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Kobe Bryant, basketball player January 23 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today's Bible reading or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): 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, are open and are in the right place and time. We must exercise patience.

An over-zealous ambition occurs in today's Bible reading. After trying and waiting twenty years, Isaac’s wife, Rebekah becomes pregnant with twin boys. Before they are born they jostle each other in the womb—they are already fighting. Rebekah does not understand this so she asks 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 is the first born. His name means “red and hairy” for that is his appearance. After Esau, Jacob is born with his hand on Esau's heel, so he is named “supplanter”. Predictably and figuratively, Jacob will later grab Esau’s heal and trip him up so he can stand in Esau's place with the blessings of a firstborn son. Esau's red and hairy skin portrays his wild nature as he grows up to live a rugged outdoor lifestyle and becomes a skillful hunter. Jacob, meanwhile, is smooth skinned and grows up to be a quiet man, preferring to be indoors, working in and around the tents.

After the boys are grown into young men, Jacob pulls a trick to steal Esau's birthright (the firstborn's right to his father's blessing). One day as Jacob is working in his family's tent and making stew, Esau comes in from the field, famished. Jacob makes a bargain with Esau to trade his stew in exchange for his brother's birthright. In his weakness, Esau gives in and makes the bargain (Genesis 25:27-34). Here is a video of these events, starting at 7:00 on the time bar.

Have we ever sought to claim what we believe is rightfully ours? Have we been deceitful and conniving to get it? Selfishness and deceitful practices give people cause to despise and hate us—we care only for ourselves. If something in life is meant to be ours, we must have faith in God that if we do his will unselfishly and patiently, he will give it. In other words, we must let the ball come to us.

Finally, as their father grows very old, it is time for the boys to receive their inheritances. Jacob and Esau probably know of the promises of God given to Abraham for land, seed, and blessing (Genesis 12:1-3; Genesis 15:5, 18). They also know their father has inherited these promises and is rich. They want these blessings for themselves. The first born, who is responsible for the care of the family when his father dies, receives double portions of what other siblings receive. Both brothers are zealous to receive it.

Contrary to tradition, and as a matter of God's choice, Jacob is chosen to receive the inheritance. Why? We don't know. Maybe it is because God knows Esau will not show respect for his birthright—food is more important to him. Esau makes 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 fails the test. What is more valuable to us—God's blessing, or other things like our comfort, career, or other plans? Let's not sacrifice important things for immediate or temporary gratification.

Well-meaning friends and family members may at times try to help us get what we want. This happens in Jacob’s case. Esau is a favorite of his father, but Jacob is a favorite of his mother. Because Rebekah is over-zealous in having the best for her son, Jacob, she helps disguise him so her husband will think Jacob is Esau and bless him. She provides goatskin for his arms and neck so he will feel and smell like his brother, for Esau is a hairy outdoorsman. Although Isaac can't see very well, he can feel and smell. Then she prepares some venison, her husband's favorite food. The ploy works well, and both Jacob and his mother get what they want. However, there is 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 find an acceptable wife. Jacob's sin causes separation from his family, and especially his beloved mother.

Have we caused animosity in our family? It is not easily removed. Why not humble ourselves before the ones we have offended and confess our sins? Why not give preference to them? Over time we will probably be forgiven if we prove to be truly repentant. We will see how Jacob is forgiven by Esau in a future lesson.

Last, although Esau is tricked by Jacob and unwisely forfeits his birthright, the LORD is gracious to him. Esau’s family, flocks and herds multiply greatly. Like Ishmael’s people, God’s promise to bless all nations through Abraham’s sons is being fulfilled, even though Esau is not the chosen heir. This gives us hope—there is a second grace for those who mess up.

Here is a video of these events.

Lessons to Live By

  • Let the ball come to you; don’t force opportunities to happen. The ball of opportunity will come if you play unselfishly, are open, and are in the right place and time. You must play with patience, waiting on God’s blessing.
  • Learn not to sacrifice important things for immediate or temporary gratification. The most important thing to seek is your relationship with the LORD. 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.
  • God's grace is available for those who mess up.

Focus Verse

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

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A Look Ahead: Jacob will pay a high price for his deception—what goes around comes around. Let's learn from his mistakes. Let's not lead A Ferris Wheel Life. Join us for our Next Lesson.

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