Tuesday, June 7, 2005

Jacob: Chosen By God

GENESIS 27 & 28
These two chapters are interesting in many ways. I remember reading about Jacob having that dream about the ladder and it always seemed as if it would be rather crowded for those angels ... I didn't know exactly what kind of ladder they had in mind as Catholic Scripture Study informs us.
The ladder described here is probably a ziggurat, the sort of tower built by the people at Babel. A ziggurat was a tall, stepped temple-tower believed to connect heaven and earth - hence the angels ascending and descending the steps. God himself was at the top of the ladder and spoke to Jacob in his dream, a sign that God would now be Jacob's God.

What always stood out most was the infighting that was going on in the family. Not only do we have Esau's and Jacob's sibling rivalry, but we have the parents favoring different children. Isaac wants to pass his blessing on to Esau and Rebekah is determined that Jacob will inherit everything, so everyone is working at cross-purposes. By this time, I have been trained to look below the surface just enough to know that Rebekah and Jacob are going to reap a whole lotta trouble for forcing their way through instead of letting God handle it in His own time.
Abraham and Sarah took things into their own hands and tried to produce the promised son through Sarah's maid Hagar (Gen. 16). They were successful in the sense that they had a child, but it was not the son God intended and although God did bless Ishmael, the promises were not fulfilled through him. The results of Abraham and Sarah's efforts were bitterness and discord in the family; division between them; and long lasting trouble between the descendants of Ishmael and Isaac. Rebekah's and Jacob's efforts to bring about God's will by their own efforts would be equally destructive to their family. Their actions would force Jacob to flee his brother's anger and be separated from his family for 20 years, and he would never see his mother again.

Rebekah's (and Jacob's) actions are not justified; a good end even if promised by God does not justify the use of trickery to get there. But God will make good come of it. (NOTE: we will read in Gen. 48 of a younger twin being blessed - by a blind Jacob this time - over the older without any trickery or double-dealing.)
Once again, it just doesn't seem fair that one person is arbitrarily chosen over another as God's favorite. However, that thinking is just not looking at the "big picture."
That God "loved" Jacob and "hated" Esau means not that Esau (the nation of Edom) was condemned arbitrarily but that Jacob (Israel) was chosen, not on the basis of any intrinsic good or merit but by God's sovereign will. Remember that all mankind is in a state of separation from God. All mankind is "hated," if you will, because of sin. But the love and mercy of God are so great that He reached down and chose one of those "hated" ones and made his family into a channel of blessing for all the world, so that all men might benefit. God "chose us in him before the foundation of the world," Paul told the Ephesians in Eph. 1:4-6, "that we should be holy and blameless before him. He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved."

Throughout Israel's history, God had to remind them again and again that being chosen as His "firstborn" did not mean they were better or more deserving of His blessing than anyone else. They only needed to look at their past to see that God does not use human criteria of worthiness. More often than not He selects the young, the weak, the poor, and the undeserving on whom to bestow His grace. All favor is due to God's great love and grace, and not to any merit on our part.
All quoted material is from Catholic Exchange's "Catholic Scripture Study." See the sidebar under "Bible Study: Genesis" for links to references used.

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