Friday, July 31, 2015

All Things New: Jacob, the 'Run-for-your-life' Road, Part 1

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

Jacob has been painted all kinds of ugly by various folks down through the years...a schemer, a deceiver,  a liar...and, while he may have been all those things at some point, I think he was also someone who placed great value on the inheritance God decreed for the family of Abraham.  He understood it in a different way than his brother.

As the Bible clearly tells us he was his mother's favored son, I don't think there's any chance that Jacob would have grown to adulthood without hearing the story of her prophecy...that  he would be the one who would inherit.  He'd grown up with an eye to the day that he would be in the place of heir, and he had taken pains to learn to manage his inheritance.  But he had no idea how  El Shaddai would bring that reversal to pass.

Rebekah may have also shared that prophecy with Isaac...but I don't think Esau  knew.  He was entirely too willing to give his birthright over to have been worried that Jacob was manipulating him to fulfill a prophecy.  But once his appetite was satisfied, he regretted what he'd done.  He even went so far as to alter his memory of the event from his willingness to part with it in exchange for a meal to 'He took away my birthright!' Whatever relationship the brothers had before that fateful bowl of lentils was consumed, it had to have been strained and suspicious thereafter.

What Esau gave away that day was his place as firstborn...and all the rights pertaining to that.  It included the lion's share of the inheritance, sure, but part of the right of the firstborn was the patriarchal blessing.  Esau separated the two, but the truth is that, being granted the first, Jacob had the right to the second.

And maybe Esau knew that, deep down.  The passing of the blessing was a ceremony of sorts, a big deal.  This 'big deal,' however,  was the object of a scheme to pass it along on the down low, in private, apart from the knowledge of the rest of the household.  It was pure chance...or was it?...that Rebekah overheard Isaac's instructions to Esau and hurried to Jacob, forming her own scheme to counteract her husband's.

Jacob rather reluctantly followed his mother's instruction, even to the point of putting on his brother's smelly clothes. Isaac knew his voice, but, convinced by the costume and the smell, he gave the blessing to Jacob.  Who therefore, by subterfuge, obtained that which he had been promised.

Now the relationship with his brother had passed beyond strained; Esau told himself  he would kill Jacob after his father had gone to his reward.  Of course, he couldn't know at that point that Isaac still had years and years of life left...and Rebekah could not know that Isaac would outlive her.  But someone reported Esau's words to her and, once again, she came up with a plan to thwart her elder son.  Genesis 26:35 states that Esau's Hittite wives 'made life bitter  for Isaac and Rebekah', so her request that Isaac send Jacob back to get a bride from her brother's household was reasonable.  Rebekah simply told Jacob to stay with his uncle until it was safe to return; she would send for him once Esau had gotten over his anger.

She'd hardly finished speaking when Isaac called for Jacob and instructed him to go to Paddan-aram and marry one of Laban's daughters.

Now, Jacob had the blessing and directive of his father to go on the journey, but he apparently took no time to make any preparations.  With all of the family's resources at his disposal, he left with little more than the clothes he wore.  Which can only be on account of his concern that Esau would hear he was leaving and kill him before he could get down the road.  He literally ran for his life, trying to put as much space between him and his brother as he could as fast as he could do it.

The Biblical narrative does not give much time frame for this; it could have all happened in the same day, or it could've been spread out over a few days.  Either way, though, Jacob's life had changed in short order...from being the son of the patriarch and living with the relative comfort of his family's prosperity to being a man on the run with a death threat hanging over his head.   There's no mention of a camel or other beast...he could easily have been on foot. He traveled until it was dark and he could no longer put one foot in front of the other...and he put his head on a rock and went to sleep.

The dream he had was more vivid than any he had ever had.  Angels going up and down a ladder that reached over his head...and at the top stood One he could never describe.  The words burned into his consciousness so that he remembered them in detail even after he was awake and alert...I am 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.   (Gen. 28:13a-15, ESV)

Jacob knew his family history; he knew that was the promise that had been given to his grandfather Abraham and to his father Isaac...and now, the birthright was manifesting: God's presence was promised to him.

This was no longer his mother's it was his.   God Himself had spoken to Jacob.   He had a revelation that would carry him through all the days of his life...surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.  

In the morning, he took the stone on which he'd put his head and placed it just so on a distinct spot he could specifically remember as a memorial, and he poured some of the little bit of oil he had on it and made a promise of his own.   

If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear so that I come again to my  father's house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God, and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God's house.  And of all that you give me I will give a full tenth to you.   (Genesis 28:20-22)

Jacob had, overnight, gone from a man running from his brother's murderous threats to a man moving into a promise.  His life had changed forever; he would never see his mother again.  But he left that place knowing that God was with him and would bring him back.

In what circumstances of my life have I recognized the presence of God only AFTER the fact?  How has God demonstrated that He is with me, and that He is the One who is working 'all things together for good'?

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