Duplicity. Abraham complies with his wife’s scheming and then denies his firstborn. Isaac is tricked by his second-born with the help of his mother’s plotting. Jacob indulges his wives’ bitter rivalry, and so spawns the twelve tribes of Israel. The Patriarchs of Israel are a sorry bunch, for whom ‘integrity’ was not a word that carried much currency. And yet. And yet God chose them. Promised to bless the world through them – schemers and dreamers though they were.
But perhaps it was the dreaming for which they were chosen? All of them ‘heard’ God speak words of promise. What does it mean to ‘hear’ God? How do you know it’s God speaking and not your own imagination, or madness? Then again, they were all exceptionally wealthy, so perhaps they weren’t mad after all.
But Jacob has fled from his brother, having deceived his father into giving him the blessing of the firstborn, which his brother, in a moment of rash stupidity (and probably joking), had agreed to give him in exchange for a bowl of stew, and been sent off by his mother to her brother’s household in search of a wife.
Alone and in the darkness of the wilderness, Jacob dreams a dream: God promises to bless his offspring and the whole world. So he calls the place ‘beth-el’, house of God.
But what, really, is this ‘house of God’ that Jacob attempts to locate in the wilderness? Paul, in his majestic letter to the Romans, unpacks the promise, and our place in it.
The Bewcastle Benefice sermon the the 7th Sunday after Trinity can be found here.