One of the most pathos-filled scenes in all of Scripture is when Esau, the older of Isaac’s sons, realizes that his twin brother Jacob has stolen his father’s blessing that in his culture rightfully belonged to the firstborn. Esau is heart-broken that his father cannot also give him a blessing and pleads three times for Isaac to reconsider:
“When Esau heard his father’s words, he cried out with an exceedingly great and bitter cry, and said to his father, ‘Bless me, me also, father!’
…Then Esau said, ‘Have you not reserved a blessing for me?’
…Esau said to his father, ‘Have you only one blessing, father? Bless me, me also, father!’ And Esau lifted up his voice and wept.” Genesis 27:34,36,38
We can certainly debate the relative merits of Esau and Jacob as potential recipients of Isaac’s fatherly blessing. In Genesis 27 and following, neither brother looks exactly like a worthy contender. At the end of the day, however, Jacob has secured Isaac’s blessing and goes on to become the namesake of Israel.
One observation I make based on the story of Jacob and Esau is that no one wants to live a life that’s unblessed. Though many do live such a life, we all yearn to hear special words spoken that connect our lives with a significant past and a promised future. To live unblessed is to live disconnected from the previous generation.
We hear often about the power of the spoken word; but words unspoken can also be enormously powerful. And painful. The child who never hears “I love you” or “You can do this” begins to question her own value. The teen who never hears “I’m proud of you” or “You’re growing up beautifully” can spend the rest of his adult life searching for such affirmation. Worse yet is living with that gnawing feeling that “I’m a disappointment to someone I love.”
I’m not going to question the ancient practice of giving the blessing and birthright to the oldest child. But I will observe that in our day, we are wise to speak words of blessing and affirmation into the lives of each of our children, as well as in the lives of those we influence. We ought not keep our loved ones guessing. Instead, we should tell them we love them. We should tell them we’re proud of them, whenever we legitimately can. We should catch them doing good. We should tell them early and often that we appreciate them and are glad they were born.
We must know and understand the power of words of blessing, both the ones we speak but especially the ones we withhold! We say that “talk is cheap.” But words of affirmation and blessing paired with actions showing our commitment and care send the clearest message. So speak words of blessing that your children and those you love may know of the hopes you cherish for them.