CH 10 A MISUNDERSTANDING

In A Misunderstanding God renews Jacob’s mind  at the altar Abraham built.  Jacob learns that his mother misunderstood the things God told her before he was born and accepts the bitter reality that he was never the younger that his elders would serve. Instead, his family would become the elder insolent son who serves the younger son – Jesus the Messiah. When Jacob, the elder, humbles himself before Joseph, a younger believer, God exalts Jacob to a greater status than Pharaoh.

So they went up out of Egypt and came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan.  They told him, “Joseph is still alive! In fact, he is ruler of all Egypt.” Jacob was stunned; he did not believe them.  Genesis 45:25-26, NIV

 The same sons who brought Jacob a bloody coat, returned from Egypt with wagonloads of treasure and the good news that Joseph was alive and well. After twenty years of sorrow over the loss of Joseph, Jacob’s life suddenly made an unexpected turn for the better. Joseph had not died as Jacob believed. Seeing Joseph again would be like receiving his son back from the dead.

Joseph had also sent Jacob a message that renewed Jacob’s hope and faith in the God of Abraham.

 Now hurry back to my father and say to him, ‘This is what your son Joseph says: God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; don’t delay. You shall live in the region of Goshen and be near me–you, your children and grandchildren, your flocks and herds, and all you have.  I will provide for you there, because five years of famine are still to come. Otherwise you and your household and all who belong to you will become destitute.’ “You can see for yourselves, and so can my brother Benjamin, that it is really I who am speaking to you.  Tell my father about all the honor accorded me in Egypt and about everything you have seen… Genesis 45:9-13, NIV

 Joseph was more than alive. He was living the fulfillment of God’s promise that their family would possess the cities of their enemies. All of Egypt honored Joseph. Even Pharaoh looked to Joseph as a father.

Joseph’s brothers had already bowed before little brother, and now all eyes were upon Jacob. Would Jacob go to Egypt and humble himself before Joseoph or stay in Canaan and become destitute? Initially, Jacob did not believe his sons but after examining the treasures that Joseph sent and listening to everything Joseph told his brothers to say, Jacob was convinced. He packed his possessions for a trip to Egypt.

BEERSHEBA

 And Israel took his journey with all that he had, and came to Beer-sheba, and offered sacrifices unto the God of his father Isaac.  Genesis 46:1, NIV

 Beersheba echoed family history and sacred memories.  Jacob’s grandfather Abraham established a place of worship at Beersheba after he entered into a covenant to deal honestly with the Philistines.  Abraham dwelled at Beersheba when God sent him to Moriah to test his faith.  He fully intended to obey God’s command, but God intervened by exchanging Isaac for a ram.  Then God swore an oath to bless their family.  Not only would Abraham’s family become as numerous as the stars in heaven and as the sand on the seashore, they were destined to possess the cities of their enemies and become a blessing to all nations.  After Abraham’s faith proved genuine, he returned to Beersheba, where he worshiped God and taught Isaac and Jacob the promises of God until the day he died.

God appeared to Jacob’s father, Isaac, at Beersheba and confirmed his promise to multiply their family into a great nation.  God also told Isaac why he would keep the promises that were made to Abraham and his seed.  The promises were not contingent on the good or bad behavior of Abraham’s children, but on the fact that Abraham obeyed God and his faith proved genuine.[1] 

When God swore an oath at Moriah, he swore by himself because there is no one greater to swear by.  The oath guaranteed that everything God said to Abraham would be fulfilled because God cannot lie.  A person’s bad behavior might exclude that person from citizenship in the promised kingdom, but a person’s behavior can never stop God’s eternal kingdom from coming to earth.

Jacob was no stranger to the altar Abraham built at Beersheba or the things God said to his father and grandfather.  Isaac and his sons were living at Beersheba when their relationships became so strained Jacob was forced to leave.  Jacob returned home to find Isaac relocated to Hebron.  Beersheba had become a place of bitter memories for Isaac.  The story of how God would bless their family never came to pass. Isaac thought he would become a strong and prosperous nation.  All he became was a family racked with jealously and hatred.   

After Jacob fulfilled his vow at Bethel, he settled at Hebron with his father.[2] Beersheba did not appeal to Jacob either.  He didn’t understand why the God who spoke to his family at Beersheba had allowed so much tragedy and suffering to come upon him.  If Jacob entertained any thoughts of living and worshipping at Beersheba again, they were extinguished when his sons brought home Joseph’s blood stained coat of many colors.

On his way to Egypt, Beersheba tugged at Jacob’s heart.  He thought God had lied to his family, but now he knew that God had not lied.  Jacob’s “old man” stilled controlled his thoughts.  Thoughts that may have went something like this: “At last, someone in the family has been exalted to prominence.  My son, Joseph, is Lord of all Egypt.  There is one problem.  God did not promise us land in Egypt.  Of course, that problem could be easily rectified.  After the famine, Joseph could lead the armies of Egypt to Canaan and easily dispossess a people weakened by malnutrition.  Then I, Jacob, the younger that God told my mama the elders would serve, will be king and everyone will bow before me.”  Jacob could not go to Egypt without stopping at Beersheba to give thanks, and God could not let him go to Egypt until he renewed Jacob’s mind.

 JACOB’S EPIPHANY

And God spake unto Israel in the visions of the night, and said, Jacob, Jacob.  And he said, Here am I.  And he said, I am God, the God of thy father: fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will there make of thee a great nation:  I will go down with thee into Egypt; and I will also surely bring thee up again: and Joseph shall put his hand upon thine eyes.  Genesis 46:2-4, KJV

 God promised to change Jacob’s name to Israel but he hadn’t done it yet. Israel was still offering sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac, and God was still calling him Jacob.  Jacob needed to understand that Abraham, not Isaac, is the father of his faith before God can honor Jacob with the promised new name of Israel.  For there is only one way to receive the blessing of Abraham – by grace through faith, but even our faith is a gift from God.[3]  He gave us the gift of faith when he taught Abraham how to have faith in his God.  The faith Abraham exhibited at Moriah pleased God, Isaac’s faith didn’t.

There is no partiality with God, everyone receives the blessing promised to Abraham the same way Abraham will.  Abraham’s obedience and faith only guaranteed that Abraham would be raised from the dead to inherit the Promised Land.  Abraham hoped against hope and believed when there was no reason to believe because Jesus had not been born yet.  God made his promises to two men, Abraham (the flesh, born through the carnal act of a man and woman) and Jesus (the Spirit, born through the power of the Holy Spirit).  The promises God made to Abraham could not be fulfilled without Jesus because Jesus is the only seed of Abraham that could pay for the sins committed against God by men and women of flesh.[4]

God shook Jacob out of his stupor when he promised to make Jacob a “great nation” while his family lived in Egypt.  An examination of the Hebrew words for “great” and “nation” used in Genesis Chapter 46 unveils that God’s love is vastly different from Isaac’s love.  Isaac loved with partiality.  God loves with equality.  The Hebrew word that is translated “great” means older and insolent. [5]  The Hebrew word that is translated “nation” means a foreign or Gentile nation.[6] 

In sum, God told Jacob that his family would become the elder insolent brother that serves the younger.  That is exactly what Jacob’s children became.  To this day, Jacob’s children refuse to acknowledge that Jesus is the younger seed, the Messiah, God spoke to Abraham about.  The nation of Israel that consists of Abraham’s flesh children through Isaac and Jacob are equal to all the other nations on earth in God’s eyes.  The Apostle Paul said it this way, “There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,…”[7] 

Now that God had Jacob’s shocked attention, he dealt another blow to Jacob’s ego with an echo from the past.  When Jacob had fled from Esau, God appeared to Jacob in a dream and said, “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land.  I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.[8]  God kept his promise to bring Jacob safely home again.  Now God made the exact same promise, this time to go with Jacob to Egypt and once again bring Jacob safely home again.

The last time Jacob left the Promised Land, he was obeying his mother’s plan.  She had planned for Jacob to visit his Uncle Laban until Esau’s anger subsided.  Then she would send word that it was safe to come home.  Things failed to work out the way she planned.  When she sent word for Jacob to return, he couldn’t because he had become an indentured servant to his Uncle. There is evidence in Jewish legend that Rebekah never saw her son again.[9]  Rebekah’s plan failed but God’s would not fail.  This time God was sending Jacob away to fulfill the things he had revealed to Abraham.[10] 

In all of Jacob’s wanderings and failures, he learned that God loves sinners.[11]  Jacob often sinned against God’s will, but he never tasted the wrath of God.  Every time Jacob reaped what he sowed, God helped Jacob find his way out of the mess disobedience created.  God was never partial to Jacob.  He revealed himself to Jacob for a purpose, that Jacob might know God and teach his children what he knew.  Jacob learned by experience that he could leave the Promised Land, and God would be faithful to bring him home again.  Jacob needed to teach his children this truth about God’s faithfulness with the passion experience imparts, because God intended to bring a nation out of Egypt. 

When God said Joseph would put his hands on Jacob’s eyes, Jacob had a much needed and long overdue epiphany.  The eldest son closed the eyes of the dead.[12]  Joseph was one of four eldest sons through Jacob’s wife, Rachel.  If it was Jacob’s fate to die in Egypt he would never be the “the younger” that the elders would bow to. God had not promised his family any land in Egypt. God brought Jacob face to face with a bitter reality.  Jacob would not receive the blessing of Abraham in his lifetime.  Like Abraham and Isaac before him, Jacob would receive the blessing by dying in faith that God would raise him from the dead to inherit the Promised Land.

 VANITY OF THE MIND

Understanding how Jesus is the only way to receive the blessing of Abraham took Jacob most of his lifetime to learn.  When Jacob departed for Haran to flee his brother’s wrath, he did not understand the gospel.  A simple misunderstanding corrupted the faith Rebekah imparted to Jacob.  The corrupt faith that Jacob embraced as “gospel” brought corruption into his life that confused him and made him think God was against him.  The patriarchs and their wives were good people who loved God, but they were also human people who made mistakes. 

There is no shame in erring.  The shame is when we err and refuse to correct it because we will become like the men and women the Apostle Paul wrote about in Romans Chapter 1. People who serve God but they don’t know and love God. They suppress the truth God made plain to them even as they worship God.  They are foolish religious leaders who refuse to humble themselves because they love their doctrines more than God’s doctrines.  People who think they are wiser than God will taste the full measure of God’s wrath.

 Jacob’s family knew that one of Abraham’s descendants would be the Messiah from which the promises of God would be inherited.  When Isaac failed to be the Messiah, every son thereafter became a candidate for this honor.  Before Jacob was born, God told Rebekah twin nations were struggling in her womb and the younger would serve the elder.  Rebekah didn’t hear nations; she heard sons. Rebekah did not understand God’s ways, therefore, she did not understand what God told her about her children.  She believed that God had identified the younger of her twin sons as the promised Messiah.  Rebekah’s manipulation of her family to guarantee that her younger son would receive the blessing of a firstborn reveals that she thought her husband was on the verge of making a big mistake. Jacob wasn’t the Messiah and it really didn’t matter who Isaac blessed. 

Rebekah taught Jacob that he was the one God would use to bless the world because that is what she truly believed.  Undoing Rebekah’s influence upon Jacob took God many years and cost Jacob many tears.  Jacob had reason to believe that he was the younger who the elders would serve.  His life as an individual had followed the pattern of everything God told Abraham.  Jacob left Canaan, was treated like a slave by Uncle Laban, God rebuked Laban when he pursued Jacob to retrieve his idols, and then God brought Jacob safely home again with great substance.  These events only confirmed and reinforced the vanity in Jacob’s thoughts.

God privileged Jacob to be in the lineage of Christ, but God did not see one man when he looked in Rebekah’s womb.  Jacob did not live a sinless life; therefore, he could not be the hope of many generations.  While Jacob’s life followed the pattern of the plan God revealed to Abraham, his elder brother Esau never bowed to him.  Jacob never understood why.  Then Joseph dreamed that not only his brothers but also his father would bow to him.  Jacob wanted the blessing as long as he was the younger that the elders bowed to.  He was willing to do anything to obtain the blessing, even lie to his father and betray his brother.  Therefore, when someone younger than Jacob, even someone Jacob loved, dreamed that Jacob wasn’t the younger the elders would bow before, Jacob rebuked him.

Jacob’s thoughts were vain because he failed to understand God’s timing.  His life had followed the pattern of everything God told Abraham except for the timing.  God told Abraham his family would return to the Promised Land in the fourth generation.  Jacob was the third generation; Joseph the fourth.  His family was leaving the Promised Land during Joseph’s lifetime, not returning to the Promised Land, which proved that Joseph wasn’t the Messiah either. 

Before God brought Abraham’s family to the place they would be afflicted, he taught them through the life Jacob lived that he is able to keep them and bring them safely home again.  Jacob’s life also taught them the fallacy of dealing with God by vows that placed requirements upon both parties.  Jacob’s life is a living panorama of God’s ability to preserve a person who complicates his relationship with God by a legal agreement.  If the children of Jacob who stood at the foot of Sinai had remembered the sorrow a vow brought into their father’s life, they would have said “NO” to a covenant of law.

The covenant of grace God established with Abraham was the only covenant they needed.  The burden of grace is light and easy to bear because God alone is responsible for its fulfillment.  The burden of law is so heavy the nation of Israel has barely survived.  The Bible declares that Israel corrupted worse than Sodom and Gomorrah.  There is only one reason the nation did not meet the same fate.  God swore by himself that the promises made to Abraham and his seed (Jesus) would be fulfilled.

Humanity has one creator who is Lord of all.  He is not the God of Israel alone.  He is also God of the Gentiles. Therefore, Jacob and his children are saved the same way the Gentiles are saved and the same way Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were saved.[13] Anyone who desires to be saved must confess that God’s youngest firstborn son (Jesus) is Lord and believe in their heart that God will raise or has raised (depending on whether you lived before or after Jesus’ resurrection) his younger son (Jesus) from the dead.[14] Jesus is the younger son who possesses the rights of a firstborn son to distribute his father’s inheritance.  God created Adam first but, Jesus is the firstborn from the dead and he alone possesses immortality.[15]

The Apostle Paul compared the nation of Israel to a good olive tree.  God broke some of the branches off the tree he planted to be his special treasure because they did not believe in him.  When individuals from other nations believe in God, he grafts them onto his tree by giving them a down payment that they will have the rights of not only citizens but also children when Jesus returns.[16]  Whether you are an original branch or one grafted onto the good olive tree, if you stop believing in God, he will not spare you.  The only thing that keeps anyone attached to God’s tree is his or her faith in God.  If God removes anyone from his tree for unbelief God is able to graft him or her on again.  All they have to do is repent of their unbelief. [17]

TURN NOT ASIDE

Our sins may hinder us and cause us much misery, but our sins are not greater than the God of Abraham is.  If a nation or individual will simply continue seeking God and strive to obey him, God can save them and bring them safely home.  Just like God did for Jacob and just like he is presently doing for the nation Jacob’s children became.  Israel is a nation today, but they are not home yet, because they do not accept Jesus as their king.

Many years after Joshua led Israel into the Promised Land, the nation committed a great evil by demanding a King.  The request for a king grieved Samuel, but God assured Samuel that the people did not reject him. They rejected their God. When the people realized their error, Samuel encouraged them to continue seeking their God.

“Fear not: ye have done all this wickedness: yet turn not aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart; And turn ye not aside: for then should ye go after vain things, which cannot profit nor deliver; for they are vain.  For the LORD will not forsake his people for his great name’s sake: because it hath pleased the LORD to make you his people……Only fear the LORD, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you.  But if ye shall still do wickedly, ye shall be consumed… 1 Samuel 12:20-22, 24-25, KJV

 Jacob turned aside from following the Lord more than one time, but he always did one thing right.  When he stumbled, he stood up, dusted himself off and continued following God. God disciplined Jacob, but he never forsook him.  To the contrary, God faithfully worked for Jacob’s good by intervening at crucial times in his life until Jacob understood the faith that pleases God.

Jacob and his son, Joseph, were both prophets who God spoke to in dreams.  They both had a part to play in God’s plan.  One person’s part is not more important than another’s is; every part is necessary. 

Jacob did not understand his faith until he learned how to bow before another believer.  He arrived in Egypt with a renewed mind and bowed before Joseph with the knowledge that Joseph wasn’t the Messiah, he was just another believer doing his part. When Jacob humbled himself before another believer, God gave him the best of everything Egypt had to offer. God also exalted Jacob to greater status than Joseph and Pharaoh. 

Joseph presented five of his brothers to Pharaoh, and then brought his father into the presence of Pharaoh.

 Then Joseph brought his father Jacob in and presented him before Pharaoh.  After Jacob blessed Pharaoh, Pharaoh asked him, “How old are you?”  And Jacob said to Pharaoh, “The years of my pilgrimage are a hundred and thirty. My years have been few and difficult, and they do not equal the years of the pilgrimage of my fathers.”  Then Jacob blessed Pharaoh and went out from his presence.  Genesis 47:7-10, NIV

 Twice Jacob called himself a pilgrim, one who belongs to another time and place, just passing though this world hoping for something better.  Twice we are told that Jacob blessed Pharaoh. The Bible also tells us, “without doubt the lesser person is blessed by the greater.”[18]  God’s people are not like the kings of this world who lord it over others. The great among us are like the youngest among us and the one who rules like one who serves.  It is not our time to usurp the power which belongs to the authorities in this world.  We bless and serve them because we belong to another time and place.

 JACOB’S FAITH

By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshiped, leaning upon the top of his staff.  Hebrews 11:21, KJV

 Jacob’s great act of faith that is recorded in Hebrew’s Chapter 11 is puzzling when compared to much of the faith taught today.  Indeed, if we would stop and seriously consider the great acts of faith listed in Hebrews Chapter 11, I doubt anyone would have accepted the teaching that Jesus died so we can be healthy, wealthy and obtain what ever we desire in this life.  All of the patriarchs were wealthy, but Isaac and Jacob died blind.  The Bible commends the faith of Isaac and Jacob, so why didn’t they use their faith to obtain healing for their dim eyesight? The people of faith in Hebrews Chapter 11 used their faith to dream with God.  They longed for a better nation than the one they lived in and God was not ashamed to be called their God.[19] 

Some Christians want everything except the city God is preparing for us.  They want to be healed, to be married, to have family problems resolved, to find a better job, deliverance from an addiction, a better life, a ministry, a bigger ministry, a radio and TV ministry, a revival, etc.  Christians desire good things, but so did Jacob. His desire for good things never prevented tragedy because he was vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind. In plain English, Jacob did not understand the faith of Abraham and it made him an exceedingly arrogant man. 

Desiring good things does not give us a relationship with the God of Abraham.  The hope God gave to Abraham gives us a relationship with God, because hope is the only basis we have for fellowship with God.  If we would stop seeking the good things we desire, God would add good things to our lives. God does not withhold good things from people who love him.  Jesus admonished us to, “…seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.[20]  Why should we seek things when seeking the kingdom automatically adds the things?  If we seek God, we will eventually have both.  If we seek the things, we will have the things but we might not have God.

It is easy to understand how Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son required great faith.  How blessing grandsons is an act of great faith worthy of mention in Hebrews Chapter 11 is not so easy to understand, unless we understand what God said to Jacob and how Jacob responded.  Jacob knew from his mother that it was the will of God for the elder son to serve the younger son.[21] He stumbled and struggled in his walk with God because he attributed the promise to “me” instead of to “us.”  When Jacob stopped at Beersheba, God washed boasting out of his mouth with the bitter truth.  God knows how to shut the mouth of anyone who would boast in his presence, including his chosen people.  

 …God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence.  But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. 1 Corinthians 1:27-31, KJV

 Jacob spent most of his life glorying in himself instead of glorying in the Lord.  Jacob’s vanity thrived on the belief that he was God’s wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption. A man who struggled most of his life just to pay the tithe he promised God at Bethel did not have the character to do the unselfish things required of the Messiah.  How could Jacob be the “Lamb of God,”[22] when he couldn’t find the strength to give God a lamb from his flock? 

We become the younger firstborn nation that every other nation on earth will bow before when they accept and confess that Jesus is Lord.  Only those who believe in Jesus have the right to become God’s children. His children are born of the Spirit, not through the carnal act of a man and woman.[23]  Jesus is the Messiah, not Jacob.

 ADOPTED

No matter how many errors we have made in this life, it’s not over until it’s over, and it wasn’t over for Jacob yet.  Six years after Jacob settled in Egypt, Joseph heard his father was sick.  He summoned his sons, Manasseh and Ephraim for a trip to Grandpa’s house. 

The revelation God gave Jacob at Beersheba prompted him to do a lot of reevaluating.  Jacob finally understood who he really is and his thoughts about the plan of God had finally fallen into the proper joint.  Jacob knew he would never see Esau again because God told Jacob he would die in Egypt.  Esau never bowed to Jacob and never would.  Yet God clearly said the elder would serve the younger.  Since Jacob had four wives and a firstborn son from each, the entire family bowed before the youngest of the firstborn sons. Jacob understood that he was the elder who would serve the younger.  Jacob’s vain thoughts about who he really was produced most of the suffering in his life. 

Accepting who we really are is very difficult, especially when we have foolishly exalted ourselves to a place God never intended for us.  The rough road Jacob traveled gave him a humility that his father Isaac lacked.

 As soon as Joseph walked in the room with his sons, Jacob began preaching the gospel. 

And Jacob said unto Joseph, God Almighty appeared unto me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and blessed me, And said unto me, Behold, I will make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, and I will make of thee a multitude of people; and will give this land to thy seed after thee for an everlasting possession.  Genesis 48:3-4, KJV

 Luz is the ancient name of Bethel.  God appeared to Jacob at Luz (Bethel) twice.  God’s most recent appearance to Jacob was at Beersheba.  You would think God’s most recent appearance would be the first thing that came to Jacob’s mind but it wasn’t.  Both times God appeared to Jacob at Bethel, God said he would give the land to Jacob and his seed.  Jacob understood “seed” to mean all of his flesh descendants, but God renewed his mind at Beersheba.  Jacob no longer had himself on his mind because he only spoke to Joseph about one seed, the one seed (Jesus) that would make it possible for Jacob to inherit the land and blessings of God.  The same seed Abraham saw afar off that would make it possible for anyone from any nation to inherit the blessing of God – the rights of children in God’s eternal kingdom. 

Jacob finally understood why Abraham believed God could raise the dead.  The end of Jacob’s life was drawing near and no one had ever bowed to him, but his entire family bowed to his the youngest firstborn son who sat at the right hand of a king.  When Jacob understood Abraham’s faith, he finally understood why Jesus was the only way and learned to love him. 

Jacob did more than bless Ephraim and Manasseh.  He adopted two men that were half Hebrew and half Gentile for Joseph had married an Egyptian.[24]  Ephraim and Manasseh eventually replaced Joseph and Levi when the land promised in a covenant of law was distributed to the twelve sons of Jacob.  Joseph’s sons became dominant tribes in Israel.  Ephraim’s name eventually became synonymous with the name Israel because the tribe of Ephraim became the seat of power for the northern kingdom when the nation split.  If Joseph had any other sons, they would be included in the inheritance of Ephraim or Manasseh. 

Jacob blessed two sons under similar circumstances as his father Isaac.  Both Jacob and Isaac had lost their eyesight due to old age.[25]  However, the discipline Jacob endured taught him humility and gave him discernment that Isaac lacked.  Jacob would not make the same mistake his father did – bless sons with an impure heart.  Even though Jacob was blind like his father was, he knew exactly what he was doing.  Jacob gave the blessing of the firstborn to the younger son Ephraim. 

 And when Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand upon the head of Ephraim, it displeased him: and he held up his father’s hand, to remove it from Ephraim’s head unto Manasseh’s head.  And Joseph said unto his father, Not so, my father: for this is the firstborn; put thy right hand upon his head.  And his father refused, and said, I know it, my son, I know it: he also shall become a people, and he also shall be great: but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations.  Genesis 48:17-19, KJV

 Esau could not persuade Isaac to change his mind and Joseph could not persuade Jacob.  Once Isaac and Jacob understood and accepted God’s way, no one could change their mind. 

Jacob was still preaching the gospel to Joseph and his sons, but Jesus did not come from the tribe of Ephraim.  Jesus arose from the tribe of Judah, which leaves us with an interesting question.  Why did Jacob say the seed of Ephraim would become a multitude of nations?  Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, gave us the answer.

 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.  Ephesians 1:5-6, KJV

 Jacob had come a long way in his relationship with God and his understanding of the covenant God made with his father Abraham.  Ephraim was the first to be adopted into the rights of a child, but he wouldn’t be the last. God never intended to bless and exalt one person, one family, or one nation above another.  Jacob foresaw the day that Jesus would make it possible for God to adopt a multitude of children from every nation on earth and give each one the equal rights of children in his kingdom. A truth Jacob stumbled in and struggled with until he became a humble man! 


[1] Genesis 26:24

[2] Genesis 35:27

[3] Ephesians 2:8

[4] Galatians 3:16

[5] OT:1419 gadowl (gaw-dole’); or (shortened) gadol (gaw-dole’); from OT:1431; great (in any sense); hence, older; also insolent: (Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary.  Copyright (c) 1994, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc.)

[6] OT:1471 gowy (go’-ee); rarely (shortened) goy (go’-ee); apparently from the same root as OT:1465 (in the sense of massing); a foreign nation; hence, a Gentile;  (Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary.  Copyright (c) 1994, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc.)

[7] Romans 3:23

[8] Genesis 28:15

[9] According to Jewish legend, Jacob learned his mother was dead when Deborah (the faithful nurse that followed Rebekah when she left her fathers house to marry Isaac) met him at Bethel.  (from McClintock and Strong Encyclopedia, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 2000 by Biblesoft)

[10] Genesis 15:12-16

[11] Romans 5:8-10

[12] Freeman, James M., Manners and Customs of the Bible (Plainfield, New Jersey: Logos International, 1972), 55.

[13] Romans 3:29-30

[14] Romans 10:9

[15] 1 Timothy 6:14-16; Colossians 1:18; Romans 8:29; Hebrews 1:6

[16] Ephesians 1:13-14

[17] Romans 11:11-24

[18] Hebrews 7:7, NIV

[19] Hebrews 11:16

[20] Matthew 6:33, KJV

[21] Genesis 25:23

[22] John 1:29, 36

[23] John 1:12-13

[24] Before Jacob died, he adopted Joseph’s two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, and thus raised them to the level of his own sons. Therefore, when the promised land was allotted to the tribes many years later, Joseph was represented by two full shares. (from The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1962 by Moody Press)

[25] Compare Genesis 27:1 and Genesis 48:10

CH 9 ABOUT FATHER

About Father explores religious arrogance that alienates us from people who need us. Arrogance is traced in Jacob, Jobs and the author’s life.  A comparison of Jacob and Job’s life reveal people who live different lifestyles share a common sin – a failure to love. The author compares her life with her father’s to reinforce this truth and discusses the unconditional nature of love.  

 And Jacob their father said unto them, Me have ye bereaved of my children: Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and ye will take Benjamin away: all these things are against me. Genesis 42:36, KJV

 More than ten years after Joseph disappeared, a seven-year famine began.  Joseph understood God’s plan and prepared Egypt for the famine.  The swine who rejected Joseph were not prepared.  When Jacob learned that grain could be purchased in Egypt, he sent his sons to buy food. His sons returned with grain, minus one brother and a troubling story.

The Egyptian Lord in charge of selling grain had accused them of being spies.  They told him about their starving family in Canaan, but he didn’t believe their story and threw them in jail for three days.  They were lucky the Egyptian Lord changed his mind, but he kept Simeon as surety.  There was only one way to buy more food and get Simeon out of jail – return to Egypt with Benjamin. 

The news devastated Jacob. God promised to make their family a vast multitude.  Instead of Jacob’s family multiplying into a multitude too numerous to count, his sons kept disappearing: first Joseph, believed to be torn apart by wild beast, and now Simeon languishing in an Egyptian prison. Jacob could not bear the thought of losing Benjamin as well.  He blamed his misfortune on his sons, but he was wrong.  

 HEDGE OF PROTECTION

Jacob had sown to his flesh and from his flesh sons reaped corruption.  As head of the family, Jacob was responsible to protect those under his authority by walking in God’s ways and obeying God’s commands.  Instead, Jacob walked contrary to God’s desires most of his life.  His failures did not justify the sins his sons committed.  Nevertheless, Jacob’s rebellion against the revealed will of God for his life removed God’s hedge of protection making it easier for his sons to stray and ruin their father’s life. Satan complained about this hedge in Job’s day. 

 “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied.  “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land.  But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”  The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.” Job 1:9-12, NIV

 Job is the antithesis of Jacob.  Jacob rebelled, manipulated and relied on deceit. Job feared God, shunned evil, and lived a blameless life.  Job’s obedient life style erected a hedge of protection around not only his children, but also everything he owned.  It appears Job and Jacob had nothing in common, but they did.  They shared an arrogance that blinded their minds, alienated their children, and removed God’s hedge of protection. 

 We only know two things about Job’s children.  First, Job had seven sons and three daughters.  Second, they loved to party!  Job’s sons each took a turn hosting the festivities.  Their sisters, who had no right to an inheritance, did not have the financial means to host one of these family gatherings, but their brothers never failed to include them.  Job’s family appeared to be the picture perfect family, but appearances can be deceiving.  Father was conspicuously absent from these family gatherings.

 When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would send and have them [Job’s sons and daughters] purified.  Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular custom.  Job 1:5, NIV

 If Job had to “send” for his children, he wasn’t present at the party.  One Bible translation says that Job’s children were having birthday parties.[1] If that were true, Job’s absence is even more peculiar. 

After every party, Job insisted on purifying his children lest they sinned while they were celebrating.  Not less than seven times in one year, Job humiliated his children by reminding them they could never be pleasing to God without his help.  Job could keep his heart pure, but his children would never measure up to their father’s blameless upright example of a pure and holy life that shuns evil. 

Job desired his children would be acceptable to God, but deluded himself into thinking he could purify their hearts with religious ritual. Job thought he could do something only his God could do.  Keep his children pure so disaster would not befall them.  Unfortunately, Job lived many years before God declared, by the mouth of the prophet Isaiah, that a holier than thou attitude is a stench in his nostrils.[2]  Is it any wonder Job’s sons invited their sisters and conveniently forgot to invite father?  No one likes being treated arrogantly. 

ARROGANCE

A humble pastor served one church I attended for many years.  We loved to be around him.  Two years after he came to the church, a vote of confidence was cast during a business meeting and he received one dissenting vote.  Tears fell like rain when he announced that God had called him to serve in another city.  The pastor who replaced him appeared to be a good choice.  He spoke of his love for God with passion, and he definitely loved to pray. 

Several months after this pastor accepted the pastorate of our church, my husband and I were invited to dinner at a friend’s house. When we arrived, I observed a curious thing. Everybody was in the kitchen laughing and talking. The pastor and his wife were sitting in the living room alone. 

As the years slipped by the reason this Pastor often sat alone became painfully obvious. I have never met a more arrogant, unreasonable man who knew that he was holy.  Rebelling against him was as easy as breathing. More than one person exploded with frustration and left the church.  This pastor was financially well off from previous business ventures before he entered the ministry, but nothing he set his hand to in ministry prospered.  The church had dwindled from a membership of four hundred to less than one hundred when my husband decided we needed to leave the church as well.

Dealing with that Pastor is among the top three most miserable experiences of my life, but it was an experience I needed.  God used this pastor to place me in a teaching ministry.  During this time, I received the understanding that I had sought for many years. However, the war zone our church had become marred the joy of sharing those insights.  I have never known greater joy or greater sorrow.  I blamed the pastor for my sorrow, but he wasn’t the problem. He was a mirror of who I was. 

About a year after my family left the church, one of my children showed signs of rebellion.  After a number of minor incidents, I sat him down and demanded an explanation for his behavior. I repeatedly pointed out how good I treated him, and how I had given him a far better life than I had. He repeatedly claimed he didn’t know why he wanted to dye his hair blue. Finally, exhausted by the long discussion, he whispered, “You treat me like I’m stupid.” 

The truth hit me squarely between the eyes. My son didn’t have a problem. I did. I was treating my son as arrogantly as my former pastor had treated me. I was as blind to my own arrogance, as the pastor who had made my life a misery was to his.  He thought he was a good pastor because he chose to be one.  I thought I was a good parent because I choose to be one.  We were wrong.  Our good deeds had only served to blind us.

When I humbled myself before my son, the little acts of rebellion stopped. No one could tell my arrogant Pastor he had a problem. No one could have told this arrogant mother she had a problem. If I had not suffered under that Pastor, I would not have understood what my son tried to tell me, and I would have driven him away. Suffering prepared my heart to receive the truth.

 SUFFERING

While Job’s children feasted without their father, four messengers came to Job’s door.  The first messenger said the Sabeans had taken Job’s oxen and donkeys.  The second messenger reported his sheep were dead.  The third announced the Chaldeans took all the camels.  In addition to that, all of Job’s servants were killed except the ones reporting the bad news.  While they are talking, a fourth messenger arrived with the worst news of all.  A great wind caused the house Job’s children were in to fall and all of Job’s children died.   

God allowed the hedge protecting Job to fall, and Job’s suffering brought the truth to light.  When Job heard his children were dead, he declared, “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.[3] Is that all Job had to say?  The Lord gives, the Lord takes, praise the Lord! Could his attitude toward the loss of his children been any more callous?

Compare Job’s reaction to King David’s, another man who lost everything.  David’s son, Absalom, stole the kingdom and forced David into hiding. Yet, when a messenger brought David word that his son was dead, David cried, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son![4]

There is the sweet odor of love in David’s agony over the death of one of his son.  I don’t smell that sweet odor in Job’s perfection.  The Lord gives, the Lord takes, blessed be his name has a stench of relief in it.  Trying to keep the hearts of his children pure was wearing Job out.  Things would get worse before they got better because Job’s heart wasn’t pure either.

When God allowed Satan to afflict Job’s flesh, his wife came to her end.  She demanded Job to, “…curse God and die.[5] Job called his wife a fool.  Cursing God would be a foolish thing to do, but where was Job’s compassion? Was Job pregnant ten times? Did he suffer morning sickness, backaches, swollen feet, and unbearable pain bringing his children into this world?  His wife lost everything too and all she had left was a holier than thou husband calling her a fool! 

Job’s wife didn’t understand why tragedy suddenly took everything they owned. She was suffering and did not have her husband’s strength to suck it up and take it like a man.  She needed someone to cry with her, but her husband was too busy praising God to care. 

Job’s love for perfection made him harsh and unfeeling toward his family. The same thing happened to the religious leaders in Jesus day.  Religion had made them experts at living a good life but novices at love.  When Jesus disturbed their standards of perfection by showing compassion toward people they counted as sinners, they hated Jesus and plotted to kill him.

Job did not sin against God in the things he said until he had an audience that refused to leave.  When three friends arrived to encourage Job, the intensity of his suffering stunned them into silence for seven days.  Job’s friends tried to convince him that his sin produced his suffering and a subtle tirade against God began.  The longer they spoke, the more adamant Job became that he had done nothing to deserve his suffering.  Job was right, but when you are perfect and know it, suffering is God’s last option to open your blind eyes. 

 CONDEMNED

God let everyone speak before he intervened with the last word.  He agreed with Job and chided Job’s friends.  Job was right.  God had not punished him.  Job did nothing to deserve the pain and tragedy that came upon him. Yet, God rebuked Job, and Job despised himself as he repented in dust and ashes. 

  “Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.  “Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself? Job 40:7-8, NIV

 God had one question for Job.  “Why did you condemn me to justify yourself?” Job’s behavior was blameless, but his heart was corrupt.  Job was right.  His sins did not bring suffering upon him, but he erred when he condemned God to prove it.  None of Job’s goodness could protect him or his possessions from Satan.  Only God’s goodness can protect us from evil, yet Job had the audacity to call God’s goodness into question. 

Job lived a good and blameless life, but no one is as good as God because no loves like God does.  When Job’s children died, he said praise the Lord.  When Adam sinned and brought death into the world, Jesus chose to die with us. When Job’s wife needed him, he called her a fool.  When we need help, Jesus is faithful to help us and cleanse us from all sin. When Job hurt, he berated God for his lack of justice. When Jesus hurt, he prayed “Father forgive them.”   

If Job had spent more time perfecting love and less time perfecting ritual, he might have lost his wealth but not his children.  If Jacob’s children had felt loved by their father, he would have been included at the family parties.  Since God forbade Satan to take Job’s life, Satan could not run the risk of blowing down the house Job’s children were in had Job been present.

Jesus left us one command.  Love one another.  He also left a warning to those who do not put his words into practice. 

  … everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” Matthew 7:25-27, NIV

 Job’s goodness could not save his children from disastrous winds, but his presence could have.  The sacrifices Job made could not protect his children from the storms of life, but his presence could have.  Job perfected everything but love and when the winds beat against Job’s house it fell with a great crash. 

 GOD WORKS FOR GOOD

… we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.  And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.  What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:28-32, NIV

 Job believed he would never see happiness again.[6]  Jacob knew he would go to his grave in mourning over the loss of Joseph.[7]  Jacob and Job were wrong.  After Job repented, he lived for 140 years.  During that time he grew twice as wealthy, fathered another ten children and this time he was welcome at family feasts.[8]  Jacob would go to Egypt and see Joseph and Joseph’s children before he died. 

Following God’s dealings with the Patriarchs, reveals that God never deviated from doing the things he promised Abraham.  When the Patriarchs varied from God’s purposes and brought disaster upon themselves, God turned their misdeeds into something good. 

God revealed to Abraham that his seed would serve a nation that would afflict them.  God would judge that nation and Abraham’s descendants would come out with great substance to live in the land of Canaan again.  God sent Joseph to Egypt to prepare the way for their arrival.  Now, God must bring the rest of Abraham’s descendants to Egypt, but there was a problem. 

 “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes.  He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.” Malachi 4:5-6, NIV

 God had to do more than reunite Jacob’s family in Egypt. Festering wounds needed healing. Past sins needed to be forgiven and forgotten. Jacob’s heart must turn toward his children with love.  Jacob’s children must turn their hearts to love their father. The alternative to reconciliation is a curse.   

  The brothers’ hatred for Joseph began long before he told his dreams.  Their father openly favored Joseph above them with a coat of many colors.  When Joseph walked out of father’s tent wearing his fine new coat, his brothers saw that their father’s heart was not with them, and they turned their hearts away from their father.    

Jacob’s sons hurt him as well.  They ruined his business while they were living at Shechem.  One of them committed adultery with Jacob’s wife.  Another son, unknowingly but no less shamefully, fathered a baby with his daughter-in-law.  Jacob had not been the ideal father, but they had not been the ideal sons either.  If they cannot forgive each other, God would not be able to bring them out of the land with great substance because the land they lived in would be cursed. 

 HONOR YOUR FATHER

 Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.  Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.  Ephesians 6:1-2, KJV

 Paul made a distinction between “parents in the Lord” and a “father and mother.”  It is right to obey “parents in the Lord.”  Parents that are not in the Lord may require their children to do things that would be a sin against God.  In such circumstances, a child should yield to the one who gave his or her parents their authority – God the Father! Nevertheless, the command to honor is not conditional.  We may not be able to obey our mother and father, but if we honor them God promised us a long good life. 

One of the most appealing aspects of Christianity to me was the good news that God would be my father, because I did not like my Dad.  Daddy died more than ten years ago, so I can tell you a little about him without embarrassing him.  He was an alcoholic womanizer who was impossible to please.  When I ran wild on drugs, he was not happy.  When I became a Christian, he wished I were back on drugs.  Addiction he understood, this Jesus stuff was more than he could handle.  The extent of his conversation with me was, “fix me a drink” and “get me an ashtray.” Occasionally, he shouted, “Shut up, I can’t hear the TV.” His fatherly advice for the future was twofold.  “You will always be in debt,” he said, “and have sex with your boyfriend before you marry him to be sure you are compatible.”

Shortly after I became a Christian, I pleaded with Daddy to accept Jesus.  He warned me, “Shut your mouth or I’ll slap it shut.”  When I did not heed the warning, he kept his word.  Instead of offering him the other cheek, I went to my room and turned my heart away from him.[9]  Excluding Daddy from my life seemed a reasonable thing to do because I didn’t think he was a very good father, but I was wrong. 

Ultimately, I became as angry with God as I was with Daddy.  No matter what my father in heaven or on earth did, I couldn’t be pleased.  The arrogance that I was a better person than my father blinded me to compassion for him.  When I turned my heart away from Daddy, I erected a wall that took God many years to penetrate as he slowly and patiently revealed the truth. 

Late one night, I overheard my parents discussing my sister.  She had made their lives hell on earth for years before a judge sentenced her to a youth detention center.  My Dad’s voice was filled with anguish and pain as he told my mother, “I don’t care what she has done to me.  She is my daughter and I can’t leave her in that place.  I have to help her.”  That night I realized that I didn’t know my Dad as well as I thought I did.  I was the good Christian, yet he had greater compassion than I did. 

After my Dad consented to group therapy in an effort to help my sister, she told me about his childhood.  I never knew his family because he was in the Army, and we always lived far away from them.  When we did visit, they spoke Cajun French and I couldn’t understand a thing they said.  My father was an alcoholic, but he went to work everyday.  We always had food on the table and he even insisted that his children eat first.  My Dad’s father was an alcoholic who had raised his family in poverty.  The only meat they had was bologna, and his father refused to share.  My Dad had one simple desire that was never fulfilled. He wanted his Father to give him a piece of bologna.  With shame, I recalled the many times my Dad had come home from working all day to find his children had already eaten and left him nothing. 

I was on my way to work one morning when I saw my Dad standing in the front yard staring at the ground.  I stopped to inquire why. He raised his head and with tears in his eyes, he whispered, “Life is so hard” then quickly walked to his car before I could respond. To this day, I don’t know if I was more astounded by the tears or his statement.  As I watched him drive away, I realized how selfish I was to think that I was the only one who hurt.  

My Dad and I were as different as night and day. I didn’t drink and smoke. My Dad did. I went to church every Sunday. My Dad didn’t. I fasted, prayed, and diligently read the Bible. My Dad ate his fill, prayed to no one, and watched TV. I did good things, but I wasn’t a good person. My Dad and I were guilty of the same sin. We failed to love. He wasn’t a very good father, but I wasn’t a very good daughter either. True repentance runs much deeper than changing “bad” behavior. I couldn’t obey everything my Dad taught me, but I could have loved and honored him for the things he did right.

 TRUE REPENTANCE

For many years, I wondered why Joseph gave his brothers such a run around when they came to Egypt to buy grain.  When Joseph saw his brothers bowing before him, he could have revealed himself and gloated.  He didn’t.  Instead, Joseph accused his brothers of being spies and refused to let them leave until their youngest brother came to verify their story.  Next, he compounded their anxiety by putting them all in jail, making it impossible to send word to Benjamin.  For all his brothers knew, they would be in jail for the rest of their lives.  Three days later, Joseph released them from prison.  Then he sent one of them back to prison.  The rest could bring food to the family, but they must return with Benjamin.  The last thing they wanted to do was come back to Egypt.  The person in charge had not been easy to deal with. 

 They said to one another, “Surely we are being punished because of our brother.  We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen; that’s why this distress has come upon us.”  Reuben replied, “Didn’t I tell you not to sin against the boy? But you wouldn’t listen! Now we must give an accounting for his blood.” They did not realize that Joseph could understand them, since he was using an interpreter.  He turned away from them and began to weep, but then turned back and spoke to them again.  He had Simeon taken from them and bound before their eyes.  Genesis 42:21-24, NIV

 The sin Joseph’s brothers committed against him bothered them for a very long time.  Twenty years had elapsed since they sold him to Ishmaelites.  Joseph heard his brothers admit their guilt.  Why didn’t Joseph end the charade? Joseph turned away from his brothers to weep, but he did not reveal himself.  What was Joseph looking for? What must his brothers do for Joseph to say, “It’s enough?  All is forgiven.  Go get our brother and father!  Go get your families!  Come to Egypt and live like kings.” To the contrary, Joseph bound Simeon before their eyes and sent the rest of them home. 

By the time Joseph’s brothers arrived home, they were troubled and afraid.  On the way home, they discovered that the money they paid for the corn was in one of their sacks.  When Jacob heard Benjamin must return to Egypt if he wanted to see Simeon again, it was evident that Jacob had not changed.  The favoritism that created so much animosity in his family was now transferred from Joseph to his brother Benjamin. 

Jacob obviously valued Benjamin more than he valued Simeon.  Jacob wouldn’t risk losing Benjamin to save Simeon. Simeon and Levi ruined his business at Shechem. Reuben promised to sacrifice two of his sons if he did not bring Benjamin back, but Rueben couldn’t be trusted.  Reuben defiled Bilhah. If the famine had ended before Jacob’s food ran out, Jacob might have let Simeon rot in jail.  

When the supply of grain diminished, Jacob told his sons to go buy some more.  But they couldn’t buy more grain unless Benjamin came with them.  This put all of them in a precarious situation.  They could starve or take Benjamin contrary to Jacob’s desire.  Taking Benjamin without their father’s consent might have killed him, and they knew it.  Finally, Judah spoke up reminding his father of the conditions for returning to Egypt and made a promise to his father. 

 Then Judah said to Israel his father, “Send the boy along with me and we will go at once, so that we and you and our children may live and not die.  I myself will guarantee his safety; you can hold me personally responsible for him.  If I do not bring him back to you and set him here before you, I will bear the blame before you all my life.  Genesis 43:8-9, NIV

 Jacob relented at Judah’s plea and the brothers returned to Egypt with presents, double the money, and Benjamin.  Surely, Joseph should be satisfied and expose the truth this time, but all he did was drop clues.  When they tried to return the money, the brothers were told that the God of their father had given them treasure.  Joseph showed an unusual interest in their father and abruptly left the room when he saw Benjamin. He returned with red, swollen eyes. Joseph seated his brothers according to their birthright honoring the youngest brother above the elder brothers by giving Benjamin five times more than the rest of them.  Joseph did everything but blurt out who he was.  What prevent Joseph from revealing the truth?

When the feast ended, Joseph didn’t hinder his brothers from leaving.  Before they left, Joseph instructed his steward to a put a valuable cup in Benjamin’s sack.  The brothers were barely out of the city and no doubt thinking, “that went well,” when a man on horseback overtook them. The man asked a strange question.  “Why have you repaid good with evil?”[10]  The brothers judged that the one who had rewarded evil for good should die, and the rest become servants.  Their words justified God for exalting Joseph above them.  They were the men that had treated Joseph evil when all he had done was good. 

The brother’s judgment was too harsh for this Egyptian servant. He knew Benjamin was innocent, but according to their words, he would take a servant.  The brother in possession of the cup would be the servant and the rest would be blameless.  When the Egyptian found the cup in Benjamin’s sack, they rent their clothes and all of the brothers returned to Egypt. 

Joseph’s brothers had changed.  They could have abandoned Judah to deal with this problem alone. They were free to leave but none of them did.  The brothers were ushered into Joseph’s presence and Judah spoke for all of them when he said, “we are my lord’s servants, both we, and he also with whom the cup is found.”[11] 

The brothers only had Benjamin’s word that he did not steal the cup.  For all the brothers knew, the little brat that received all of their father’s love after they got rid of Joseph might have brought this on himself.  However, the brothers refused to return without Benjamin.  Why would they be willing to make this sacrifice?  They were men with wives and children at home, yet they would rather be servants in a strange land than return home without the brother their father loved. 

Joseph declined their noble offer.  The one who took the cup would be his servant.  The rest were free to return home in peace.  But Judah wasn’t willing to return home without Benjamin.  As you read Judah’s plea, count how many times Judah said “father” and you’ll understand why. 

 Then Judah went up to him and said: “Please, my lord, let your servant speak a word to my lord.  Do not be angry with your servant, though you are equal to Pharaoh himself.   My lord asked his servants, ‘Do you have a father or a brother?’  And we answered, ‘We have an aged father, and there is a young son born to him in his old age.  His brother is dead, and he is the only one of his mother’s sons left, and his father loves him.’  “Then you said to your servants, ‘Bring him down to me so I can see him for myself.’  And we said to my lord, ‘The boy cannot leave his father; if he leaves him, his father will die.’  But you told your servants, ‘Unless your youngest brother comes down with you, you will not see my face again.’  When we went back to your servant my father, we told him what my lord had said.   “Then our father said, ‘Go back and buy a little more food.’  But we said, ‘We cannot go down.  Only if our youngest brother is with us will we go.  We cannot see the man’s face unless our youngest brother is with us.’  “Your servant my father said to us, ‘You know that my wife bore me two sons.   One of them went away from me, and I said, “He has surely been torn to pieces.” And I have not seen him since.   If you take this one from me too and harm comes to him, you will bring my gray head down to the grave in misery.’  “So now, if the boy is not with us when I go back to your servant my father and if my father, whose life is closely bound up with the boy’s life,  sees that the boy isn’t there, he will die.  Your servants will bring the gray head of our father down to the grave in sorrow.  Your servant guaranteed the boy’s safety to my father.  I said, ‘If I do not bring him back to you, I will bear the blame before you, my father, all my life!’  “Now then, please let your servant remain here as my lord’s slave in place of the boy, and let the boy return with his brothers.  How can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? No! Do not let me see the misery that would come upon my father.” Genesis 44:18-34, NIV

 Fifteen times Judah referred to their father.  This plea was not about Benjamin.  This plea was not about his brothers.  This plea was not about their wives and children.  This plea was not about the price Judah would pay.  This plea was about their father.  It’s about loving your father, even if he never becomes the father you want him to be.  Judah made this strong plea and Jacob hadn’t even changed – yet! Jacob was still partial to one son.  The brothers were the ones who changed.  When they returned home without Joseph and saw their father suffer, they learned the value of unconditional love. 

When Joseph heard Judah plead for the sake of their father, he could not contain his emotions any longer.  Joseph finally saw true repentance for the evil they had committed against him at Dothan.  It was not Joseph’s fault that their father favored him.  The brother’s hatred for Joseph was a symptom of the contempt they held for their father.  Joseph did not reveal himself the first time his brothers bowed before him, because he knew the truth.  There would never be peace between Joseph and his brothers until his brothers forgave their father.  

 LOVE

For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.  1 John 4:20, NIV

 It does not matter if you have a father like Job, who alienates you with his perfection.  It does not matter if you have a father like Isaac, who failed to love you when you couldn’t give him what he wanted.  It does not matter if you have a father like Jacob, who valued your sibling more than you. It does not matter if you have a father like I did, who doesn’t live up to your expectations of a good father.  It does not matter if your father ever becomes the father you want him to be.  It only matters that you love him.  If you don’t love the father you can see, how will you love the father you cannot see?


[1] Job 1:4, The Living Bible

[2] Isaiah 65:7, NIV

[3] Job 1:21, NIV

[4] 2 Samuel 18:33, KJV

[5] Job 2:9, NIV

[6] Job 7:7

[7] Genesis 37:35

[8] Job 42:11

[9] Matthew 6:29, KJV

[10] Genesis 44:4, NIV

[11] Genesis 44:16, KJV

CH 8 SWINE

Swine explains why Jacob suffered great pain after he found the perfect will of God for his life. The arrogance lurking in his heart is exposed and a loving heavenly father disciplines his son. God separates Joseph, smothered by his father’s unhealthy concept of love, from his family, so Jacob could bear fruit and Joseph could mature. 

And Jacob set a pillar upon her grave: that is the pillar of Rachel’s grave unto this day.  And Israel journeyed, and spread his tent beyond the tower of Edar.  And it came to pass, when Israel dwelt in that land, that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father’s concubine: and Israel heard it.  Genesis 35:20-22, KJV

 After Jacob fulfilled his vow at Bethel, the Bible calls him Israel for the first time, but he didn’t walk worthy of his new name for very long. On the heels of Jacob’s obedience, Rachel died.  Jacob was a man like any other alive today.  Therefore, it’s not hard to imagine what he thought when he buried the love of his life.  “It’s all God’s fault Rachel died.  If God had not made me travel to Bethel while Rachel was pregnant, this never would have happened. What good did it do to obey God?”

 OFFENDED

Jacob, offended that God had allowed Rachel to die, departed from the path that led home and “dwelt” in the land beyond the tower of Edar.  The Hebrew word that was translated “dwelt” means to dwell permanently.[1] The new man and the old man were still struggling for supremacy in Jacob’s life. Israel (the new man) had obeyed God, but Jacob (the old man) still loved like the world loves.  Fulfilling the vow he made at Bethel only brought the covenant he initiated with God back into its proper joint.  The covenant God made with the family of Abraham was still out of joint in Jacob’s thinking.  Therefore, when the old man (Jacob) lost something he loved, the new man (Israel) could not prevail when Jacob stopped walking in the Spirit.  The Spirit desired that Jacob would return to his family in Canaan, so God could fulfill the things he spoke to Abraham, but Rachel’s death offended Jacob. Confused and angry, he stopped walking in the Spirit’s desire.

 Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.[2]  The Greek word Paul used for “condemned” means a sentence pronounced with actual punishment following.[3]  In other words, if we walk in the Spirit’s desire for our life, judgments with punishment following will not be made against us. 

In another letter, Paul said that those who walk in the Spirit would not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.[4]  The lusts of the flesh are: “…Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like…”[5]  On a human body, the head, where the brain resides, decides where the body goes, and so does the head of a nation, church, or family.  When the head fails to follow God’s desire, it opens the door for the works of the flesh to be fulfilled.

When Jacob, the head of his family, stopped walking in the Spirit’s desire adultery manifested in his family.[6]  After Jacob set up permanent residence in the land of Edar, a shameful thing happened; Ruben, Jacob’s eldest son, slept with Jacob’s wife, Bilhah.  Jacob’s son, Jacob’s flesh betrayed him, just like Jacob betrayed the Spirit of God yet again when he stopped to dwell in Edar. 

SEPARATED FROM THE WORLD

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.  For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God.  As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”  “Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord.  Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.”  “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”  2 Corinthians 6:14-18, NIV

 Jacob vowed to make God “my” God, if God fulfilled the five stipulations he presented to God at Bethel. We cannot control God, nor make God “my” God at our whims.  If we believe or refuse to believe, it does not change the fact that God created all of us. What we say and believe does not change who God is.  Jacob could say Abraham’s God is “my” God for the rest of his life and it meant nothing if God had not said “my” son to Jacob.  God could not receive Jacob as a son until he separated Jacob from the world’s way of thinking and living.

When Jacob married Rachel, he yoked himself together with an unbeliever.  Idolatry had deep roots in Rachel’s heart.  God heard Rachel’s prayer for children and restored her joy by giving her Joseph.  Jacob’s God was the only God who helped Rachel in her distress, yet she still sneaked into her father’s tent and stole the family idols. 

What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols?”  Paul asked the Corinthians.  For Jacob to become Israel, God needed to separate him from Rachel’s influence.  Jacob could not walk in light and still fellowship with darkness. There could be no harmony between “the seed” (Jesus) God promised Abraham and Rachel’s idols.  The wife who satisfied the lust of Jacob’s eyes had hindered his relationship with God for many years. Since Rachel had no intention of forsaking her idols, God had few options when deciding her fate.

Long life is promised to those who honor their father.[7]  Rachel had not honored God “the father” when she returned to her idol worship after God came to her in her distress and gave her children.  God did not kill Rachel; he simply had no reason to grant her a long life.  When God allowed Rachel to die, he also separated Jacob from the uncleanness in the world, so he could receive Jacob as a father receives a son and bless his life.  

DISCIPLINE

“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.”  Hebrews 12:5-6, NIV

 God seldom asks very much of the men and women he calls to live by faith.  All God required of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was that they live in Canaan, circumcise their children, and wait while God fashioned them into a nation that would be his special treasure.  However, living in the land and circumcising their children never gave Abraham’s flesh descendants pure hearts.  Jesus said, “For where your treasure is there your heart will be also.”[8] Isaac and Jacob did not treasure their God, therefore, their hearts were far from God most of their lives.  God’s heart was always with Isaac and Jacob, even when their hearts were far from him because God’s people are God’s treasure.

When Jacob refused to continue the journey to Canaan, Edar became another Shechem – a place of bitter memories produced by Jacob’s disobedience.  After Reuben committed adultery with Bilhah, Jacob packed his tent and continued his journey home. He arrived safely in Canaan to dwell in the land as a stranger and foreigner like Abraham and Isaac before him.  Jacob was separated from the world and, once again, in the will of God, but he still lacked a pure heart. Abraham, the father of faith, worshiped God at Beersheba; Jacob settled in Hebron.

Jacob was in the will of God but his heart was in the same condition as the church in Laodicea.[9]  Jesus told the Laodicean church that they were neither cold nor hot.  Jacob’s relationship with God was lukewarm as well.  He built altars and worshiped God everywhere he went (hot), but when things didn’t go his way, he stopped following God (cold).  He returned to Canaan as God commanded (hot). He avoided Beersheba where God spoke to his family for three generations (cold).

The Laodicean church thought their wealth indicated they were spiritually healthy. In God’s eyes the Laodiceans were “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.[10] Jacob returned home a wealthy man. He was just as wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked as the Laodiceans, but he didn’t know it. His body was in the right place – living in Canaan. His heart was still far from God.  

The New Testament declares, “If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons.[11]  When Jacob returned home in a lukewarm condition, God brought him to maturity by allowing him to eat the fruit of his own way.  Jacob had sown to the flesh by walking in his own lust, and he had already reaped corruption. This would not be the first time, but it was the last time Jacob’s sons (the flesh) did something corrupt to ruin his life.  Ultimately, God took the sting out of discipline by bringing good things out of Jacob’s errors, but not before Jacob was wounded in the same manner that he wounded Isaac. 

Unfortunately, the only thing that successfully convinces some of God’s people to change the way they live is to experience the pain their way of life creates.  Most people do not believe their way is wrong, especially if they are as stubborn and vain as Jacob was.  Jacob had made a lot of progress, but his family still had a serious problem that Joseph’s dreams brought to light.

  Then he [Joseph] had another dream, and he told it to his brothers.  “Listen,” he said, “I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.”  When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, “What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?” Genesis 37:9-10, NIV

 Long before Joseph told his dreams to his family, God revealed his plan to Joseph’s great grandfather, Abraham.[12]  Ten years after Abraham came to Canaan expecting to become a great nation, God told Abraham the promise would not be fulfilled in his lifetime but through one of Abraham’s children.  Abraham thought Isaac was the promised child, but God proved Isaac wasn’t the Messiah when the angel stopped Abraham from sacrificing Isaac. Abraham was eighty-five years old when he learned his family would serve another nation and God would judge the nation they served.  God promised to return Abraham’s family to the Promised Land with great wealth in the fourth generation. Abraham diligently taught his children everything God said to him. 

Since Abraham lived until Jacob was fifteen years old, it is reasonable to believe Jacob heard his grandfather explain God’s plan many times. Jacob knew that one day their family would leave the Promised Land and return with great abundance.  That is exactly what Jacob did when he went to Haran and returned a wealthy man.  Jacob knew that one of Abraham’s descendants would be given everything God promised, and everyone else in the family would be blessed by this one child.  Jacob also understood the significance of the fourth generation. Therefore, Jacob should have been the last one in the family to rebuke Joseph for dreaming that he would be exalted above his elders.  Abraham was the first generation, Isaac the second, Jacob the third and Joseph the fourth generation.  In addition to that, Jacob knew that God speaks in dreams.  God spoke to Jacob in a dream at Bethel when he fled from his brother Esau. God also told Jacob to return to Canaan in a dream.

 Jacob loved his son, Joseph, but he didn’t love him enough to bow to him. Jacob returned home separated from the world, but he still loved the way the world loves.  Jacob could not bear the thought of bowing to someone younger than he was, so Jacob rebuked Joseph.  For all Jacob knew, he was rebuking the Messiah that God chose.  Jacob had finally found the center of God’s will for his life, but his heart was not pure. 

All of my Christian life I’ve heard about Joseph’s arrogance for telling his dreams.  I’ve never heard anyone talk about the arrogance of elders who hated Joseph for speaking the truth. Joseph didn’t have a problem. The ones who rebuked Joseph for communicating God’s plan had a problem. 

Joseph did not interpret his dreams, his elders scowled in disgust “we’ll never bow to you.” The elders accurate interpretation of their little brother’s dream brought to light the arrogance in their hearts.  No one in Jacob’s family desired to bow to the youngest firstborn member of the family, even though they knew that it was the will of God. 

When Jacob rebuked Joseph, he revealed that his thoughts were still out of joint with the covenant of grace God established with Abraham. If Jacob would not bow to his son, Joseph, how would he bow to his future grandson, Jesus?  Jacob needed to humble himself before God could give him the blessing of Abraham. 

Jacob infected his entire family with his vanity. His sons did worse things than he did and were a source of much sorrow to him most of his life.  The disaster that befell Jacob at Shechem set Jacob on the road that took him to the center of God’s will, but Jacob and his children still had a long journey before them.  To the present day, Jacob’s children call themselves Israel, but they remain out of joint with God’s covenant because the nation they became is not willing to bow before their brother and God’s youngest firstborn son named Jesus. 

Joseph erred but not in arrogance. Jesus said, “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.[13]  If Joseph had known he lived in a house full of swine, he might have missed God’s will.  Joseph cast his pearl before arrogant swine when he told his dreams.  The swine unwittingly set in motion the events that put Joseph exactly where God wanted him to be: in the house of an Egyptian named Potiphar.  When Potiphar saw that God was with Joseph, he gave Joseph a free hand to grow in the administrative gift God had given him.[14] 

If Jacob and his family had possessed more than a form of godliness, they would not have denied the power in godliness.[15]  Jacob’s family worshiped at God’s altar, but they did not know their God.  If they had, they would have rejoiced when Joseph told his dreams.  God exalts an individual so he can give good things to many.  King David “realized why the Lord had made him king and blessed his kingdom so greatly – it was because God wanted to pour out his kindness on Israel, his chosen people.[16]  Not for David’s sake, but for Israel’s sake God exalted David to be king. Not for Joseph’s sake, but for the swine’s sake God chose to exalt Joseph before he was born.

God poured out his kindness on Jacob’s family because God’s goodness leads us to repentance.  Paul wrote to the Romans, “Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance.”[17] As the old saying goes, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. In the same way, you can lead a sinner to repent, but you can’t make him or her repent. God extends mercy with prudence because mercy does not guarantee a favorable response. Jacob had repented, but his repentance did not bear fruit in his life until he bowed before the son he rebuked for speaking the truth. 

After Jacob rebuked Joseph for telling his dreams, his brothers left to feed their father’s flock in Shechem.  They obviously had no shame or remorse for the way they slaughtered the men of Shechem less than a year earlier. Joseph’s brothers had wandered far from their father’s house and even farther from their God.  They were shepherds full of hatred and envy, devoid of wisdom and understanding.  They wanted God’s promised blessings, but they didn’t want to receive the blessings God’s way.  Jacob knew his sons went to Shechem, where they would face their sin again, so he sent Joseph to see if all was well with them. Joseph found his brothers at Dothan, but all was not well with their souls.

… even before he came near unto them, they conspired against him to slay him.  And they said one to another, Behold, this dreamer cometh.  Come now therefore, and let us slay him, and cast him into some pit, and we will say, Some evil beast hath devoured him: and we shall see what will become of his dreams. Genesis 37:18-21 KJV

 The brothers were so arrogant they would rather kill Joseph than bow before him.  Carnal shepherds are foolish shepherds!  If Joseph’s dreams did not come to pass, they would starve to death.  Jacob’s family was the salt to preserve Canaan, but the salt had lost its savor.[18]  A great famine was on its way to destroy all of them, because God’s people were as corrupt as the people they were left in this evil world to preserve.  In the midst of corruption, there was still hope because Abraham’s God is mighty.  He only needs one man to save all of us.  Joseph was a

FORESHADOW OF THE MESSIAH

The only brother willing to spare Joseph was the brother who had already suffered shame for his sin.  Reuben, the one who committed adultery with his father’s wife, said, “Let us not kill him.[19] Reuben could not bear seeing pain on his father’s face again.  He persuaded his brothers to throw Joseph in a pit, intending to rescue him later. 

Joseph had walked more than one hundred miles through difficult territory just so he could see if all was well and bring the news to his father.  His brothers greeted him by stripping him of his father’s love, his coat of many colors, and threw him into a pit where there was no water.  It would be a very long time before Joseph’s thirst for their love would be quenched. Everywhere Joseph went from this point on the Bible says that the Lord was with him.  Joseph’s brothers stripped away the token of Jacob’s love, but they could not strip God’s love from him. 

 GOD IS NOT MOCKED

When Joseph’s brothers spotted traders on their way to Egypt, Judah thwarted Rueben’s plan by convincing his brothers it would be more profitable to sell Joseph than to kill him. 

 And they took Joseph’s coat, and killed a kid of the goats, and dipped the coat in the blood; And they sent the coat of many colours, and they brought it to their father; and said, This have we found: know now whether it be thy son’s coat or no.  And he knew it, and said, It is my son’s coat; an evil beast hath devoured him; Joseph is without doubt rent in pieces.  And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days.  And all his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted; and he said, For I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning.  Thus his father wept for him.  Genesis 37:31-35, KJV

 Jacob’s conclusion that an evil beast had devoured Joseph pierced his sons like an arrow.  They were the evil beasts that tore Joseph’s heart into pieces.  Twenty years after the deed was done, the brothers were still haunted by the memory of Joseph’s anguish when he pleaded with them to stop, but they refused to listen.[20] When Jesus warned us not to cast our pearls before swine, he was referring to the wild pigs common in Palestine.  These pigs had razor-sharp tusks that destroyed grapes and trampled vineyards.[21]  God gave the fruit of Joseph’s life to his brothers, but they preferred to destroy it. 

Justice is not a pretty sight or sound for the guilty. Isaac’s lack of love for his younger son did not justify Jacob’s treachery and betrayal. Isaac was blind before Jacob left home, but he could still hear the sounds of Jacob’s sorrow echoing through the valleys night after night.  Jacob’s mourning was so great none of his sons and daughters could comfort him.  Jacob was positive he would spend the rest of his life in sorrow, but he was wrong.  When his sons deceived him, God let Jacob eat the fruit of his own way to bring Jacob to maturity, not destroy him.  Jacob didn’t know it, but God already lightened the burden of justice when he preserved Joseph’s life. God had no intention of letting Jacob go to his grave in sorrow.  Before any one went to the grave, Jacob’s entire family would be reconciled because Jacob’s God is El Elohe Israel, the mighty God of Israel, mighty in mercy, love, and kindness. 

 GOD WAS WITH HIM

And his master saw that the LORD was with him, and that the LORD made all that he did to prosper in his hand.  And Joseph found grace in his sight, and he served him: and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he had he put into his hand.  And it came to pass from the time that he had made him overseer in his house, and over all that he had, that the LORD blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of the LORD was upon all that he had in the house, and in the field.  And he left all that he had in Joseph’s hand; and he knew not ought he had, save the bread which he did eat.  And Joseph was a goodly person, and well favoured.  Genesis 39:3-6 KJV

 God blessed the people who were gracious to Joseph. The Egyptians saw God was with Joseph, but they didn’t hate him like his brothers did. Instead, the Egyptians gave Joseph a place to grow and develop in his God-given gift of administration.  God rewarded the Egyptians by blessing them. God was blessing Gentiles long before Jesus sent his disciples “to the ends of the earth.”[22] God left so many blatant clues to the mystery of the gospel before the mystery was revealed; it is a wonder that it was ever called a mystery. 

 In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets.  This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.  I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power.  Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. Ephesians 3:4-9, NIV

 From the time God initiated his plan to exalt Jesus, Gentiles in every nation have been blessed just as God promised Abraham.[23] We are blessed for Jesus’ sake.  Jesus was exalted for our sakes, not to exclude Israel but to include all who love God. 

How refreshing it must have been for Joseph to be free from the oppression of his elders and breathe again.  The Gentiles who loved and appreciated Joseph healed the pain of his family’s rejection.  Jacob would not allow Joseph to tend the sheep. Potiphar put all he had in Joseph hand.  Potiphar had so much trust and confidence in Joseph that “he knew not ought he had, save the bread which he did eat.[24] 

Having the coat of many colors stripped from him was the best thing that could have happened to Joseph. Jacob’s love inhibited his son’s spiritual growth.  Joseph did not make a mistake when he told his dreams.  His family erred when they hated Joseph for believing what God revealed to him.  Joseph prospered in Egypt while his father mourned, and his brothers wrestled with guilt.

Reeses’ Chronological Bible reveals that Joseph served in Potiphar’s house for nine years before Potiphar’s wife cast her eyes upon him.  There is more to this story than Joseph being good to look at.  He had been good to look at from the time Potiphar brought him home.  Whatever stirred up Potiphar’s wife to attempt an adulterous affair with Joseph is not important.  How Joseph responded is important, because this is why Joseph was thrown into prison.  

 …and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he refused.  “With me in charge,” he told her, “my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care.  No one is greater in this house than I am.  My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife.  How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” Genesis 39:7-10, NIV

 After King David committed adultery he cried “against God and God alone I have sinned.” Joseph cried this would be a sin against God, and refused to commit adultery.  Joseph’s adamant refusal to sin against his God landed him in an Egyptian prison, not his dreams. 

We must prove ourselves faithful with little before God will trust us with much.  If Joseph failed to be a faithful representative of God before Potiphar, how could he be a faithful representative of God before Pharaoh?  If Joseph could love God in prison, he could also be trusted to love God in a palace. God tests us before he gives us great authority. 

Prison wasn’t such a bad place for Joseph because, “the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners that were in the prison; and whatsoever they did there, he was the doer of it.”[25] Four years, in a prison Joseph controlled, was a small price to pay for spending the rest of his life second only to Pharaoh.[26]  The injustice committed against Joseph by Potiphar and his wife became a stepping-stone to greater things.  The injustices committed against us in this life are also stepping-stones to spending an eternity second only to God.


[1] OT:7931 shakan (shaw-kan’); a primitive root [apparently akin (by transmission) to OT:7901 through the idea of lodging; compare OT:5531, OT:7925]; to reside or permanently stay (literally or figuratively): (Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary.  Copyright (c) 1994, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc.)

[2] Romans 8:1, KJV

[3] CONDEMN, CONDEMNATION katakrima NT:2631, cf.  No.  4, above, is “the sentence pronounced, the condemnation” with a suggestion of the punishment following; it is found in Rom 5:16,18; 8:1.  kataknno NT:2632, signifies “to give judgment against, pass sentence upon”; hence, “to condemn,” (from Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, Copyright (c)1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers)

[4] Galatians 5:16

[5] Galatians 5:19-21, KJV

[6] Galatians 5:16-26

[7] Ephesians 6:2

[8] Matthew 6:21, NIV

[9] See Revelation 3:14-22 for the spiritual condition of the Laodicean Church.

[10] Revelation 3:17

[11] Hebrews 12:8, NIV

[12] Amos 3:7

[13] Matthew 7:6, KJV

[14] 1 Corinthians 12:28, NIV

[15] 2 Timothy 3:5

[16] 2 Samuel 5:12, The Living Bible

[17] Romans 2:4, NIV

[18] Matthew 5:13

[19] Genesis 37:21, KJV

[20] Genesis 42:21, KJV

[21]  International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, Electronic Database Copyright (c)1996 by Biblesoft)

[22] Acts 1:8, NIV

[23] Genesis 12:3

[24] Genesis 39:6

[25] Genesis 39:22, KJV

[26] Romans 8:18

CH 7 THAT MAN

That Man discusses the dual nature of humanity and how duplicity produces prayers that create obstacles in our relationship with God. Jacob’s desperate prayer and famous wrestling match, commonly attributed to an angel or theophany, was a struggle with . . . Sorry, I’m not going to spoil the surprise. I will tell you this. Jacob wasn’t wrestling with an angel or theophany.

After Jacob returned from Paddan Aram, God appeared to him again and blessed him.  God said to him, “Your name is Jacob, but you will no longer be called Jacob; your name will be Israel.” So he named him Israel.  Genesis 35:9-10, NIV

 On two occasions, God promised to change Jacob’s name to Israel. God made this promise through an angel while Jacob was camped at the Jabbok River and again sixteen years later when Jacob fulfilled his vow at Bethel. Yet hundreds of years after the promise was made God declared to Moses, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.”[1] Why did God say Jacob?  Shouldn’t God have said, “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel”? Obviously, God had not changed Jacob’s name yet.  More than a thousand years after God announced his name to Moses, the Apostle Peter called his God, “The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob…”[2] Why did Peter say Jacob? What about the promise to change Jacob’s name to Israel?  The descendants of Jacob call themselves Israel today, but it is unlikely God does.  Israel is still acting like Jacob. The nation of Israel has never embraced Jesus as their Messiah. 

From the time God promised to change Jacob’s name, Jacob is sometimes called Jacob, sometimes Israel, and sometimes Jacob and Israel are addressed in the same sentence as though they are two different people – or two different nations.  Let us not forget that God saw two nations in Rebekah’s womb.[3]  As went the man, so went the nation Jacob became.  A people cannot rise higher than the man who leads them, and Jacob was a man divided.  

 TWO OF ME

Everyone possesses a dual nature. The Apostle Paul aptly described our conflict in his letter to the Romans: 

 I do not understand what I do.  For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.  And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.  As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.  I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.  For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.  For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do-this I keep on doing.  Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.  Romans 7:15-20, NIV

 I was aware of this conflict before I became a Christian and read the book of Romans. To this day, I remember sitting in my High School geometry class oblivious to a word the teacher said, because evil thoughts and good thoughts were at war in my mind.  A friend had invited me to participate in something I knew was wrong, and I did not want to do it.  Yet, for some inexplicable reason, there was something in me that wanted to do it.  What I wanted to do, I did not do.  What I hated, I did repeatedly for almost two years and did not understand why I could not stop doing what I did not want to do.  What a miserable state I found myself in! Thankfully, I was not the first to encounter this conflict.  Paul also declared in his letter to the Romans, “What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord![4]

Today, I can thank God for the misery and be grateful for the war that I lost.  If I had won the battle to do what is right by my own strength, it is highly unlikely I would have called on a power greater than myself for help.  When I came to the end of my strength and admitted defeat, God through Jesus Christ our Lord rescued me as well.[5]

Paul said,  “…if I do what I do not want to do I agree that the law is good.[6] My struggle to do good was a witness I could trust.  My struggle bore witness that I knew the law was good, or I would not have been struggling to obey it.  The struggle to do good bore witness that I am not greater than the law that produces sin, because I had to call on someone greater than myself for strength to obey the law of my conscience. 

We often lose the battle to do good and end up doing evil because we are struggling with the law, and the law is spiritual.[7] When we struggle with sin, we are fighting a spiritual battle without spiritual power, unless we have received God’s Spirit of grace.  However, receiving God’s Spirit does not guarantee a victorious life. Christians continue to sin after they are saved and filled with the Spirit.  Those who have received God’s Spirit must also walk in the Spirit or they will sin again.  God is the law and only the Spirit of God’s grace can deal with the Spirit of God’s law.  In other words, only God can successfully deal with God!  Therefore, God gave us a mediator who is fully God and fully man.  After Jesus was raised from the dead, he took his place at God’s right hand to intercede for us.[8]

We don’t have to be Christian to have the Spirit of God’s law in our heart.  We don’t even have to believe God exists to know the right thing to do.  Communist countries, what few are left, don’t believe God exists yet their constitutions include moral laws.  Such nations vindicate God for giving us law.  How can we complain about God giving us laws to obey when we accept the need for law whether we believe he exists or not?  We know that law is right and necessary.  Therefore, 

  All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, [apart from the law given at Sinai] and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law.  [The law given at Sinai will judge the nation Jacob’s children became] For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.  (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, [The law God gave to Moses] do by nature things required by the law [that God gave to Moses], they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, [that God gave to Moses] since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) Romans 2:12-15, NIV  

 We can thank Grandpa Adam and Grandma Eve for making us a law unto ourselves as God is.  When they ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they passed on the knowledge of law from flesh to flesh.  Adam and Eve were the first, the head, therefore the consequences of what they did gave sin and death to all their flesh descendants.  Even babies who have committed no sin suffer the consequences of Adam and Eve’s actions, which is death.  Jesus was sinless, yet he willingly suffered the consequence of Adam and Eve’s sin.  When Jesus was resurrected, he became the firstborn from the dead so humanity could have a new head and enjoy the consequences of his obedience – eternal life.

 A MAN DIVIDED

By his natural instincts Jacob did the things required in the law given to Moses.  He became, in Paul’s words, “a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts.[9] Jacob knew law is right, but he didn’t know how to use law correctly. His lack of knowledge made him a double-minded man who prayed without wisdom.[10]

It is spurious to believe praying long enough, loud enough, often enough, or intensely enough will produce whatever we want from God.  Jesus told us not to be like the pagans who think they will be heard for their many words.  The book of Ecclesiastes warns us to “Guard your steps when you go to the house of God.  Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong.  Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God…[11]  

Many years ago it dawned on me that most of what I said in prayer was a feeble effort to manipulate God into doing what I thought should be done.  When my demands were not met, I did not hesitate to complain and even get angry with God.  I prayed like a double-minded fool “because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.[12] 

I attended two churches that embarked on ambitious prayer campaigns in a quest for revival.  Both of those churches died.  At one of the churches, I faithfully arose at four o’clock in the morning to attend a daily prayer meeting.  We prayed that God would “move.”  After praying for more than a year, God “moved,” but not in the way I expected.  God exposed sin in the pastor’s life.  Since it was a large church, the daily newspaper recorded every fact and tidbit of gossip.  Talk radio hosts could not answer their phones fast enough and local TV stations regularly updated the city on the “Holy War.”  The scandal became a traumatic event for every church in the city.  Eventually, the church disbanded into several smaller churches, and I moved on disillusioned and confused.  Our prayers were supposed to bring a revival, not a disaster. 

When the next church I joined started a serious prayer campaign, I was a little older and wiser in the Lord.  I had learned from experience that God will tell us what he is doing through the good and perfect gifts that come down from the “Father of lights.”[13] Jesus commanded us to hear what the Spirit is saying for good reason.  The spiritual gifts give us light.  This time, I not only listened intently when God spoke, I wrote down the prophetic utterances and the date they were given. 

Within two months after the church started praying for revival, an utterance came forth saying, “You cry for revival but you are not revived.  Your heart is far from me.  Do not give me lip service that I cannot honor.  I seek true worshipers who worship me in spirit and truth that I can honor.”  That same month the music minister left and the church struggled to find an adequate replacement for years.  Every few months over the next year, a similar message about lip service came forth. 

Finally, two years after we started praying and were oft rebuked, a message came forth saying, “You cry out for revival.  I have heard you, but you have heard me too.”  The following month an utterance came forth that “the kings of the earth are able to keep their treasures safe.  We are his treasure, his jewels and he is able to keep us safe.”  Soon thereafter, people began leaving the church in mini-exoduses, two families here, and three families there.  The leadership told us the people who left didn’t want God, but the people who left went to other churches and flourished.  Conflicts and division arose in the church.  The leadership exhorted us to combat the devil by praying longer, harder, louder, and more enthusiastically. 

God is a good shepherd who never fails us.  Sometimes the people God sets in stewardship over his treasures fail.  The Spirit never said that the devil was fighting us.  For almost two years the Spirit said to the church, “Your heart is far from me.”  Twice the Spirit told us “I have heard you but you have heard me too.”  God told us the truth through the gifts of the Spirit.  The flesh in the pulpit either lacked discernment or refused to accept the truth. 

It wasn’t the devil hindering the revival for which we diligently prayed.  The problem was disobedience in the church’s leadership.  Unfortunately, the leaders were convinced the problem was disobedience in the sheep.  Moses’ ministry proved that it does not matter what the sheep do.  The sheep were rebellious during Moses’ entire ministry.  God never abandoned them. Instead, he performed awesome miracles to help them because he respected Moses and counted him a friend. God judges a church by its leaders because the people sitting in the pews do not have the authority to make changes in a church. 

At the end of that year, the Lord spoke to us one last time. “I have heard you but you have heard me too.  Do not stand before me in unbelief.”  After that declaration, God stopped talking.  A prophetic utterance from the Spirit became rare.  The few that did come forth were questionable.  People continued to leave the church and ministries within the church continued to dry up until the church was one-fourth the size it was before we started praying.  Three years after my family left the church, the pastor resigned. Today this church is growing again under new leadership.

We should pray but it is far more important that we listen. We need to remember what God has already said and what God is presently saying, or our prayers will be an insult to a God of absolute integrity.  The second church and Jacob had the same problem.  They listened but they didn’t hear.  They heard but they didn’t believe.  They wanted God to keep his word to them, but they didn’t want to obey God.  They wanted to do good things, but they didn’t want to do it God’s way.  They knew how to flatter God, but they didn’t know how to honor God.  They served God, but their hearts were far from him. 

Before God gave his law to Moses, Jacob moved his relationship with God from grace to law. Jacob knew about the covenant of grace God made with Abraham.  He desired to be included in the promised nation, but he did not want to obtain the blessings of the covenant God’s way.  In his quest for control, Jacob made a vow that complicated his relationship with God.  As Jacob fled from his father-in-law, he encountered some of God’s temple messengers who wanted to know if Jacob was going to Bethel.  In response, Jacob summoned Esau believing his brother would refuse to come, so he would not have to keep the vow he made at Bethel. When Jacob heard that his brother Esau and four hundred men were on the way, he prepared for the worst and once again prayed in vain. 

 Then Jacob prayed, “O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, O LORD, who said to me, ‘Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper,’ I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant.  I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two groups.  Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children.  But you have said, ‘I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.'” Genesis 32:9-12, NIV

 Jacob still did not know who his father was because he called both Abraham and Isaac “my father” in his prayer.  Abraham followed the Spirit.  Isaac followed the lust of his flesh.  Jacob called both the Spirit and the flesh “father”.  He couldn’t have it both ways.  When God appeared to Jacob at Bethel, he plainly said, “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac.”  Like Jacob, we too must learn to walk in the steps of Abraham’s faith and no other. 

John the Baptist warned the religious leaders of his day to “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.  And do not think you can say to yourselves’, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.”[14]  Jesus confirmed that being a descendant of Abraham’s flesh was not enough when he threw diplomacy out the window and told the children of Jacob their father was the devil.[15]  Jesus was speaking to people who prayed, fasted, and did their utmost best to obey the law. 

Jacob was a direct descendant of Abraham, but he acted like his father – the devil. He was carnally minded; therefore, his desires and God’s desires were in conflict.  Jacob prayed carnally because his thoughts were carnal.  He did not set his mind on the same things the Spirit of God did.  If you are double-minded, you should stop praying and start listening until you understand. 

The balance of Jacob’s prayer insulted a God who cannot lie. First, Jacob reminded God of his promise to bring him home safely.  God promised to bring Jacob home again before Jacob even thought to ask him.  Did Jacob think God would change his mind and fail to do what he promised?  Jacob saw God in the same light as he saw himself, someone who can’t be trusted.  Jacob tried to manipulate his circumstances by declaring how unworthy he was.  Then Jacob proved how unworthy he was by fearing his brother instead of his God.  Did Jacob really think Esau could stop God from fulfilling his promise?  Did Jacob think God would be caught unaware? If Jacob truly believed the gospel Abraham had taught him, he would have known that even death can’t rob us of the things God has promised.

Jacob expected God to keep his word while he looked for a way out of keeping the vow he had made at Bethel.  “God,” Jacob whined, “I can’t die. You promised to make my descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.”  God never promised to make Jacob’s descendants like the sand of the sea.  When God spoke to Jacob at Bethel, God said, “Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south.[16]   God said “sand of the sea” once to Abraham, long before Jacob was born, and he was talking about one seed meaning Jesus.[17]

Words are important to God.  He is precise in what he says, when he says it, and to whom he says it.  Jacob attempted to be precise as well.  He reminded God about the sand of the sea promise because of the context in which God spoke this promise.  After the angel stopped Abraham from offering Isaac as a sacrifice, God promised to make Abraham and his seed “as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore.”  Then God promised Abraham his “…descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies,…”[18]  The last time Jacob saw his brother, Esau was making plans to kill him.  Jacob believed it was his right to conquer his enemies, so he craftily reminded God of the “sand of the sea” promise.  Jacob’s vain thoughts produced a vain prayer.  Esau wasn’t Jacob’s enemy. 

Not only was Jacob confused because he was trying to walk in the flesh and Spirit at the same time, he was a third generation believer trying to deal with a God he did not know.  He was a direct descendant of Abraham’s flesh but not Abraham’s spirit.  Jacob had one hand on grace and the other hand on law, which made him double-minded and in desperate need of ministry. 

 MINISTERING SPIRITS

 Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?  We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.  Hebrews 1:14-2:1, NIV

 We must pay careful attention to the things we have heard because God sends angels to minister to us, and they will not waver from God’s spoken word. God sent angels to intercept Jacob as he fled from Laban because Jacob was drifting away.  If Jacob had paid attention to the things Abraham taught him, it would have solved his problem.  It was God’s will that Jacob live as Abraham did, a stranger and foreigner in the land of Canaan.  It was also God’s will that Jacob would die believing God would raise him from the dead as Abraham did. Bethel was on the road to Canaan, a glaring reminder of the vow Jacob had no desire to keep, so Jacob began to drift in the wrong direction. 

After Jacob prayed for God to keep his word, he concocted his own plan to appease his brother.  Jacob called on the Spirit and then walked in the flesh.  In other words, he asked for God’s wisdom, and then walked in his own wisdom.  Before Esau arrived at Jacob’s camp, he received nine gifts from Jacob.  The Apostle Paul recorded nine gifts of the Spirit in his first letter to the Corinthians.  Jacob’s gifts were not gifts from the Spirit.  They were gifts from a man who did not trust God to solve his problem.  After Jacob sent his gifts to Esau, he settled down for the night but could not sleep.  Worried that he had not taken enough precautions to protect his family, Jacob arose in the middle of the night and sent his family across the river to a safer place.

 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.  Genesis 32:24,NIV

 It is commonly accepted that Jacob wrestled with an angel.  Others believe the “man” was a theophany.[19]  There are problems with both of these opinions.  The Bible says Jacob wrestled with a “man.”  The Hebrew word ‘enowsh that was translated “man,” means a mortal man or a man in general.[20] An angel is not a mortal man.  Jesus did not become a mortal man until he was born.  This leaves us with an intriguing question, “Who was that man?”

The balance of the story strongly implies that it was an angel or even God.  Jacob even said, “I saw God face to face.[21]  Can we really trust what a double-minded man says?  Jacob did not understand Godly things.  He was like the pastor who claimed the devil was fighting even though the Spirit repeatedly said the problem was in hearts that were far from him. 

There is some uncertainty with whom Jacob wrestled, because we are left with nothing more than the pronouns, “he” and “him” in Genesis 32:25. We know that Jacob was there.  There were definitely angels present because the Bible says the angels of God met him.  However, I have already established that the angels were present to minister to Jacob.  Now let me stir up your thinking by contradicting years of Christian teaching on this subject by introducing a third person into this story.  I cannot, in good conscience, apply a Hebrew word that means “a mortal man” to an angel or to Jesus before he was born.  Nor do I believe Jacob could restrain an angel from leaving if the angel wanted to leave.  Angels are greater than men in power and might.[22]  The angel proved he was stronger than Jacob when he touched Jacob’s hip and knocked it out of joint.  An angel could have left anytime he wanted. 

 All of us know and have wrestled with the man who kept Jacob up all night.  The New Testament tells us who Jacob wrestled with that night. 

  This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.  But ye have not so learned Christ; If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.  Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.  Ephesians 4:17-25, KJV

 Paul commanded God’s people to put off the old man which is corrupted by our deceitful lusts. The man Jacob wrestled with was his “old man.”  Jacob was a man divided, trying to walk in the wisdom of the flesh and the wisdom of the Spirit simultaneously.  He wanted the blessings that come through God’s grace but sought to obtain them through the vow he made at Bethel.  Jacob was wrestling with himself!

The angels had come to minister to Jacob by bringing his thoughts in line with the will of God, but Jacob’s old man resisted. Jacob’s vain thoughts about himself and his place in God’s plan darkened his understanding and alienated him from the life of God.  His prayer and actions after he prayed proved it.  Instead of trusting in God and his gifts, Jacob trusted his own plans and the gifts that he could give. 

 OUT OF JOINT

And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him.  Genesis 32:25, KJV

 There are six pronouns in Genesis 32:25 that mak the verse difficult to understand.  Many assume the angel knocked Jacob’s thigh out of joint in his struggle to leave. Why would an angel God sent to minister to Jacob struggle to get away from him?  Who do the six “he’s” and “him’s” in this passage refer to?  Let’s consider verse 25 this way: And when the angel saw that Jacob prevailed not against the old man, the angel touched the hollow of his thigh and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint, as Jacob continued to wrestle with himself. 

When the angel saw that Jacob could not prevail against the old man, the angel pointed to the problem. In Jacob’s day, a hand was placed on the thigh when a vow was uttered.  The angel pointed to the broken vow when he touched Jacob’s thigh and knocked it out of joint.  Jacob lacked the strength to overcome the old man because there were oaths out of joint in Jacob’s life.  The oath God swore to Abraham that would have governed Jacob’s thoughts and kept him from walking in the vanity of his own mind like the Gentiles do. The second oath out of joint was the vow Jacob made that he had no intention of keeping. 

 And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh.  And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.  Genesis 32:26, KJV

 Was the angel pleading with Jacob to let him leave?  It appears Hosea would answer yes. 

  He struggled with the angel and overcame him; he wept and begged for his favor.  He found him at Bethel and talked with him there the Lord God Almighty, the Lord is his name of renown! Hosea 12:4, NIV

 Genesis and Hosea appear to say the same thing, until you dig a little deeper. God hid his wisdom for his people to find.

Sometimes we think we have the truth until the surface is washed away. I watched a fascinating special interest story on the news one evening.  A teacher had given her third grade class a lesson in marketing.  She showed her class that a bag of chocolate chip cookies guaranteed more than 1,000 chocolate chips per bag.  Then the teacher had her students count the chocolate chips on each cookie.  When the results from each student were tallied, it appeared the cookie company had lied.  The students counted less than 1,000 chocolate chips.  The class sent a letter of protest to the cookie company.  The cookie company responded by sending a representative with a special solution that dissolved the cookie but not the chocolate chips.  The students counted the chocolate chips again.  This time the tally was more than 1,000 chocolate chips because of the additional chips inside the cookie.  The cookie company had not lied.  The students had only counted the chips on the surface. 

On the surface, it appears Jacob wrestled with the angel and overcame him, but we are reading translations of the original text. Why would Jacob need to wrestle a blessing out of an angel?  God withholds no good thing from his people.  Hosea 12:4 in The Interlinear Bible reads, “Yea, he had power over the angel, and prevailed: he wept, and made supplication unto him: Bethel, he found him and there he spake with us…”

Jacob had power over the angel because Jacob had the power to choose.  When God offers help, we are free to accept his help or reject it.  Jacob rejected the angel’s help.  He wrestled with himself, wept, and made supplication to God by the Jabbok River, but he did not find God.  The Interlinear Bible says Jacob found the one he was making supplication to at Bethel.  God did not speak to Jacob when he wrestled with the old man.  God spoke to Jacob when he went to Bethel and fulfilled his vow. 

Jacob still had a long road to travel before he overcame the old man.  When the angel pointed to Jacob’s problem by touching the hollow of Jacob’s thigh, he ignored the solution and continued to wrestle with himself.  Jacob ignored the solution to his problem, because he couldn’t accept that he was the problem.  The angel grew weary of dealing with Jacob. He could not help Jacob until he was ready to accept the truth.  The sun was rising and the angel said, “Let me go, for the day breaketh,[23] but Jacob wanted a blessing first. 

It is irritating to watch someone ignore the solution and still demand a blessing.  If Jacob had listened to the messenger God sent, he would have found the strength to conquer the old man by becoming spiritually minded.  The only way to keep the old man in check is to walk in the desire of the Spirit.  We cannot walk in the Spirit until we understand God’s covenants. 

Jacob did not know what he really needed but God did.  Jacob needed to listen.  He was struggling because he did not know who he was.  When Jacob begged for a blessing, the angel began the counseling session by asking him a simple question, “What is your name?”  The Hebrew word translated name means reputation.[24]  Jacob thought he was a good man because he had done good things.  He worked hard, prayed, and made plans to provide for his family, but God knew the truth.  From the time Jacob came out of his mother’s womb, he was a treacherous rebel. 

 Listen to this, O house of Jacob, you who are called by the name of Israel and come from the line of Judah, you who take oaths in the name of the LORD and invoke the God of Israel–but not in truth or righteousness–  you who call yourselves citizens of the holy city and rely on the God of Israel–the LORD Almighty is his name:… I knew how stubborn you were; the sinews of your neck were iron, your forehead was bronze… Well do I know how treacherous you are; you were called a rebel from birth.  Isaiah 48 1-2, 4, 8, NIV

 In reply to the angel’s question, “What is your name?”  he said, “Jacob,” which means a heel-catcher or supplanter.[25]  He lived up to his name when he cheated Esau out of his place in the family.  Jacob was born with an evil heart, but that hardly made Jacob unique.  Jeremiah declared, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it![26]  God knows our hearts are deceitful but convincing us of that truth is a challenge.

Everyone knew who Jacob was except Jacob.  God had good news, if Jacob would only listen.  The evil destroying Jacob’s life was not his fault.  After the flood that killed all of humanity except Noah and his family, God said, “Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood.”[27]  God blessed Noah, and has been blessing humanity from that day to the present time. 

Jacob did not need a blessing.  He needed a new man to dwell in his heart. You can suppress who you are, but that does not change who you are.  When pressure is applied, the real you will surface, often to your own amazement and dismay.  Jacob could not change his character, but there was hope.  The angel had a message from God. 

 …Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.  Genesis 32:28, NIV

 What’s this? Seems like the angel should have said,  “you have struggled with God and me and have overcome,” if indeed Jacob struggled with an angel.  Yes, but the angel said, “you have struggled with God.” I know. I already proved that Jacob was struggling with the old man.  No, I am not contradicting myself.  Who do you think the old man is, my friend? The old man is the aspect of God humanity received when Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden.  The old man is the Spirit of law, or the knowledge of good and evil that is passed on from flesh to flesh.

Jacob was assured his name would no longer be Jacob, “the supplanter,” but Israel, “one who rules as God.” This promise to the man, Jacob, was a promise to the nation he would become.  The nation of Israel has never ruled like God and neither did Jacob in his lifetime.  The firstborn from the dead, Jesus, and all that are his will rule like God does.  Since Jesus has not yet returned to establish his nation on the earth, there is still time to become a citizen of the nation who will rule like God. 

As soon as the angel told Jacob he would be given a new reputation, Jacob wanted to know the angel’s name.  The all night wrestling match with the old man had not changed Jacob.  He tried to change the subject by talking about the angel’s reputation because he didn’t want to face the truth about himself.  Knowing who someone else is will not change who we are.  We will change when we acknowledge who we are. 

Jacob limped back to his family and proved that he had not changed.  The first thing Jacob saw was Esau running to give him a hug and a kiss because all was forgiven.  God had fulfilled everything in the covenant Jacob made at Bethel.  Once again, Jacob lied.  Jacob told Esau he would come to Seir, but Jacob never showed up.  He went to Succoth and took an inventory of his cattle to determine how much fulfilling his vow would cost.  Jacob was not willing to pay the price, so he betrayed God.  From Succoth Jacob went to Shechem where he purchased land and settled down to raise his family.  God told him while he was living in Haran to return to the land of his kindred.  Why did Jacob settle in Shechem where he had no kindred?

The old man still controlled Jacob and he continued to walk in the vanity of his mind.  His vain thoughts left him alienated from the life of God.  Consequently, Jacob was still greedy.  He did not want to give God the tenth he promised.  Jacob believed in God, but his mind had not yet been renewed so that he could put on the new man, “which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.[28] 

 MY SHEPHERD

The Bible says Jacob overcame when he kept his vow at Bethel and God had promised to change Jacob’s reputation – yet Jacob remained in bondage to the old man after he obeyed God.  Did God lie to Jacob?  No!  God cannot lie.[29]  When God makes a promise he is not limited by time and his plan spans generations. 

Shortly before Jacob died, he said to Joseph, “…May the God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day,…”[30] God is not a magician.  God is “my shepherd all my life!”  When I am good, he is my shepherd.  When I am bad, he is still my shepherd.  He never stops being a good shepherd.

 God never abandoned Jacob even when Jacob was at his worst.  Developing character takes time. If we don’t willingly submit to God’s will for our life, the only thing that will change our character is God ordained suffering.  Not suffering alone because suffering does not always change us for the better. God ordained suffering changes our character.  

Jacob lived in Shechem for fifteen years before God judged him for refusing to keep his vow.  Jacob’s sons made an agreement they never intended to keep and it destroyed Jacob’s reputation.  Jacob thought his life was ruined but in the midst of this disaster God visited Jacob with the solution. The disaster brought the presence of God.

Jacob wept and begged for God’s favor at Bethel, but all he got was a promise.  Jacob’s weeping and begging did not change him.  The promise did not change him.  The angel blessed Jacob before he left, and the blessing did not change him.  Jacob changed when God showed mercy by speaking to him in the midst of tragedy!  God’s mercy gave Jacob the strength to call his house together and be the leader he was born to be.  Jacob demanded Rebekah to give him the idols she stole from her father.  Then Jacob told his family to get ready, they were going to Bethel to worship the God who answered him in the day of his distress.  Jacob finally got a clue that the strange gods Rebekah taught the family to worship were not worthy of worship. 

We are changed from glory to glory.  God’s glory is his mercy.  However, the mercy God gave Jacob by coming to him in the midst of this disaster did not fix all of Jacob’s character problems.  Jacob removed the foreign gods from his house, but he did not get rid of them because they still held some value to him.  The person in possession of the idols possessed the rights to the inheritance the idol represented, so Jacob hid the idols under an oak tree instead of destroying them.[31]  Jacob was making progress, but he was still far from perfect.  An earthly inheritance was more important to him than his heavenly inheritance.  Nevertheless, God protected Jacob. The men from the neighboring cities did not pursue Jacob’s family in retribution for killing every man in Shechem.  After Jacob built the promised altar at Bethel, God appeared to him again. 

…Thy name is Jacob: thy name shall not be called any more Jacob, but Israel shall be thy name; and he called his name Israel…Genesis 35:10 KJV

 God called him Israel but God calls things that are not as though they are.[32] God saw Jacob hide Rebekah’s idols under the tree.  Even though Jacob kept his vow at Bethel, his name remained Jacob because he only corrected one covenant that was out of joint.  Jacob’s thoughts about the covenant God made with Abraham were still out of joint.  Hosea revealed something else God told Jacob at Bethel. 

  But you must return to your God; maintain love and justice, and wait for your God always.  Hosea 12:6, NIV

We must do more than return to God.  We must maintain love and justice while we wait for God to fulfill his covenants. The way Jacob dealt with his sons after he returned to Canaan revealed Jacob sorely lacked the ability to maintain love and justice while he waited. After Rachel died, Jacob transferred his love to Joseph and made his other sons so angry they wanted to kill Joseph, just as Esau once hated Jacob enough to kill him. 

Jacob failed to walk in God’s ways just as his parents had.  But there was still hope for Jacob. God promised to change Jacob’s character and God knows how to turn swine into sons.


[1] Exodus 3:6, NIV

[2] Acts 3:13, NIV

[3] Genesis 25:23

[4] Romans 7:24, NIV

[5] Romans 7:25

[6] Romans 7:16, NIV

[7] Romans 7:14

[8] Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25

[9] Romans 2:14-15, NIV

[10] James Chapter 1

[11] Ecclesiastes 5:1-2, NIV

[12] Romans 8:7, KJV

[13] James 1:17, KJV

[14] Matthew 3:8-9, NIV

[15] John 8:44

[16] Genesis 28:14, NIV

[17] Genesis 22:17

[18] Genesis 22:17, NIV

[19] An appearance of Jesus before his birth. 

[20] ‘enowsh (en-oshe’); from OT:605; properly, a mortal (and thus differing from the more dignified OT:120); hence, a man in general (singly or collectively): (Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary.  Copyright (c) 1994, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc.) OT 582

[21] Genesis 32:30, NIV

[22] 2 Peter 2:11

[23] Genesis 32:26, KJV

[24] NAME: shem OT:8034, “name; reputation; memory; renown.” (from Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, Copyright (c)1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers)

[25] OT:3290Ya` aqob (yah-ak-obe’); from OT:6117; heel-catcher (i.e. supplanter); Jaakob, the Israelitish patriarch:(Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright (c) 1994, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc.)

[26] Jeremiah 17:9

[27] Genesis 8:21, NIV

[28] Ephesians 4:24, KJV

[29] Hebrews 6:18

[30] Genesis 48:15, NIV

[31] Werner, Keller, The Bible as History (Barnes & Nobles Books, 1995), 68.

[32] Romans 4:17

CH 06 NO LOVE FOR FATHER

No Love For Father examines key elements to living a victorious Christian life. What it means to love the world by  studying the life of Isaac and Jacob. How walking in lust corrupted their lives and thwarted their love for God.   

So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her.  Genesis 29:20, NIV

 Choosing a marriage partner is one of the most important decisions we make in life. Choose wisely and many happy years will follow.  A poor choice brings complications and misery into our lives. Jacob traveled to Haran and chose a wife as his father instructed him to, but the lust of his eyes motivated his choice. Ultimately, Jacob’s wife complicated his family’s relationship with their God for generations.

The Hebrew word translated as “love” in the story of Jacob and Rachel is the equivalent of our English word for love which is rooted in sexual desire.[1]  In less than one month, Jacob fell in love with Rachel, and he longed to have her in his bed. Yet, he was able to control his lust for seven years. Clearly, Jacob was a man of great fortitude.  His ability to love contained a characteristic similar to his God’s. Jacob’s love made seven years seem like days. God’s love for us makes a thousand years seem like one day to him.[2]  Jacob possessed the deep capacity for love needed to live the kind of faith pleases God – a faith which “works by love.”[3] Unfortunately, Jacob chose to love like the world loves. 

 LOVING LIKE THE WORLD

Few, if indeed any of us, love unconditionally as God does. God chose to love Jacob before he was born. Therefore, God’s decision to love was not based on anything Jacob had done. God also remained faithful to Jacob when there were many reasons for God’s love to grow cold.

In comparison to God’s love, Jacob’s father chose to love the son who satisfied the lust of his flesh.  Isaac’s conditional love ultimately betrayed the God who chose to love him.  Jacob learned how to love from Isaac’s faith.  Therefore, Jacob lived to satisfy his lust as Isaac did.  Rebekah satisfied the lust of Jacob’s eyes, so he chose to love her. Loving as Isaac and Jacob did drives out love for God.

According to tradition, the Apostle John spent the final years of his life as a chief elder of the Ephesian church.  John perceived that his congregations love for God had grown cold, and he sought to bring the church back to her first love by writing an open letter for all churches that instructed them how to love God. 

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.  If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.  And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.  1 John 2:15-17, KJV

 The Living Bible says, “Stop loving this evil world and all that it offers you, for when you love these things you show that you do not really love God.” Another translation called The Message says, “Love for the world squeezes out love for the Father.”  In other words, when you love the way the world loves; you will not love God “the Father.”

It is not possible to simultaneously love the way the world does and love “the Father” for several reasons.  First, God will not buy our love by giving us whatever we want.  He provides for our needs, not our lusts.  Second, God does not satisfy the lust of our eyes.  Seeing God has produced terror or indifference.  The children of Jacob saw a manifestation of their God at Sinai.  Moses trembled with fear and everyone else fled in a panic.[4]  When Jesus walked the earth he declared, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.[5] Yet Isaiah tells us that Jesus “had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.[6]  Finally, it is impossible to love the way the world loves and still love God because no one will boast in God’s presence.[7]  If we love the things that we have done through our own strength and ability, we will find ourselves at war with God. When his presence comes like a fire consuming the works of human flesh, we will resist God and claim the devil is fighting.

 HOPE FOR THE WORLD

Isaac walked in the lust of his flesh.  Jacob walked in the lust of his eyes. They loved the world and walked in the ways of this world.  Fortunately, God so loved the world that he gave his son to redeem those entangled in the ways of this world.  Isaac and Jacob reveal a comforting truth. Our lack of love for “the Father” does not stop him from loving us.  God’s declaration to Moses is a shining ray of hope for the children of promise who are struggling to find their way out of the world and walk in the faith that works by love.

God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers–the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob–has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation.  Exodus 3:15, NIV

 More curious than the name God chose to be remembered by, is God’s desire to be remembered from generation to generation by this unusual name; “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob!” God’s name could be paraphrased this way: I am the God of a liar, the God of a man who hated me, and the God of a deceiver. In God’s name is great hope for every generation.  God is who he is because that is who God chooses to be.  Our behavior does not dictate how God responds to us, nor the depth of his love for us.  In another place, God told Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.”[8] God is who he wants to be and no one can change God with his or her behavior.  In sum, it is impossible to manipulate God.

But about the resurrection of the dead have you not read what God said to you,’ I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” Matthew 22:30-32, NIV

 We can make the same mistakes Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob made and still have hope, because God promised to change Jacob’s name to Israel.  Yet, hundreds of years later Jesus was still calling him Jacob.  We have hope because God’s people continue to be strangers and foreigners in this world like the great men of faith who lived before us.[9]  Abraham, Isaac and Jacob made mistakes, yet each has a trophy in Hebrews, Chapter 11, the “faith man’s hall of fame.”  Before Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob died, they learned how to have faith in God.  When they understood Abraham’s faith, they learned what it means to love God.  God turned the bad things the patriarchs did into good and in so doing taught us valuable lessons in faith, hope, and love. 

 LUST OF THE EYE

There was nothing wrong with Jacob getting married.  Paul said it is better to remain unmarried, but God is wiser than Paul.[10]  God created woman because it is not good for a man to be alone.[11] In addition to that, “he who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord.”[12]

There was something wrong with the reason Jacob married, and the way he obtained his wife.  Out of love and compassion, Abraham sought a wife for his son, Isaac, the only child of Sarah who had waited a very long time to have a baby.  Sarah’s death severed the close relationship Isaac had with his mother.  Abraham knew that Isaac needed to be comforted after his mother died.[13]  While Isaac’s mother could not be replaced, the companionship of a woman could.  Abraham made his most trusted servant swear an oath that two things would never happen.  First, that Isaac would not take a wife from the Canaanites.  Second, that Isaac would remain in the land of Canaan.  Then Abraham gave his servant specific instructions. 

 “Make sure that you do not take my son back there,”… “The LORD, the God of heaven, who brought me out of my father’s household and my native land and who spoke to me and promised me on oath, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give this land’–he will send his angel before you so that you can get a wife for my son from there.  If the woman is unwilling to come back with you, then you will be released from this oath of mine.  Only do not take my son back there.” Genesis 24:7-8, NIV

 Abraham preferred that Isaac remain single than leave Canaan to find a wife. The circumstances that led to a wife hunt for Jacob were vastly different.  Rebekah’s new plan to rectify the disastrous results of her last plan did not include a wife.  Obtaining a wife was merely an excuse to get Jacob out of the house before Esau found opportunity to kill him.  Rebekah told Jacob one thing and her husband something else. 

 Now then, my son, do what I say: Flee at once to my brother Laban in Haran.   Stay with him for a while until your brother’s fury subsides.  When your brother is no longer angry with you and forgets what you did to him, I’ll send word for you to come back from there.  Why should I lose both of you in one day?” Then Rebekah said to Isaac, “I’m disgusted with living because of these Hittite women.  If Jacob takes a wife from among the women of this land, from Hittite women like these, my life will not be worth living.” Genesis 27:43-46, NIV

 Godly Rebekah knew the will of God, but her ways were not God’s ways and her thoughts were not God’s thoughts.  God’s way creates peace.  Rebekah’s way created hatred between brothers.  She thought she acted in Jacob’s best interest, but she didn’t.  Rebekah was concerned first and foremost for Rebekah.  “Why should I lose both of you,” she complained to Jacob.  “[M]y life will not be worth living” she complained to Isaac. Her selfish plans designed to protect her own interests tore her family apart.

Jacob was seventy years old and still doing what his mother thought best.  He would have fared much better in life if he had stopped fulfilling plans concocted by his mother and sought God’s guidance.  Mother’s last plan was a fiasco, so why did Jacob allow himself to get sucked into another one?  Instead of kindly and lovingly rebuking his mother for constantly interfering in his life, Jacob yielded to the flesh – Rebekah’s wisdom.  When Rebekah complained about the grief Esau’s wives created, Isaac yielded to the flesh as well.[14]

Early the next day, Isaac called Jacob into his office for a fatherly talk that may have gone something like this; “Jacob, my father knew it was important that I marry a godly woman from our family in Haran.  I want no less for you.  You will not marry a woman from Canaan like your brother did.  Pack your bags and go to Haran with my blessings, so you can find a wife who will worship our God.”  Jacob went to Haran and found a woman who worshiped idols, because the way he sought his wife was wrong. 

Abraham sent a servant bound by an oath to do what was best for Isaac.  When the servant approached the city, he prayed. 

 … “O LORD, God of my master Abraham, give me success today, and show kindness to my master Abraham.   See, I am standing beside this spring, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water.   May it be that when I say to a girl, ‘Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too’–let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac… Genesis 24:12-14, NIV

 Abraham’s servant wanted more than a wife for Isaac.  He prayed God would lead him to the woman God chose to be Isaac’s wife.  In contrast, Isaac sent Jacob off with his blessing, but no one prayed Jacob would find the woman God chose for him. 

Isaac failed Jacob when he allowed him to leave Canaan. God saw the callous way Jacob’s family treated him and intervened.  He met Jacob on his way to Haran and promised to bring him safely home again.  God could have sent Jacob back to Canaan, but he didn’t.  Jacob needed to be free from the influence of his parents so he could mature. 

TRUTH EXPOSED

Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife.  My time is completed, and I want to lie with her.” So Laban brought together all the people of the place and gave a feast.  But when evening came, he took his daughter Leah and gave her to Jacob, and Jacob lay with her.  And Laban gave his servant girl Zilpah to his daughter as her maidservant.  When morning came, there was Leah! So Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn’t I? Why have you deceived me?” Genesis 29:21-25, NIV

 When the time came for Jacob to marry Rachel, he ate the fruit of his own way. As the morning light filtered into the marriage tent, Jacob saw the face of tender eyed Leah in his bed. After the screaming match with Leah’s father was over, Laban gave Jacob the woman he loved, but he also swindled him into paying fourteen years of service instead of seven.  Jacob was not the only one who knew how to obtain the better end of a deal though deceit. 

We consider it a tragedy when hateful, hurtful things happen to us.  We seldom see the tragedy when we hurt others.  Instead, we often feel justified.  Nevertheless, there is a clear principle of reaping and sowing in the Bible that God enforces without partiality.  What we do to others has an uncanny way of coming back to bite us.  The bad things that happen to us are often a result of bad seeds we have sown in the life of others, but not always.  There are times we have done nothing wrong yet suffer because others sin.  Jesus had no sin, yet many hateful and hurtful things happened to him.  In this life pain is inevitable because the way this world loves is hateful compared to God’s love.  In the matter of Jacob’s wives, he reaped the deceit he had sowed in the life of his brother and father.

When something bad happens, we should never assume we know why. We should ask God for the truth.  God promised to give us wisdom liberally when we go through “trials of many kinds” if we ask for his wisdom.[15]  Without God’s wisdom, we will make inaccurate judgments that cause us to blindly stumble through life always the victim never the victor. 

 And he went in also unto Rachel, and he loved also Rachel more than Leah, and served with him yet seven other years.  And when the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren.  And Leah conceived, and bare a son, and she called his name Reuben: for she said, Surely the Lord hath looked upon my affliction; now therefore my husband will love me.  And she conceived again, and bare a son; and said, Because the Lord has heard that I was hated, he hath therefore given me this son also; and she called his name Simeon.  And she conceived again, and bare a son; and said, Now this time will my husband be joined unto me, because I have born him three sons; therefore was his name called Levi.  And she conceived again, and bare a son: and she said, Now will I praise the LORD: therefore she called his name Judah; and left bearing.  Genesis 29:30-35,  KJV

 The Bible tells us Jacob hated Leah, but he must have enjoyed his marital pleasures because he never stopped visiting her tent.  She bore four babies in four years.  If Jacob hated Leah the way Webster’s Dictionary defines hate, he would have had a strong aversion to her and been intensely hostile toward her.  Why would Jacob spend so much time in Leah’s tent making babies if he had a strong aversion to her? 

Seven different translations of the Bible say the same thing.[16] Jacob loved Rachel more, which means he also loved Leah. He simply preferred Rachel.  All the translations I surveyed agree that God saw Jacob’s treatment of Leah as hate.  The King James Bible says, “the Lord saw that Leah was hated.” As we have already learned in Chapter 1, God does not see like we see.  What we call preference God called hate, despised, or unloved depending on which Bible translation you read. 

God’s love shows no favoritism. He does not prefer one of us above another. There are many adults still bleeding from wounds inflicted by human parents who had obvious favorites.  Someone might argue that Jesus had favorites because Peter, James, and John were included in experiences from which others were excluded. Beth Moore aptly dispels that argument in The Beloved Disciple.  She skillfully points out how the inner three simply did not “get it.”  Jesus drew Peter, James and John closer because they needed more help, not because Jesus loved them more.[17] Only a man or woman who loves like the world loves would perceive favoritism in Jesus’ actions. 

When the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb and let Rachel remain barren.  Thus, the stage was set for this threesome to learn valuable lessons.  Leah needed to know that God loved her and that the world never would.  Jacob needed to learn that walking in the lust of his eyes produces barren, loveless unions. Rachel needed to learn that Jacob’s God is greater than the idols she worshiped. 

When Leah’s first child was born, she thought God had intervened to make Jacob love her.  To Leah the baby was a means to obtain her desire, but she was wrong.  Leah eventually had seven children, yet none of those children ever made Jacob value her more than he valued Rachel.  When Jacob thought Esau was coming to kill him, Jacob arranged his family in the order that he loved them.  He put the handmaids and their children closest to danger, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph the farthest away from harm.[18]

God gave Leah sons, so she could learn to love God.  When Simeon, their second son was born, Leah realized that bearing sons would not win Jacob’s love.  At Simeon’s birth Leah declared, “Because the LORD hath heard that I was hated, he hath therefore given me this son also…”[19]

Leah wanted Jacob’s love so much God’s love was little compensation.  When she awoke with morning sickness for the third time, her hopes revived that a child would win Jacob’s love.  As son number three burst into the world Leah said, “Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.”[20]  Leah could have given Jacob thirty-three sons and it would not have made a difference.  Jacob did not understand God’s unconditional love.  In addition to that, Jacob walked in the ways of the world and had no love for “the Father” in him.  Consequently, Jacob could not love Leah the way she longed to be loved.  

When Leah conceived for the fourth time, she lost hope that a child would win Jacob’s love. As she grew great with child, God’s love filled her thoughts. This time she praised the Lord and called her son Judah.  From the tribe of Judah, Jesus arose to satisfy our thirst to be loved. 

 When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she became jealous of her sister.  So she said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I’ll die!”  Jacob became angry with her and said, “Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from having children?” Genesis 30:1-2, NIV

 After Leah gave birth to Judah, the truth was exposed. Jacob did not like what the light revealed.  He loved Rachel so deeply that he worked fourteen years just to have her in his arms.  She was more than enough to make him a happy man.  In contrast, Rachel did not count life worth living if she didn’t have a child.  Why wasn’t Jacob’s love enough for Rachel? Why Rachel was jealous of Leah when she possessed what Leah desired? Jacob was angry with Rachel because he knew God had done this and now he knew why.  Walking in the lust of his eyes gave Jacob a barren union with a wife he could not satisfy. 

Rachel lost all hope of bearing a child so she used her servant, Bilhah, to obtain one.  When Bilhah conceived Dan, Rachel ecstatically declared that God had vindicated her, but one child wasn’t enough.  Leah already had four, so Rachel sent Jacob to Bilhah’s tent again.  When Bilhah conceived again, Rachel declared, “I have won.”[21] However, Leah was not willing to concede the battle, so she sent Jacob to her servant Zilpah’s tent.  Two more sons were born much to Leah’s delight.  Technically, Leah could count six children to Rachel’s two.  Who really won?

When one of Leah’s sons brought some mandrakes home, Rachel sold Leah a night with Jacob in exchange for the mandrakes.  God opened Leah’s womb adding another son to Jacob’s ever-expanding family.  After Leah’s sixth and final son was conceived she said, “This time my husband will treat me with honor, because I have borne him six sons.”  Leah finally understood that the only thing she would get from a man who walks in the ways of this world is honor.   

 Rachel’s deal for the mandrakes revealed the depth of her despondency.  Mandrakes were believed to promote conception; therefore, she would not have given up a night with Jacob if she planned to use the mandrakes as an aphrodisiac.  Mandrakes also had narcotic qualities.  While too much could be fatal, just enough put the user in a euphoric state or in today’s terminology get “high.”[22]  Weary of the struggle with Leah, Rachel opted to spend a night alone dulling her pain.

 RACHEL’S REPROACH

When Rachel hit bottom, she must have found Jacob’s God.  She finally stopped demanding and manipulating to get what she wanted from Jacob and prayed to her husband’s God.  

… God remembered Rachel and God hearkened to her and opened her womb.  And she conceived and bare a son; and said, God hath taken away my reproach; and she called his name Joseph… Genesis 30:22-23, KJV

 Joseph would do more than take away Rachel’s reproach.  He grew up to preserve their family in the midst of a famine and teach them how to love again.  Rachel brought shame upon her family when she introduced idol worship into a family committed to love one God.  When Rachel prayed to Jacob’s God, he gave her a baby because he is good to everyone.  He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good.  He sends his rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  He gave Rachel a baby to undo the reproach she brought upon her family.  

After Joseph’s birth, Jacob decided it was time to strike out on his own and provide for his family.  He waited until Laban left town and told his wives to start packing.  Before Rachel closed her suitcase, she slipped into her father’s tent and stole his idols.  Laban furiously pursued Jacob because he wanted his gods back.  When he caught up with Jacob, God warned Laban to choose his words carefully. Laban said to Jacob,

 I have the power to harm you; but last night the God of your father said to me, ‘Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.  Now you have gone off because you longed to return to your father’s house.  But why did you steal my gods?” Jacob answered Laban, “I was afraid, because I thought you would take your daughters away from me by force.  But if you find anyone who has your gods, he shall not live.  In the presence of our relatives, see for yourself whether there is anything of yours here with me; and if so, take it.” Now Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen the gods.  Genesis 31:29-32, NIV

 Much to Rachel’s horror, Jacob decreed the death of anyone in possession of Laban’s gods.  While her husband and father argued, Rachel slipped away and quickly hid the idols in a camel’s saddle.  She promptly sat on the saddle and broke into a sweat as she listened to her father rummaging through her family’s tents. 

Laban did not find his gods, but he did do something peculiar.  He entered into a covenant with Jacob by calling on the God of Abraham.[23]  Then Jacob promised that he would never harm Laban’s daughters swearing by the fear of his father Isaac.  Why didn’t Laban swear by his idols? Laban’s actions acknowledged that Jacob’s God could be trusted to protect his people.  The covenant between Laban and Jacob may be the only thing that saved Rachel from a fate worse than death when Jacob found out what a fool she had made of him. 

If we love this world by walking in our own lusts, we will become like the one we love.  More than fifteen years later, the stolen idols were still in Jacob’s house.  Returning the idols to the rightful owner would have exposed the truth.  Jacob preferred to live a lie rather than admit his father-in-law was right, even if it meant his family worshiped a lie. 

After God showed love and kindness toward Jacob, Jacob made a demand similar to the one his father-in-law had made. 

 Then God said to Jacob, “Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau.”  So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves and change your clothes.  Then come, let us go up to Bethel, where I will build an altar to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and who has been with me wherever I have gone.”  So they gave Jacob all the foreign gods they had and the rings in their ears, and Jacob buried them under the oak at Shechem.  Genesis 35:1-4

 “Give up the idols!” Jacob demanded, and his family obeyed.  At any time, Jacob could have rid his family of idol worship.  One God had answered Jacob in the day of his distress.  One God had been with Jacob everywhere he went.  Instead of leading his family to worship the one and only God who had helped him, Jacob became like the one he lusted for.  Even though Jacob demanded his family to give up their idols, he didn’t give up the idols. He took Rachel’s idols and hid them just like Rachel had done when they fled from her father. Jacob could have destroyed the idols but a man who loves like the world loves has no love for the father in him. 


[1] TO LOVE ‘ahab OT:157, or ‘aheb OT:157, “to love; like.” Basically this verb is equivalent to the English “to love” in the sense of having a strong emotional attachment to and desire either to possess or to be in the presence of the object.  First, the word refers to the love a man has for a woman and a woman for a man.  Such love is rooted in sexual desire, although as a rule it is desire within the bounds of lawful relationships: (from Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, Copyright (c)1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers)

[2] 2 Peter 3:8

[3] Galatians 5:6

[4] Hebrews 12:21

[5] John 14:9

[6] Isaiah 53:2

[7] Romans 3:27; Ephesians 2:9; James 4:16

[8] Exodus 3:14, NIV

[9] 1 Peter 2:11; Hebrews 11:13-14

[10] 1 Corinthians 7:1

[11] Genesis 2:18

[12] Proverbs 18:22

[13] Genesis 24:67

[14] Genesis 26:34-35

[15] James 1:2-8

[16] The seven translations surveyed were, The King James Bible, New International Bible, New American Standard Bible, New King James Bible, The Amplified Bible, The Living Bible, and The Message. 

[17] Moore, Beth, The Beloved Disciple (Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003),  39-50.

[18] Genesis 33:2

[19] Genesis 29:33, KJV

[20] Genesis 29:34, NIV

[21] Genesis 30:1, NIV

[22] International Standard Bible Encyclopedia and Fausset’s Bible Dictionary. 

[23] Genesis 31:51-53

CH 5 A SIMPLE YES

A Simple Yes explains how the corruption in Isaac’s faith robbed Jacob of the knowledge of God and distorted his concept of love. Lacking a true knowledge of God, Jacob spoke hastily after God appeared to him at Bethel and a foolish vow changed his relationship with God from one of love and grace to law and judgment.

And give thee the blessing of Abraham, to thee, and to thy seed with thee that thou mayest inherit the land wherein thou art a stranger, which God gave unto Abraham.  And Isaac sent away Jacob: and he went to Padanaram unto Laban, son of Bethuel the Syrian, the brother of Rebekah, Jacob’s and Esau’s mother.  Genesis 28:4-5, KJV

Esau, seething with rage over losing his blessing, was determined to kill Jacob when their father died.  Rebekah caught wind of Esau’s plan and her manipulative wheels commenced turning lest God’s words about the elder serving the younger failed.[1]  Esau’s wives had been a source of grief to the family for years, so Rebekah complained that life would not be worth living if Jacob married a woman from Canaan.  Still smarting over the sorrow Rebekah and Jacob caused Esau, Isaac did not hesitate to send Jacob far from home in search of a wife. 

Isaac informed Jacob it was time for him to get married.  However, a wife from Canaan would not be acceptable.  Jacob must select a wife from among his Uncle Laban’s daughters.  Before Jacob left his father’s tent, Isaac prayed that God would give Jacob the blessing of Abraham.  Then Jacob packed his bags and departed for Haran where Rebekah’s family lived. 

A WEAKNESS

Nothing has changed from Jacob’s day to today.  All of God’s people past and present are still waiting for the blessing of Abraham to come upon them, so we can receive our inheritance.  If we already possessed this blessing, we would no longer need to walk by faith.

 …Hope that is seen is no hope at all.  Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.  In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what we ought to pray for… Romans 8:24-26, NIV

 While we patiently wait to receive the blessing that many generations have hoped for, our prayers can become a liability instead of an asset if we pray without the Spirit’s help.  Christians have reduced prayer to one simple idea: prayer is talking to God.  There is an element of truth in that idea, but it is an incomplete truth.  If we don’t know how to talk to God, praying can amount to little more than empty words that complicate our lives. Jacob proved the foolishness of speaking hastily in God’s presence on his way to Haran. 

 OUR FATHER

Jacob was near Bethel when the sun began to set, so he pulled up a stone for a pillow and went to sleep.  This sleeping son of Abraham was a liar who did not respect his father, but God did not hold Jacob’s sins against him.  Sin entered the world through Adam, but sin is not taken into account when there is no law.[2]  Therefore, Jacob’s sins did not influence the way God treated him.  All of God’s people can expect the same treatment from God that Jacob received: The writer of Hebrews revealed why:

 You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned.”  The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”  Hebrews 12:18-21, NIV

The writer of Hebrews was referring to the day Jacob’s children stood at the foot of a mountain and entered into a covenant of law with God.  The nation of Israel has been subject to the terms of that covenant to this day.[3]  The covenant of law was established with Jacob’s children after Jacob died; therefore, God was not obligated to consider Jacob’s sins when he dealt with him.  

God does not hold our sins against us unless we foolishly do something that obligates God to deal with us on any other terms but grace.  Jacob was devoid of the true knowledge of God.[4]  Consequently, he moved his relationship with God from grace to law.  Part of Jacob’s problem was this: he did not know who his father was. 

 He [Jacob] had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.  There above it stood the LORD, and he said: “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac…Genesis 28:12-13, NIV

 God appeared to Jacob in answer to Isaac’s prayer that God would give his son the blessing of Abraham.  For Jacob to receive the blessing, he needed to know who his father was.  In Jacob’s dream, God called himself “the God of your father Abraham.”  Abraham was not Jacob’s father.  Abraham was Jacob’s grandfather.  Isaac was Jacob’s father.  Why didn’t God say, “I am the God of Abraham your grandfather and the God of Isaac your father”?  Why didn’t God say, “I am the God of your fathers, Abraham and Isaac”?  Why didn’t God say, “I am the God of your father Isaac”?  “Why” is very important.  God does not speak idle words.  Every word God speaks is with purpose.

God did not give Isaac the title of father because God was teaching Jacob how to receive the blessing of Abraham.  In essence, God said to Jacob, “I am the Lord God of Abraham, and I am the God of Isaac, but your father is Abraham.”  How can that be?  Either God had his genealogy confused or Grandpa did a terrible thing!

God did not have his genealogy confused but he did have a purpose.  God called Abraham Jacob’s “ab,” a Hebrew word that means “father,” both literally and figuratively.[5] God knew Isaac was Jacob’s father, but Abraham is the “father” of our faith.  Abraham was the first to possess the kind of faith that pleases God, and is the example everyone must follow who desires to inherit the blessing God gave to Abraham.

Jacob wanted God’s blessings so badly, he supplanted Esau and deceived Isaac.  Jacob’s deceit obtained him nothing but strained relationships with his brother and father.  Isaac could not give Jacob the blessing he desired.  God is the only father that can give us the blessing of Abraham.  However, God could not receive Jacob as his son because Jacob walked in the ways of the world.[6]  He learned the ways of the world from Isaac who had walked in the ways of the world most of his life.  Therefore, God directed Jacob’s attention away from Isaac as a father to follow.  For God to receive Jacob as his son and give Jacob the blessing he wanted so badly, Jacob needed to learn how to walk in Abraham’s faith.[7]

If the only way to receive the blessing of Abraham is to possess Abraham’s faith, it is spurious to imitate anyone’s faith but Abraham’s.  Jude admonished us to contend for the faith that was “…once for all entrusted to the saints.”[8]  The life Abraham lived gave humanity the “one faith” for “one hope” that the Apostle Paul preached.[9]  In Isaiah’s day, God was still admonishing the nation Jacob became to look to Abraham as their father.

 “Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness and who seek the LORD: Look to the rock from which you were cut and to the quarry from which you were hewn; look to Abraham, your father…Isaiah 51:1-2, NIV

 Abraham’s faith is a rock because his faith alone teaches us what it means to love. Abraham did not choose whatever he wanted to hope for and then expect God to fulfill his wishes; an unfortunate and common practice in today’s Christianity.  He received the hope God set before him and then believed he would possess the things God promised, even if God had to raise him from the dead. 

Many years later, God told Jeremiah why he came to Abraham, and why he delivered Jacob’s children from Egypt,

 “I myself said, “’How gladly would I treat you like sons and give you a desirable land, the most beautiful inheritance of any nation.’ I thought you would call me ‘Father’ and not turn away from following me.  Jeremiah 3:19-20, NIV

 Abraham is the father of our faith, but God is the father who gives us the inheritance.  Jacob’s children turned away from following the father who desired to give them the “most beautiful inheritance of any nation,” but God will never forsake his nation. 

The Apostle Paul compared the nation of Israel to a good olive tree under God’s care.  Every branch that does not believe is broken off.  Branches on wild olive trees that believe are grafted onto the good olive tree contrary to nature.  Any branches broken off because of unbelief can be grafted back onto the good olive tree if they repent of their unbelief.  When God is finished pruning, the only branches on the good olive tree will be the branches that possess the faith of Abraham, regardless of what nation they were born into.  Everything God has done since the covenant of grace he made with Abraham up to the present day serves one purpose: to create a nation that believes in him.  The New Testament calls this nation the “new man.”[10]

Jacob had difficulty trusting God because the only concept Jacob had of a father was Isaac.  Isaac tried to please God through sacrifice, was jealous of the law, and only loved those who satisfied the lust of his flesh.  Before God and Jacob could have a relationship, God had to prove to Jacob that he is the father Jacob longed for; a father who would love him unconditionally without showing partiality.  God directed Jacob’s attention to Abraham because the faith Abraham possessed would enable him to receive God as his father and enable God to receive Jacob as his son. 

 THE VOW

Having established Abraham as Jacob’s spiritual father, God confirmed the gospel.  One seed or one man from Abraham’s family would become as numerous as the dust of the earth and bless all families of the earth.  Then God gave Jacob some specific promises. 

  I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land.  I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Genesis 28:15, NIV

 Jacob awoke and concluded he had been sleeping at the gate of heaven.  He was awed by God’s presence and promises but not so much that he couldn’t go back to sleep.[11]  When Jacob arose the next morning, his awe of God had faded.  Jacob’s prayer proved it.

 And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God: And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee. Genesis 28:20-22, KJV

 Jacob made a vow for which he paid a high price.  His vow created a weakness in his relationship with God by removing him from a place of grace that required nothing to a place of law that demanded fulfillment. 

God was willing to be Jacob’s father without asking anything in return.  Jacob was not so gracious.  He promised to honor God with the title of “my God” if God would be with him, keep him, give him bread to eat, give him clothes to wear, and bring him home in peace.  Jacob added two demands to the things God had already promised to do in the dream: food and clothes.  “O you of little faith,” Jesus said, “…do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.…”[12] Jacob prayed like a Pagan instead of a child of God.

 Jacob’s attempt to sweeten the deal God had already offered was an insult.  He did not need to ask his heavenly Father for food and clothes.  A father who loves us would never withhold the necessities of life.  Unfortunately, Jacob didn’t know how much his Father in heaven loved him and did a foolish thing. He added requirements that he must fulfill. If God performed the three things he offered, plus the two things Jacob added, Jacob would do three things.  He would make the Lord “My God”, make the rock he slept on God’s house, and give to God a tenth of all God gave him.  In plain English, Jacob promised to serve God, build a church, and tithe.

Jacob’s vow is the first record in the Bible of a man making a covenant with God.  The God of Abraham is a covenant-making God, but it is far better to let God set the terms of a covenant. Entering into a covenant with God will complicate our lives if we fail to fulfill our part of the agreement.  In God’s kingdom, a vow, oath or covenant is a legal transaction.  If Jacob had considered his spiritual father Abraham, he would have known how to have a relationship with God.  Receive God’s offer without adding to it or subtracting from it. A simple yes will do!  

Abraham never tried to negotiate a better offer for himself or promise to reward God.  If Jacob had considered his father Abraham, he would have remembered that Abraham gave the Sodomites’ possessions, not his personal possessions.  Jacob complicated the next sixty years of his life because he did not understand the faith of his father Abraham. 

When God promises something, it is best to let your “yes” be “yes” and your “no” be “no.” Either accept what God has promised or reject it. 

  Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne: Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King.  Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black.  But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.  Matthew 5:33-37, KJV

 The King James Bible says “cometh of evil.”  The Interlinear Bible says “evil comes.”  Poneros, the Greek word that was translated as “evil” in the King James Bible means hurtful and is derived from ponos which means toil or anguish.[13] In sum, negotiating a deal with God will bring evil or anguish into your life.  Don’t misunderstand, Jesus wasn’t implying that someone who makes a vow is an evil person.  He warned us to say what we mean and mean what we say or we will bring a hurtful situation into our lives. 

James reaffirmed Jesus’ warning when he wrote, “Above all, my brothers, do not swear – not by heaven or by earth or by anything else.  Let your yes, be yes and your no be no or you will be condemned.[14]  The Interliner Bible says, “lest into condemnation ye fall.” Krisis, the Greek word translated as “condemned,” means a decision.[15] In other words, if we cut a deal with God and don’t keep our end of the deal, God is obligated to make a decision.  The law that God lives by will condemn us because God’s law states: “When a man makes a vow to the Lord or takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge, he must not break his word but must do everything he said.” [16]

God is very particular about the law.  Nations are founded upon law, and law is established with oaths or vows.  Jacob was trying to act like God at Bethel with one major difference.  Instead of making a covenant with himself as God does, Jacob made a covenant with God.  If we desire a relationship with God based on a legal contract, we must not break our word.  If we break our word, we have mocked God and “God is not mocked.[17] A lesson the nation of Israel is learning the hard way.

 THE CONSEQUENCES

When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it.  He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow.  It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it.  Do not let your mouth lead you into sin.  And do not protest to the temple messenger, “My vow was a mistake.” Why should God be angry at what you say and destroy the work of your hands?  Much dreaming and many words are meaningless.  Therefore stand in awe of God. Ecclesiastes 5:4-7, NIV

 After Jacob made his vow at Bethel, he continued his journey.  Jacob arrived in Haran, fell in love, married, and forgot about his vow.  He had been living in Haran with his mother’s family for twenty years when Rachel gave birth to Joseph, the eleventh of twelve sons.[18]  Of Jacob’s four wives, Rachel was the last wife to have children, making Joseph the youngest firstborn son.

  And it came to pass, when Rachel had born Joseph, that Jacob said unto Laban, Send me away, that I may go unto mine own place, and to my country.  Give me my wives and my children, for whom I have served thee, and let me go: for thou knowest my service which I have done thee.  And Laban said unto him, I pray thee, if I have found favour in thine eyes, tarry: for I have learned by experience that the LORD hath blessed me for thy sake.  And he said, Appoint me thy wages, and I will give it.  And he said unto him, Thou knowest how I have served thee, and how thy cattle was with me.  For it was little which thou hadst before I came, and it is now increased unto a multitude; and the LORD hath blessed thee since my coming: and now when shall I provide for mine own house also? Genesis 30:25-30, KJV

 Jacob was tired of his labor making someone else rich.  He had a large family and wanted to start his own business, so he could leave an inheritance to his children.  Jacob desired to do good things.  Anyone who does not provide for his own family is void of faith and worse than an infidel.[19]  God saw the good desire in Jacob’s heart and wanted to bless him.  However, there was a business agreement that Jacob needed to resolve first.  God sent an angel with a message to remind Jacob of the vow he made at Bethel. 

The angel of God said to me in the dream, ‘Jacob.’ I answered, ‘Here I am.’  And he said, ‘Look up and see that all the male goats mating with the flock are streaked, speckled or spotted, for I have seen all that Laban has been doing to you.  I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and where you made a vow to me.  Now leave this land at once and go back to your native land.’” Genesis 31:11-13, NIV

 It was imperative that Jacob keep his vow.  If Jacob did not fulfill his vow, God would be obligated to destroy the work of Jacob’s hands.  The angel reminded Jacob that God had kept his part of the vow made at Bethel.  It was time for Jacob to return to Bethel and fulfill his part of the vow so God could bless Jacob when he provided for his own house. 

Jacob held a family meeting and unwittingly condemned himself by confirming that God had kept his end of the deal.  Jacob told his wives, “… I see your fathers’ countenance, that it is not toward me as before; but the God of my father hath been with me…your father hath deceived me, and changed my wages ten times; but God suffered him not to hurt me.[20] The God of my father has been with me! Condition one had been met.  God suffered Laban not to hurt me! Condition two had been met.  Then Laban’s daughters, who became Jacob’s wives, confirmed where Jacob’s riches came from.  They told their husband, “Surely all the wealth that God took away from our father belongs to us and our children.  So do whatever God has told you.[21]  God had provided the wealth for Jacob to have plenty of food and clothes for his family.  Conditions three and four had been met but not condition five – returning home in peace.

 The family meeting concluded with the mutual agreement that it was time to do whatever God desired.  I truly believe that Jacob intended to obey God, but found himself doing the opposite and could not understand why. My conclusion about Jacob comes from personal experience. I also intended to obey God, but no matter how hard I tried, no matter how much I wanted to obey, I could not find the strength. The reason Jacob and I failed will be explained in Chapter 7. Most believers set out to obey God with good intentions, but good intentions are not enough to conquer sin.  Instead of going home, Jacob ran from God.  

 RUNNING FROM GOD

Jacob also went on his way, and the angels of God met him.  When Jacob saw them, he said, “This is the camp of God!” So he named that place Mahanaim.  Jacob sent messengers ahead of him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom.  He instructed them: “This is what you are to say to my master Esau: ‘Your servant Jacob says, I have been staying with Laban and have remained there till now.  I have cattle and donkeys, sheep and goats, menservants and maidservants.  Now I am sending this message to my lord, that I may find favor in your eyes.'” Genesis 32:1-5, NIV

 Jacob waited until Laban left to shear his sheep and then Jacob gathered up all possessions and left Haran.  When Jacob reached the hill country of Gilead, he ran into some temple messengers from God.  The angels had come to collect what Jacob owed God, but Jacob didn’t want to keep his end of the deal.  Instead of traveling toward Bethel to keep his vow, he set up camp at Mahanaim and sent some messengers to Esau. 

Scholars dispute the exact location of Mahanaim, but they agree that it is located east of the Jordan River and north of the Jabbok River.  That location would make Jacob’s camp a minimum of one hundred miles from Edom, where his brother Esau resided.  Jacob wasn’t anywhere near home yet, so why did he summon Esau for a meeting? Unless Jacob was looking for a loophole in the covenant he had with God.  Returning home in peace was the last condition of the deal Jacob made with God. Before Jacob became a tithe poorer, he wanted proof that God had fulfilled condition five.  When Jacob’s messengers returned with the news that Esau was on the way, Jacob’s fear and urgent prayer to God revealed the truth.  He did not believe God had created peace. 

Things went from bad to worse when Esau arrived – for Jacob!  Esau was thrilled to see his brother again and planted a sincere kiss on Jacob’s neck.  Then Esau cried tears of joy that he had been reconciled to his brother.  Jacob cried tears of regret.  Every excuse to bypass Bethel was gone.  Jacob’s actions after Esau departed prove Jacob’s tears were insincere. 

 Then Esau said, “Let us be on our way; I’ll accompany you.”  But Jacob said to him, “My lord knows that the children are tender and that I must care for the ewes and cows that are nursing their young.  If they are driven hard just one day, all the animals will die.  So let my lord go on ahead of his servant, while I move along slowly at the pace of the droves before me and that of the children, until I come to my lord in Seir.”  Esau said, “Then let me leave some of my men with you.””But why do that?” Jacob asked.  “Just let me find favor in the eyes of my lord.”  So that day Esau started on his way back to Seir.  Jacob, however, went to Succoth, where he built a place for himself and made shelters for his livestock.  That is why the place is called Succoth.  Genesis 33:12-17, NIV

 “Until I come to my Lord in Seir,” exclaimed the liar, as he waved goodbye!  Esau went home and without doubt prepared a welcome home party, inviting family and friends to meet his long lost brother.  Jacob never appeared.  He went to Succoth and rented land, where he built a house and shelters for his livestock.  Do you suppose he was sheltering his livestock from the weather or from God?

It is a small wonder that the nation Esau became hated the nation Jacob became. Jacob cheated and manipulated Esau all of his life.  He resented his brother because Esau was “Daddy’s favorite”.  In truth, Jacob never wanted to see Esau again.  All Jacob wanted was a way out of keeping his vow.  He never thought Esau would come so far out of his way to meet him.  Esau didn’t cooperate with Jacob’s plan.  If only Esau had known what sweet revenge God gave him that day, the root of bitterness that destroyed the nation Esau became might not have taken root.  

While Jacob was in Succoth, he took inventory and decided the price of his vow was too high to pay.  His subsequent actions proved it. 

 After Jacob came from Paddan Aram, he arrived safely at the city of Shechem in Canaan and camped within sight of the city.  For a hundred pieces of silver, he bought from the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem, the plot of ground where he pitched his tent.  There he set up an altar and called it El Elohe Israel.  Genesis 33:18-20, NIV

 After resting a while in Succoth, Jacob changed his mind.  He packed his bags and crossed over the Jordan into the land of Canaan.  Instead of going to Bethel to fulfill his vow and continue his journey home, Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem.  This time Jacob bought a parcel of land and pitched his tent.  Obviously, Jacob did not intend to leave any time soon. 

Jacob believed God existed. He erected an altar and called it El Elohe Israel, so he could worship the Mighty God of Israel, but Jacob didn’t really believe his God was mighty. Bethel was a mere twenty miles to the south.  Jacob wasn’t worshipping a mighty God.  He was mocking a mighty God.  

If our actions put God into a no win situation like Jacob’s did, God will allow tragedy in our lives.  Jacob desired to provide for the members of his own house and God wanted to bless him but couldn’t. When Jacob made a covenant with God and didn’t fulfill it, God was obligated to hold Jacob’s sin against him. God sent messengers to remind Jacob about his unfilled vow because God did not want to judge him.  Jacob refused to keep his end of the deal and that left God with one option. 

 If you make a vow to the Lord your God, do not be slow to pay it, for the Lord your God will certainly demand it of you and you will be guilty of sin.  But if you refrain from making a vow, you will not be guilty.  Whatever your lips utter you must be sure to do, because you make your vow freely to the Lord your God with your own mouth.  Deuteronomy 23:21-23, NIV

 God did not complicate Jacob’s life with a vow.  He came to Jacob with grace, which demanded nothing in return.  Jacob was the one who freely vowed to make the Lord his God after all the conditions had been fulfilled. Jacob is the one who vowed he would return to Bethel and worship God with a tenth of all God gave him.  He would have fared much better in life if he had kept his mouth shut. 

Jacob settled at Shechem to provide for his own house in 1715 BC.  By now it was obvious to God, and many witnesses, that Jacob had no intention of paying his vow.[22] Jacob made his vow freely when a simple yes would do.  He created the hindrance that entangled him in sin.  Jacob had no one to blame but himself. 

Proverbs tells us that discipline imparts wisdom.[23]  Jacob needed some wisdom, so God disciplined him.[24]  If God had not intervened, Jacob was in jeopardy of losing his inheritance because God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble.  God waited a long time before he did what he had to do. God precedes judgment with mercy in the hopes we will repent, so he does not have to render a decision that brings pain into our lives.

Fifteen years after Jacob’s family settled in Shechem, Dinah, his seventeen-year-old daughter, grew weary of a house full of brothers and went out to see the daughters of the land.  Instead of daughters, she encountered the son of Hamor, the same man her father had purchased land from in disobedience to God.  Meeting the son of Hamor became the first domino in a series of events that destroyed the works of her father’s hands. 

The son of Hamor took Dinah’s virginity and then held her captive while an embarrassed father attempted to arrange a marriage. The grief of Dinah’s eleven brothers quickly became seething anger over the humiliation of their sister.  The guilty son of Hamor hoped for grace, but the sons of Jacob had learned the ways of their father well.  Just like their father, they made an agreement that they never intended to keep.  Dinah could marry the son of Hamor and Jacob’s family would live among them intermarrying with the citizens of the city until they were one people, if the men of Shechem would circumcise themselves.

While the citizens of Shechem were in the process of keeping their end of the agreement with Jacob’s family, Simeon and Levi slaughtered every male in the city and took their sister home.  The rest of Jacob’s sons looted the city and took the women and children of Shechem as captives.  Jacob’s reputation as a fair and honest businessman was destroyed.  The actions of Jacob’s sons made his name such a stench in the land God had to protect him from retaliation by the surrounding cities.[25]

The evil that Jacob’s sons committed plunged their father into an abyss of anguish and pain.  What had Jacob done to deserve this tragedy?  All he wanted to do was provide for his family.  He even built an altar where he taught his family to worship the mighty God of Israel.  Without doubt, he asked the question many have asked before and after him, “WHY, GOD, WHY?”

This time a messenger would not suffice.  God had already sent messengers and Jacob refused their message. This time the God that Jacob had mocked for fifteen years proved his might when he came to Jacob with comfort, kindness, and the solution to his problems.

 Then God said to Jacob, “Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau.” Genesis 35:1, NIV

 All of this pain, all of this loss, all of this grief, all of this blood, all because he did not think a simple “yes” would do!  “WHY, JACOB, WHY?”


[1] Genesis 25:23

[2] Romans 5:12-14

[3] Exodus 19

[4] 1 Corinthians 15:34

[5] OT:1 ‘ab (awb); a primitive word; father, in a literal and immediate, or figurative and remote application) (Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary.  Copyright (c) 1994, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc.)

[6] 2 Corinthians 6:16-18

[7] Romans 4:12, 16-17

[8] Jude 1:3, NIV

[9] Jude 3, Ephesians 4:4-5

[10] Ephesians 2:15, 4:24, KJV and Colossians 3:10, KJV

[11] Genesis 28:17 says Jacob was afraid, The Heb Translated afraid is Yare.  Used of a person in an exalted position, yare’ connotes “standing in awe.” This is not simple fear, but reverence, whereby an individual recognizes the power and position of the individual revered… (from Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, Copyright (c)1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers)

[12] Matthew 6:31-32, NIV

[13] NT:4190 poneros (pon-ay-ros’); from a derivative of NT:4192; hurtful, i.e.  evil (properly, in effect or influence, and thus differing from NT:2556, which refers rather to essential character, (Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary.  Copyright (c) 1994, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc.)

[14] James 5:12, NIV

[15] NT:2920 krisis (kree’-sis); decision (subjectively or objectively, for or against); by extension, a tribunal; by implication, justice (especially, divine law): (Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary.  Copyright (c) 1994, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc.)

[16] Numbers 30:2, NIV

[17] Galatians 6:7, KJV

[18] Jacob’s twelfth son, Benjamin, was born after Jacob kept his vow at Bethel. 

[19] 1 Timothy 5:8

[20] Genesis 31:5-7, KJV

[21] Genesis 31:16, NIV

[22] Hebrews 12:1

[23] Proverbs 29:15

[24] Hebrews 12:7, NIV

[25] Genesis 34:30-35:5

CH 4 A JOURNEY ENDS

In A Journey Ends, Isaac’s long journey to develop a personal relationship with God is examined. The reasons Isaac could not find satisfaction in his relationship with God are traced to a lack of submission, and perception of rejection that produced anger and unforgiveness. After Isaac forgives King Abimelech, God brings Isaac to maturity by exposing the impurity in his heart and Isaac learns to fear God.

So Isaac moved away from there and encamped in the Valley of Gerar and settled there. Genesis 26:17, NIV

 After God taught him the blessing of honesty, Isaac became so wealthy the Philistines he lived among envied him. Where there is envy, there is disorder and every evil practice.[1]  The Philistines’ evil practices were hindered because Isaac lived under the king’s protection, so the Philistines did the next best thing.  They filled up the wells Isaac’s father had dug.  When the King discerned the animosity his people felt for Isaac, he commanded Isaac to leave.  Isaac had learned the value of honesty, but he had not learned to value submission.  Isaac moved away as the king commanded, but he did not move far enough away to stop the quarreling. He relocated to the Valley of Gerar, a chief city of the Philistines.

SUBMISSION

God speaks to his people in many different ways.  One of the most common ways is through governing authorities.

 Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.  The authorities that exist have been established by God.  Consequently he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.  ….  … For he is God’s servant to do you good… Romans 13:1-2,4, NIV

 When Isaac refused to submit to King Abimelech’s command, he rebelled against the authority God had established.  Even though Abimelech was a Philistine, he knew and feared Isaac’s God.  God appeared to Abimelech in a dream when Abraham deceived him regarding Sarah.  King Abimelech was God’s servant to do Isaac “good.” However, Isaac could not see anything good in the king’s command to leave.  Leaving meant he would no longer have King Abimelech’s protection.

Isaac’s reluctance to leave indicated he had become too dependent upon a man of flesh.  His relationship with Abimelech inhibited his spiritual growth.  Isaac still had things to learn that he couldn’t learn in Gerar.  He needed to understand that God protected and prospered him, not a human king.

God’s blessings exposed that prosperity was more important to Isaac than peace.  Corrupt minds suppose that such gain is godliness.[2]  At this time in his life, Isaac was rich in corruptible things but not spiritual things.  He had to return to Beersheba, the place he worshiped God with his father, and find his own water before God could perfect him.  Isaac’s lack of submission to an earthly king was only a symptom of the real problem: his lack of submission to God. 

 THIRSTY FOR GOD

O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.  Psalm 63:1, NIV

 After the king asked Isaac to leave, Isaac pitched his tent in a nearby valley and commenced reopening the wells his father dug.  He called each reopened well by the name his father had given it.[3]  Everything was fine until Isaac began looking for his own water.  He was doing the right thing, but he was doing it in the wrong place.  Isaac couldn’t develop a relationship with God while living in disobedience to the authority God established.  Consequently, when Isaac found his own water, he also found trouble. 

Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and discovered a well of fresh water there.  But the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with Isaac’s herdsmen and said, “The water is ours!” So he named the well Esek, because they disputed with him.  Genesis 26:19-20, NIV

 Isaac found his own water but quarreling herdsmen made keeping the well impossible.  He named the well Esek, which means contention.  Then Isaac proved to himself that he was a good man by allowing the herdsmen of Gerar to keep the well.  As far as Isaac was concerned the king was wrong. He did not have to leave for peace to reign in the land. Unfortunately, our good deeds have a way of blinding us to the truth. 

 Then they dug another well, but they quarreled over that one also; so he named it Sitnah.  Genesis 26:21, NIV

 Sitnah means enmity or hatred.[4] A rebellious man can be at peace with the people around him but it will profit him little.  Isaac’s arrogance turned the Philistines’ jealously into hatred.  Nothing Isaac did worked.  It was time for him to go home, but Isaac was wise in his own eyes. Instead of acknowledging that King Abimelech was right and submitting to authority, Isaac compromised and then he deceived himself. 

He moved on from there and dug another well, and no one quarreled over it.  He named it Rehoboth, saying, “Now the LORD has given us room and we will flourish in the land.” Genesis 26:22, NIV

 Isaac called the third well Rehoboth, which means broad places.[5]  The quarreling stopped, so Isaac assumed that the Lord had made a place for him where he would flourish.  However, a man living in disobedience lacks discernment.  Isaac’s conclusion cannot be trusted. 

Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate.  For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.[6]  Isaac camped by a well whose name means “broad places” claiming the Lord had made room, but all Isaac really did was leave the narrow road to walk on the broad road.[7] The Greek word euruchoros that was translated “destruction” in the gospels means ruin or loss.[8]  Jesus wasn’t talking about a road leading you to heaven or hell.  Lot walked the broad road.  If he missed heaven, there is a righteous and godly man in hell.[9]  The broad road Jesus spoke of leads us to ruin and loss in this life. 

Many Christians suffer ruin and loss because it is easier to walk the broad road.  Abraham’s and Lot’s servants quarreled when God made them wealthy.  In an effort to keep peace, Abraham asked Lot to leave.  When Lot chose the broad road, the well-watered wide and spacious fields of Sodom, he repeatedly suffered ruin and loss.  If not for Abraham’s intercession for the righteous, Lot would have lost his life in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.  Isaac was dangerously close to making the same mistake as Lot, when he camped in a broad place thinking he would flourish. The only thing that flourished was his grief. 

While Isaac lived in the broad place, Esau married Judith and Basemath.  Isaac and Rebekah’s new daughters-in-law became a constant source of grief to their family.[10]  Ten years later, for reasons the Bible does not disclose, Isaac packed his bags and returned to Beersheba – the place his father worshiped God. When he reached a place of obedience, God preached the gospel to Isaac just as he had preached the gospel to Isaac’s father. 

From there he went up to Beersheba.  That night the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham.  Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bless you and will increase the number of your descendants for the sake of my servant Abraham.” Isaac built an altar there and called on the name of the LORD.  There he pitched his tent, and there his servants dug a well.  Genesis 26:23-25, NIV

 The Lord had been waiting twenty-five years for Isaac to return to Beersheba, so he could quench Isaac’s thirst for God.  “Do not be afraid for I am with you,” God assured Isaac with a mild rebuke.  Why was Isaac afraid to leave the protection of an earthly king when God was with him?  Isaac had great faith but his faith was sensual.  He had more confidence in a king he could see than in a king he could not see. 

For the second time God confirmed the gospel when he promised to increase the number of Isaac’s descendants, not for anything good or bad Isaac had done but for the sake of his father’s obedience.  Jesus and his family will become a blessed nation founded upon God’s law. The only way Isaac could have an inheritance in God’s eternal kingdom is to believe in Jesus like his father did. 

Isaac had grown in his relationship with his father’s God and desired to find his own water.  After Isaac pitched his tent in Beersheba, he abandoned Abraham’s altar and established his own, then he began digging for water again.  He didn’t find water, so he drank from the well Abraham obtained when he swore an oath to be honest.  Isaac would be digging for a long time, because he still had a problem that hindered his relationship with God. 

Jesus said, “Blessed are the peace makers for they shall be called the children of God.[11] Abraham had circumcised Isaac’s flesh, but Isaac’s heart was uncircumcised.[12] Isaac had a covenant with God, but he didn’t act like God’s child.  First, he went to the land of the Philistines and broke the covenant to deal honestly with the king and his family.  Then he resented the king’s order to leave.  He finally obeyed the King, but he was not at peace with the governing authorities.  Isaac’s resentment against a king who desired truth and peace was resentment against God’s Prince of Peace![13]  Isaac had to learn that his resentment against King Abimelech was without cause, and forgive the Philistines before he would find life-giving water. 

When Isaac returned to Beersheba, God told him two specific things: I will be with you and I will bless you.  God had told him the same two things when he commanded Isaac to remain in Gerar during the famine.  If Isaac had truly believed he was blessed because his father’s God was with him, he would not have resented Abimelech’s command to leave.  Isaac’s mind needed to be renewed with the truth. His prosperity came for a heavenly King, not a king of flesh. Twenty years after Isaac returned to Beersheba, King Abimelech came to visit.  If you don’t believe Abimelech’s pursuit of peace made Isaac bitter, consider Isaac’s greeting.

And Isaac said unto them, Wherefore come ye to me, seeing ye hate me, and have sent me away from you? Genesis 26:27 KJV

 What a pleasant greeting for an old friend!  The king never hated Isaac.  God’s blessing made Isaac so powerful peace could not be sustained, and the king desired peace. Isaac’s spiritual immaturity interpreted the king’s order to leave as “[Y]e hate me.” Isaac was the one who shut the door and built the wall of separation between himself and the peace loving king.

Many years later, the king was still seeking peace and had another message for Isaac from God, a confirmation that Isaac never needed the protection of an earthly king to be blessed. 

  They answered, “We saw clearly that the LORD was with you; so we said, ‘There ought to be a sworn agreement between us’–between us and you.  Let us make a treaty with you that you will do us no harm, just as we did not molest you but always treated you well and sent you away in peace.  And now you are blessed by the LORD.” Genesis 26:28-29, NIV

 Why couldn’t Isaac see what everyone else saw? God had blessed him.  The king Isaac thought he needed sat in Isaac’s tent telling him the truth.  Even though Isaac broke the covenant to be honest, it was still evident that the Lord was with him.  In fact, Isaac was so blessed the people he lived among feared him.  Others could clearly see what Isaac could not because Isaac had his eyes on a man of flesh instead of his God who is Spirit.[14]  Isaac didn’t lose anything when he obeyed the King’s command to leave because God never left him and never stopped blessing him.  Isaac’s resentment against God’s minister hurt no one but Isaac because it hindered him from finding the water that would quench his thirst for God.[15]

 Isaac then made a feast for them, and they ate and drank.  Early the next morning the men swore an oath to each other.  Then Isaac sent them on their way, and they left him in peace.  That day Isaac’s servants came and told him about the well they had dug.  They said, “We’ve found water!” He called it Shibah, and to this day the name of the town has been Beersheba. Genesis 26:30-33, NIV

 The same day Isaac made peace with the authority God established, Isaac’s servants found water. Isaac had been digging wells for sixty years. This was the first time he would drink his own water in the place his father worshiped. His rebellion against the revealed word of God hindered him from finding his own water, but his rebellion never stopped God’s blessings.

God’s goodness led Isaac to repentance.  Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called sons of God.”[16] When Isaac repented of his anger and made peace with the king, God could receive him as a son and gave him what he thirsted for, his own well of life giving water.  Isaac named the well Shibah, which means seven, a sacred number to the ancient Hebrew people that symbolizes perfection or completion.[17] After many years of frustration, Isaac learned to be an honest peacemaker, which prepared him to learn a bitter lesson that that would perfect his faith. 

ISAAC’S EPIPHANY

Now that Isaac was acting like a child of God, it was time he learned how to love like a child of God.  About a year after Isaac found water in Beersheba, he decided to bless his sons before he died.  Isaac called his eldest son, Esau, and commanded him to bring some meat.  Rebekah overheard Isaac talking to Esau.  She was sure her husband was making a mistake because God had told her the elder would serve the younger.  Worried that Isaac’s blessing upon Esau would ruin God’s plan, Rebekah intervened.  She convinced a reluctant Jacob to deceive his father.  Jacob questioned her method, but Rebekah was so confident they were doing the will of God he relented. Since Jacob had already purchased Esau’s birthright with a bowl of beans, he may have felt his mother’s plan was justified.

Rebekah and Jacob believed they were doing the right thing. Technically, they were doing the will of God, but they were not walking in the ways of God.  God does not use deceit to accomplish his purposes on the earth.  The end of a matter will not justify the means used.  God graciously worked everything out for good but not without consequences.  Jacob would be deceived by his children and grieve for many years before the deception was revealed.  Rebekah would spend the next twenty years separated from the son she loved.  In the midst of deceit, Isaac would discover the deceit in his heart. 

He went to his father and said, “My father.” “Yes, my son,” he answered.  “Who is it?” Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your firstborn.  I have done as you told me.  Please sit up and eat some of my game so that you may give me your blessing.” Isaac asked his son, “How did you find it so quickly, my son?” “The LORD your God gave me success,” he replied.  Then Isaac said to Jacob, “Come near so I can touch you, my son, to know whether you really are my son Esau or not.”  Jacob went close to his father Isaac, who touched him and said, “The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.”  He did not recognize him, for his hands were hairy like those of his brother Esau; so he blessed him.  “Are you really my son Esau?” he asked.  “I am,” he replied.  Then he said, “My son, bring me some of your game to eat, so that I may give you my blessing.” Jacob brought it to him and he ate; and he brought some wine and he drank.  Then his father Isaac said to him, “Come here, my son, and kiss me.”  Genesis 27:18-27, NIV

 “The Lord your God gave me success,” Jacob lied! It is easy to invoke the name of God to hide sin when he is YOUR God and not MY God.  Isaac had some doubts about who was in the room with him because Isaac heard Jacob’s voice say, “I am Esau,” but he did not recognize him.  The KJV Bible says Isaac did not “discern him.” 

We cannot live a life that is pure and blameless without discernment. Paul wrote to the Philippian Christians,

  And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ,… Philippians 1:9-10, NIV

 Our love needs to abound in knowledge and depth of insight before we can discern what is best.  Isaac had always been long on faith and short on love.  Abraham taught Isaac the will of God but Isaac had walked contrary to the will of God most of his life.  God revealed his love for Jacob before the twins were born, yet Isaac chose to love Esau.  Isaac’s lack of love for the things of God left him with an inability to discern what was best and produced a son so desperate to be blessed he used deception to acquire what he wanted. 

Isaac rejected the truth because he trusted what he could feel more than what he had discerned.  The entire time Isaac was eating, he wrestled with doubts.  To set his mind at ease, before he conferred the blessing of the firstborn, Isaac decided to try a little love.  Surely, if Jacob was really in the room with him, he would not betray his father’s love.  Isaac ordered his son to kiss him, but a man who had not sown love should not have expected to reap love.  Isaac was betrayed by a kiss like Jesus was, with one major difference.  Jesus never failed to love Judas like Isaac failed to love Jacob.  Jesus loved the things of God and the people God chose.  Love did indeed reveal the truth: the truth about Isaac. 

And he came near, and kissed him: and he smelled the smell of his raiment, and blessed him, and said, See, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field which the LORD hath blessed:… Genesis 27:27, KJV

 When Jacob came near to plant an insincere kiss upon his father, Isaac smelled something that convinced him to bless: the field, which the Lord “hath blessed!”  But these are the words of a man lacking discernment.  The Hebrew word for field used in this verse is also translated ground.[18]  The ground is not blessed.  The Lord cursed the ground when Adam and Eve sinned.[19]  Why did the stench of a curse invoke Isaac to bless?

 But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him.  For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.  To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life.  2 Corinthians 2:14-16, NIV

 The aroma that pleased Isaac revealed definite problems in his spiritual life but all was not lost.  God was with Isaac and God always leads his people to triumph.  Before the day was over, God used Isaac to spread the fragrance of the knowledge of God. 

Isaac declared in his blessing, “May nations serve you and peoples bow down to you.  Be lord over your brothers, and may the sons of your mother bow down to you.  May those who curse you be cursed and those who bless you be blessed.[20]   Isaac was doing the right thing for the right son, but Isaac’s heart was not right because he thought he was blessing Esau.  Before the children were born, Isaac knew God had chosen Jacob and desired the elder to serve the younger, so why did Isaac give the blessing of Abraham to the nation God hated?

 After Isaac finished blessing him and Jacob had scarcely left his father’s presence, his brother Esau came in from hunting.  He too prepared some tasty food and brought it to his father. Then he said to him, “My father, sit up and eat some of my game, so that you may give me your blessing.”  His father Isaac asked him, “Who are you?” “I am your son,” he answered, “your firstborn, Esau.” Isaac trembled violently and said, “Who was it, then, that hunted game and brought it to me? I ate it just before you came and I blessed him–and indeed he will be blessed!” When Esau heard his father’s words, he burst out with a loud and bitter cry and said to his father, “Bless me–me too, my father!”  But he said, “Your brother came deceitfully and took your blessing.” Genesis 27:30-35, NIV

 Scarcely had Jacob slipped out of the room when a joyful Esau entered with the tasty food he bought his father’s love with and Isaac had an epiphany.  He realized he had been deceived and trembled violently but not with anger.  The Hebrew word for tremble is charad, which means “to shudder with terror or to fear.”[21] Isaac had no one to fear but God, because it was God Isaac betrayed.  In Isaac’s heart, he had given to the elder what God desired for the younger. 

Our sin does not mock God.  Our sin mocks us.  When Isaac’s sin mocked him, he found the fear of God and the beginning of wisdom.  God’s desires always prevail.  God had no cause to stop Rebekah and Jacob’s deception. The way you treat others is the way you will be treated. Isaac sowed to the flesh when he walked in his own desires for his sons and he reaped corruption from his flesh. Isaac lived a lie all of his life.  He betrayed God by worshipping outwardly but not in his heart.  He was willing to sacrifice, but not willing to love, until the day his son’s deceit became a mirror of his own. 

Isaac had every right to curse Jacob for deceiving him, but Isaac had finally discerned the truth: God will have mercy and not sacrifice.  Isaac’s decision to let the blessing stand is the act of faith that put his name in Hebrews, Chapter 11, for it was “by faith that Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.[22] Even strong crying from the son Isaac loved could not change Isaac’s mind because he now possessed the only faith that counts. 

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value.  The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.  Galatians 5:6, NIV

 Isaac had been a great man of faith all of his life but it meant little.  Paul acknowledged in a letter to the Corinthians, “if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I …surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.[23] Isaac’s faith was so great he was willing to let his father offer him to God as a burnt sacrifice, but his faith gained him nothing until he learned how to love God! For Isaac the journey had ended . . . but for Jacob the journey had just begun. 


[1] James 3:16

[2] 1 Timothy 6:5-11

[3] Genesis 26:18

[4] SITNAH (sit’-na) (Sitnah, “hatred,” “hostility”; echthria): The name of the second of the two wells dug by the herdsmen of Isaac, the cause of further “enmity” with the herdsmen of Gerer (Gen 26:21, margin “That is, Enmity”).  (from International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, Electronic Database Copyright (c)1996 by Biblesoft)

[5] REHOBOTH (re-ho’-both), (re-ho’-both) (rehobhoth, “broad places”; Euruchoria): One of the wells dug by Isaac (Gen 26:22).  (from International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, Electronic Database Copyright (c)1996 by Biblesoft)

[6] Matthew 7:13-14, NIV

[7] BROAD, BREADTH euruchoros NT:2149, from eurus, “broad,” and chora, “a place,” signifies, lit., “(with) a broad place,” i.  e., “broad, spacious,” Matt 7:13.  (from Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, Copyright (c)1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers)

[8] NT:684 apoleia (ap-o’-li-a); from a presumed derivative of NT:622; ruin or loss (physical, spiritual or eternal): (Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary.  Copyright (c) 1994, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc.)

[9] 2 Peter 2:7

[10] Genesis 26: 34-35

[11] Matthew 5:9

[12] Romans 2:28-29

[13] Isaiah 9:6 NIV

[14] John 4:24

[15] Psalm 42:1-2

[16] Matthew 5:9

[17] Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Copyright (c)1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers

[18] OT:7704 sadeh (saw-deh’); or saday (saw-dah’-ee); from an unused root meaning to spread out; a field (as flat): KJV – country, field, ground, land, soil, X wild.  (Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary.  Copyright (c) 1994, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc.)

[19] Genesis 3:17-19

[20] Genesis 27:29, NIV

[21] OT:2729 charad (khaw-rad’); a primitive root; to shudder with terror; hence, to fear; also to hasten (with anxiety): (Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary.  Copyright (c) 1994, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc.)

[22] Hebrews 11:10, NIV

[23] 1 Corinthians 13:2, NIV