As we continue our March through scripture, we return to Jacob's story. We looked on as a starving Esau returned from hunting. He asked Jacob for a bowl of the stew he had prepared, and Jacob sold him the stew for his birthright. At that point Jacob now stood to inherit a double portion of his father's estate. Today we see Jacob once again scheming, this time at the guidance of his mother. Not only did the older son have a birthright, but he also received his father's blessing. The blessing was part prophecy and part setting the older son over and above the younger. This was an even bigger deal than the birthright. But we see this family self-destructing. Isaac loved Esau the most and Rebekah loved Jacob. This had been a problem for years and now it would cause division and separation. They believed in God but did not trust Him to carry out His plan. As you know, God has His own time schedule, and it looks nothing like ours.
The family blessing came shortly before the family patriarch died and Isaac was close to death. He called for Esau to being him some of the tasty meat he loved, and Esau took off to do just that. Rebekah overheard and set the scheming in motion. Perhaps both Rebekah and Isaac forgot that God had told them Jacob would receive the blessing. Even so, Isaac was taking matters into his own hands and he was going to bless Esau. No doubt Isaac knew Esau had despised his birthright and sold it to Jacob. Esau farther disqualified himself by marrying pagan women. Did Isaac really think he could fool God and give the blessing to worldly, unbelieving Esau?
We watch the story unfold. Jacob and Rebekah deceived Isaac into giving Jacob the blessing. This blessing set Jacob over his relatives. The blessing gave Jacob prosperity and invoked curses for those who dared curse Jacob. Isaac blessed Jacob with natural and material wealth and political authority. Jacob was given not only God's blessing but also His protection. Esau arrived shortly after Jacob left his father, but it was too late. There was nothing left for Esau. We see two different reactions to Jacob's deception. Isaac trembled violently, agitated because God had overruled his own plan to bless Esau. Esau wept bitterly. The man who despised his birthright and married pagan women now wept and cried out for his father's blessing. It was Jacob's fault after all.
When Isaac did bless Esau, we see Esau is removed from the blessings of land and sky that had been given to Jacob. Instead of ruling, Esau would live by the sword. Esau’s descendants, the Edomites, would live towards the southern end of the Dead Sea. They would forever be enemies of Jacob’s descendants and during King David's reign, the Edomites were subject to the Israelites. Esau was under the authority of Jacob. Esau carried a grudge. He would kill Jacob when he had the chance, not realizing that he would still be denied the birthright and the blessing. Eventually Isaac called Jacob to give him a blessing. And he sent Jacob off to Haran, to Rebeka's family to find a wife of the same faith. Esau, seeing how much his parents despised the Canaanite women, took another pagan woman as a wife.
As with both Abraham and Isaac, we see Jacob prosper even though he is not totally honest. But we also see the beginnings of Jacob's faith in the Lord. As he fled from an angry Esau, he stopped for the night. The journey from his home Beersheba to Haran is nearly 500 miles. He went as far as he could the first day to put distance between himself and an angry Esau. That first night Jacob had an encounter with the Lord. What could have been frightening was instead awe inspiring. It brought Jacob to worship the Lord. And once again, God reminded Jacob of the covenant promise He had made with both his father and grandfather. Again, we hear the promise of descendants and land, the very land Jacob was camping on.
So often we need to be reminded of the goodness and promises of God. And many times, we need to be told of the mighty things God has done for us. Because we forget. Because the noise of the world tries to drown out the voice of the Lord. Because God does not want us to be left up to our own devices. So, every Sunday we hear the blessing Aaron gave the Israelites; the Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord makes His face shine on you and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace. A reminder that God goes with us...always. Every Sunday we come to the Lord's Table. We hear the words, my body broken for you, my blood shed for you. Eat to remember me. Jesus paid the ultimate price for our salvation. We cannot forget.
Now we see Jacob the home boy, out in the world with just his wits and his father's blessing. Now he was a pilgrim just like Abraham. Now he would walk by faith. Even after he arrived at Laban’s house, Jacob needed to walk by faith. And we see Jacob, the great deceiver being deceived. We also see the beginnings of God fulfilling the promise He made to Abraham and Isaac. Not only did Jacob find two wives, but he also had two concubines. Together they had twelve sons and one daughter who were named. These twelve sons would become the twelve tribes of Israel and the beginnings of descendants as numerous as stars in the sky.
God had kept His promise. But He always does. He wants us to remember that too.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W