Life of Jacob Free Sample
The power of blessing
Reading: Genesis 27:1-45
So he went to him and kissed him. When Isaac caught the smell of his clothes, he blessed him (verse 27).
The younger son who first bargained for the birthright, now actively colludes to obtain it.
Today’s reading is long, but it is a masterful narrative, full of poignancy and intrigue, passion and tension. We cannot escape the depth of the deception perpetrated by Rebekah and Jacob. The narrative does not hide any of it, nor does it condone it. In the story we see the way that one deception leads more deeply to others. As Jacob encounters Isaac’s suspicions of his identity, he is forced to lie, not once, but twice, including bringing the name of God into the duplicity (verses 20, 24).
But there is a curious indifference in the narrative to the deception. It appears that the writer has something far more fundamental to convey through the story. What is in view is the power of blessing.
We need to step into the biblical world to try and catch some kind of understanding of this power, for it is alien to our modern world. In the biblical world, there was believed to be creative power in both words and symbolic action. When an elder spoke a blessing upon a younger person, those words were considered to have transforming power over the person’s future. The solemnity of this power was usually marked by the symbolic gesture of laying hands on the recipient as the blessing was pronounced. In our world, words are treated as much cheaper than the ancients believed. Words are everywhere in our culture; with the internet, our world is saturated with words. And we focus our words on describing what we currently see and know. We don’t tend to see words as releasing creative, transforming power into someone’s life.
Once spoken, the ancients believed a blessing could not be retracted, because the power had already been imputed to the recipient. It was not like us returning an item to a store and asking for an exchange!
The understanding of the power of a blessing is what lies as the background tension of this high-stakes narrative. Both brothers know the crucial importance of receiving the blessing. And Jacob knows that if the deception is discovered prior to him receiving the blessing, then it will only be a curse that falls upon him (verse 12). Yet Jacob succeeds in his trickery. He fools his blind father and receives the fullness of the blessing (verses 27-29). And what a blessing it is!
But what are we to make of what can only, on a human level, be seen as a rather sordid episode. Are not our sympathies with Isaac and Esau? It’s hard to see either Rebekah or Jacob in a positive light in this narrative. As already mentioned, the writer does not shy away from any of these difficulties, yet the text gives us no neat answers either. What is clear is that the unstoppable promise of God from chapter 25 verse 23 is operating in the background. God had declared that a radical inversion of social convention would take place and Jacob would be the one to receive the blessing. No clear route to that blessing was specified at the time and it looks as if Rebekah and Jacob colluded to “help” God achieve the goal. We are left to speculate what kind of a route God would have taken, had the deceptive behaviour not taken place.
This is a narrative where we are left to ponder the sometimes-inscrutable nature of God. There are times when we cannot explain His ways, but instead we are called to trust that He is bringing about His purposes. The one who struggled with his brother in the womb and bargained with his brother for the birthright, then battled using the weapons of deceit to have the blessing declared over him. And somehow, in all the messiness of those struggles, through all the twisted human motivations, God was still doing His thing. God had chosen Jacob, in all his brokenness, to be the person who would carry His purposes into the next generation.
Such narratives will perplex us, but they should also encourage us, because they demonstrate that no matter how low we sink, we never outwit God and we do not displace Him from the throne of His sovereignty. As we saw yesterday, there is a parallel between us and Jacob. Through Christ, we are now objects of mercy (Romans 9:23), though we should have been under judgement. This has been God’s way with us. Today’s story invites us to reflect on the way God works out His purposes in our own lives. At times, we may have attempted some “interfering”, because we weren’t confident things would work out OK. Other times, it is only in hindsight that we can see the way God has worked. As I write this section, a good friend of mine is experiencing a very difficult situation with regard to his work. Yet he senses God is saying to him, “Trust me, you have no idea what I am doing.”
For Jacob, no blessing came without a struggle. At times his struggle revealed itself in dishonourable conduct. Yet despite all that, the blessing of God carried a power all of its own and its purposes would not be thwarted. God’s creative power was now fully upon Jacob. But this didn’t mean his life was now a bed of roses. In fact, exactly the opposite was true. The obtaining of the blessing now casts Jacob out from the family as a fugitive (verse 43). Another kind of struggle was just to begin.
Heavenly Father, help me to remember that in our hearts people plan their course, but you are the One who establishes their steps (Proverbs 16:9). Help me to trust you in the perplexities of my life, when I am not sure what you are doing. Forgive me for the times when I try and take up your role and act in ways that dishonour your name. Give me the confidence to trust you. Thank you for the many blessings you have poured into my life. Father, I invite you to speak your words of creative power into my life. Thank you that the word of your promise carries power to transform my future. Give me ears to hear your words to me and help me to always remember that, despite the worst of me, you will always work for my best. Amen.