Second Chances: Jacob

The story of Jacob takes up half of the book of Genesis in the Bible.  He is the patriarch of the Israelites.

Jacob being blessed by Isaac

Jacob being blessed by Isaac

Jacob comes into the world grasping the heel of his brother, Esau.  God revealed to their mother, Rebekah that the two struggled in the womb.   This is a struggle that would continue not only for the rest of their lives, but for generations to come.  We know that the boys were very different,  “…and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; but Jacob was a simple man, dwelling in tents”.  {Genesis 25:27}

Esau was focused on his own needs in the moment and sold his birthright to Jacob {Genesis 25:29-34}, but neither Jacob nor Rebekah forgot this barter.  The time came for Isaac to bless his son with the birthright.  He sent Esau out to kill the venison.  In the meantime, Jacob and Rebekah prepared a meal and tricked Isaac into thinking that Jacob was his brother.  Isaac gave him the blessing and did not realize he had been deceived until Esau returned.  Esau hated his brother and vowed to kill him.  Longing to protect her favorite child, Rebekah sent Jacob away to her brother, Laban.  {Genesis 27}

Jacob's ladder

Jacob’s ladder

While on his way to his uncle’s, Jacob had a vision in which he saw a ladder with angels ascending and descending from heaven.  The voice of God repeated the blessings of his father.  {This is known as Jacob’s ladder}.

Arriving in Haran, Jacob meets his cousin Rachel first and instantly falls in love with her.  He agreed to work for seven years to make her his wife.  However, Laban tricked Jacob and he was married to Rachel’s older sister, Leah.  Jacob did not realize the deceit until the next morning and was very angry.  After completing his bridal week with Leah, he was allowed to marry Rachel.

Leah blessed Jacob with five sons, but Rachel’s womb was “closed”.  Thus Rachel gave her maidservant, Bilhah, to Jacob and she gave him two sons.  Leah gave Jacob her maidservant, Zilpah, who also gave Jacob two sons.  Later, Leah had two more sons and a daughter, Dinah.  God finally remembered Rachel and she gave birth to a son, Joseph.

Jacob decided to return home, but Laban did not want to let him go.  The men agreed that Jacob would take Laban’s spotted sheep as his wages, but Laban later became jealous when he realized Jacob was being blessed as his flock grew.

Jacob and his family finally left for Canaan, but not before Rachel stole her father’s household idols.  Laban was angry, until God warned him in a dream not to say anything “good or bad” to Jacob.  However, Jacob cursed whoever took the household idols {not knowing it was his bellowed Rachel}.

Jacob loved Rachel from the moment he met her

Jacob loved Rachel from the moment he met her

Jacob sent messengers to his brother, Esau that he was going through the area.  When word reached that his brother was returning with an army of men, Jacob beseeched God in prayer.  That evening he “wrestled with an unknown being until daybreak.”  When the being did not overpower Jacob, his thigh was touched and Jacob had a limp the rest of his life.  Jacob demanded a blessing and God changed his name to Israel.  He named the place, Penuel, saying “I have seen God face to face and lived.”  {Genesis 32}

In the morning, he met his brother, Esau, and the brothers had an emotional reunion.   Instead of returning home, Jacob settled in Shechem, where his daughter, Dinah, was raped.  Two of his sons, Simeon and Levi, avenged the wrong done to their sister.

Rachel gave birth to a son, Benjamin, and died from complications of childbirth.  Jacob buried her outside of Bethlehem.  He finally returned home to bury his father, Isaac.

Jacob struggled with God, who renamed him Israel. He had a limp after this struggle.

Jacob struggled with God, who renamed him Israel. He had a limp after this struggle.

However, his sons would turn on him.  First his oldest, Reuben, by sleeping with Biliah.  Second, when the brothers sold Joseph into slavery.  However, Jacob did not know his son was sold and believed he’d been killed.  {Genesis 37}

We can only imagine the heartache and pain Jacob felt during this time and in the years to follow.  Twenty years passed before we learn more about Jacob and the famine that has covered the land.  The sons go to Egypt to buy grain, when they are [eventually] reunited with their brother, Joseph.

Imagine, Jacob’s surprise when he discovers his favorite son is alive and in Egypt.  Jacob and his family move to Egypt and settled in the area of Goshen.  When it came time for Jacob to die, he asked Joseph to please carry him back to Canaan and bury him with his forefathers.

The Israelites remained in Egypt and grew in number until the day Moses let them out of slavery.

So what lessons can we learn from the life of Jacob?

 

  1. We reap the consequences for our actions

    Jacob and his sons

    Jacob and his sons

  2. We have to trust God and not be afraid
  3. We have to obey God when He speaks, or there may be disastrous consequences
  4. God is ALWAYS faithful. We just have to trust Him and that He knows best. Waiting is hard, but we are told His timing is perfect.
  5. Showing favoritism can reap disastrous consequences
  6. We can’t take things into our hands, but must wait on God. Jacob proved that doing things “our way” doesn’t work.
  7. We are not immune to heartache just because we are faithful
  8. God’s grace will follow us if we seek Him
  9. We have to confess our sins and shortcomings
  10. God can change our heart. He can move us from darkness into the light of our circumstances, attitude and perceptions.
  11. God is faithful to the promises He’s made to us
  12. God remains faithful despite our shortcomings

How has God been faithful in your life?

 

For others in the second chances series: Jonah, JobRahab, David and Bathsheba and Moses