Our thematic focus for the next several weeks is the way what is often called “salvation history” develops, as a story of God’s choice and calling of specific individuals and groups to accomplish divine purposes. This week, we’re looking at part of “the story of Jacob and Esau,” Genesis 25:19-34 – the part where Esau sells his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of stew. Or, alternatively, the story of how Jacob defrauds his brother out of that birthright.
Here are a couple more questions we might want to consider, or discuss, specific to reflecting on the role of God’s choice and call in the context of salvation history:
When we read this text, what are the human characteristics of the characters that stand out most for us? What thoughts and feelings do we find ourselves having for the characters involved in the story, whether positive or negative or both? Why, do we think?
How do these thoughts and feelings affect our thoughts and feelings about the roles of these characters in “salvation history” – for instance, the central roles of Isaac, Rebekah, or Jacob? [For instance, do we find ourselves glad that one of these characters is part of the story? Or, a little regretful? Or, …?] Why is that, do we think?
The people in this story are, most of them, revered ancestors. They’re also – famously – deeply flawed and sometimes really objectionable characters. That is … if we knew them in real life, today, we might encourage them to change their behavior. Or silently wish they would.
What, if any, lessons do we draw from this? About humanity in general? About our own participation in humanity in general? About this particular story? About God? About why God might have chosen and called these particular people? About how we ought to respond to people “chosen” or “called” by God?
[More personal] What about our own part in this whole large story? How do we see that, and think and feel about it?
Overall, the theme of the texts in the coming weeks seem meant to get us thinking seriously about the idea that “the people of God” has a very long story, that runs up to the present moment, and which is also our own personal story. That is, to “connect the dots” within the Biblical story, and then also to “connect the dots” between the Biblical story and our own personal stories.
Where do we see ourselves in the story, and how?
How do our own personal stories, our experiences and the lessons we’ve learned from those, seem to color our reading of this larger, shared story? [Always an important, and interesting, question.]
Image: “Der Plausch am Weg” [the chat on the way], Oswald Achenbach, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons