Kobe Bryant, basketball player January 23 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today's Bible reading: Genesis 25:27-34; 27:1-46; 28:1-9; Genesis 36; 1Chronicles 1:35-54

Over- Zealous Ambitions

Most people have played the game of basketball or have seen it played. Some players run all over the court trying to get the ball into their hands, yelling to their team mates, “Give me the ball! Give me the ball!” More mature ball players have learned the principle “Let the ball come to you.” As in basketball, sometimes we try too hard to make things happen. The ball of opportunity will come to us if we play unselfishly and are open and in the right place and time. We must exercise patience.

An over-zealous ambition happened in the story of Esau and Jacob in the Bible. After trying and waiting twenty years, Isaac’s wife, Rebekah became pregnant with twin boys. Before they were born they jostled each other in the womb. Yes, they were already fighting. Rebekah, did not understand this so she asked the LORD about it. Here is his reply:

The LORD said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger,” (Genesis 25:23, NIV).

Esau was the first born. His name means red and hairy for that was his appearance even as a baby. His wild look portrayed his nature, as he lived a more rugged lifestyle than Jacob. After Esau, Jacob was born with his hand on Esau's heel, so he was named “supplanter”. Predictably and figuratively, Jacob would later grab Esau’s heal and trip him up so that Jacob could stand in his place with the blessings of a firstborn son.

After the boys were grown into young men, Jacob pulls a trick to steal Esau's birthright (the firstborn's right to his father's blessing), Genesis 25:27-34. One day as Jacob is working in his family's tent and makes some stew, Esau comes in from the field, famished. Jacob makes a bargain with his brother to trade his stew in exchange for Esau's birthright. In his weakness, Esau gives in and makes the bargain. Have you sought to claim what you believe to be rightfully yours? Have you been deceitful and conniving to get it? Selfishness and deceitful practices give people cause to despise and hate you; you care only for yourself. If something in life is meant to be yours, have faith in God that if you do his will unselfishly and are patient, he will give it. In other words, “let the ball come to you.”

Finally, as their father grew very old, it was time for the boys to receive their inheritances. Jacob and Esau probably knew of the promises of God given to Abraham for land, seed, and blessing (Genesis 12:1-3; Genesis 15:5, 18). They also knew that their father had inherited these promises and was rich. They wanted these for themselves. The first born, who was responsible for the care of the family when his father died, often received double portions of what other siblings received. Both brothers were zealous to receive it. Contrary to tradition, and as a matter of God's choice, Jacob was chosen to receive it. Why? We don't know. Perhaps it was because Esau did not show respect for his birthright - food was more important to him. Esau made a choice of a bowl of stew over God's blessings. While we may understand hunger pangs, what we really believe is important is shown during times of stress. Esau failed the test. What is more valuable to you, God's blessing, or other things like your career and your plans? From this example we might learn not to sacrifice important things for immediate gratification.

Well-meaning friends and family members may at times try to help you get what you want. That is what happened in Jacob’s case. Esau was a favorite of his father, but Jacob was a favorite of his mother.

The boys grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was a quiet man, staying among the tents. Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob. His father favored Esau because he was an avid outdoorsman. Jacob, on the other hand, helped around the tent and was a favorite of his mother, (Genesis 25:27, NIV).

Because Rebekah is over-zealous in having the best for her son, Jacob, she helps disguise him so that her husband Isaac will think Jacob is Esau and bless him. She provides goatskin for his arms and neck so he will be like Esau, for Esau is a hairy person. Though Isaac could not see very well, he could feel and smell. Then she prepares some venison, Isaac’s favorite food. The ploy works well, and both Jacob and his mother Rebekah get what they want. However, there will be a heavy price to pay for their deception.

This trick of Jacob stealing the birthright blessing from Esau causes Esau to hate his brother so much that he wants to kill him. For his protection and provision, Jacob is sent back to relatives in Haran with an excuse to get a wife. Jacob's sin causes separation from his family, and especially his beloved mother. Have you caused some animosity in your family? It is not easily removed. Why not humble yourselves before the ones you offended and confess your sins? Why not give preference to them? Over time you will probably be forgiven if you prove to be truly repentant. We will see how Jacob is forgiven by Esau in a future lesson.

Last, though Esau was tricked by Jacob and unwisely forfeited his birthright, God has mercy upon him. Esau’s family and flocks and herds multiply greatly. Like Ishmael’s people, God’s promise to bless all nations through Abraham’s sons is being fulfilled, though Esau is not the chosen heir. There is a second grace for those who mess up.

Lessons to live by:

  • Let the ball come to you; don’t force opportunities to happen. The ball of opportunity will come to you if you play unselfishly and are open and in the right place and time. You must play with patience, waiting on God’s blessing.
  • Learn not to sacrifice important things for immediate gratification. The most important thing to seek is your salvation. Do you have the forgiveness, peace, and spiritual life God offers? (more...)
  • Don’t play favorites; it destroys unity on the team, whether that is on the court, in the office, or in the family
  • There is a price for deception…it breeds mistrust and animosity. Be truly repentant of this behavior and you may gain favor again.
  • There is often a second grace for those who mess up.

Today’s Bible Memory Verse:

Galatians 4:18a: “It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good.” (NIV)

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