Posts Tagged ‘abraham’

Esau sold out long before Jacob suckered him out of his birthright. Do we really think it was an isolated momentary decision? I don’t think it was.

Once when Jacob was cooking stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was exhausted. And Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stew, for I am exhausted!” (Therefore his name was called Edom.) Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright now.” Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” Jacob said, “Swear to me now.” So he swore to him and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright. (Genesis 25:29-34 ESV)

Taking foreign wives

When Esau was forty years old, he took Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite to be his wife, and Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite, and they made life bitter for Isaac and Rebekah. (Genesis 26:34-35 ESV)

Esau knew how his parents came to be married. He knew that Grandpa’s (Abraham) trusted friend and servant had traveled a few hundred miles to find a wife for Dad (Isaac). He rejects this legacy in taking a foreign wife.

Rejecting his birthright meant rejecting his father

Esau despised his birthright before the stew and before he took the foreign wives. These instances likely just demonstrate where his heart was. Selling out is a slide not a mere doorway. I think Esau wanted to be his own man. He didn’t need his father. He wasn’t riding anyone’s coattails. He was ultimately rejecting his father. He was despising his father’s dreams for him, his dad’s love, and ultimately his father’s God.

See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears. (Hebrews 12:15-17 ESV)

Esau did make peace with Jacob and seem to throw off the anger but he never regained what he threw away. He tries to take “less foreign” wives but at that point is merely trying to appease and get it all back by religious works. Thank God we live in light of Christ, who redeems us and intercedes for us as a perfect brother, but let us not forget the lesson of Esau: Embrace your Father, trust Him, let Him lead you and bless you. Ultimately, you will find your true self in Him not on your own.

For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. (Romans 6:20-21 ESV)

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A Pharisee would read about Jacob’s life and go, “Woah, that guy was wreck! Thank God I’m doing better than he did!” I definitely have walked away from reading about Jacob thinking that I wasn’t all that bad. But truthfully I am. For more about Jacob’s life and a little on why I even hope to be like him, see part 1.

Jacob’s deceive or be deceived lifestyle was isolating. Laban deceives him. His own sons deceive him. He tries to manipulate Esau when they meet again. Joseph even tries to get Jacob and the rest of his sons to lie to Pharaoh (end of Gen. 46). It never seems to end. He was not close with his dad, Isaac, Esau, his brother, or Laban, his uncle. His son, Joseph, was exiled to Egypt for most of his life largely because of Jacob’s outright favoritism. He was isolated by his struggle with being a deceiver and manipulator. God continually presses him, taking away his best friend in Rachel and his closest son in Joseph. Jacob was a lonely man. When I saw that, I really empathized with him. You could hammer him by saying that it’s his own fault but put yourself in his life with his flesh patterns. Would you do differently?

However, something happens during Jacob’s loneliest moments. God seems to show up. When he first leaves home and is on the way to Laban’s house, God speaks to him in a dream and promises to bless him. Next, when on the run from Laban, God works unbeknownst to Jacob speaking to Laban, essentially protecting Jacob. The night before he is to reunite with the brother he stole everything from; he’s all alone, separated from his family in total fear of what Esau will do. God meets Jacob in the form of a man. Jacob wrestles with God and is shown he has strength. When Simeon and Levi avenge Dinah’s rape, wiping out a whole village of men, Jacob is whining and fearful of retribution. God meets him almost immediately with gentle and kind words promising to protect them. In the midst of Canaanites, God again meets him, giving him a new name, the name of Israel. When Jacob is just about numb, without hope from the loss of Rachel, Joseph, and seemingly Benjamin, God restores his hope, gives him back Joseph, and meets him again in a dream. God steps in and meets Jacob every time he needs it. Does Jacob deserve this? Nope. Do we deserve for God to meet us in this way? Nope. Can we hope in God to meet us where we’re at as He met Jacob? Yes! Through Jesus!

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.” (Romans 8:31-33 ESV)

Jacob is a sinner, but God is completely for him. Jacob‘s life encourages me greatly. God blesses and uses Jacob out of no merit of Jacob’s. Jacob even grows to have a good relationship with God. How? This puzzles us because we think Jacob is a lying, passive, wussy, punting, male. Why should he be tight with God and receive His blessing, father the nation of Israel, have dreams God meet him in, wrestle with God face to face, or get his sheep multiplied like crazy? He is not very righteous… Wait.  Then it becomes clear. God blessed Jacob, in spite of him! He does that with me as well!

I think I identify more with Jacob than with any other Jewish patriarch. Abraham left his home at a command and was willing to sacrifice his only son, Isaac. We never really get to know Isaac that well, and Joseph fended off a very beautiful woman who was being very purposeful and strategic in trying to sleep with him. Jacob did not have a good relationship with his parents; it was run by sibling rivalry. He was taught to manipulate, so that is what he did. He was isolated and lonely and became the epitome of passivity. He took after his dad in the worst ways, he played favorites, was passive, and distant. In some ways, he’s not that different than me. But God uses him! In fact, God uses him almost more so than any of his seemingly more “perfect” fathers or sons. There is hope for me! There is hope! Even though my life can look much like Jacob’s, yet I can walk near with God and converse with Him as I am. Yes I need to grow (Jacob does seem to try) and yes I need to repent. I will be a sinner the rest of my life and yet I am free to know God in the closest way. That is pretty good news from Jacob’s life.

Another thing I love about God that we see from Jacob’s life is that God will be the decisive one to tell me who I am. Not my parents, not this world, not my friends, not Laban or Isaac or Esau or my wives! God alone tells me who I am. Pretty ironic that it is Jacob with whom God wrestles and gives a new name. Jacob, the “deceiver” is given a new name, a better name, by God. How can you not love that?

Abraham’s faith and willingness to nearly sacrifice his only son, David’s heart, Noah’s obedience, Joseph’s perseverance and forgiveness, make them like spiritual giants to me; much like men like Hudson Taylor, Jonathan Edwards, or John Calvin. The Pharisee I’m recovering from only sees Jacob as a man who just keeps messing up. A man that never could live up to those men who went before him. A man who never really got his life together and never really changes. As a Pharisee, I missed the profound change, a change Jacob may have never really seen: Jacob was a normal guy, impacted by his family and his circumstances, who struggles to rise above his sin. But Jacob walks with God and grows to see God as his God not just the God of his fathers. God loves Jacob deeply and speaks to Jacob. Just like me. Wow.

The Rest of the Series:

Learning to Stop Reading the Bible like a Pharisee

Learning to Stop Reading the Bible like a Pharisee: Jacob – Part 1

Learning to Stop Reading the Bible like a Pharisee: Saul

Learning to Stop Reading the Bible like a Pharisee: Ahab

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Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are the forefathers of the nation of Israel. Whenever God is mentioned after the lives of these men, He is called the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, infamous for his faith to yield his very own son to God, (Genesis 12-25) is mentioned 231 times in the Bible. Isaac, Abraham’s promised son, (Genesis 21-27) is mentioned 124 times. Jacob, father of Israel’s 12 tribes, (Genesis 25-49) is mentioned 352 times in the Bible. This is almost the same amount of Abraham and Isaac combined. Roughly half the book of Genesis covers Jacob’s life!

Jacob’s parents were Isaac and Rebekah, and he had a twin brother named Esau. During their birth, Esau was born first, but Jacob was grabbing Esau’s heel. This younger twin’s name, Jacob, is literally translated as “heel,” however; to grab someone by the heel was a figure of speech meaning “to deceive.”

Esau, a hunter and hairy man’s man, is favored by Issac while Rebekah favors Jacob, the more clean-cut kid who helps mom in the house, is a good cook, and not the outdoorsy type. As a result, Jacob does not have much of a relationship with Isaac. Esau is prideful and Jacob lives up to his name by cooking up some stew and stealing Esau’s birthright (Gen. 25:29-34). Later Jacob’s mom puts him up to deceiving his dad and stealing Esau’s blessing (Gen. 27).

Up to this point, Jacob was named “deceiver,” was second best in his father’s eyes, stole his brother’s birthright, and stole his brother’s blessing. This is all before he left the house. His brother, Esau, hates him and he barely knows his dad. In Genesis 28, he leaves home and encounters God in a dream on his way to his Uncle Laban’s. This is what God says to him:

“I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth 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 promised you.” (Genesis 28:13-15 ESV)

Has Jacob pursued God up to this point? Hardly. Yet God is intervening in Jacob’s life, pursuing him, speaking to him, encouraging him, and reiterating His promise to Jacob’s grandfather, Abraham, a promise which now belongs to Jacob. Jacob still has a religious mindset vowing if the Lord blesses him and allows him to return to his father’s house then the Lord will be his God (as in He’s not my God yet). As he waits for this “if”, Jacob meets Rachel and works for Laban. His own flesh patterns and idols are used against him. Laban deceives him and first gives him Leah as his wife and dupes him into working for 14 years for Rachel, the woman he really loves. This was an enormous price for a bride at the time (Tim Keller, Counterfeit Gods, p27). But sex with Rachel is such an idol for Jacob that he walks right into it:

“’Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife. My time is completed, and I want to lie with her (Verse 21)”’ [Robert] Alter [the great Hebrew literature scholar at Berkeley] says that the Hebrew phrase is unusually bald, graphic, and sexual for ordinarily reticent discourse. Imagine saying to a father even today, ‘I can’t wait to have sex with your daughter. Give her to me now!’ The narrator is showing us a man overwhelmed with emotional and sexual longing for one woman.” – Keller, Counterfeit Gods, p27

Can you blame him? He likely never felt loved by his father, probably missed his mom deeply, and didn’t know God very well at all at this point. He saw Rachel and thought that being with her would satisfy his deepest longings.

As he works for Laban, God blesses him. Jacob recognizes God’s blessing but gets self-righteous and even scolds Laban as if he has the moral high ground. He acts as if God is blessing him because of his own merit.

As he enjoys God’s blessings, his struggles with pride, deception, lust, and self-righteousness go away right? Just like us, right? Of course not. He then battles with his sin being passed onto his children. His Isaac-like favoritism of Joseph, the first born son of Rachel, alienates him from the rest of his 11 sons, and leading to Joseph to be hated by his brothers and sold into slavery by them. His first born son, Reuben, emulates Jacob’s idolatry of sex and sleeps with his half-brothers’ mother (Bilhah). His daughter, Dinah, gets taken advantage of and raped. To avenge Dinah’s defilement, Simeon and Levi, emulate Jacob’s deceptive nature, and kill all the men of the village of Dinah’s perpetrator. That’s all while Jacob passively does nothing with regard to Dinah, which probably enraged Simeon and Levi all the more. Judah, like Reuben, sleeps with his daughter-in-law who was disguised as a prostitute (deception and sex all in one!). Jacob, and his family, is a disaster, definitely not an example to follow!

But I actually find tremendous encouragement from Jacob’s life and sin, from the man later renamed Israel:

“And he [Jacob] blessed Joseph and said,
‘The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked,
the God who has been my shepherd all my life long to this day,’”
(Genesis 48:15 ESV)

“by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob
(from there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel),
by the God of your father who will help you,
by the Almighty who will bless you
with blessings of heaven above,
blessings of the deep that crouches beneath,
blessings of the breasts and of the womb.”
(Genesis 49:24-25 ESV)

Up to Genesis 48, Jacob has always called God, “the God of Abraham” or “the God of my father” or the God of Isaac” but never “my God” or “my shepherd.” That’s significant. Is Jacob a sinner? Yes. But did he know God and walk with Him? Yes. Did God love him as he is and pursue him all his life? Yes! Much like Christians said to Johnny Cash and now to Bono, I think we would have told Jacob: “Don’t call God ‘my shepherd’ or ‘my God!’ Jacob, you have sin, you’re a sinner!” Today we would put it: “Don’t claim to be a Christian! You have sin! You stumble!” Thank God for Jacob. Thank God Jacob really knew God and God loved Him as he was. There were consequences for Jacob’s sin, but God never deserted him. If I were put in Jacob’s shoes, lived to be 150, and had 25 chapters of the Bible written about me, it would be just as ugly, folks. But hopefully, by the grace of God, as I am dying I would, like Jacob, call God, “My God,” and “the Mighty One of Anthony,” “the Stone of Anthony.”

The Rest of the Series:

Learning to Stop Reading the Bible like a Pharisee

Learning to Stop Reading the Bible like a Pharisee: Jacob – Part 2

Learning to Stop Reading the Bible like a Pharisee: Saul

Learning to Stop Reading the Bible like a Pharisee: Ahab

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