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What A Heel!

What's In A Name   •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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God of old stories and new beginnings, open our lives today to the new that you long to accomplish in our lives. As you called Abraham and Sarah to walk faithfully with you, speak our names today, call us to higher purposes, fill us with your Spirit that we may worthily praise you and magnify your holy name. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. AMEN


HYMN: Power In The Blood
God who plants seeds of hope and justice within our lives, we are so grateful for this community of faith and for all, anywhere, who hunger and thirst for your healing, reconciling word. You know all the things that are on our hearts today and you bring us together in love and support. We ask your healing mercies with those who struggle with illness of every kind, with feeling lost and marginalized; for those who mourn and for whom the darkness of sorrow enshrouds them. We ask your growth-producing love for all those who celebrate and rejoice today. Be with each one of us and all those whom we have named in our hearts before you. Help us to reach out to each other in compassion and support, for we ask these things in Jesus’ name. AMEN.


Genesis 25:19–34 NRSV
These are the descendants of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah, daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, sister of Laban the Aramean. Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord granted his prayer, and his wife Rebekah conceived. The children struggled together within her; and she said, “If it is to be this way, why do I live?” So she went to inquire of the Lord. And the Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples born of you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the elder shall serve the younger.” When her time to give birth was at hand, there were twins in her womb. The first came out red, all his body like a hairy mantle; so they named him Esau. Afterward his brother came out, with his hand gripping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them. When the boys grew up, Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, living in tents. Isaac loved Esau, because he was fond of game; but Rebekah loved Jacob. Once when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was famished. Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stuff, for I am famished!” (Therefore he was called Edom.) Jacob said, “First sell me your birthright.” Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank, and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.
HYMN: Waiting Here for You


Waiting is something most of us do not like. I really dislike lines or having to wait at a restaurant to eat. Sherry tells me I am impatient, I tell her I just have a high sense of urgency. However, patience is a virtue of that I am sure because waiting and patience quite often produce better results than impulse.
There is a book that came out a few years ago, titled Emotional Intelligence. The thesis of the book is that success in life cannot be judged on IQ but on EQ emotional quotient or how well we get along with others. The research for this book spanned thirty years. They studied people from the time they were born until they were thirty years old. They found that one of the traits for the most successful of their study group was their patience. They were able to delay gratification. They were able to wait.
Now, you are probably asking yourself “what on earth does this have to do with the story of Jacob and Esau? Well, a lot. Let’s go unpack this scripture and see what we can learn and how to apply it.


Genesis is a rich book of stories that have been collected and assembled to supply the historical basis for God’s covenant with his people. It is the first of the 5 books of Moses known as the Pentateuch or Torah. Here is what one commentator writes: “The real theme of the Pentateuch is the selection of Israel from the nations and its consecration to the service of God and His Laws in a divinely appointed land. The central event in the development of this theme is the divine covenant with Abraham and its … promise to make his offspring into the people of God and to give them the land of Canaan as an everlasting inheritance
We are starting here because we need to understand what is at stake between Jacob and Esau. It is the covenant God made with Abraham. That covenant was passed on to Abraham’s son Isaac and should be passed on to Esau.
The fight to be the next one that God’s covenant is passed on to begins in the womb!
Rebekah is barren. This does not mean that she is in-fertile, but that she doesn’t have any living children. Thus Isaac has no heir. Instead of taking a concubine as his father Abraham did to resolve this, Isaac goes to the Lord. This makes sense, for it is the Lord who is the source of all life. His prayers are answered and Rebekah becomes pregnant.
Being pregnant is no easy thing—I say that as a male. We males really have no idea of course. But those of us that are Father’s have observed our wives and then witnessed the birth of our children. So I say this with all due respect to the Mother’s that are here and the one’s watching or listening. If men were the ones to bear children, we would be an extinct species. No doubt.
Rebekah’s pregnancy seemed to be really rough. The twins are going at it in her womb. They are already wrestling to see who is born first. What is going on here she wonders? I would almost rather die than have a pregnancy like this. She needs answers. It says she went to inquire of the Lord. It reads more like she went to seek the advice of a prophet. Whether it was a prophet or a direct communication from the Lord she receives an oracle.
Genesis 25:23 NRSV
And the Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples born of you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the elder shall serve the younger.”
This oracle probably explains why Rebekah favored Jacob over Esau. As far as we know she never told Isaac this. God told her that Jacob would be the one to inherit the covenant not Esau and as we will see she does everything she can to make this happen.
it comes time for the birth and Esau is born first, but even in birth they are still wrestling as Jacob is born next grabbing the foot or heel of Esau.
The twins are named. The title of this Series is What’s in a name? Names quite often in the ancient world offered commentary on the circumstances around one’s birth. The names here do this and more, they are word play as well. Jacob’s name is hard to translate, it could mean heel or supplanter. I think it means both. Esau can mean both hairy and red. He probably was not a red head, but he will be the father of the Edomites that will off and on battle with Jacob’s descendents the Israelites until David conquers them. Thus the older serving the younger. Edom means red and the Edomites lived in an area across the Jordan that runs from the southern end of the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba. known for its reddish brown hued hills.
Esau is a hunter. Hunting was looked down upon by the Israelites, The Israelites were more pastoral, farming and raising livestock. Thus Jacob. We see here already that Jacob in this story is more favored although the second born.
It seems that Isaac loves Esau because Esau could provide venison which Isaac enjoyed eating.
We now come to the first conflict between the brothers. Esau comes in from hunting and is famished. Jacob is cooking most likely a stew of Egyptian lentils when cooked become red. Esau says give me some of that red stuff and Jacob makes his move. I’ll give this to you if you give me your birthright. Esau replies I am about to starve to death, if I die of what us is a birthright to me? Jacob wisely makes Esau to swear to it, or take an oath and then feeds him.


This story is theologically rich in application. There is so much we could talk about here. Prayer, God’s promises, family relationships, etc. But let’s just say this, Esau sold his soul for a Big Mac. Esau had no patience, he wanted what he wanted and he wanted it now! He would be a perfect 21st century man.
Let’s look at the verbs here, ate, drank, rose, departed or went away, despised. At that moment and on impulse he despised his birthright. So it is not so much that Jacob manipulated him out of it, but that Esau gave it up so easily and impulsively because it had no value to him.Esau was not deceived here, he willingly gave it up.
Now, another theological topic we could talk about here, and it is complicated is God’s will and how we partner in God’s will, but that will have to be another day.
What we are going to talk about today is waiting or patience or delayed gratification. Esau figured that his birthright was no good to him in his present circumstances so he was happy to give it up to Jacob who had something he wanted right then. Jacob however, realized the birthright was something he was not going to receive until sometime in the future after Isaac’s death. He was willing to wait, Esau was not.
We are in a time of waiting and we have a choice to be an Esau or a Jacob. We want this pandemic to be over now, but it may be next year for we have any kind of normalcy. We are waiting on a vaccine. We are waiting to see if there will be a college football season. We are waiting to see what the schools are going to do. We are waiting to hear from the Governor. We are waiting on the election in November. We are waiting on General conference that got moved to next year. We are waiting to get on the new property. On top of all this we have the more personal things we are waiting on. Medical test results, elective surgeries, being able to see family members, un-employment benefits, and I could go on.
Jacob and Esau’s struggle is setting the stage for a story of a family in conflict. But at the same time these texts will witness to a God at work in and through this families situation.
This is our lesson. God has made covenant wiht us too, to be our God, just as he did with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. That covenant was a promise that God never gave up on although the Israelites abandoned it from time to time. God stayed true to His promise.
This is how we can wait, like Jacob, knowing that God’s promise is that he is working in and through the situations we find ourselves.
Let’s take a quick look at Hebrews here
Hebrews 11:20–21 NRSV
By faith Isaac invoked blessings for the future on Jacob and Esau. By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, “bowing in worship over the top of his staff.”
Jacob was a believer in the promise. Esau not so much.
Hebrews 12:12–17 NRSV
Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. Pursue peace with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, and through it many become defiled. See to it that no one becomes like Esau, an immoral and godless person, who sold his birthright for a single meal. You know that later, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, even though he sought the blessing with tears.
One Sunday morning a church deacon decided to skip church and take in some golf. He slipped over the fence onto the third fairway and began to play. As in the case of Job, Satan was standing before God and asked what God intended to do to punish the deacon’s dishonesty. “Just wait and see what happens on the fifth hole,” God smiled. The fifth hole was the most difficult on the course and often was responsible for scuttling the hopes for a good game. On this particular Sunday morning, however, the deacon (whose handicap was a barely mediocre 33) drove the ball straight and true. Not only did it find the green, but also it took the curve of the terrain and went right in the cup: a hole-in-one. Satan was aghast with incredulity. “Why have you rewarded this unconscionable conduct with such remarkable success?” It looks like success now,” replied God, “but who is he going to tell?”  
If the deacon had delayed gratification and waited till after church and paid for his round of golf he could tell everything. But since he was impulsive and dishonest the hole in one had to stay with him.
Back to Goleman’s book. He writes about research with 4 year olds.
They would tell a child If you’ll wait until after he runs an errand, you can have two marshmallows for a treat. If you can’t wait until then, you can have only one—but you can have it right now. It is a challenge sure to try the soul of any four-year-old, a microcosm of the eternal battle between impulse and restraint, id and ego, desire and self-control, gratification and delay. Which of these choices a child makes is a telling test; it offers a quick reading not just of character, but of the trajectory that child will probably take through life.
The researchers then tracked these kids through high school. They discovered that the one that waited on the person to return, sometime up to 20 minutes Those who had resisted temptation at four were now, as adolescents, more socially competent: personally effective, self-assertive, and better able to cope with the frustrations of life. They were less likely to go to pieces, freeze, or regress under stress, or become rattled and disorganized when pressured; they embraced challenges and pursued them instead of giving up even in the face of difficulties; they were self-reliant and confident, trustworthy and dependable; and they took initiative and plunged into projects. And, more than a decade later, they were still able to delay gratification in pursuit of their goals. These are Jacobs. The ones that immediately took the marshmallows were dramatically different and not as succesfull. These are Esaus.
This is but one component of emotional intelligence, that of self management or self regulation. For all of Jacob’s faults, as we shall see, one of his strengths was being able to wait. He was able to wait because he could envision a future based on God’s promises. As we continue in this difficult times, let’’s stand on the promises of God for they are certain and true.
HYMN: Leave It There


God has placed the seed of love and forgiveness in your heart. Go into God’s world with joy, telling of the good news of God’s abundant, lavish love for all creation. Go to be a witness to all the miraculous possibilities for hope and peace.
Go forth in joy to Love Christ Love People and Help People Love Christ
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