Jacob is an enigma, of sorts. His life seemed to be filled with deception (indeed, one meaning for his name is “he cheats”!), and yet God blessed him, and the very nation and people of Israel are his namesake! Jacob was cunning and shrewd, but Jesus tells us to be as wise as serpents and innocent as doves (Matthew 10:16), which Jacob certainly did as he sought God’s blessing. In fact, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I hated” is a repeated phrase in the Bible (Malachi 1:2-3, Romans 9:13) expressing God’s choice to fulfill His grand Covenant of Abraham through Jacob’s line and not through Esau, despite Esau being the firstborn son, as Jacob desired it.
Despite God creating him as the firstborn of Isaac (the son of Abraham) and Rebekah, Esau despised his birthright (Genesis 25:34). But Jacob sought to receive this inheritance from his father despite his unworthiness, and so he paid for it with red lentil soup and bread. And thus God allowed Jacob, the second-born, to be the child of inheritance and blessing instead of the firstborn Esau, even though it was the firstborn son’s right by birth to possess.
This, as well as the Stolen Blessing event in which Jacob deceived Isaac to get the blessing that originally would have went to Esau, in a way actually shows that Jacob is Christian-like, while Esau resembles fallen humanity. Though humanity (Adam and Eve) was originally placed in paradise by God’s sovereign choice and no merit of their own, but rejected the Lord, we also in our sin share in the Esau-like despising of this birthright position and blessing and reject God. And just as God allows the unworthy Jacob to receive Isaac’s birthright and blessing, so does He allow undeserving sinners (you and me) who will repent and have faith in Jesus to be “born again” (John 3:3) and receive the right to become children of God (John 1:12), partaking in the eternal blessings of God our Father.
[Another really cool connection is that Jacob’s purchase price for the birthright and blessing was red soup/stew and bread, which symbolizes the purchase price for humanity’s redemption: the shed blood and broken body of Jesus that He sacrificed for us on the Cross! (Luke 22:19-20)]
Also Christian-Like of Jacob is his perseverance. His Love for Rachel drove him to work for 14 years – 7 extra after being tricked by her father Laban and receiving Rachel’s sister, Leah, instead. And in Jacob’s famous Wresting with God encounter, he refused to let his opponent (which was actually God manifesting Himself in a man’s body) go before receiving His blessing. The Man made Jacob’s New Name to be Israel, meaning “One Who Strives with God”, and as Israel ultimately represents those in covenant relationship with God (Romans 9:6), so we learn that Christians are those who strive with God – they are those who truly persevere after Him!
From his striving early days to the Death of Jacob after his Patriarch Travels with Jacob’s Grandsons and the rest of his family on their Journey to Egypt, this very important historical person teaches us some great lessons about the interaction between God’s sovereignty and our choices. Namely, God uses how we are created and the choices we make to draw us and others to Him. In Acts 17:26-27, we read: “And He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward Him and find Him. Yet He is actually not far from each one of us.”
God placed Jacob, the striving son, in the second-born spot in his family, knowing that Jacob’s striving nature would be used for seeking the Lord…just as He does for all of humanity, putting us in the “second-born spot” of being born into the sin and death we inherit from our “oldest siblings”, Adam and Eve. This is for the purpose and intention that we would be like Jacob and strive after Him (Luke 13:24)! And as we do, let’s always remember that just as God was near to Jacob, such as in Jacob’s Dream and the face-to-face wresting encounter, so is He near to all people, desiring them to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4) and He is patient toward us, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach Repentance (2 Peter 3:9)…because He is love (1 John 4:8) and so He so loves the world! (John 3:16)
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