Saturday, March 26, 2016

Struggling Under the Blessing (Part 3)

Jacob was a schemer. Not to say that he was a cruel man. Rather he was one who that depended upon his own cleverness and intellect to get through life. Scheming persons are deeply distrusting and they only act to change when the pain threshold gets high enough. Jacob is an example of how God works with such a person: God takes the consequences of their actions and pressing them into their souls he pushes for response to God’s mercy which is always being offered. The utmost patience is shown in Jacob’s life for the sake of the promise made to Abraham. God took the relational wreckage Jacob left and formed a people from his children; he took the one who “struggled with God” (thus the meaning of his name) and made of him a man of faith. In the end he did become a faithful man who lived under God’s blessing.

He became over time a man of faith who could hear and prophesy about his descendants. What gives us evidence of his transformed character and faith is that he had the courage to face his past and return home and make things right. And as we read on through Genesis we see him (very imperfectly) practicing faith at those moments of crucial importance to him and his family. At his meeting with the Pharaoh he gave him a blessing in the Name (Genesis 47:1-10). He blessed Joseph and one of his two sons with the primary inheritance among all his sons—unlike his father Isaac insisting that it be the younger and not the older (Genesis 48). He prophesied by the Spirit regarding all his sons and descendants (Genesis 29:1-28).  This prophesy included a reference to the Messiah, our Lord (Genesis 49:9-10; see Numbers 24:17).    

I want to look at some specific applications from Jacob’s life. At least in part, Jacob’s story is an example of the fact that while we are all profoundly affected by the example and beliefs of our family and significant others, nevertheless we each are accountable to God as individuals. What your parents or grandparents’ faith or response to God (or non-response) was is irrelevant to the fact that you are being addressed directly by God. You and I are accountable to God for what we do with the truth we are given in this life; we each will have to give an account for our actions and words done in the body. 

Jacob had to endure difficulties directly as a result of his own sins of deception. The consequences over what he and his mother did—even though they were trying to make the prophecy of God happen—still spilled into everyone’s lives. One way that God brought back upon Jacob the fruit of his deception was leading him to Laben. Laben was even more conniving than Jacob! His sin brought him into dangerous situations which, had he taken the route of radical trust in God, he probably could have avoided.

Again, if we take the story out further into the narratives about Joseph, we find the same paradoxical principals at work. On the one hand, because of Jacob’s favoritism in parenting and general self-centeredness he reaped extraordinary trouble among his sons. And this brought him great grief as an old man in being told that he lost his two favorite sons. But on the other hand, God’s merciful hand was extended to him and his family. Instead of death God worked out redemption for not only Joseph but also for the whole family. Again, Jacob became the recipient of grace from God through someone in his family (namely, Joseph). God’s grace triumphed over his self-centeredness and sin and the sin of his sons who were following the example of their father!

God’s merciful hand is extended to us. He has preserved our lives—allowing us to escape from our own stupidity and folly and shielding us from the full consequences of our choices in this life. God is close and acts in ways we are completely unaware of to preserve our lives and give us opportunities to listen to his voice of love. As Jacob said, at the end of his life to his son Joseph, “The God before whom my ancestors Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day, the angel who has redeemed me from all harm…” (Genesis 48:15-16) Jacob testified of God’s faithfulness to him and affirmed that God’s dealings with him personally were consistent with what God did with his fathers. Jacob had eventually responded in faith.

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