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

Have you ever played the game of basketball or 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 the prophecy as recorded in Genesis 25:23

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,” (NIV).

Esau was firstborn. His name means red and hairy for that was what he was when he was born. 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 “surplanter”. 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 pulled a trick to steal Esau's birthright (the firstborn's right to his father's blessing), Genesis 25:27-34. Jacob worked around the home and made some stew one day. Esau came in from the field, famished. Jacob traded stew to his very hungry brother in exchange for his birthright. 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, 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 food 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 was over-zealous in having the best for her son, Jacob, she helped disguise him so that Isaac would think Jacob was Esau and bless him. She provided goatskin for his arms and neck so he would be like Esau for Esau was a hairy person. Though Isaac could not see very well, he could feel and smell. Then she prepared some venison, Isaac’s favorite food. The ploy worked well, and both Jacob and his mother Rebekah got what they wanted. However, there was the price for their deception.

This trick of Jacob stealing the birthright blessing from Esau caused Esau to hate his brother so much that he wanted to kill him. For his protection and provision, Jacob was sent back to relatives in Haran with an excuse to get a wife. Jacob's sin caused separation from his family. 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 was forgiven by Esau in a future lesson.

Last, though Esau was tricked by Jacob and unwisely forfeited his birthright, God had mercy upon him. Esau’s family and flocks and herds multiplied greatly. Like Ishmael’s people, God’s promise to bless all nations through Abraham’s sons was being fulfilled, though Esau was 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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