I am glad that the Bible includes stories of less than stellar personalities and people who flub-up big time. It makes it easier for all of us to relate to them. We can look at these characters and see reflections of ourselves.
And (hopefully) learn something! How about this: Isn’t it great to know that God always loves us, no matter what; even when we screw up!
In spite of our mistakes, God doesn’t turn away.
He continues to seek a presence in our lives.
That’s the point this story makes!
So how do we talk about this with our kids?
Here’s an idea: There are lots of mistakes happening in this story, so use mistakes as a jumping-off point for some discussion at the family dinner table. Or wherever your family is gathered together. (If you’d like to print out this discussion guide, click here.)
Here’s how it could go: Start off by describing a mistake that you made recently.
For me it was a recent spelling mistake that I should have caught, but I hit “Reply” too quickly. Oh, and then there was speaking too quickly, and saying what I shouldn’t have said. Ouch. You get the point.
Now, ask your kids what mistakes they’ve made. (Accept all replies.)
Then ask what mistakes are made in the story of Jacob and Esau?
Pull out a Bible and re-read Genesis 25:29-34. (Or ask older kids- readers, to look for mistakes.) Then, ask some questions…
- Do you suppose Esau made a mistake in selling his birthright for a bowl of stew?
- What is a birthright?
In Bible times the oldest son received special privileges that were seen as very valuable; this was called a “birthright.” If there were two sons, when it came time to divide up everything, the older son would receive two portions and the second son, one. The oldest would become the “head of household” and the family spiritual leader.
Ask more questions…
- Who was born first in our story? (Genesis 25:25, Esau)
- But what was it that God had told their mother, Rebekah, about these twins before they were born? (If necessary, read Genesis 25:22-23.)
The younger one will be greater! This is strange because, as the birthright says, usually the firstborn is the greater. But here God is telling Rebekah that her 2nd born son (Jacob) would have the special honor of eventually being head of the family. That’s different!
- Do you suppose that Rebekah had told her family this story?
Look for more mistakes in Genesis 27:1-38.
- What mistakes have been made?
- Jacob and his mom have created a big lie! Why do you suppose they did this?
- But didn’t they remember what God had said (in Genesis 25:22-23)?
- What do you suppose God thinks of what they’ve done? Does he still like/love Jacob?
- What happens next? (If necessary read Genesis 27:41-43 – Jacob runs away from Esau.)
- Would you call this a “blessing” for Jacob? (no, he had to leave his family behind!)
- But then what happens when Jacob is running away? (If necessary read Genesis 28:10-22 – God shows himself to Jacob and promises to be with him.)
- Jacob had made a mess, but God still wanted to work with him! Do you suppose God will do this for us?
God keeps on working in all of our lives despite the messes we cause! God is a loving and forgiving God!
Close with a short prayer. A suggestion: Lord, surely you are in this place; with us always. Help us to be aware of your forgiveness and to remember that you love us. Amen.