Jacob – A Testimony of Grace Undeserved

Jacob was a schemer, a plotter, a manipulator. His name literally meant ‘the deceiver’.

At birth in Exodus, Chapter 25 we are told he was born grasping his brother’s heel. This was a sign of things to come.

His brother Esau, was a hunter, a man’s man, a Men’s Health model and an Outdoors Magazine contributor. Oh, and he was hungry.

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Jacob had culinary skills and manipulated Esau. He used the smells from the stew to waft deception into his home.

Esau was not a deep thinker, or a planner, so he indulged Jacob, only to find out he had done something serious.

Temptation blinds people to the consequences of succumbing to it.

But there was one who was tempted in his hunger to turn stones into bread, but who knew the consequences of the misuse of power and resisted it all. He was also tempted with temple-jumping and the delights of the eyes before him in the world, and resisted.

Esau though, in the tradition of many subsequent males allowed his stomach to lead him in directions he ought not go. The waistline of many a male is testimony to standing in the tradition of Esau.

Of course, he might blame his genes; Isaac was very partial to the pot-roast as well. He preferred Esau to Jacob because he was an action man. Who would bring him feasts?

Jacob preferred the company of his mum Rebecca, where he could learn the finer arts of cooking.

So Esau’s stomach eclipsed his mind, and he sold out.

Jacob struggled with his father, but ended up showing himself to be a crook. He deceived a blind, weak, old man, but not just any man, his own father.

If his father had been less focused on the roast he may have discerned better, but with the connivance of Rebecca, Jacob became a smelly hunter with hairy hands, courtesy of a couple of goats. Isaac literally smells a rat. He is betrayed by a kiss in Genesis 27:27 as one other would be by a similar deceiver.

The returning Esau discovers what has happened and he and Isaac are mortified. In verse 36 Esau says, ‘Is he not rightly named Jacob? For he has supplanted me these two times. He took away my birthright and now, he has taken away my blessing.’

In verse 41 it says ‘Now Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him, and Esau said to himself, ‘The days of mourning for my father are approaching; then I will kill my brother Jacob.’’

Jacob then journeys off to be with his future father-in-law, someone even more wily than he. Laban is the Enron CEO of his time. He cheats and deceives Jacob, especially over his wages and his daughters.

Jacob has met his match.

But along the way, in chapter 28, God reveals himself to Jacob in carrying forth the covenant blessing seen in the gift of land. Then he comes across his wife to be in Rachel. With his enormous strength he rolls a stone away from the well and her sheep are watered.

Then comes be one of the strangest first encounters in history. Genesis 29:11 – ‘Then Jacob kissed Rachel, and wept aloud.’ Rachel’s thoughts are not spelled out, but it must have struck her as odd.

Then begins the sexual saga with Leah, Rachel and their very fertile maids, until Rachel finally gives birth to a child: Joseph.

Finally Jacob returns to his homeland to be greeted by the news that Esau knows he is coming and that he is bringing 400 men. Jacob is gnawed by guilt and the guilt spaens fear and terror. Esau’s last words to Jacob were that he would kill him.

In Genesis 32:7-8 Jacob goes back into scheming mode. He divides up the company, but not satisfied w with his tricks, he does what so many people would choose to do in the first place, and not as a last resort: he prays!

In verses 9-12, ‘And Jacob said, ‘O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O Lord who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your kindred, and I will do you good.’

I am not worthy of the least of all the steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant, for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two companies.

Deliver me, please, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I am afraid of him; he may come and kill us all, the mothers with the children.

Yet you have said, ‘I will surely do you good, and make your offspring as the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted because of their number.’’

He send hundreds of sheep and cattle as gifts to appease Esau. Then he sends his wives away. Finally he is alone, facing the prospect of death by brother the next day.

But God wants something of him. He has made his prayer, and then gone and acted as though he had no confidence in God hearing and acting on it. In this strange story, Jacob’s great strength comes to his aid as he wrestles with the angel of the Lord, who eventually blesses him.

Then the dreaded day comes. All his fear, his schemes and plans come to nothing.

God shows He is Lord. He has heard Jacob’s prayer; he changes Esau’s heart.

In chapter 33, verse 4 ‘Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.’

Esau is delighted to see all of Jacob’s family. He asks why Jacob has sent all the animals ahead. Jacob weakly says, ‘To find favour with you my lord.’

Esau outdoes him with grace, for in verse 9, he says ‘I have enough brother; keep what you have for yourself.’

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He knows the fear of Jacob but only acts with grace. It turns out that the 400 men are meant to be a guard of honour to escort Jacob and the clan. They will escort them to Esau’s place. But as soon as Esau is gone, Jacob returns to type and though suggesting he will come to Esau’s place he deceives him one last time and heads off to Sucoth, then Shechem.

Guilt warns of moral offence and the need to avoid it or find forgiveness for it.

Fear can dominate our lives if we think it all depends on us.

Families need to be honoured, and all members loved and respected.

Prayer is powerful because Jesus is Lord.

God is gracious and not only forgives but works through people despite their reliability and compromise. His purposes are greater than human failings.

The Scriptures teach us to get alone with God.

Wrestle with God, seek His blessing and let him remake us as new people, like God did with Jacob.

By George Robert Iles

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