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According to Us

One Husband, One Wife, Five Children and Everything in Between

Jesse Tree day 6

Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran. When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. He 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. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. -Genesis 28:10-13

Abraham is known as the a father of our faith. God kept his promise and gave Abraham a son, Isaac. Isaac married Rebekah and was blessed with twins. Even in the womb the brothers fought. They were like oil and water. The Lord revealed to Rebekah that the older brother would one day serve the younger.

At birth, their differences were obvious and the sibling rivalry began immediately. Esau, the oldest, was hairy and red in color Jacob was smooth skinned and was grabbing his brothers heal. The name Isaac means “heal grabber”. He would live to fulfill his name. Another way to understand this is “pulling the leg” or trickster.

As they grew up, Esau became the manly man: hairy and great at hunting. He thought with his stomach and in the moment. Jacob was more of a ladies man. He stayed at the tent with the women and was great with food. He was the brains of the family and always looking for ways to put himself ahead. Esau was closer to his father, and Jacob was clearly the favorite of their mother.

One day when Esau had been out hunting all day, he came home starved. Jacob just so happened to have a pot of stew on. Esau begged for some to eat. Jacob the opportunist played his first move. Foolishly Esau traded his birthright, his inheritance as the older son, for a mere bowl of soup.

As if that wasn’t bad enough Jacob also later tricked Esau out of the blessing from his father. Esau had enough. He determined in his heart to kill his twin once their father had passed away. In order to protect Jacob, their mom came up with a plan for him to return to Harran to find a wife. (The same Harran that Abraham had been called).

Jesse Tree Day 6On his way, Jacob sees the vision  found in the passage above. He sees angels ascending and descending from heaven. God makes his covenant with Jacob, the same that was given to Abraham and Isaac.

At this point I don’t think Jacob fully understands or believes. His reply is “okay, if I return to this place again, then I know it will be true.”

Jacob goes on to Harran and meets the woman of his dreams. Rachel is beautiful and strong. He falls head over heels in love. He arranges to marry her, having to work 7 years for Laban. Those years pass quickly because she was worth the wait. They have a huge wedding feast with much food and merriment. But to Jacob’s surprise, he isn’t married to Rachel but to her older (less attractive) sister Leah. The trickster had been tricked. He agrees to work another 7 years to also marry Rachel.

The bizarre love triangle widens as the sisters begin to compete with each other. Leah is prolific with 4 sons. Rachel marries her servant to Jacob to bear kids in her place. Leah the. Follows suit and is blessed with more kids as well. Finally Rachel is given a son of her own in Joseph.

After 20 years and a not so healthy relationship with his father-in-law, Jacob, his four wives, 11 children, servants, livestock, and anything else they owned loaded up and returned to his home land.

The situation with Laban must have been pretty severe for Jacob to consider going home. His own bother was waiting to kill him, after all.

Jacob had grown and matured after 2 decades. He had been on the receiving end of being cheated out. He had learned to manage, step up, and be a man. I’m sure he heavily considered what lie ahead of him with Esau.

To test the waters, Jacobs sends some servants out to meet his brother. They return with a not so promising message. Esau is coming along with an army to meet Jacob.

After the panic had time to settle in Jacob decides on trying to buy back his favor. Sure he stole, but he was willing to make it right. He divides up all he owns and sends them out to his brother in phases as great gifts. First the livestock is sent, then servants, then he divides out his wives and kids, with Rachel and Joseph at the back.

I don’t know about you, but when I am under stress, sleep doesn’t come so easy. I can imagine the grief he’s feeling. The weight of the world is pressing in on all sides.

Then there in the darkness is a stranger. What does he want?

So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”

But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

This was no ordinary man. There was something about him that Jacob knew was greatly different. Maybe it was the touch to the hip, but he refused to give up.

The stranger asked for his name.

“Jacob,” he answered.

Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”

When Jacob asked for the man’s name, all that was said is “why do you ask me?” Immediately he knew he had wrestled with God, seen him face to face.

Many believe these encounters in the Old Testament are pre incarnate encounters with Jesus. Times that he appeared before he put on flesh as a baby. It is clear in the text Jacob had a life changing experience with God. No longer would he be known as the liar and cheat. He would be known as the overcomer. The chosen one of God to bless into a mighty nation.

This summer I had the privilege to visit parts of Turkey with Alan. It was so great to explore New Testament cities, especially some that are part of the 7 churches found in the book of Revelation. One of the cities we visited was Pergamum.

Temple of Trajan, Pergamon

Temple of Trajan, Pergamum

Each city that we would visit, we would look through the Bible to find the passages that mention that city. It really brought life to accounts I have learned to love, but then to see and imagine what it would have been like….no words!

While we were visiting Pergamum, we read this:

“Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. To everyone who is victorious I will give some of the manna that has been hidden away in heaven. And I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it.” Revelation 2:17

One day, we who stand firm in our faith will also receive a new name. One with deep meaning, perhaps like Jacob. No longer will we be remembered or known for all that let us down in this life. No longer will we struggle with past pains or hurts. All will be made new- for the glory of the One who sits on the throne.

Family Devotion:

Cut out a person shape (can be like a gingerbread man), pencils, Bible and Ornament.

Read together the passage. Talk briefly about how Jacob was running away. He had tricked his brother out of the inheritance and was running away to save his life. God had big plans for Jacob, but being a liar was not good. Take the paper man and tear of some of his arms/legs. When we tell lies, they hurt us or others in ways that can’t be taken back. Although you could fix the paper man with tape, he will never be the same as before. Pray together thanking God for always being True. Ask for forgiveness for telling lies and for help to tell the truth more.

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