Devotional & Reflection

Week 3, Mar 2004

Gen 36 :
Broken Dreams, Broken People

By Pang Hee Hung, Katartizo Resources Ltd

Gen 36 v1 This is the account of Esau (that is, Edom). v2 Esau took his wives from the women of Canaan: Adah daughter of Elon the Hittite, and Oholibamah daughter of Anah and granddaughter of Zibeon the Hivite- v3 also Basemath daughter of Ishmael and sister of Nebaioth. . . . v6 Esau took his wives and sons . . . and moved to a land some distance from his brother Jacob. v7 Their possessions were too great for them to remain together; the land where they were staying could not support them both because of their livestock. v8 So Esau (that is, Edom) settled in the hill country of Seir.

Sometimes we chase after dreams so hard, we wonder why we still do not realise them. If this happens to us often, we need to ask ourselves two basic questions: "Where have I gone astray?" or "What is God up to?" These two questions are related to the broad choice we make in life – choosing My way or God's Way.

As we read Gen 36 on the account of Esau, it is fruitful to review the earlier narratives on Esau. Gen 25:34 records Esau as despising his birthright. He was more interested in the short-term satisfaction of his hunger than the long-term privileges of the birthright.

This reminds us that as we chase after dreams and goals, we need to be discerning of the long-term consequences of our actions. We must not shortchange long-term benefits for immediate and visible returns. Whether we are operating a company, building our house, cultivating our garden, maintaining our car, parenting our children, discipling growing Christians, or developing our inner character, we want to ensure that we do not sacrifice long-term benefits for short-term gains.

For instance, we should develop intangible qualities like our children's character and not just focus on something visible and measurable like academic results. Christian leaders would do well to help members develop their inner man and nurture disciples to walk with the Lord (non-visible, non-measurable qualities) and not just seek to achieve measurable results, such as the number of salvations or the number of members.

Some mistakes bring about long-term effects that are difficult to reverse. When that happens, one has to suffer the consequences. In the case of Esau, besides selling his birthright for stew, he married Canaanite women (Gen 36:2) who were a source of grief to Isaac and Rebekah (Gen 26:34, 27:46). Realizing how displeasing the Canaanite women were to his father Isaac (Gen 28:8), Esau then married Basemath, the daughter of Ishmael (Gen 36:3; Basemath was also known as Mahalath in Gen 28:9).

However, two paths have been set – my way or God's way. Only one path will receive the blessings. Genesis traces the path and the lineage of blessings through which salvation would come – from Abraham, Isaac (and not Ishmael), Jacob (and not Esau) and ultimately leading to David and Jesus.

It was most ironical that Esau had married Canaanite women – a Hittite, a Hivite and an Ishmaelite – and had children born in Canaan but he was not to possess the promised land of Canaan. In contradistinction, Jacob did not marry Canaanite women, had children born outside Canaan and yet he would inherit the land of Canaan. Like Lot who parted with Abraham to move eastwards because the land could not support both of them (Gen 13:6), Esau too moved out of the promised land (Gen 36:6-7).

If we do not follow God's way, we can chase after a dream with all our might and we still would not fulfill it. But when we follow God's path, we would be blessed beyond our dreams and beyond what we deserve. This is what grace is all about.

1. What blessings and dreams of ours come from God and we are to pursue fervently like Jacob but minus his deceitful scheming? How have we been frivolous with them like Esau?
2. What dreams of ours seem so hard to attain even after trying so hard to get them? What dreams of ours produce quarrelling and fighting in the community, corporation, church, cell or home?
3. Which of these dreams arise from our SELF? From our covetousness or wrong motives, our desires and wants rather than needs?

Why Chase Dreams
Pushing through doors labeled "PULL"?

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