Cling On To God's Promises
As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. (Romans 9:13-16)
When I read that God loved Jacob and hated Esau it makes me want to go find out why. I certainly want God to love and not hate me and if I can discover what was different between the two then maybe I'll understand better what I should do. The story is told beginning in Genesis chapter 25.
Esau and Jacob were twins. Esau was the first-born and Jacob came out of the womb moments later clinging onto his brother's heel. (That's what the name Jacob means - heel holder.) By the custom of that age, and in much of the world even to this day, the first-born son got everything. He got the inheritance while the other sons had to take whatever leftovers they could find. But, God had different plans and had said already to Rebekah that the elder would serve the younger. It was Jacob that God planned to have carry forward the promises made to Abraham. This is the first lesson to be learned from Esau and Jacob. God decides, not us.
With that promise of God as motivation, no doubt added to by his own desire, Jacob sets out to reverse the situation between himself and Esau. The first step was to get his brother's birthright. This was no ordinary inheritance but was the birthright of the promises give to Abraham and passed to Jacob's father Issac. By man's way of thinking it belonged to Esau, but Jacob would have it for himself. So, one day Esau comes in famished and Jacob has some food prepared, but Jacob won't feed his brother unless Esau first gives up the birthright. Esau gave away his birthright for a mere bowl of stew. What Esau did was just plain stupid, but that's no excuse for Jacob's behavior. What Jacob did was stone-cold cruel. The right thing to do, according to most people, would be to share his food generously with his famished brother.
Jacob wasn't finished yet either. Having gotten his brother's birthright this little mommy's boy set out to steal the blessing of his father, too. Dressed up in disguise by his mother, Jacob gets old blind Issac to bless him instead of Esau. Then, realizing that Esau won't be too happy about this latest trick, Rebekah makes up a story about Jacob needing a wife to get Jacob sent off and out of harm's way. And so, Jacob takes off for his uncle Laban's territory.
When he gets there, Jacob spies out a beautiful young woman and decides he wants her for a wife. He ends up having to work seven years for his uncle only to get tricked into marrying the wrong sister. Then Jacob has to work another seven years to get Rachel. Fourteen years of work for a woman? That Rachel must have been something else to look at. The one thing you can say about Jacob was that he certainly was persistent when he decided he wanted something. You can also say he was very good at getting revenge because the next thing Jacob does is figure out a way to get for himself the best cattle, sheep and goats out of Laban's herds. Then, with two wives, children and a nice herd of animals, Jacob steals away without telling and heads back home to deal with his brother. Knowing that Esau might still be a little upset, Jacob sends ahead with a bribe. It Seems to have done the trick and he is finally welcomed back home.
Now, let's see if this makes sense. The older brother is the rightful heir, Isaac's favorite, is a man of the fields and a powerful hunter. He is the type of "man's man" that the world would favor. God hates him. On the other hand, the cold-hearted, conniving, back-stabbing, cowardly, lying, cheating, bribing Jacob is the one God loves. I guess you could say, God's ways are not our ways! But there is something about Jacob that sets him apart from Esau. Jacob desires the promises and blessings of God while Esau treats those things with disdain. That's the difference between Esau and Jacob and what makes all the difference to God. Jacob was far from perfect, but he had the right desires. There is one more very important thing about Jacob that shows his character.
And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob's thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him. And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed. And Jacob asked him, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, thy name. And he said, Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name? And he blessed him there. (Genesis 32:24-29)
Maybe we ought to add arrogant to the list of Jacob's character traits. Who in their right mind would attempt to wrestle an Angel? While the Angel isn't going to get tired or wounded, the man wrestling with the Angel is going to get knocked down, dirty, bruised, cut and worn out. Jacob holds on to the point where the Angel has to put Jacob's hip out of joint to try and make him let go. But even then Jacob won't let go until he gets his blessing. That's incredible to me and it shows the true character of Jacob and why God so favored him. What's more is that it was by this means that Jacob becomes Israel. He goes from being a second place heel holder to being a Prince of God.
For all his faults, Jacob had one thing above all else going for him. He valued the promise of God's blessing more than anything else and would hold on until the bitter end to get it. Jacob trusted in God and God's word. Esau didn't.
All of us go through trials and tribulations in this life. We face pain, both physical and emotional, frustration, injustice, unfair treatment, and the potential for despair. The typical response to our condition is to try and find someway we can make things better. There may be a tendency to compare our own situation against what others are dealing with and come to say that at least I'm not as bad off as someone else. That's OK, but doesn't really change the situation. Even if my situation is not as bad as someone else, it's still painful to me. Jacob was the son of Issac and had it far better than most, I would guess. Even so, it didn't do any good for him to see it that way.
Our temptation then is first to just let go, give it up and compromise a little to take the pressure off. More commonly, there is the desire to do something to fix the problem. If we can't find a way to fix the problem, then maybe we can find someone else who can do it for us. For example, when sick, we seek the help of a physician. Only when we reach a point where nothing seems to be working will most people turn to God. It seems our attitude is usually that as long as we can work out a solution why ask God for help. After all, He might want something in return that we don't want to let go of. For this reason, God will often just stand back and wait while we try to do it ourselves. We fail and fail again until we reach that point of despair that forces us to cling only to Him and not to our own devices.
It can be a traumatic point in a person's life to be brought to that point of breaking. Even worse is that most people brought to that point still don't really understand. They pray for deliverance and nothing seems to be happening. So they conclude that the problem is that they need to get right with God. While true, it's not they way they think. They think they can work up some goodness to trade with God for His favor and blessing. This is another of those false ideas that prevent people from fully gaining God's blessing. It's the other way around. Just like Jacob we have to seek the blessings of God for their own sake. We don't get His blessings by doing good things any more than Jacob was good when God blessed him in the womb. We do good things because He has blessed us with the ability to do so.
We have to learn to see it from God's perspective. What is important to God is the integrity of His word. He will see that His word is fulfilled and He constantly looks for those who desire the same thing. When we find ourselves in a trial we can search God's word for the promises He has made and then seek His blessing by asking Him to fulfill His word through us. If we do all the work what glory is there to Him? The greatest glory to God is when he rescues us out of our worst possible situation. Our faith is based on the promise that He will do exactly that. There is no worse situation than being dead with no way back to God. Just as He raised Jesus, so He will work a miracle through us when we have total faith in Him. When we grab onto the promises of God in faith, that's when we open the door to God's blessing. No matter how dark it gets or how long the night of wrestling may be, we have to cling on to Him in the faith that He will fulfill His word and bless us. That's what I think God loved about Jacob.
We have an even stronger basis for our faith than Jacob had. While Jacob had only the word of God indirectly, we have the direct promise of God through Jesus Christ (Heb. 12). How then can any trial or tribulation, any situation we find ourselves in, be anything other than another opportunity for faith? All we have to do is cling on to His promises.
What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us… For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-34, 38-39)