Carolyn Park Presbyterian Church

God Has No Grandchildren

Genesis 28:10-19a

This morning in Sunday School I spent some time with the children looking at God's family tree. In the Hebrew Bible… God is known as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob… and the children have been hearing about their adventures. We've been talking about who married whom… and the children they had… and today we are up to Jacob… who is the father of the twelve men from whom the twelve tribes of Israel descended.

Names seem to have had a great deal more significance in those days… and God… on occasion changed people's names. You may remember that Abraham and Sarah were originally Abram and Sarai… and Jacob later became Israel. Jacob was one of Isaac and Rebecca's son… and he had a twin brother named Esau. Both of these names were significant… Esau means "red" and may have referred to Esau's red hair. Jacob means "one who supplants"… and refers to the fact that he tricked Esau out of his birthright.

As is evident in this story… and throughout the Hebrew Bible… these people were just as human as you and I are… with all our self-centeredness… cunning and malice. Although some may disagree… there is nothing new under the sun… and people back then were in the same sordid condition in which we find ourselves.

Jacob was about as different from his brother Esau as you can get. Esau was a "man's man"… his father's favorite. He loved to be outdoors and spent most of his time hunting. I can just imagine that he was a big man… but one who could move quickly and quietly in the forest. And… of course… being outdoors all the time… he always had a huge appetite… he was a big eater… but he worked it off with physical activity. On the other hand… Jacob was a quiet man… who preferred to stay at home. Some might have called him a "ma-ma's boy" because he was Rebecca's favorite. But that quiet demeanor hid a shrewd and intelligent mind that was always at work. Now being shrewd is considered an asset in today's business world… and Jacob turned out to be quite the successful business man. On the other hand… shrewdness can be distorted into artful and cunning practices… and Jacob was, indeed, an artful manipulator. He knew what he wanted… and he didn't hesitate to stoop to trickery to get it. Someone once said, "There are only two ways of getting on in the world: by one's own industry, or by the stupidity of others." Jacob was definitely capable of both.

I'm sure you remember the story of how Jacob tricked the hungry Esau out of his birthright… his right to the blessing reserved for the eldest. Esau didn't seem to really care about his rightful inheritance in that weak moment of hunger. Only later did he realize his own stupidity… after Jacob… with the help of his mother… had tricked his blind father, Isaac, into giving him the blessing.

One might almost suspect that God likes the cunning ones best… but I think it is probably the other way around… the cunning ones need God the most! We don’t really know what kind of a relationship Jacob had with God prior to the events in our story today. All we know for sure is that God had promised Abraham… and Isaac… that their family would multiply greatly… and become like the stars in the sky… or the dust of the earth. In other words… Abraham and Isaac each had a personal relationship with God… God had spoken to each… made promises to each… been faithful to each… throughout their lifetime. Now the blessing… the promise has been passed on to Jacob… this shrewd and cunning man who tricked his brother and his father… and was now running for his life.

At the age of 40, Jacob ran away from home… to begin his life as an individual. Suddenly… on that lonely night… his life was interrupted by a vision from God… and he discovered that life had to include wrestling with God… because God has no grandchildren. In assuming responsibility as heir to God’s promises to his grandfather, Abraham… and to his father, Isaac Jacob also had to have a personal relationship with God. Jacob encountered God at Bethel… and at the moment of his greatest need… a secondhand religion would not do. Jacob’s dream was his firsthand encounter with God. He saw in the vision the majesty and glory of God… and the promise of land, descendants, and a blessing to all nations became personal. And his response was to worship God in that place… and he set up a stone as a memorial to what God had done there.

God did not choose Jacob because of what he was… but because of what he could become. His life is a long history of discipline, chastisement, and purification by affliction. Not one of his misdeeds went unpunished. He sowed deception and reaped the same, first from Laban… his uncle… and then from his own sons… who sold his favorite son, Joseph, into slavery. However, in the midst of the all-too-human quarrels over family and fortune, God was at work protecting and prospering His blessed.

Jacob’s vision speaks to us today… about the way that God is always at work in our lives. God has no grandchildren… we are each of us a child of God. In his mercy… and in spite of our own conflicted and rebellious lives… God gives us the opportunity for a personal relationship with him. You see… God has dropped down a ladder to us… one that stretches across an impassible chasm… one that establishes a permanent connection with him… that assures us of his constant presence with us. That ladder is our very own Savior… Jesus Christ… in and through whom we have God’s blessing… unworthy though we are. God’s love is so gracious that he could not forsake us to our own devises… but has made us children… and heirs… along with the ancient patriarchs. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is our God as well… and worthy of our worship and service.

Let us pray.

In your mercy you have come near to us once again today with your offer of a personal relationship. Help each of us to personally hear you… to take you at your word and accept your promise… to turn ourselves over to your merciful love… and to accept your offer of salvation in Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

A Sermon Preached on July 18, 1999
The Rev. Shirley R. Frazier
Carolyn Park Presbyterian Church, Arabi, LA

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