Narrative Lectionary Daily Devotions written by Kace Leetch from Clergy Stuff.
When Rebekah was pregnant with the twins, Esau and Jacob, she learned that the twins she carried who were at war, even from inside the womb, would be the heads of warring nations. (Genesis 25:23) After Jacob left to take a wife from within the family, Esau also took a wife from within the family — Mahalath, daughter of Abraham’s son, Ishmael. Ishmael and Isaac were themselves the heads of warring nations. Ishmael was born to Hagar, and Isaac to Sarah. They were bitter rivals from the beginning, and now Isaac’s son was taking a wife from Isaac’s half-brother, Ishmael. The rivalry continued.
It’s fascinating to me that thousands of years later, the descendants of Isaac and the descendants of Ishmael are still at war. Isaac is known as one of the fathers of Judaism, and consequently Christianity. Ishmael is a prophet of Islam and ancestor of Muhammad. Jews, Christians, and Muslims are still at war, particularly in the Middle East, although bitterness certainly exists between the groups all over the world (yes, even where you live).
A few weeks ago, a new neighbor moved in a couple doors down. On the day they moved, we saw several children playing in the street. (It’s a quiet street, don’t worry.) A little later, the family drove by as we were enjoying the weather in the front yard. We waved as they passed. They slowed down, rolled down the window, and shouted in a thick Middle-Eastern accent, “God bless you! May the Lord Jesus bless you!”
I was hit with conflicting emotions. On one hand, I was warmed by the impromptu blessing. How often do people bless us anymore? On the other hand, I was saddened to imagine that the new neighbors felt the need to identify themselves immediately as Christians, as if we would reject or hate them if we thought they were Muslim. I am eager to find enough time to make cookies (it’s what I do) so I can go greet them and welcome them to the neighborhood. It wouldn’t matter to me if they were Christians, Muslims, or Atheists — we would be happy to have them as neighbors no matter what. The whole thing makes me wonder if the descendants of Ishmael and Isaac will ever stop fighting. I hope they do one day. We will all be better off if we learn to understand and accept those who are different from us.
Narrative Lectionary Text: Genesis 28:6-9
Now Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob and sent him away to Paddan-aram to take a wife from there, and that as he blessed him he charged him, “You shall not marry one of the Canaanite women,” and that Jacob had obeyed his father and his mother and gone to Paddan-aram. So when Esau saw that the Canaanite women did not please his father Isaac, Esau went to Ishmael and took Mahalath daughter of Abraham’s son Ishmael, and sister of Nebaioth, to be his wife in addition to the wives he had.