Genesis 25–27, Psalm 9, Matthew 9
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—their names are legend. Indeed, in later books of the Old Testament and again in the New Testament, the Lord is often referred to as the “God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” And yet it has already been noted that the first of these great figures, Abraham, the “Father of Faith,” was far from perfect. Now, with his passing, the spotlight turns first to Isaac, whose brief time on the biblical stage is hardly impressive, and then moves to Jacob.
Abraham and Isaac resort to deception when faced with threatening situations. Jacob takes lying and cheating to a whole new level. His very name meaning “supplanter,” Jacob supplants Esau through an elaborate deception that secures for himself the birthright and blessing that should have gone to his brother. Jacob will do whatever it takes to fulfill his ambitions, even if that means spending much of the rest of his life on the run. It is difficult, perhaps, to see why God might choose to raise up “a chosen people, a holy priesthood” through such a morally questionable character.
Turning to Matthew’s Gospel, it seems that not much has changed. Instead of going for the best and brightest to be his disciples, Jesus unexpectedly calls Matthew the tax collector to join his ragtag group of unlearned fishermen. Matthew, or Levi as he is sometimes known, is not that different from Jacob. He cheats—in fact, he cheats for a living!
Eventually, Jacob spends a night wrestling with God and emerges a new person. Matthew leaves his old life behind and becomes a new person. Both then and now, God does not wait for any of us to be perfect before calling us to follow. And somewhere along the way, when we least expect it, we are born anew.
What do you think of Jacob, of Esau, of Isaac when you read these stories? Why does God sometimes work through questionable people?
When have you experienced God through an unlikely person?
God of new beginnings, meet us where we are in our journey, imperfect as we are, and use us in ways we cannot imagine to make a difference in the world for you, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
-The Rev. Dr. C. K. Robertson
Canon to the Presiding Bishop
of The Episcopal Church
New York, New York