We have been navigating our way through the life of Jacob over the past few weeks. Before his birth, his mother was informed by God who Jacob would be. “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger.” Jacob would receive from the hand of God blessing. This was a promise made by God. Like his father before him, Jacob would receive the promises and the blessings not because of who he was or because of his own works. These divine privileges would come to him because of God’s own will and plan. Grace is the unmerited favor of God. Jacob’s father was told flat out that he received because of the faith of Abraham. Jacob would be the recipient of God’s invading grace. Before Jacob was born we are told that he would receive more than what he deserved. As the second-born, he would not be entitled to the birthright or the blessings. As the second, his rightful place was to be subservient to his older brother. That is the natural order. That is the cultural expectation. The double portion should go to Esau. But God often does not conform to our expectations and will often challenge those expectations head-on. Jacob has lived up to his name. He took advantage of his brother’s weakness and convinced him to trade his birthright for a bowl of stew. He was willing to let his mother take a curse for him. He masqueraded as Esau to try and trick his father. He told bald-faced lies to his father. When asked directly if he was Esau he said, “I am.” His treachery would drive his brother to thoughts of murder. And now he is fleeing his home and leaving behind all that he had gained from his lies. What thoughts go through the mind of Jacob as he travels across the land of Canaan? Is he afraid? Is he angry? Does he doubt the promises of God are true? Is he thinking of God at all? The story before us is the beginning of Jacob’s journey in faith and it is quite the beginning. In the 10-12, we find the setting. Where is Jacob and what does he see? In the next section of the story, we hear God speak a message to Jacob that he needs to hear. And finally, we will see Jacob’s response to this momentous occasion.
This week we begin a new series on the life of Jacob. Just like with Abraham, Isaac is still alive and plays a role, but the focus begins to shift to the next generation. We saw back in Genesis chapter 25 a preview of what we are about to encounter in the ensuing stories. We saw Esau, the firstborn, a wild man that had no interest in his birthright. As the firstborn, he stood to be the inheritor of all that Abraham and Isaac had accumulated over the years. Esau willingly trades his birthright for a lentil stew. We were also introduced to Jacob, the deceiver. Jacob, the younger brother, had the desire to take Esau’s place. When Esau had a felt need Jacob was quick to take advantage of the situation. This aspect of Jacob’s personality, the desire to get ahead at the expense of others, will show up again in later stories. The story we have before us today is probably one of the more well-known events in the life of Jacob and it is a disappointing one. Everyone in this story is a failure. The sins of Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, and Esau are all on display here. The great patriarchs of our faith are shown to us, just as they are, just as we are, sinners. We also have before us a demonstration of the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man. I remember as a young Bible college student trying to grapple with these concepts. How can and how does God use the sinful and rebellious acts of people to accomplish His will and eternal decrees? How can people committing acts against the will of God be at the same time the will of God? Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will? In some ways, I still grapple with these ideas because my mind is finite, bound by our reality and time. These things spring out of the infinite and eternal mind of God. And though I still ponder these thoughts, I have learned to be content with the answer that Scripture gives us, “Who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?”