Connections 07.16.2017: God Answers

Genesis 25:19-34

The dysfunction in some biblical families can be comical. It’s almost like the characters are actually caricatures, drawn larger than life to evoke humor and even a little ridicule. But while these caricatures can make us laugh, more often than not they also make us uncomfortable. The exaggerations in their words and actions point to our own flaws. We can laugh at them, but we can also see ourselves in them.

How often do we have specific requests when we pray to God? When has God answered us exactly as we asked? And when have we regretted ever asking in the first place?

Isaac and Rebekah wanted a child. Like several other couples in the biblical story, they experienced infertility—which is no laughing matter. And, like the other couples, they prayed for a baby. God granted their request, but the outcome wasn’t exactly what either of them hoped: twin boys who struggled against each other even within their mother’s womb. Once Jacob and Esau were born, they spent many long years in a bitter rivalry, the ripple effects of which touched their entire family—indeed, their entire people. It’s not a stretch to think that, at times, Rebekah and Isaac regretted ever asking God for a child in the first place!

There are times when I have asked something of God and felt that I was ignored. I thought God didn’t answer my prayer. When I looked back over the circumstances of my request and the aftermath, though, I could see that in many ways God did answer. And then humanity happened. As Mike Ruffin said in his article for July 9, “We live with realistic confidence that God is working God’s purposes out. We trust that it will work out as the life we have lived under God to this point indicates it should. But we also know that it might not because people are wild cards.”

God is always at work. I believe God wants to answer our prayers, especially when they—for the most part—are in tune with God’s way. God provides, God directs, and God answers. But God also allows humanity to happen. As we live with the answers to our prayers, we must recognize the effects of the human choices around us and not blame God for how everything turns out. And even if, or more likely when, things get rough, God is always with us, just as God was with Isaac and Rebekah’s family and ultimately worked for good in their lives. (We will study how “God accompanies” us in next week’s lesson.)

Discussion

1. What was the last specific request you had of God? Do you believe that God answered you? If so, how? In what ways did God’s answer affect your situation?
2. Have you ever regretted praying for something? If so, why? How did you make amends in that situation?
3. How might God always answer our prayers, even when they seem to go unanswered?
4. Why do you think God would answer our prayers and then allow bad things to happen afterward? What is an example of this in your own life? How did you handle it?
5. How can you reconcile God’s answers to your prayers with God’s allowing people to make choices that may affect how those answers play out? That is, how do you balance God’s position of control with God’s allowance of human free will?

Reference Shelf

25:19-28. Birth of Esau and Jacob.

Whereas the list of Ishmael’s descendants brings closure to his role in Genesis, the mention of Isaac’s offspring hearlds the beginning of an important new phase of the partriarchal story. Isaac’s sons, Esau and Jacob, are the ancestors, respectively, of Edom and Israel (25:30; 36:1; 32:28); hence the oracle to Rebekah, “Two nations are in your womb” (25:23). By the late postexilic period and in NT times Edomites have moved from Transjordan into southern Judah where the region becomes referred to by the Roman (Latin) form of the name Edom—Idumea. Herod the Great, at the end of whose reign Jesus was born, was Idumean.

The tradition that Israel and Edom are brother nations is widely attested and is unlike any relationship claimed with other nations or peoples in the OT (cf. Deut 23:8; Numb 20:14; Obad 10; Mal 1:2). Edom is the only people that shares with Israel the same ancestral parents. It is possible that buried in the tradition is a memory that somewhere in their early history the two peoples shared a common cultic tradition.

A number of references to Yahweh in the OT associate God positively with the region of Edom (or Seir, another name for Edom; cf. Gen 36:9)—see, for example Judg 5:4; Deut 2:5; 33:2; Hab 3:3. It is possible, but not demonstrable, that the name of the Edomite deity Qos (or Qaus) appears in the priestly name Kushaiah (1 Chr 15:17), which, if so, would imply the existence at some point in history of a community that identified Qos with Yahweh.

The folk etymology of Jacob’s name plays on the similarity in Hebrew between the word heel and the name Jacob, which means “he supplants.” The oracle predicting Jacob’s ascendancy over Esau (v. 23) is already being fulfilled. Similarly, the name Esau is related to his redness at birth; that etymology is underscored in the following passage where Esau trades his heritage for some red stuff Jacob had prepared (25:30).

Bruce T. Dahlberg, “Genesis,” Mercer Commentary on the Bible, ed. Watson E. Mills et al. (Macon GA: Mercer University Press, 1995), 110.

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor for Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. She attends church and leads an adult Sunday school class in Macon, Georgia. She is also the office administrator for Jay’s HOPE, a local charity serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her daughters, Samantha (12) and Natalie (10) and her husband John. For fun, she tries to stay caught up on the latest amazing TV series (including Doctor Who, Sherlock, Gilmore Girls, and The Crown).

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