Summary: Jacob obtains a blessing by trickery, but is still included in God’s chosen people.
Genesis 27:1-4, 15-23, 28:10-17 “Scoundrels Included”
Today’s society has an interest in the “anti-hero hero.” Usually our heroes have been upstanding people. For example, we have Clark Kent the mild manner reporter, or James T. Kirk the anti-authoritarian, but fiercely loyal captain of the Starship Enterprise. In their place we now have the slightly psychotic Bruce Wayne as Batman, Peter Parker the troubled and struggling youth who is Spiderman, and the eccentric genius but personal jerk Tony Stark who becomes Ironman.
These marred individuals would fit right in to our story today. Though Jacob is one of the patriarchs, or founding fathers, of the Jewish nation, we see his true, not-so-nice nature in the text for today.
THE LIER AND TRICKSTER
Our text today consists of two scenes. The first scene is Jacob’s trick on his father, and the second is his encounter with God. This is not the first time we have seen Jacob, however. We have his birth story, which relates that he was the second born twin, who came out of his mother’s womb hanging on to his brother’s heel. We also read where Jacob took advantage of his older brother and stole his brother Esau’s birthright, or position as primary heir in the family.
Jacob’s (whose name means “liar”) trickery continues in our text. Isaac is old and near death. Before he dies he wants to bless his elder son, Esau. He asks Esau, who is a great hunter, to prepare his favorite dish. When Esau leaves, Rebekah, Isaac’s wife, and Jacob plot a scheme, to steal Esau’s blessing. Jacob is a fair skinned mama’s boy. His mother dresses him up in goat skins to make him hair like his brother. She then cooks a meal for Jacob to take to his father. Jacob does so, and receives Isaac’s blessing, or commendation to God.
We have seen that most of the Biblical heroes have an Achilles heel—a weak point or moral lapse. Moses murdered and Egyptian overseer who was beating a Hebrew slave. David seduced Bathsheba and killer her husband, Uriah. Peter denied Jesus and Paul persecuted Christians. Jacob is different, though, from the others. His character is that of a cheat and liar. Jacob is the type of person from whom your parents and investigative reporters on the evening news told you avoid. Robbing the elderly of their life savings, or scamming the flood and wildfire victims would be right up his alley.
The shocking thing of Jacob’s story is that God chooses him to be the recipient of God’s blessing and to be a patriarch of the Jewish people. God decides to extend his love and his grace to Jacob—and not his judgment and wrath.
After being robbed of his blessing, Esau vows to kill Jacob. Jacob runs for his life.
Jacob finds himself in a deserted, desert place. He’s between his home and his destination—the Uncle Laban’s home. All of Jacob’s lying and trickery has really got him nothing. He’s not rich, powerful, or happy. Instead he’s scared, destitute, and depressed.
It is at this point that God meets Jacob. Jacob pulls up a stone for a pillow and falls into a deep sleep. He dreams that there is a ladder—a path to heaven—with angels ascending and descending. God makes a covenant with Jacob—the same covenant that God made with Abraham and Isaac. God promises to give him land, and make Jacob a great nation. Jacob awakes and realizing that he is in a holy place he makes an altar.
The focus of the story suddenly shifts. Jacob is no longer the center of attention. God has now taken center stage, and the reader is shocked. God loves Jacob, and pours his grace and his blessings down upon Jacob. God assures Jacob that others will be blessed through him. Amazing!
We sometimes think that the Old Testament is fundamentally different than the New Testament. In the Old Testament God is assumed to be a God of judgment and wrath. God is always punishing his people for their sin. Yet, in the story of Jesus we see an overwhelming example of God’s love and grace.
Jacob’s story is a story of new life and hope.
A LITTLE JACOB IN US ALL
Jacob’s story is an important one for us to read and to take to heart, because there is a little Jacob in all of us.
There are times when we cannot forgive ourselves. The sin that we have committed or see in ourselves is too great. We can’t release it, and we don’t believe that God can either. But, then we remember Jacob, and realize that God is a God of forgiveness, love and grace. God forgives, draws us to him, and gives us new life.
There are times when we look at ourselves and tell ourselves that God really can’t use us. We have no talents or abilities. We are too human—too much sinner and not enough saint. We use this for an excuse for not being a faithful, obedient disciple of Jesus Christ. We don’t get too serious about of faith, and we miss out on the abundant, free, grace filled life that is ours because of Jesus’ life death and resurrection. Then we remember Jacob and decide that if God can use Jacob to be a blessing, God can use us, too.