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Jacob: Wrestled with God and Man

Podcast Transcript

Mike Booth: Welcome to another podcast of Rizen Fellowship. We’re delighted that you joined us and we hope you’re enjoying the study as we go through Genesis. So far, we’ve looked at the first division of Genesis. In Genesis chapter one through 11, we saw four great events. Now, we’ve moved into the second division. We’re looking at from chapter 12 all the way through chapter 50, and focusing on four great men.
In Genesis 22, we look at the story where we’re on the mountaintop with Abraham when he was obeying God and taking his only son Isaac to be willing to offer him as a sacrifice to God. We went there to Genesis 24 to look at Isaac in his specific life as the second great person. He was the beloved son, and we really focused in on him receiving his wife because that’s almost a foretelling of how Jesus Christ is going to come back to receive his bride, the church, one day in the future.
So now, we move to the third great person in Genesis, the second half of Genesis, and that is Jacob. Jacob is probably one of the most interesting characters in all of the scripture, a great lesson. I’m going to try to just kind of go through the overview of his life, highlight some points that I think would help us live our life today better but not really just focusing on one point of his life. Now, Jacob was a twin and he had an older brother who is born just before him and that was Esau, and they were the sons of Isaac and Rebecca. We see that in chapter 25.
Now, these boys grew up in a very devoted home and we can read the story about Isaac after he came down off that mountain and there’s not a lot in the scripture about him, and we might see where he made some mistakes of his life. No matter what he did as an adult, or even as a father, or a husband, we have to remember that as a young man, he willingly laid his life down on the altar to be pleasing to his father and obey him. So these boys grew up in a devoted home, but they also grew up in a very disappointed home because for many years, Isaac and Rebecca had no children and they wanted them desperately. They had to wait for years just like Abraham and Sarah did.
Isaac literally became a spiritual leader of the home praying, interceding on behalf for his wife, and God eventually granted that request. The whole of Genesis, you look and you read about these great people that are there, the whole book of Genesis emphasizes the sovereignty of God and the wisdom of his “delays.” Abraham and Sarah waited 25 years before their son Isaac was born. Jacob would have to labor for 14 years to get the wife that he really wanted in his life Rachel. Joseph as we’ll look at on our next podcast, he had to wait 20 years and go through prison and all these different things before he was reunited and reconciled with his brothers.
When we think about this, we also remember the verse in Psalm 31 verse 15 that says, “Our times are in his hands.” We have to really trust and have faith that God’s timing is always right because he’s never late even though we feel like it is a delay that’s causing us grief. So, they had a devoted and a disappointed home, but they also grew up in a very distressed home. When you read the story of Esau and Jacob’s life, they were struggling in the womb, and they struggle not only in the womb, but they struggled even after they were born. Their lives show us that conception, birth, and death that these things are not merely human accidents of how the world goes, but these are God’s divine appointments for our life and the things he has planned for us.
They also, unfortunately grew up in a very divided home. These boys looked different. They had completely different personalities. Esau was the rugged man. He was the outdoorsman. If he were in our culture today, Esau was one of those guys that when you went to Bass Pro Shop, you would find him in there looking for the latest, greatest things. Now, Jacob was a little bit more of a homebody. He’s the kind of guy that would only stay in, out of the sun, not get sunburn and might be called like a homeboy, but each one of these boys being completely different, each parent had their own favorite of the sons. Esau was Isaac’s favorite, while Jacob was Rachel’s favorite.
It’s unfortunate that when we see, not only in the biblical times but even in today when homes are divided because the parents have favorites, the one that are putting those favorites above God’s personal desire of their lives and for God’s will for their life. As you see in this in the family, you see all the scheming and the manipulating trying to get the upper hand. God’s purpose still prevailed in all four of their lives. At the end of chapter 25, that struggle is going to continue and get deeper as we see Jacob and Esau, where Esau sells his birthright to Jacob after he comes in from a long day being out in the field for just a little bowl of stew and for some bread, and later Esau’s even going to accuse Jacob of cheating him and taking advantage of him when he was weak.
As we move in to Genesis chapter 27, that division just continues to go wider and wider as we read about Rebecca and Jacob working out plans to try to deceive the father Isaac in getting him to bless Jacob rather than Esau the firstborn. You see, Rebecca overhears Isaac requesting his favorite son Esau to go out and to catch the game, and make that favorite meal for him that he liked. He said, “Son, if you’ll do that and bring that back to me, and after I eat it, then I will give you the blessing of the firstborn.”
Well, Rebecca quickly devised a plan to be able to prepare a meal herself for Isaac, and then have Jacob disguised as Esau and go in and take it to Isaac, and then to be able to get him to receive the blessing. Jacob was just a little bit hesitant of this plan because he said even though his father’s eyesight was bad at an old age, Isaac would be able to tell that this was not Esau in front of him but it was being Jacob, but Rebecca had ways to be able to make that happen.
She said, “If I take some of Esau’s clothes and put them on you, then you will smell like Esau, and Isaac’s dependent upon his eyesight and he’ll smell and think that you’re Esau.” Jacob had another objection. He said, “My skin is soft and my brother’s skin is rugged and hairy, and if my father takes and reaches out his hand and touches my hands to the back of neck, he’ll recognize real quickly that I’m not Esau and instead of blessing me, he will curse me.”
So, the mother took the skins of some of a young lamb and put that on the back of Jacob’s hands and on the back of his neck. So, the mother cooked the meal and then Jacob took the meal and began the charade, the masquerade of being his older brother. Jacob had an answer to every one of his father’s questions, and after eating the meal, Isaac then blessed his son thinking it was Esau but giving the firstborn blessing to Jacob. Just as soon as he received the blessing, Jacob slipped out of the room and almost at the same time as he left, Esau came in. When Esau and Jacob realized how Jacob had been deceived, they both were very angry. I mean, the Bible tells us that Isaac trembled violently and Esau begin to weep bitterly and he begged his father. He said, “Father, don’t you have even another blessing for me?”
In Hebrews chapter 12, there’s an interesting commentary about Esau’s attempt to repent over this situation. Hebrews chapter 12 verse 16 to 17 says, “Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright.” For you know that afterward when he wanted to inherit the blessing, just as soon as he realized that his brother had deceived his father and received the blessing that he thought was due him, when he wanted that blessing, he was rejected. This is what the writer of Hebrew says, “For he found no place of repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears.”
Now, what Esau sought was not repentance and turning around and repenting of his bad ways, and his profane ways, and becoming a submitted person to God himself. What he was seeking diligently was not repentance but the blessing. I think that’s so evident of the way we live in our world today. There’s so many people who call themselves and claimed to be Christians, and they want all the blessings that come from God by knowing God and calling themselves a part of his family, but they don’t want to submit or obey to be a part of the requirements of being a part of the family of God.
You see, repentance was not only necessary for Esau, but it’s necessary for each and every one of us. As a matter of fact, it’s essential for every one of us to be submissive to the father, to be able to receive the blessing and inheritance of eternal life. Well, after all these came down, Esau the older brother, vowed that after their father died because Isaac thought he was on his deathbed at this time, Esau swore and vow that after their father died, that he would kill his brother and Rebecca got wind of this plan, and she devised another plan that would protect her favorite son until Esau’s fury would be squelched and be able to turn away.
So, she asked Isaac to send Jacob away back to the relatives of where she came from over a 500-mile journey because she told her husband this would break my heart if now Jacob, my favorite son were to marry a Canaanite woman like Esau had done. Now, what Rebecca expected to be a journey of maybe a few weeks or a few months, turned out to be years. As a matter of fact, between all of the things that she planned, and schemed, and connived, she wound up never seeing her favorite son alive because that little short trip that she thought turned in to be 20 years.
Now, when Esau heard the concern of her mother about the Canaanite wife that she had, instead of repenting there and turning back to God, he goes out and tries to fix things on his own. He decides that his parents would probably approve of a marriage marrying somebody as a daughter of Ishmael, the half-brother to Isaac, Abraham’s firstborn son, but that didn’t work either.
Now let’s go back to Jacob though, the main character. On the first night away from home, here’s a man that stayed under his mother’s coattails if you would and try to learn the things and please her. Now, he’s out in the wilderness all alone. The Bible tells us that he lay down to sleep and he took a rock and set it up to be his pillow and he fell asleep. He was probably so tired from his journey and from the stress of worrying about his brother wanting to kill him, and as he lay down to sleep, all of a sudden he had a dream.
In his dream, he saw a stairway or a ladder that led to heaven. What he saw were angels and these angels were both descending and ascending up on that ladder. As he saw that dream, he woke up and he recognized this must be a very special place that I am in. This must be the house of God. He named that place Bethel. He made like a lot of people do, he made kind of an agreement with God. He said, “Now God, if you will go with me in my journey and let me find safety and security, and prosper in what I do. If you bring me back to this place one day, then I will be sure to follow you all the days of my life.”
As I said, Jacob now spent 20 years away from home with his mother’s family in Haran, and during that time he married his two wives, Leah and Rachel, and between them and their handmaidens, he had 11 sons and one daughter. God blessed his efforts as he’s working for his uncle Laban, and blessed him with flocks and cattle of his own. Now, Jacob had to work seven years. This is the agreement that he worked out with Rachel’s father Laban. That he would work seven years for him to be able to marry Rachel because he instantly fell in love with Rachel.
So, he worked his seven years and now came the wedding. The celebration all took place and the night, the consummation of the marriage and everything, next morning when Jacob woke up, he realized that his father-in-law had deceived him. It wasn’t Rachel the woman that he loved that he actually married, it was her older sister Leah. The father had switched them. Now, it makes you wonder how a man will get married to somebody and spend their wedding night. He had then not realized that it was the wrong woman, but it happened that way. Here’s the man now going and claiming how his father-in-law has cheated him and deceived when he was the one who deceived his own father to be able to receive the blessing. Now, the bride’s father has deceived him.
So, they made the agreement and he said, Laban said to him, “Go ahead and fulfill your weekly duty of the marriage.” He said, “Then I’ll give you Rachel, and you’ll work for me for another seven years for Rachel,” so that’s what happened. So, he wound up marrying both sisters, Leah and Rachel, and it took 14 years. Then for another six years, he was working for his father-in-law Laban and that’s where he received all of his flocks and his herds. Then, God told him it’s time to go back to his home after 20 years.
It’s interesting that on the first night away from home, Jacob had a dream about these angels ascending and descending upon the great stairway or the ladder to heaven. On the last night, coming back from his journey before his meeting with his brother Esau, the angels of God literally met with Jacob and this caused him to fall down on his knees in prayer and he remembered the commitment that he made to God that he said, “If you’ll see me safely in my journey and return me to this place, then I will follow you,” and later that evening, God came to visit Jacob.
It tells us that Jacob was wrestling with a man through the whole evening and into the daylight, and near the time of daybreak, Jacob had got the upper hand on the man and would not let him go and the man said, “Let me go,” and Jacob said, “I won’t until you bless me.” So, this man that Jacob had wrestled with asked him, he said, “What is your name?” It’s interesting because the only other time the scripture we see Jacob being asked that question, it was by his father Isaac. Isaac asked him. He said, “Son, what is your name?” At that time, Jacob lied to his father and said, “I am Esau, your firstborn son.”
After getting the upper hand on this man he was wrestling with all night long, he answered truthfully and he said, “My name is Jacob.” The man then blessed Jacob and gave him a new name. He said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob. Now, your name is Israel.” The name Israel means to struggle. One who wrestles with God, and one who lets God do what he wants to do, and that’s what Jacob began to do in his life from that time forward. Then, that’s in Genesis chapter 32.
Then again in chapter 35, we see another telling of Jacob’s name being changed to Isaac. The interesting thing about that is after chapter 32, Jacob still has some of his old tendencies about planning things and trying to work things out for himself and how he’s going to meet with his brother Esau. In Genesis chapter 35, after God reaffirms saying, “Your name is no longer Jacob, but Israel,” you find Jacob now quitting trying to connive, and plan, and scheme for his own ways, but he became one who led his family in devotion and the disciplines of the Lord. It’s with this change then that you find God, not only changing his name, but now extending the promise that God had originally made to Abraham about that he would make his descendants a great nation and they would inherit the land, and through those descendants of Abraham that all the world will be blessed.
All those blessings that God and all those promises of God had made to Abraham, he not only changes Jacob’s name to Israel, he now says, “All of those promises will be wrapped up in you and your descendants. The difference and the two stories of the name change of Jacob is that the first time Jacob was still trusting his own plans and his own ingenuity to try to get his way. The second story you find Jacob submitting to God, trusting God’s promises instead of his own plans. Immediately following that promise though, Israel’s favorite wife Rachel was pregnant with their second son.
Now, you would think that in seeing all the destruction that happened in the family between Esau and Jacob because the parents had their favorite, that Jacob would have learned from that and stayed away from that, but he didn’t. He didn’t learn that lesson. Anyway, Joseph was born to Rachel back in the land of Haran where she was from, but now she gave birth to Benjamin and then she died during that childbirth. Jacob or Israel as his name is now, was experiencing both joy and grief at the same time.
Now, compounding his grief is that Jacob’s father Isaac dies at 180 years old. It’s amazing that 20 years earlier, Isaac thought he was on his deathbed and asked Esau to go out and make his meal so that he could bless him, but after he died, Esau and Jacob had reunited and they both worked together to bury their father. Then in Genesis chapter 36, you have the list of the descendants of Esau. We find that God did bless Esau, and he made and his family into a great multitude of people too, and they became known as the Edomites who would appear continuously throughout the Old Testament.
In the next scene that we have in Genesis chapter 36, Joseph the next hero, enters into the stage front and center. He’s going to be the fourth and the final great person that we study in the second division of Genesis. We’ll look at his life as I said earlier in the next podcast, but Jacob is still playing a very important role even during the life and times of Joseph. Now, you would think that the deep grief like I said and of the favoritism that Jacob had experienced in his life, you thought he might grow out that but he didn’t.
He began to show great favoritism for his son Joseph, and the brothers got jealous and angry at Joseph, their brother. They sold him into slavery, and they even deceived their father by taking the special coat that Isaac had made or that Jacob had made for Joseph. They had sold them into slavery and they took the blood of a lamb, and they smeared it all over his coat. It’s fortunate they didn’t have CSI back then, because they would have been able to do blood test on all of that coat and realize that was an animal’s blood, not his son’s blood, but he thought and he was just sure now that the firstborn son of his favorite wife Rachel was also dead.
Now, there was going to be this chance on what Israel’s life was going to do. He’s going to do everything in his power to make sure that Benjamin, the other son of his beloved wife, would be safe and sound. At the near the end of his life, Jacob finds that Joseph is still alive and he’s even become the prime minister of the nation of Egypt, the most powerful nation in the world, and Jacob even moved from the Promised Land that God had given to him to Egypt, and God had told him it was okay for him to go down there and he reunites now with his favorite son Joseph. Pharaoh, after meeting with Jacob, Israel, opened up the best of the land of Egypt for Joseph’s family. Jacob had met with pharaoh and talked a lot about how his difficult life had been.
When you read this about what all takes place in Jacob’s life, it’s a shame that too many people today adopted the Esau’s prejudice view of Jacob that he was always out to swindle somebody. Now, granted Jacob was definitely wrong in deceiving his father, but he was absolutely right in believing the promise that God’s word that he was going to be the one to receive the covenant blessing. Jacob didn’t steal the birthright from Esau. He literally bought it. He bartered for it, and it was Laban who defrauded Jacob numerous times.
Even Jacob said, “You’ve cheated me at least 10 times in this 20 years that I’ve been here.” It was not Jacob but it was Laban who had done the robbing, and Jacob was not the perfect man. He made mistakes, but he was a man of faith who became Israel, the Prince of God. Many times in scriptures, we see God himself referring to himself and about himself as the God of Jacob or the God of Israel. Nowhere in scripture do you find that God is rebuking Jacob for cheating anyone.
So, I think the story of Jacob speaks to us today in many ways about the way we can live our life. First of all, always remember the inescapable law of the harvest. You will reap what you sow. All the dishonesty, and the conniving, and the manipulating that Jacob had been involved in his life, all fell back upon him through his uncle and through his other sons. As Paul writes for us in Galatians chapter six, he says, “Do not be deceived. God is not mocked: for whatsoever one sows, that will he also reap. For one sows to his own flesh, will to his flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit, will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” He said, “Let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season, we will reap if we do not give up.”
So first, Jacob’s life shows us the inescapable law of the harvest. We will reap what we sow. Second, we find that faith is living a life without scheming. Do you live your life trusting God even when things seemed to be going wrong? Do you live your life trusting God or you attempting to try to make your own plans and find your own solutions to the life problems that are surrounding you? There’s a fine line my friends between planning and scheming, and literally just sitting back and trusting God, having faith in God that his word will come true.
Finally, this is a lesson I think we all need to come to is we live in the 21st century. Make sure that your plans line up with God’s promises and God’s purposes. We’re not just to sit by idling and just wait for God to do everything for us. He wants us to be good stewards of our life. He wants us to plan and prepare not only for the future, but for the day especially Jesus said, “Take care of today, each day has enough trouble of its own,” but make sure as you’re making those plans, that those plans are in tune with God’s promises and purposes for your life. I believe then, you will be able no matter what’s going around you, the circumstances around you, you will be able to have faith and confidence that God is alive, not only on his throne, but guiding your life.
I hope Jacob has been an encouragement to you as we look at him as the third great person of Genesis. If this has helped you in any way or if you have any other questions, please email me at mike@rizen.church, and I would love to hear from you and respond. If you have any comments or any questions, please send them to me and until we come to our next podcast on Joseph. He’s no ordinary Joe. He’s going to be an interesting person to look at, may take us more than one podcast to do it, but I look forward to preparing and being back with you the next time. May God bless you and have a great day.