One of the main characters of the Old Testament is the patriarch Jacob. Jacob has been a subject for many sermons and teaching books. However, Jacob has been portrayed mostly as a trickster, and even as a scoundrel. His name, Jacob, has been interpreted to support this characterization of a grabber, a born cheater. But how God understands Jacob and his weakness is different. I hear God saying, let us cleanse Jacob’s name from the wrong accusation he has received for years. And Jacob waits in heaven eagerly for the vindication of his name.
As God sees it, the sin or weakness of Jacob is not cheating per se, but being a control-freak and too much reliance on contract type deal making to secure the future. Jacob has undue concern how things might turn out in the future; therefore, he always chose to act preemptively to ensure a favorable outcome for himself. As God sees it, rather than being a downright cheat as preachers often make out of him, Jacob’s problem was too much planning and scheme making regarding the future. Jacob had little room for waiting-on-God, for faith, or trust in God. And it is this type of weakness that we see God dealing with in the life of Jacob, rather than with the sin of cheating and lying, per se.
Delving into Jacob’s Biography
As Jacob’s biography in Genesis shows, Jacob is obsessed about his future; he was never sure that the future would shape as he would like it to be. He worried too much about risk and uncertainty, and he tried all the time to minimize their potential effect. The perennial question in Jacob’s life was how he could manage or plan his life so that the future will prosperous and satisfied. All the time we see Jacob, therefore, planning, deal-making, and in risk minimizing.
Jacob’s despite being from a godly lineage and despite the promises of God for his life had a hard time trusting God or living by faith. That is why we always find him devising ways and means to eliminate or minimize risk. Jacob could not tolerate risk or live with uncertainty. According to Jacob’s life principle, he has to lock down the future with a good solid plan and a binding contract. And even when unexpected events arise, Jacob managed them through a risk-minimization scheme that was quickly developed at the spot. Jacob might always have argued - Why leave anything to chance, to expected human good will, or even to God’s miraculous protection or intervention? According to the Jacob school of thought, there are three rules to succeed. First, every one has to plan out every detail as much as possible to preclude failure or loss. Secondly, there is no free lunch in this world; one should always give up something to get something in return. Third, one should not gamble on the future based on the promises given by others; rather one should bind the other party (even God) in contract or agreement to ensure they keep their promise or their side of the bargain.
In a nutshell, Jacob did not want to practice a life of trust, faith and prayer, but rather relied too much on human and rational means to shape his future and destiny. Jacob did not know God as the Blesser, one who can do for those who pray to Him more than they could ask or think. Rather we see Jacob being a control-freak, someone having hard time to let-go-and-let-God. Or as St. Paul would have put it, Jacob walked by-sight-rather-than-by-faith. It was from this weakness that stemmed most of Jacob’s trials and tribulations. And it was from such weakness that God wanted Jacob to be delivered from.
Hence, the weakness of Jacob in God’s eyes is the weakness of the natural man. A weakness that factors out God at worst, or at best tries to use God simply as the One who would quickly agree to put His stamp of approval on whatever man presents Him as his plan. Since this kind of arrangement God rejects; God will first to transform the mindset of every person He intends to use for His glory. It is this kind of transformation we see in the life of Jacob, a transformation that entails diverse trials and tribulations, much tears and agony of the heart. The end result from this transformation process is a person who relies on God for every need every time. That is what God was after in Jacob life. And at the end, God succeeded in transforming Jacob from an addict planner and deal-maker into a man of faith. [So the lesson of Jacob’s life is not the transformation of a cheat into an upright person, but the transformation of a planner into a man of faith.] Now let us review Jacob’s life to nail down this viewpoint.
The story of Jacob begins while he is still in the womb of his mother. Rebecca, Isaac’s wife, was a bare woman until Isaac prays to God and God answers His prayers. Rebecca became pregnant with twins, but soon she felt as if the babies were fighting within her womb. She went out seeking God’s word about the fighting twins. She heard from God that there were two boys in her womb and that eventually her second born child will have pre-eminence over the first born. And when Rebecca delivered, the second boy was born his hands grabbing the heels of his brother. This seems to prove the struggle they have from the womb, to be first-born, to be prominent. They named the second-born, Jacob, meaning grabber or wrestler. The first born boy was called, Esau, meaning red, as he was born full of hair. As the two boys grew up, Rebecca loved her second son, Jacob, more than Esau. But Isaac favored more Esau. Esau became an outdoor person; hunting becoming his favorite past time; but Jacob became an indoor person, given to helping around the house.
1. The Great Tradeoff
Jacob must have heard from his mother about the prophecy about him and his brother. His chance appeared when one day Esau returned from his hunting trip famished. Jacob suggested if his brother was willing trade his birthright as the first born for the lentils Jacob was cooking. His hunger pangs make Esau to easily succumb to the business-like offer his bother makes to him.
Jacob might have been bidding his time to get the inheritance that by tradition belonged to the first-born. Perhaps Jacob was already aware (through his mother, Rebecca) that there was a prophecy that predicted that one day that he, and not his elder brother Esau, will inherit the blessings of Abraham and Isaac. Once the boy Jacob grew into a young man, his planning instinct might have started to kick. He might have started to scheme in his heart how to legitimately transfer the blessing, God has promised, from Esau to himself. In order to be binding, Jacob surmised that Esau has to do it voluntarily and the deal has to be fair. Jacob was smart enough to make the deal as much business like as possible, a buyer and a seller transaction, something that could stand the scrutiny of a court. Here is the first sign that Jacob always moves and acts with the finesse of an accomplished businessman. Here is the early sign that Jacob relies much on the art of contract- and deal-making.
The problem at this stage in Jacob’s life, seen from God’s perspective, is that Jacob had begun scheming and arranging his own life. Even at this early stage in his life, Jacob went so far even to get what God had promised his own way and in his own timing. Jacob approach crowded out God’s intervention; it stifled the life of faith and trust. The day Jacob bought his brother inheritance, the contract-making Jacob came into being. Here after, we see Jacob making deals after deals to make his future secure.1
2. Fruit that did not fall away far from the tree
The story in Jacob’s life took a sudden twist when Isaac realized that he was soon to die and wanted to pass the family name and blessing to his first born son. Rebecca’s over-heard the conversion between Isaac and Esau, and immediately conspired with Jacob. The two devised a way how they could cheat the near-blind Isaac so that he would mistake Jacob for Esau and hence pass the blessing to Jacob. Rebecca’s scheme succeeded and Isaacs ended up blessing Jacob thinking he was Esau.
And it is at this point Jacob’s infamous association with cheating begins. From this point forward Jacob is taken as the quintessential scoundrel who paid the price for his cheating the rest of his life. But here is the truth. Rebecca had clearly heard God what He said about her second born. But she did not trust God to bring His word to come to pass. Therefore, when she over-heard the conversion between Isaac and Esau about passing on the family blessing to Esau, she went into panic mode. She thought destiny was slipping away from her beloved son, Jacob. She thought she had to do something before Isaac blessed Esau. So she took charge and arranged a way by which Isaac could be mislead so that he would mistake Jacob for Esau and bless Jacob instead of Esau. And her scheme succeeded.
Rebecca did not recognize that her faith in God was being tested at that point and that she was found wanting. She failed to put her trust God to the end to allow God to fulfill what He had promised. Rather she schemed and executed a human plan.
In God’s sight Rebecca’s error was not that she misled Isaac into doing something that was wrong, but that Isaac was misled to do was the right thing outside God’s way and outside His time. If Rebecca had trusted God that day, God would have overruled what Isaac was planning to do. God would miraculously have intervened into the situation that day that Esau would not get the blessing. Because if Isaac had done what he planned to do, blessing Esau, then that would have left God a liar or made Him into someone who is incapable of fulfilling his promises. God would not have allowed that to happen for His honor.
Rebecca’s fault is not cheating per se, but not waiting up on the Lord to the final end. Particularly at that moment when things appeared to go in unexpected direction, Rebecca jumped into action. She forgot that God would have fulfilled His promise to her despite what even Isaac was intending to do that day. To wit – she saw the Ark of the Covenant trembling and she stretched her hands to steady it (cf. 2 Sam. 6:7). But in trying to help out God, she brought havoc to her family. Jacob soon had to flee home, to escape the wrath of his brother, Esau, to his mother’s far-away homeland.
Jacob had a mother who is a control freak. It is this same tendency that we see again and again in Jacob’s life. So we wonder if Jacob had inherited a gene for ‘plan and control’ from his mother.
3. Contracting with God
As he fled home, on his way to Mesopotamia, Jacob had to pass the night at an open field. In his sleep, God met him through a heavenly vision. God showed him a ladder connecting Heaven and earth. That night God renewed the promise He had made to Abraham and to Isaac to Jacob (Gen. 28: 10 -17). Thereby, God sealed the blessing Isaac had pronounced in his life before Jacob left home (Gen. 28: 1-4). God himself took the initiative to reveal Himself to Jacob and to pronounce great blessings in his life. It has little to do what Jacob did to deserve God’s blessings. But when Jacob wakes up in the morning, he offers God a deal as if God had not promised much to him as a free, undeserved gift.
In his mindset, to Jacob nothing is free. According to Jacob’s operating principle, which is quite business like, when an offer of partnership is made by one side, the other party has always to reciprocate by obliging himself to something in return. In his mind, nothing is for free. Therefore, when God offered Jacob a grace-based covenant, Jacob rushed in with a neatly drawn contract. If God does all the things He promised, then Jacob promised to return the favor by taking God as his only God and by offering God a tenth of his earnings. Now Jacob calculated that he may need to have such a powerful God on his side to ensure a successful future. In order to keep God on his side, he surmised that he needs to bind God as his partner by a business type contract. Jacob guaranteed God the worship of all his household and a tenth of all his income for His protection and blessing until he finally returns to Canaan. But Jacob would rather have pleased the heart of God if he had simply accepted God’s promise by faith and his way believed. For example, Abraham and Isaac when given the same kind of promise, they did not try to offer back to God anything in return to ensure that God will keep His word to them. Unlike them, Jacob had a trust deficit. He had always to draw a contract or enter into a deal to get what he wanted. He thought he could secure the future only by this means.
4. Deal-making with an Unscrupulous Uncle
Once he got to Mesopotamia, Jacob entered into service working in the household of his maternal uncle, Laban. Not sooner than his feet landed in Mesopotamia that we see Jacob popping up his contract forms out of his bags, so to say. The young Jacob soon fell in love with Rachel, he wanted his beautiful cousin. But the way he saw that would be possible was to tie her father by a business-type of deal-making. Jacob would have courted Rachel to a point where her family would have seen no way but to marry the two persons. Rather, once he saw that he was deeply in love with Rachel; Jacob rushed to her father with an offer of a business-type deal. Jacob proposed and Laban immediately accepted that Jacob would work for Laban for seven years in return for Rachel’s hand.
It is in Laban’s household that Jacob for the first time learned the weakness of the contract. Jacob did not know that one can draw a good contract and the other party could happily accept the terms of the deal but later the other party find very plausible excuses not to fulfill its side of obligations. The problem in arises whenever the signatory parties are of unequal power and the stronger party takes advantage of the weaker party. It also arises when one of the parties becomes wily enough to discover loopholes in the contract that will let it to shrift its side of the bargain. That is exactly what Jacob found in Laban. Laban, Jacob’s maternal uncle, was both a very powerful and very crafty person for Jacob to make him to comply with the agreement they entered into. Despite well-drawn deals, always Laban knew how to wriggle his way out of a contract. When Jacob completed his seven years of service and asked Laban for the hand of Rachel. Rather than giving him Rachel, as agreed, Laban tricked Jacob to wed, Rachel’s elder sister, Lai. When Jacob protested, Laban gave him the traditional law of the land that a younger girl cannot be given in marriage until her older sister is married. Even if Jacob took the matter to a court he would have been told that any agreement that clashes with the law of the land is null and void. A contract can go only as far as the law of the land allows it. Laban offered him a new deal and Jacob accepted that Jacob should labor for seven more years in order to get Rachel. Jacob learned the hard way that deal-making is not everything. Even the best contract could fail as Jacob proved for himself the more he worked for Laban.
The next contract Jacob entered with Laban was about wage. For fourteen years of hard work, Jacob was just paying off the dowry price of Lai and Rachel. That means Jacob was getting almost nothing in return for his labors that allowed him to build his own home. At one point Jacob called it quits and wanted to return home to Canaan. If he decided to return then, Jacob would have returned almost empty handed. Laban finally recognized that God has blessed him through Jacob, so he did not want him to leave. So Laban offered Jacob the liberty to name his wage. Jacob rather than naming his wage directly, Jacob fell back on his habit of contract making. He proposed to Laban a business like deal that works on conditions. According to the plan, all lambs born in the flock with solid color, pure white or pure black, would belong to Laban; and all lambs with mixed colors would go to Jacob. But one thing is different about this contract Jacob drew. The condition of dividing the lambs Jacob obtained from God in a dream. Only that Jacob chose to put before Laban as a business contract. In order to ensure that Jacob was playing fair (and to give Laban an additional advantage) Jacob was given only the flocks which were solid white. Jacob followed God’s advice given in a dream, and he started getting many sturdy non-white lambs. Even Laban tried to modify the condition; still God produced the kind of lambs which Laban thought were impossible to get from the kind of flock Jacob was left with.
Once, God has blessed Jacob with enough flock, he told Jacob to return home to Canaan. Jacob finally left Mesopotamia after 20 years of services. Laban pursued Jacob and his family and confronted him on the pretext of stolen household idols. Because God had warned Laban about attacking Jacob, Laban had to let Jacob go. After seeing the intent of Laban, Jacob became worried about future raids by his uncle. So Jacob resorted to his tested method, he drew an agreement which put him and Laban into a permanent truce. The agreement demarcated a border between them; neither of the two families could cross the border without incurring the punishment of God. That way Jacob believed he could impose an eternal separation between him and his cunning uncle. A contract (covenant) Jacob used again to ensure a secure future for himself. At least this time Laban could not break the agreement; God had warned him about the consequences of harassing Jacob.
5. Tackling The Esau Threat
Reading: Genesis 32
Finally freed from servitude in the house of Laban, Jacob heads home to the land of Canaan. On his long journey there and close to his destination, Jacob receives the news that completely unnerves him. He was told his elder brother; Esau was on his way to meet him. Esau, meet Jacob? That sounded like a coming disaster to Jacob. Jacob was certain that his brother had never forgiven him for taking away his inheritance as the first-born. How could Jacob avert a looming disaster? Jacob was certain that Esau was hastening to meet him to wreck vengeance on him for wrong committed 20 years ago. In Jacob’s eyes, this was a major risk that threatened the lives of his wives and many children, as well as the wealth he has worked so hard to accumulate. Jacob feared that Esau in his wrath could destroy everything Jacob valued much. We see Jacob doing two things that could help me minimize the risk from Esau’s destruction, and if possible totally avert it.
This time, we see a change in what Jacob did. We see Jacob doing both the man-thing and the God-thing to overcome the problem he faced. His man-made solution consisted of two approaches. The first stratagem was to send gifts to Esau to placate his wrath. If that did not work, Jacob had another plan ready. Jacob divided his flocks and family in two equal companies and sent them in two different directions. His reasoning was that if Esau destroys one part, the other part will survive. Under the given condition, the best strategy was devising a plan that gives 50-50 percent chance of survival. And that was what Jacob did.
Besides doing the human-thing, at least for the first time in his life, we Jacob looking to God for a Divine solution for the overwhelming problem he faced. Jacob after sending away his family and flocks in two different directions, he himself remained at the spot to seek that face of God for deliverance. Jacob knew if anyone can save him from the looming danger, it must be God only. Jacob stood his ground to seek the face of God. Jacob prayed to God earnestly the whole night. At dawn, God made Jacob to see that his overnight prayer was nothing but a win-lose wrestling match with Him. God opened Jacob’s eyes to see that Jacob had locked himself in a wrestling match with the Angel of God. The Angel asked to be let go; but Jacob did not want to release the Angel without Divine blessing. Hearing that, God complemented Jacob for his persistence, for his never-quit spirit. For that quality, God changed Jacob’s name from Jacob to Israel, a prince of God; or, as one-who-struggles-and-wins (i.e., the overcomer). At the same time, God knocked out the hip of Jacob out of joint, as the result Jacob became a lame man. By knocking out Jacob’s hip joint God implied that our prized strength could hide our weakness. In the case of Jacob, his persistent spirit was mixed with a streak of stubbornness. Though Jacob was as tough as a knuckle, with an admirable hanging-there-whatever-comes quality; at the same time this character had a flaw as his strength overflowed into a stiff-necked mentality that resisted change or complete Divine reliance (see Isaiah 48: 1 – 6). That night God knocked out that weakness from the life of Jacob and gave him his overflowing blessing. That blessing necessitated that Jacob and his family will be spared from the wrath of Esau. When Esau appeared on the scene the next day, he was a completely mellowed person, a person who long had forgotten his brother’s misdeeds. Esau welcomed Jacob as a long-missing family member and volunteered his protection to Jacob in his journey to Canaan. At this point Jacob truly learned one important lesson. God, rather than his man-made strategies, saved him and his family from the destructive hand of Esau.
6. Contracting from the position of weakness
On their way to Bethel, Jacob and his family, made a temporary camp at Shechem. While there at Shechem, Jacob’s only daughter, Dinah, was seduced and raped by the tribal leader’s son. The tribe leader asked Jacob the hand of his daughter for his son. Jacob was promised a lot of sweet deals if he agreed to marry his daughter. But that was an unacceptable request to Jacob because of the commandments of God that the descendants of Abraham could not be married to the people of Canaan. The offer was made at Jacob’s weakness; it meant to take advantage of the rape of Deena.
Could Jacob ever reject such an offer; would not he lose everything if he said no? This was like a deal a conqueror imposes on the vanquished. What can a vanquished people say to a compact offered to them following their overwhelming and humiliating defeat? It could be guessed that next to Laban’s house it is at this point that Jacob learned again about the limitations of deal-making. Perhaps Jacob would have succumbed to the offer or sneaked out of town in the cover of darkness leaving behind his wronged daughter to her fate.
The good thing Jacob did was that he confided in his sons what the people of Scheme offered. Jacob’s sons were incensed because of what was done to their sister and plotted revenge. Jacob’s sons proposed a false contract to the people of Scheme asking them to circumcise all their men as a precondition to the proposed marriage arrangement. The Shechemites took the bait and circumcised their men. The next day Jacob sons invaded the houses of the Shechemites killing all the men as they lay recovering from their circumcision wounds. Jacob’s sons, through the ruse of circumcision, avenged their wronged sister. Soon Jacob’s family left Scheme on the insistence of Jacob; but they did not leave in shame; at least the family’s honor was redeemed through the courageous actions of Jacob’s sons.
The lesson from this part of Jacob’s life is simple. Deal-making cannot always work; sometimes it could lead to a humiliating bargain. Whenever deal making is between two parties of unequal power, then the strong can take advantage of the weak to impose a hugely unbalanced deal. It is this sort of the deal-of-the-strong we see in 1 Samuel 11: 1 - 11. When the Israelites living in the area of Gilead asked the Ammonite leader for a peace treaty, the Ammonite offered them a very humiliating deal – would they give their right eye to get a peace treaty from him? The men of Gilead thought that was too a humiliating condition to accept, so they sought assistance from their Israelite brethren. Therefore, they immediately sent a messenger to the newly anointed King Saul seeking his help. Their request for help brought their deliverance. God used King Saul - as much as He used Jacob’s sons - to prevent any humiliating deal-making to be imposed on his people by their enemy. This fulfills one of the great promises of God in the Scriptures where God says that He will never allow the enemy to take advantage of us or overpower us (Psalm 89: 22).
7. The Final Test of Jacob
Jacob is a control-freak; he is the ultimate planner. God has taken Jacob through different circumstances to teach him that Jacob’s self-reliant methods, his planning, scheming, and deal making will get him no where. God wanted Jacob to see His ways; how thing work wonderfully if left to Him. To teach Jacob this Divine principle – “Let go; and let God” - God had one last big lesson for Jacob. God wanted to teach this lesson to Jacob through the life of Jacob’s beloved son, Joseph.
The story of Joseph – what he passed through and what he became ultimately – was designed to drive a point home in the heart of Jacob. Therefore, the life of Joseph can be considered as a continuation of the saga of Jacob’s life. In what happened to Joseph and how it happened to him, God dealt Jacob’s control-freak nature a final death blow.
By the time Joseph had turned a teenager, Jacob in all probabilities must have mapped out the life and career of his beloved son. That might have included marrying Joseph to a beautiful bride and giving most of his wealth to start him off to a good beginning. But God intervened and took Joseph out of the hands of his control-freak father. But first God indications to Joseph’s family the great plan his has for Joseph. Through two powerful dreams God showed Joseph that he will be raised to a ruler’s position. When God separated Joseph from his family forcibly, God wanted to teach a lesson to Jacob. God wanted to prove a point to Jacob that without Jacob’s habitual planning and scheming God can bless the life of Joseph more than Jacob could have arranged. By taking Joseph out of sight of his family, God wanted to mould Joseph just by Himself. God wanted to prove to Jacob that without his help that God could bless Jacob’s life well beyond Jacob’s wildest dreams and puny plans.
To prevent any interference from the doting father, God made sure that Jacob should not know whether Joseph was dead or alive. God shaped the destiny of Joseph in way that contradicts the plans and arrangements of a doting father for his son. God made Joseph to pass through fiery trials. Joseph was sold into slavery by his own brothers and served as a slave-servant in a foreign land. Next, Joseph was thrown to prison for a crime he did not commit. God used Joseph’s suffering as a stepping stone to his success. .Finally, after almost 13 years of trials and tribulations, God finally brought Joseph to a leadership position in the land of his exile. Joseph was suddenly elevated to a position of prime-minister of the Empire of Egypt. When finally the news reached Jacob that his son is a ruler in Egypt he could believe it all. The magnificent result, the glorified Joseph, was purely the work of God. At one point God has to break the heart of Jacob so that he could for once and all defeat the control freak nature of Jacob. In the making of Joseph sitting on a throne next to Pharaoh, Jacob had no part. It was all was the work of God.
The final transformation of Jacob becomes quite visible when he decided first to hear from God whether God would allow him to go down to Egypt to see his son Joseph. If Jacob had been an unregenerate person he would hastily boarded one of the chariots Joseph had sent to pick him up, flying to prosperous Egypt. Canaan then was suffering from prolonged drought and any opportunity to escape its poverty was not to be missed. After all, Joseph, his son, was the ruler of prosperous Egypt; how could he delay his migration? However, Jacob was now a totally different person. No longer human reasoning ruled his life, rather God has become paramount in his decision making process. So first he wanted to find out from God if it was His will that he should go down to Egypt. Only after God said yes did Jacob decide to go down to Egypt. It is at this point that Jacob made God first for the first time in a major decision of His life. God finally seemed to have succeeded in transforming Jacob to the man He wanted him to become – someone totally dependent on God and reactive to God’s will.
The second window we get on Jacob’s total transformation is when Jacob was on his death bed and when Joseph brings his two sons to be blessed by his father. Though Joseph placed the elder son Manasseh on the right-hand side of his father and the younger Ephraim on the left side, Jacob crisscrossed his hand placing his right hand on the head of the younger brother and his left on the older brother. Joseph wanted to correct his father, but Jacob told him that he knew what he was doing. Jacob explained saying tat it was God’s will to give the greater portion to the younger son, Ephraim, not to the older brother Manasseh. Jacob’s action showed that he was ready and willing to obey the voice of God than follow a long established cultural tradition. Again we see here how much Jacob has travelled to become totally obedient to the voice of God. At old age when men of his stature were expected to keep up traditions, we see going out on a limb for God’s sake, breaking time-honored rules just to obey Him. Finally, Jacob the control-freak, the shaper of his own destiny, the risk minimizer, the deal-maker, is totally transformed into a man of God – Israel.
Jacob was born with a businessman like mind-set. He believed in plans and deal-making and contracts. He thought the future was uncertain and full of risk. Jacob always made sure that he covered all his bases just in case anything could go wrong. Jacob tried to make business-like deal with everyone he came across. Even when God appeared to Him and promised him future blessings and protections, Jacob’s response to God was a business-type deal-making offer. God had to take through various life experiences to show Jacob the weakness of deal-making. In his uncle Laban, Jacob met a sworn deal breaker. Jacob slaved for 20 years in Laban’s house because Laban did not respect the ethos of business contracts. When Laban pursued Jacob after Jacob left Laban’s household, Laban’s plan was to force back Jacob into servitude. When Laban caught up with him, Jacob might have been tempted to make another deal to placate Laban, but God saved Jacob from the humiliation of surrender. God had acted in the life of Laban; God had warned Laban in a dream so that he should not harm Jacob. God had to intervened directly to save Jacob; Laban was too a powerful and cunning enemy who was not easily reasoned with or placated by gifts and treaties.
Through Jacob’s encounter with his wronged brother Esau, God also taught Jacob a lesson that when it comes to powerful enemies, a business like stratagem could not provide protection at all. What these enemies want is nothing but full revenge, not gifts or treaties. God has to intervene and change their heart from murderous passion to that of caring compassion. Esau had a very good excuse to seek revenge against his younger brother who took away his blessing as the first-born. Jacob was reduced to mortal fear at the news of the approach of his brother and the 400 men accompanying Esau. Jacob put in place a businessman’s like strategy to avert full disaster. The best Jacob could hope for was to save at least 50% of his family and his flocks. But Jacob also sought the face of God in an overnight agonizing prayer. That prayer was heard of God, and the Esau Jacob met the next day was a compassionate brother and not an avenging machine. God’s lesson for Jacob regarding Jacob’s addiction to deal-making was this: there are those who are so cunning enough that use a business-deal to exploit the weak and grind their life out of them. Be aware of the party you are dealing with, because there are some with the qualm of conscience.
At Shechem, God had a lesson for Jacob. At Shechem God taught Jacob that a business-like deal-making sometimes could lead to a humiliation that is bitterer than death. A deal when it is offered by the mighty to the weak could be so humiliating that it even offends a righteous God. God allows the shame to be cleared by empowering the weak so the arrogance of the wicked mighty will be crushed. God does not allow the honor and dignity of the weak be trampled under foot forever. God supports the stand for justice made by the weak so that the arrogant mighty will not strut on the face of earth with impunity. God’s lesson to Jacob at Shechem was simple: deal-making could be a humiliating business; protect your honor, you are a prince with God, no man’s push over.
However, it is through the life experiences of Jacob’s beloved son, Joseph, that God was able to deal a death blow to Jacob’s control-freak, planning and deal-making nature. To prove to Jacob that human effort and wisdom is nothing compared to His workings, God took Joseph out of the reach of Jacob. God took Joseph through fire and water, finally placing him on a throne to be a ruler in the powerful empire of Egypt. God surprised Jacob by what God could accomplish in the life of a person without asking for any assistance from anyone. The lesson for Jacob from God was simple: I do not need human help to bless and prosperous your life. Without an iota of human planning and wheeling-and-dealing I can enact a marvelous blessing in the life of a person. God can manifest an amazing glory in a person’s life that could not have been planned or willed by any man.
PTL – completed 12/26/10.