is the election of Jacob to be the heir to the promise—Jacob, who has no claim to be the heir except that which the grace of God bestows. Psalm 25 re ects a general sense of alienation. Yet the psalmist expresses con dence in following God’s paths and truths. Paul sets out two polarities in Romans 8: those who “live according to the flesh and those who “live according to the Spirit,” a cosmic duality related to the rule of sin and the rule of God. The parable of the sower and the seeds in Matthew 13 is an object lesson in the mysterious grace of God.

Questions and Suggestions for Reflection

• Read Genesis 25:19-34. When in your life have you experienced favoritism from a parent, friend, coworker, or boss that created division?
• Read Psalm 119:105-112. The psalmist promises to follow God’s law every day in every aspect of his life—despite his circumstances. When did you last renew and affirm your commitment to God through daily obedience?
• Read Romans 8:1-11. How have you attempted to fill the “God-shaped” hole in your life?
• Read Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23. What kind of soil are you? How bountiful a harvest do you produce for God?

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