Learning from God's Word: Genesis 27-32
The deception of Isaac by Jacob (prompted by Rebekah) is a sad episode, yet God - in grace - really bestows His blessing on Jacob. Beneath Jacob’s deceit, there was a real desire to be blessed by God. To Esau (the late arrival), Isaac says, ‘I have blessed him - yes, and he shall be blessed. I blessed him, and blessed he will remain’ (33). Once the blessing had been given, it could not be recalled. The blessing could not be undone. Power bestowed by God could not be removed. This had nothing to do with ‘Jacob’s righteousness’. It had everything to do with God’s faithfulness. The good work begun by God, will be completed by Him (Philippians 1:6). This was true for Jacob (28:15). It is true for us - ‘All the promises of God find their Yes in Christ’. To this, we say ‘Amen’ and ‘To God be the Glory’ (2 Corinthians 1:20)!
What a tangled web! Jacob has cheated Esau. Now, Esau is saying, ‘I will kill my brother Jacob’ (41). What are we to make of all this? We must look beyond the human scene. Behind it all, there is ‘God Almighty’ (3). God will fulfil His promises. Nothing will distract Him from His ultimate purpose of salvation. We look at the complex series of events involving Rebekah, Isaac, Jacob and Esau. God looks beyond all of that to Jesus Christ. He looks beyond the nation of Israel. His purpose concerns ‘the ends of the earth’ (Acts 1:8). ‘The blessing of Abraham’ refers not only to the ‘land’ (4). There is also ‘the promise of the Spirit’ (Galatians 3:14). We are to live ‘by the power of the Spirit’, and not ‘according to the flesh’ as Esau did when ‘he went to Ishmael (the child of Abraham's unbelief...)’ (9; Galatians 4:29).
Just another night (11)? No! - this was a night to remember, a night Jacob would never forget. God came to him with His wonderful promise of love: ‘I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you’ (15). At Bethel (‘the house of God’), powerfully transformed by the presence of God - ‘Surely the Lord is in this place’ (16) - , Jacob consecrated himself to the Lord. ‘If’ (20) means ‘Since’. See Romans 8:31 - ‘If (Since) God is for us, who can be against us?’. Giving the tenth (22) - this is not legalism, a kind of repayment scheme. There can be no ‘salvation by works’. We are saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8-9). Our giving must always be a heartfelt expression of thanksgiving to the God of grace: ‘Loving Him who first loved me’. We are saved ‘to do good works’ (Ephesians 2:10) - not because we do good works!
The tables are turned on Jacob. The trickster is tricked! The ‘trick’ was according to the ‘custom’ that the elder daughter should be given in marriage before the younger one (23,25-26). Seven years became fourteen years (18-20,27,30). Jacob did receive his heart’s desire, but there was a lesson to be learned: Going God’s way is better than getting your own way. ‘All things work together for good to those who love God’ (Romans 8:28) - this doesn’t mean that we always get what we want. We must learn to ‘let go and let God have His wonderful way’, and to say, ‘This God - His way is perfect’ (Psalm 18:30). Out of love for Rachel (18,20), Jacob served Laban for an extra seven years. We would serve Christ better if we loved Him more. Jesus still asks the question, ‘Do you love Me?’ (John 21:15-17).
Leah progressed beyond her own concerns (32-34) to the most important thing: ‘This time I will praise the Lord’ (35). Of the many children, the most significant, in terms of God’s purpose of redemption, was Joseph (22-24). An answer to prayer, it was the work of divine grace (22). ‘Rachel was barren’ (31) yet the Lord gave her this testimony: ‘God has taken away my disgrace’ (23). We move from one Joseph to another - the husband of Mary, the mother of Jesus. We see an even greater work of grace: the birth of our Saviour. Rachel was to have a second son, Benjamin (24). Through Christ, God has many sons and daughters (Galatians 4:4-5). Rachel rejoiced in the gift of a son, her son. We rejoice in the gift of the Son, God’s Son. Through the Spirit of God’s Son living in our hearts, we are God’s children and He is our Father (Galatians 4:6).
Jacob was still a complex character, trying to arrange his own prosperity (37-43). There is, however, another, better reason for his prosperity - God had promised to bless him, and God did bless him (28:15). Inner desire, favourable circumstances, the divine Word - all three were present in Jacob’s decision to leave Laban and ‘go to his father Isaac in the land of Canaan’ (18). (a) Inner desire - Jacob had been badly treated by Laban, and he did not want to work for him any longer (2); (b) Favourable circumstances - Jacob had grown ‘exceedingly prosperous’ (43). He didn’t need to keep on working for Laban; (c) The divine Word - Inner desire and circumstances were not enough to confirm God’s guidance to Jacob. He needed God’s command and promise (3). Let God ‘guide’ by His ‘light and truth’ (Psalm 48:14; 43:3).
As we try to unravel the complexities of Jacob’s dealings with Laban, we must remember this one thing: ‘If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the fear of Isaac (the God before whom Isaac bowed in reverence) had not been with me...’ (42). This is the spiritual dimension. We must not lose sight of this. Life can be complicated at times, but we must not forget this: God is with us. Jacob, who was renamed ‘Israel’ (32:28), confessed his faith: God is with me. Later on, the nation of Israel confessed its faith in God: ‘If it had not been the Lord who was on our side...’, it would have been disaster. ‘Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth’. The Lord is with us still. With the Psalmist, we say, ‘Blessed be the Lord’. He is the God of our salvation (Psalm 124).
Jacob and Laban were not exactly the best of friends. Nevertheless, they came to an agreement that they would not continue feuding with each other (52). Jacob prepares to meet Esau (1-21). From verses 9-12, we learn some important spiritual lessons - (a) Make sure that God is your God, and not only the God of your father and grandfather (9). (b) Confess your unworthiness of ‘all the steadfast love and all the faithfulness’ of God (10). (c) Pray to God for salvation - ‘Save me I pray...’ (11). (d) Stand on the promises of God - ‘You have said...’ (12). Jacob, soon to be renamed Israel (32:28), was preparing to meet Esau. There is, in his prayer, the way of being prepared for a more important meeting: ‘Prepare to meet your God, O Israel!’ (Amos 4:12). Confess your sin, pray for salvation, stand on God’s Word - make it personal!
At the place called Peniel, Jacob ‘saw God face to face’ (30). We see ‘the glory of God in the face of Christ’ (2 Corinthians 4:6). Jacob wrestled with God and became an overcomer (28). Christ wrestled with the powers of evil, and has won a mighty victory for us. When He cried out from the Cross, ‘It is finished’ (John 19:30), this was not an admission of defeat. It was the declaration of victory - the victory has been won, the victory is complete. ‘Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (1 Corinthians 15:57). For Jacob, crossing the Jabbok involved a spiritual ‘crossing over’. Jacob became Israel, a new man (28). After he had been ‘touched’ by God, Jacob was ‘limping’ (31-32). This was a reminder of his own weakness. His true strength was in the Lord. Wait on the Lord, and renew your strength (Isaiah 40:31).