SOS Jacob

I always had an angle.

My gift was cleverness and I used it to full advantage.  Even my name meant, “to grasp” and grasp I did.  From my brother’s heel at birth to our competitiveness as children, I was always reaching for more.  I was never content, always looking for a way to win.  Encounters were never what they appeared to be; I was lurking in a constant undercurrent of planning and scheming to further my own interests.

I never had a conversation without an agenda.  I never did anything unless it benefited me directly.  It was manipulative, but that was the way of the world.  I wasn’t strong like my brother; I had to find my own strength in unexpected ways.

With Esau, that was surprisingly easy, he was a man of passion and lived entirely for the moment at hand.  When I tricked his birthright from him with a bowl of soup, I played on his hunger and weakness for my own gain.  I took advantage of his simple nature and robbed him of things beyond his ability to apprehend.

It even worked with our father, the patriarch Isaac, as I deceived him in his blindness and old age into blessing me above my brother.  I wanted that blessing and I was willing to do anything to get it.

Lie.  Cheat.  Steal.  Scheme.  It was evil and I knew it.

In spite of everything, I had done well, God (and eventually even Isaac) seeing some potential in me that perhaps I didn’t see in myself.  And my lines of deception had come back to me to steal years of my life.  Laban had used my own trick to press Leah into my family.  He let me think I was entering into covenant with the one that I loved, but instead finding my pledge was made to deception.  I deserved that one.  It was poetic justice for my own choices and the second seven years of labor were bitter ones.

Now, my pride and plans and schemes had come to an end.  Esau was about to cross my path again and I was all out of ideas.  I tried to prepare the way with gifts and bribes to soften him toward me, but it was no use.  He was coming in force to meet me and I was terrified of what he would do to my family.  Esau wasn’t subtle.  The message of the men coming with him wasn’t lost on me.

I was broken and I was done.  I divided my family and support into groups hoping that my death would buy time for at least some of my children to get away.  It was time to pay the price for my actions and ultimately I would find myself at his mercy.  There was no other choice.  I cried out to God and I meant it.

That was the setting for the longest, strangest night of my life.  It was in the dead of night, hours before I was to meet my brother again.

A man who was not a man met me and we wrestled.  There was no time for talk.  There was no room for clever schemes or prepared deception.  We fought and I could find no advantage.  There was no insight; no measured words of diplomacy or charm and all my weapons were stripped away to nothing.  All my strategy became breath and sweat and desperation.  There was no agenda, there was only the moment and I threw myself headlong into pure struggle.

It was the most honest moment of my life.

Time stretched on and minutes turned into hours as the spiritual weight of the moment crushed my heart into dust.  The uncertainty of my fate at the strong and heavy hands of my brother had left me wearied to the point of exhaustion.  The man kept coming and nothing I did could fend him off.

At one point in our impasse, he touched my hip and I buckled.  I literally felt the internal working of my bone and sinew wrench violently out of place.  It felt like unraveling and I’ve never known pain like that.  My vision went white with the effort, but I still held on.  I held until the whole world faded into a single purpose and everything else faded away.  I was not giving up, no matter what.

And just like that, it was over.  I knew I was in the presence of God.

Filled with power, he spoke to me a blessing and gave me my true name.  As the day broke into light, I was born again.  The grasping and dishonesty of my old life faded with the dew of the morning.  I named the place Face of God, for I had met Him and in His presence He spared my life.

When I went out to meet Esau, I met him with a limp.

And he had forgiven me for the things I had done.  It will sound odd, but it was good to see my brother again.  It was good to put that chapter of my life to rest in resolution.

My life was different after that and I strove to be a man worthy of the name He had given.  Those days of sifting left a mark on my soul and a change in my ability to walk as a reminder.  The lesson was simple, but it took me a lifetime to learn it: Desperately grasp onto the blessing of God, in humility, in integrity and in the fullness of His truth.

My real inheritance and my true name came not through scheming but through honest perseverance and a simple faith that hangs on even when it hurts.

But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”  The man asked him, “What is your name?”  “Jacob,” he answered.  Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.”  (The Account of Genesis, 32)

Devotional Thought for the Day

Knowing Jacob’s early life, it would seem unlikely to us that God would choose Jacob to carry on the Abrahamic Covenant.  But that’s what He did, in spite of Jacob’s deception, His providential will still stood.  God knows the final outcome and has a plan for us even when we make poor decisions. He can change our approach to life and ministry from our ways to His ways. Though we don’t always enjoy the process, wounding in the hands of God brings healing beyond what we can measure.  Place it all in His hands.

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