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November 4 lesson: A Troubled Birth

October 13, 2018
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A Troubled Birth

Fall Quarter: God’s World and God’s People
Unit 3: God Blesses and Creates Regardless

Sunday school lesson for the week of November 4, 2018
By Dr. Nita Crump

Lesson Scripture: Genesis 25:19-34
Key Verses: Genesis 25:23

Purpose: To acknowledge that long-standing conflicts often have deep roots.

The Hatfields and the McCoys. Just the mention of those names brings to mind the ruthless family feud from the hills of Kentucky/West Virginia that led to many people dying and others finally being arrested. The legal case went all the way to the Supreme Court before several members of the Hatfield family went to prison. 

The purpose of this lesson is to acknowledge that long-standing conflicts often have deep roots.  The story of brothers Esau and Jacob demonstrate that some conflicts start even before the birth of the current participants and last nearly a lifetime. We know the story of the birth of Esau and Jacob. They were twins, with Esau the elder, born to Rebekah and Isaac. They competed for space in Rebekah’s womb so energetically that she sought advice from the Lord about what was happening. The babies fighting in her womb were bigger than just babies, they were nations, fighting before they had drawn their first breaths.

The fighting continued after the babies were born. They treated each other with disdain and discontent. As adults, when Esau came in from hunting and was hungry, brother Jacob wasn’t concerned for Esau’s health and well-being, but was instead more concerned about taking care of himself. And Esau despised his heritage enough to give it away. Neither son was a person of high moral character. And just like most brotherly fights, neither really understood the underlying emotions enough to understand why they were fighting. 

Isn’t that true in most conflicts? We get so emotionally involved that we can’t think through the problem enough to even try to resolve it. We let our hearts overwhelm our heads and we don’t use the ability to reason that God gave us. Once we get into that emotional state, it’s hard to do anything other than fight because we’re strong enough and determined enough that we want to win rather than stand down because standing down feels less like making peace and more like giving in. And then we live in that fight, that state of emotional upheaval, until we can’t even remember why the fight started. Like the Hatfields and McCoys, we stay involved in fights that others may have started for reasons we don’t even remember, but it’s become tradition to hate the other side and we’re committed to keeping that tradition alive no matter who gets hurt. 

We see this in our society today. People are so angry with others who believe differently that they’ll publicly call for someone to be killed. People no longer believe in treating others with care and civility. They’d rather be right and spend time fighting to prove they’re right than sit at a table over a cup of coffee and talk about what each side believes. 

Matthew 5:9 quotes Jesus’ words: “God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.” (NLT) In the NIV, we find the words: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Have you ever considered the difference between a peace keeper and a peace maker? Peace keepers stand between waring factions and try to keep people from killing each other. Peace makers work to bring people together to resolve their differences and create a space where all can live in peace. There’s a reason Jesus said “Blessed are the peacemakers” instead of “Blessed are the peace keepers.”   

The good news is that despite the actions of Esau and Jacob, despite the jealousy and hostility, despite the desire to take care of self rather than caring for others, God still found a way to use Jacob to preserve the covenant and bring the blessing he’d promised Abraham. The good news for us today is that God is still trying to find a way to use us to preserve the covenant he has with Christians through the spilled blood of the cross. So many of the lessons in this series have been about obeying God and following his call. Will you hear him calling you to the life of a peacemaker to help resolve long-standing conflicts? Will you allow him to use you to preserve the covenant established by Christ’s willingness to be persecuted unto death to do God’s will? 

(Information in this lesson was drawn from The New Application Commentary, Genesis, From biblical text…to contemporary life, John H. Walton, p 542 - 567 and the Teacher’s Edition of the Adult Bible Studies, Uniform Series, International Bible Lessons for Christian Teaching.)

Dr. Nita Crump serves as Director of Connectional Ministries. Contact her at nitac@sgaumc.com.

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