Summary: Lessons from the life of Jacob & Joseph

“So You Think You’ve Got It Bad!”

Lessons from Jacob & Joseph - Gen 25+

Intro: Do you know anyone who always has trouble? It seems to me there are three type of people in the world. First, there are those who lead relatively uneventful lives: it seems that nothing eventful ever really happens to them. The bulk of people we know are like that. Second, there are those who seem to always have everything go right for them. Growing up, the boy across the street, Gary Kaytor, was like that. Gary could fall into a pile of trash and come out with a $20 bill. Gary always seemed to be lucky. Third, there are those who always seem to go from one catastrophe to another. I’ve known several people like that. Just as the get out of one situation, something worse comes along.

How do you deal with the stresses and pressures of life? What do you do with the obstacles you face in life? At work, at home, physically, spiritually, habits you try to break, people you try to get along with-- how do you face up to your obstacles?

There are three basic ways of dealing with obstacles. The first way is the way of setback: it is to ignore them. Let yourself be sidetracked and held back by the obstacles you face. There are some people who will never speak out, even when they are in the right. The face setback after setback.

But there are two ways to overcoming obstacles: and as we look at them, we see them exemplified by the two key Bible characters of our reading this week, Jacob and Joseph: the two ways are self-reliance and reliance on God. Let’s look first at the life of Jacob.

I. Jacob is an example of overcoming obstacles through self-reliance. He sought to work through every obstacle on his on strength and cunning. He tries to overcome by human efforts. Self-reliance brings despair and frustration. God may offer his blessing, but he does it in spite of us, not because of us. Let’s look at how Jacob tackled his obstacles.

A. Getting the Birthright - In every Jewish household, the firstborn was given a special share of the inheritance. There was an extra 10% given to the oldest son when the division of the estate happened. In Isaac’s family, the birthright belonged to Esau. Let’s look at Genesis 25:19-28.

This is the account of Abraham’s son Isaac. Abraham became the father of Isaac, and Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah daughter of Bethuel the Aramean from Paddan Aram and sister of Laban the Aramean. Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was barren. The LORD answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant. The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, "Why is this happening to me?" So she went to enquire of the LORD. The LORD said to her, "Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger." When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb. The first to come out was red, and his whole body was like a hairy garment; so they named him Esau. After this, his brother came out, with his hand grasping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when Rebekah gave birth to them. The boys grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was a quiet man, staying among the tents. Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob.

Jacob, supplanter or deceiver, one who grabs at his brother’s heel, one who seeks to take his brother’s place, - was a schemer. Let’s read on in verse 29.

Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. He said to Jacob, "Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!" (That is why he was also called Edom.) Jacob replied, "First sell me your birthright." "Look, I am about to die," Esau said. "What good is the birthright to me?" But Jacob said, "Swear to me first." So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left. So Esau despised his birthright.

Jacob is prophesied by God to have his brother serve him, but he seeks to obtain blessings for himself by his own scheming. Two weeks ago when we were having the viewing for Max Rhea, one of Max’s grandsons went off the road into the snow on the way there. He had someone tow him out: they charged him $150. Taking advantage of the situation. No wonder Esau despised his brother. Jacob schemes to get the extra inheritance for himself at the expense of his brother. That’s typical of life in America: we are willing to step on anyone we need to in order to make ourselves look better.

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