FOR BETTER OR WORSE…
God knows who we are, and how we will walk before we are born. He knows what we will decide before we do. He does not force us to make that choice, but he knows what our answer will be.
And Isaac intreated the LORD for his wife, because she was barren: and the LORD was intreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived. And the children struggled together within her; and she said, If it be so, why am I thus? And she went to enquire of the LORD. And the LORD said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger. Genesis 25: 21-23
Jacob fought to get out of the womb first, but Esau came out first, destined to be last.
And Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison: but Rebekah loved Jacob. And Jacob sod pottage: and Esau came from the field, and he was faint: And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage; for I am faint: therefore was his name called Edom. And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright. And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me? And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him: and he sold his birthright unto Jacob. Genesis 25:28-33
God also hears our oaths, and remembers them long after we have forgotten them. This deal was sealed in heaven by the words of the covenant makers. God enforced their decision years later. Be careful what you ask for! God observed this act, and it revealed Esau’s disrespect for his heritage and for God. Real faith would recognize that the living God witnesses every covenant. Esau was not ready for responsibility or to lead us to the kingdom of God.
And it came to pass, that when Isaac was old, and his eyes were dim, so that he could not see, he called Esau his eldest son, and said unto him, My son: and he said unto him, Behold, here am I. And he said, Behold now, I am old, I know not the day of my death:
Now therefore take, I pray thee, thy weapons, thy quiver and thy bow, and go out to the field, and take me some venison; And make me savoury meat, such as I love, and bring it to me, that I may eat; that my soul may bless thee before I die. And Rebekah heard when Isaac spake to Esau his son. And Esau went to the field to hunt for venison, and to bring it. And Rebekah spake unto Jacob her son, saying, Behold, I heard thy father speak unto Esau thy brother, saying, Bring me venison, and make me savoury meat, that I may eat, and bless thee before the LORD before my death. Now therefore, my son, obey my voice according to that which I command thee. Go now to the flock, and fetch me from thence two good kids of the goats; and I will make them savoury meat for thy father, such as he loveth: And thou shalt bring it to thy father, that he may eat, and that he may bless thee before his death. Genesis 27:1-10
Jacob had a streak of larceny, probably from his mother’s side of the family. She saw the opportunity to advance Jacob over Esau, and pursued it. They deceived his father, and Esau was angered. He never remembered his words in the covenant with Jacob earlier. But God did. Now he knew only anger.
So Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father blessed him, and Esau said in his heart, “The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then I will kill my brother Jacob.” And the words of Esau her older son were told to Rebekah. So she sent and called Jacob her younger son, and said to him, “Surely your brother Esau comforts himself concerning you by intending to kill you. 43 Now therefore, my son, obey my voice: arise, flee to my brother Laban in Haran. Genesis 27: 41-43
Jacob knew that his brother meant him harm, and he remembered that over the years of his life. Isaac sent him away, and lived with his uncle’s family. On the way, the Lord came to him in a dream.
And behold, the LORD stood above it and said: “I am the LORD God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants. Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you.” Genesis 28:13-15
He had a promise, but he would first have a dose of his own medicine. His uncle had thie same trait of scheming as his mother did. God too was participating in the trick now though. Perhaps this was a lesson for Jacob about trying to run his own way.
Jacob met the family of his uncle Laban, and asked for his younger daughter as his wife. After working seven years for her hand, Laban tricked him with the older daughter Leah being sent in Rachael’s place. Laban claimed local custom demanded this, and asked another seven years of service for Rachael. Jacob complied out of love for Rachael.
God honored the unloved Leah with the first children though. Rachael offered her servant to Jacob to birth a child in her place. This resulted in the child Dan. This is the child of another effort to work in our own strength. He is the son identified by his father as a serpent. Notice that this tribe is not among those sealed in the book of Revelation. God did not ordain this path to heirs. Judah will beget the line of Messiah. Leah also gave her maid for still more sons. Finally Rachael bears Joseph and Benjamin.
Laban asked Jacob to linger for the blessings of God came when he was with the family. Jacob asked for part of Laban’s flock as payment. He specified the certain colored livestock for his share. He also plotted to breed the sheep and goats to increase his share…helping himself again! His methods are unfamiliar to me by modern technology though.
By some tricks with sticks Jacob plans to breed himself a better flock than his uncle, and gains some revenge for the tricks of Laban. Perhaps a farmer could explain that, but I suspect the Lord played a role in reality. Again his family is angry at his prosperity, in spite of their own crimes. It is all like Cain again isn’t it? If your offering is not going up, perhaps the sin is at YOUR door! God will bless who he wants to bless.
Jacob took his family, and left his uncles house. Unknown to Jacob, Rachael took her father’s idols. Laban was angry, and Joseph didn’t know why, as HE didn’t steal any idols. They made an agreement, and parted. Idols were already an issue for Israel.
Jacob learned that his brother was coming, and was worried. He prepared an offering of gifts to greet his brother with. His servants took the gifts to Laban. As he waited in camp for word of his gift, an angel visited him.
Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him. And He said, “Let Me go, for the day breaks.” But he said, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!” So He said to him, “What is your name?” He said, “Jacob.” And He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked, saying, “Tell me Your name, I pray.” And He said, “Why is it that you ask about My name?” And He blessed him there. So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: “For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.” Genesis 32:24-30
Jacob knew what he wanted, and persevered, even against God himself. He established that he was willing. God came for WHOSOEVER WILL, the willing, not the capable. What was impossible could only be done by faith. Now we know the name by which men are saved, for he is Yeshua Ha’Mashiach. And Jacob had a name for himself as well; Israel.
Jacob has demonstrated through his entire life a pattern of struggling to gain the advantage. He devised tricks to get his way with man and God. He was devious and scheming, an imperfect man in our view. But he could not get blessed without God’s help. It was God who gave him favor all along. God just laughs at our efforts, knowing that we accomplish no more or less by our own works.
I have schemed to gain favor myself, only to see many dreams crumble before my eyes. Still I know that His plans will be done, without my help. I actually made a mistake by doing too much on a job, only to have the client’s engineers call to request the exact features I had added minutes later. I have seen employers cheat me, only to get my wages increased by another employer later. I have offended people only to find God’s merciful help and favor working for my advantage.
Even now I face trials that could be appropriate for my many sins. But like Jacob, my own virtue or good works do not save me. God, who accepts our faith in him, saves me. I am saved by faith, not by my own merit. I expect deliverance because He is good, not because I am good. I don’t need to spend my energy and thought on what I deserve, because I can trust God who promised me mercy and grace.
God allowed Jacob to meet his brother in peace. But the neighbors were another story. One young man violated Jacob’s daughter Dinah. Jacob again laid one of his traps. The Hivite King offered to have the couple married. Jacob agreed, if they would be circumcised. While in pain, they were unable to fight when Jacob’s sons attacked them. The crime was avenged. Jacob’s sons were demonstrating his way of scheming and plotting though. Jacob feared the action of his sons would bring enemies against them. God sent him to Bethel to build an altar.
Then God appeared to Jacob again, when he came from Padan Aram, and blessed him. And God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; your name shall not be called Jacob anymore, but Israel shall be your name.” So He called his name Israel. Also God said to him: “I am God Almighty. Be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall proceed from you, and kings shall come from your body. The land which I gave Abraham and Isaac I give to you; and to your descendants after you I give this land.” Then God went up from him in the place where He talked with him. So Jacob set up a pillar in the place where He talked with him, a pillar of stone; and he poured a drink offering on it, and he poured oil on it. And Jacob called the name of the place where God spoke with him, Bethel. Genesis 35:9-15
Rachael died giving birth to Benjamin, and Jacob died later, but not before another great adventure with his sons. Sibling rivalry was about to resurface in the life of his sons.