Glory Out of Failure Meditations: 6. Jacob – a twister turned true
Gen 25:26 After this, his brother came out, with his hand grasping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob.
Gen 32:26 Then the man said, ‘Let me go, for it is daybreak.’ But Jacob replied, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’
Gen 35:10 God said to him, ‘Your name is Jacob, but you will no longer be called Jacob; your name will be Israel.’ So he named him Israel.
Where we are: If you look for an example in the Bible of someone who started out as a self-centred disaster but ended up as a glorious man of God, you can’t do better than look at Jacob. That summarises what we are seeking to achieve in this series. We observed a number of lessons that come through Abraham but in many ways he always seems to me to have just been ‘a nice guy’. That cannot be said of Jacob.
Expressions of ‘Self’:
Example 1: Twins tend to be born one at a time but in this case it is almost as if Jacob is saying to Esau, ‘I’m not letting you be the first born, I’m coming with you!” Of course it may be pure chance (!!!) that he happened to be clinging onto Esau’s heel but Isaac and Rebekah were both prophetic people and somehow this seemed significant so they named him Jacob, which your footnote will tell you means “he grasps the heel”. A bit unkind that, it seems, to rub it in – he’s a grabber!
Example 2: But then he is, for when they are growing up, (Gen 25:27-34) Esau the hunter comes in tired and Jacob uses that to get him to handover the birthright. Now to us that may appear insignificant but in those days the older son became the inheritor of the father’s estate but now Esau gives that right up. “So Esau despised his birthright.” (v.34) Jacob the grabber took the opportunity of his brother’s indifference to the family calling, to grab it.
Example 3: It is reinforced later when he gets Isaac to bless him (Gen 27), another highly significant prophetic ritual of those days. This time, with Rebekah’s egging on, he grabs the family name. Now we’ve commented before that these negative things always have negative consequences and in this case it is that Esau is so angry that Jacob has to flee and go to Haran to live with his uncle.
Example 4: On the way he has a dream and the Lord gives the blessing of Abraham – over him! It is an amazing thing but when he wakes up he says “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the Lord will be my God.” (Gen 28:20,21). It is totally self-centred. OK God, if you want to be my God then look after me and prosper me. He foolishly hasn’t taken in God’s promise which is to bless him and that means every aspect of his life.
Example 5: His dealings with Laban, his uncle, are too long and convoluted to detail here (read Gen 29-31) but they are as bad as each other, but Jacob is out to grab what he can and thus becomes very rich and prosperous but ends up having to flee back home. Again note the negative consequences.
Confronted by God: There comes a time in life when the Lord – who sees our potential – knows it needs a confrontation with him. That happens in the middle of the night on the way home (see Gen 32:22-30) God asks him, “What is your name?” (v.27) He wants to hear him acknowledge it – “I’m the twister, the grabber,” and when He hears it He changes it to Israel, which means “he struggles with God.” He wrestled with God and would not give up so God gives him one of the most famous names in history, a slightly enigmatic or puzzling name. Was it a good thing that he prevailed with God or is it a reminder that the twister, the grabber, even struggled with God declaring, “I will not let you go unless you bless me” ? (v.26) Pretty gutsy! It seems a two-sided name that reminds us of both our background and our future possibilities with God.
The Man of God: The end of the story of Jacob is remarkable – he blesses Pharaoh (Gen 47:8-10). He is of such a stature that he dares bless the ruler of the mighty nation of Egypt. But then we see him prophetically blessing Joseph’s two sons – not in the order Joseph expected; it is an example of prophetic sensitivity. (Gen 48). But then he goes on, before he dies, and prophetically blesses all his sons (Gen 49). He is now a spiritual giver. The grabber has become a giver with amazing sensitivity. Incredible!
And Us? Remember Jesus, the ‘friend of sinners’ (Lk 7:34), remember how he accepted Zacchaeus, that crooked chief tax collector (Lk 19). Our saviour loves sinners, and that is good news because go into any church and it is full of sinners – oh yes, redeemed but still with the propensity to trip over our feet and get it wrong. We still have the Jacob-propensity to look out for number one, to think in every situation how it will affect ‘me’. We still have the propensity to scheme, to think how we can work things for our best. We may not be as blatant as Jacob, but we still do it. And then every now and then we have a wrestling match with God and He says, “Give in, stop rejecting me, stop striving to achieve and realize that my desires are to bless you more than you want to be blessed!” Oh yes, be honest, we’re very much like Jacob so often. Our insecurities mean we struggle to be first out, get the family blessing, achieve in business (or even in church) while all the time God IS wanting to bless us but is hindered by our struggles. Be at peace in who you are and rejoice in His intents for you. Be blessed and become a blesser, a giver of goodness.