On this Third Sunday of Lent, I continue my journey through Scott Hahn’s book, Lenten Reflections from A Father Who Keeps His Promises. This week we focus on the Exodus and today we look at God’s selection of instruments, specifically God’s choice of the younger and weaker Jacob over his masculine brother Esau.
When negotiating a contract, I want to negotiate from a position of strength. This is often determined by the relative size of the parties. For example, when I am representing a small vendor negotiating a supply contract with a behemoth company, often the smaller vendor needs the business more than the behemoth and is in a position of relative weakness. And often the behemoth has a standard contract that it wants to use, and it is usually very favorable to the giant. The larger company can adopt a take-it-or-leave-it position.
This is why a company like Wal Mart can dictate the terms of its relationship with vendors, including specific packaging requirements, while small mom-and-pop stores often have to take things as they are.
With God—the Almighty—He clearly is in the position of strength vis-à-vis His people. And yet He seems to prefer to select the weakest to lead His people. Today’s reading discusses the selection of Jacob—the younger, weaker, less “manly” brother—over his twin Esau.
Perhaps one reason why God chooses a Jacob over an Esau is because He does not want to cram the terms of our relationship down our throats like a large company can do when negotiating contracts. He wants us to come to Him completely open, full of our own desire for Him, willingly entering into the Covenant.
But there is another reason God chooses weaker instruments. When a carpenter uses a tool to make a beautiful chest, it is clearly the carpenter’s skills that bring about the results. And when an artist takes a canvas and a variety of paint colors and makes a masterpiece, it is the artist’s skills that determine the outcome.
But when you throw in a human being as the instrument, the apparatus often confuses itself for the master. If God chooses the strong to bring His message, we may confuse the messenger with the master.
“Don’t shoot the messenger” is often said to express the notion that a person conveying the bad news is not the creator of the bad situation, not the cause of the bad news. Likewise, God chooses weak messengers so we don’t perceive the bearer of Good News (Gospel) as the Good News itself. Only Christ is Word (made flesh).
Paul and Barnabas get caught up in this sort of confusion in Lystra, a city in ancient Turkey. When Paul cures a crippled man (in the name of Jesus), the people of the city believe that Barnabas is Zeus (Greek god of thunder and sky) and that Paul is Hermes (son of Zeus). The people want to worship Barnabas and Paul rather than recognizing the true source of their power.
So God often chooses weaker human beings so that His glory can shine through the weakness and not be confused with some perceived strength in the messengers.
Often the person whom God chooses recognizes his own weakness and fails to see that God will make up for it. For example, when God selects Moses as His mouthpiece to Pharoah, Moses complains:
“If you please, my Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor now that you have spoken to your servant; but I am slow of speech and tongue.” Ex. 4:10.
God reminds Moses that God can—and will—provide.
I, too, feel inadequate when faced with challenges of faith. Can I do this thing You ask of me, Lord? Who am I? I forget that He will give me what I need to do His will.
I am learning that God will never allow me to face a challenge of faith in which He will not make up for my shortcomings. One of my favorite aphorisms is: “Do your best. Let God do the rest.”