What authority do I have to write a book containing short messages on the life of Jacob?
I was called by God to serve Him in the lands of the Bible and after six years of study I arrived with my wife in those lands. We spent our first year in the land of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan where we studied Arabic at the George Kelsie school of Arabic to help those called by God to serve in the Arab world. We were taught verses and songs in Arabic.
Soon we were conversing in Arabic with the locals in Amman Jordan. We came to identify with them. Learning to eat their food, behaving like them according to their culture and learning from them to view the Bible in the culture of that area. A person that does not change in what he values in life, is highly respected. Haafiz attaqaliid: Meaning he preserves the customs and values of his ancestors. So when we read the Old Covenant in the book of Genesis we were able to understand the behaviour of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
This booklet will attempt to view the life of Jacob not through Western eyes but through that culture. Many in the Western world have spoken or written harshly about Jacob and condemned him for his behaviour. I personally believe that they misjudge him according to their foreign culture. God said, ”Jacob have I loved and Esau have I hated.” As we view the life of Jacob we will understand why God said that.
Abraham was a hundred years old when Isaac was born. Sixty years later Isaac’s sons Esau and Jacob were born. Isaac love Esau because he ate of his game. Rebekah loved Jacob who stayed in the camp with her. Another was in the camp, Abraham who appears to have “adopted” Jacob because he is known as the father of Jacob in Genesis 28:13. After the birth of Jacob Abraham lived for a further fifteen years. Time to tell Jacob all about his life of faith after he responded to the call of the Lord his God. Abraham told Jacob the details of his walk with God which caused Jacob to be the man of God that is described in Malachi, as one that God loved.
We need to record all that happened in the life of Abraham before the unfolding of the life of Jacob. It becomes evident that so many of Jacob’s actions and beliefs are due to the time spent with Abraham for at least ten of the fifteen years after the birth of Jacob.
1 Abraham’s family home
The record of the life of Jacob begins in Genesis 25:19 with the unfolding of the life of Jacob the son of Isaac the son of Abraham. Isaac had married Rebekah who was childless for twenty years. Isaac prayed to the Lord about the matter and the Lord answered his prayer when his wife became pregnant and bore two boys. It was an uncomfortable period for her as the babies struggled within her. When she talked to the Lord about the matter, she was told that two nations were in her womb and the older or first born would serve the younger.
The first born to come into the world was red and hairy and he was named Esau. The second to be born came out holding on to the heel of Esau so he was named Jacob meaning he grasps the heel. Esau became a hunter loved by Isaac who enjoyed meals of venison with him, while Jacob who was loved by Rebekah stayed in the camp of his family. He cooked lentil stew which he served with bread as the spoon of the meal.
Another was in the camp. Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born. He was a hundred and sixty when Esau and Jacob were born and died fifteen years later. Abraham became the father of Jacob replacing Isaac who loved Esau. It could be said that Jacob was adopted by Abraham who taught him about his relationship with God.
Genesis 28:13 God reveals Himself to Jacob for the first recorded time as the Lord the God of his father Abraham and the God of Isaac. Abraham played the role of a father in the life of Jacob. He introduced Jacob to the God who called him, taught and guided him. So many events in the life of Abraham are similar in the life of Jacob. Jacob was different to Esau because of the role of Abraham, Rebekah, and God in his life. Those who walk with God should pass on to the younger generation what they have discovered.
2 Abraham’s family home.
Abraham lived in tents moving around the area he had been promised by God. He was 75 years old when the Lord God called him to leave Haran for an area he would be given which his descendants would occupy. He was called to leave his country, his people, his family. God promised that He would make Abram into a great nation, make his name great, bless him and make him a blessing such that all peoples that lived on earth will be blessed through him.
He should have left Lot who was a nephew, behind. After leaving Haran he would have moved through what is known today as the Fertile Crescent because as he had flocks and herds he would have lived where grazing and water were available. Moving West from the area of the Euphrates river he eventually crossed the area now known as Syria and Lebanon until he arrived at Shechem which God promised to his descendants. He built an altar to worship the Lord between Bethel and Ai.
There was a famine in the area, so Abram moved out on Canaan and moved to Egypt. There is no record of his acting by faith in Hebrews when he went to Egypt. He failed to consult the Lord but relied on his own common sense to provide grazing for his animals. Sarai at the age of sixty-five was apparently quite beautiful so she and Abram made it known that she was his sister. Pharoah made her one of his harem. The Lord caused Pharoah and his family to suffer physically which made him seek the reason. He rebuked Abram for not disclosing that she was his wife. He could not defend himself. He learned that the Lord who had called him was not confined to a locality. It also taught him to consult the Lord before making a decision.
Abram returned to the area in Canaan where he had built an altar. There he parted company with Lot and his household. He gave Lot the choice of area. Lot chose the fertile valley of Sodom and Gomorrah. An area described as sinful. It seemed as if Abram had lost out but the Lord appeared to him and promised all the land apart from the area Lot had chosen. Abram moved to Mamre near Hebron where he erected another altar.
Note that the Lord did not find fault with Abram for moving into Egypt and when he parted with Lot, the Lord showed him the area once more promised to him. He had to rescue Lot and bring him back. Abram was met by Melchisadek who was priest of God most high, the king of Salem who gave him bread and wine. He gave Melchisadek a tenth of all the spoils as an act of gratitude.
Then Abram had second thoughts and imagined that those he had defeated to rescue Lot would in the future retaliate and he feared for his family’s future. The Lord dealt with that fear and told him not to fear as the Lord Himself would be his shield of protection and his very great reward.
Abram was not interested in a reward as he was still childless. The Lord assured him that he would have a son and told him to look up into the night sky and promised that his offspring would be as numerous as the stars. Abram believed the Lord who credited his act of faith as righteousness. So what follows in the life of Abram is as one who had the righteousness of God.
Isaac came into Abraham’s life when he was a hundred years old. Sixty years later Rebekah bore Esau and Jacob. Abraham lived for a further fifteen years. What happened during that time? Esau his grandson became the favourite of Isaac because he hunted game and they shared the venison. Jacob loved by his mother stayed in the camp cooking lentil stew which today is called majedderah: made up of lentils, rice, onions, salt and served with bread which is the spoon of the meal. However, something was happening which many have failed to detect.
Isaac loved Esau. Rebekah loved Jacob but there was another in the camp. Grandfather Abraham was there. Genesis 28:13 reveals what took place when God spoke for the first time to Jacob as he was leaving home. “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.”
Jacob had come into contact with grandfather Abraham who over time took the place of Isaac as his spiritual father. God recognised this and it accounts for the actions of Jacob who wanted to be like his grandfather. To follow his God, live by his values, follow his life style. As the life of Jacob unfolds, we will discover the impact of Abraham’s teaching.
Abraham would have shared with Jacob the origin of his family and the call of God. He was not living in that area by choice but out of obedience. He would have told Jacob that after God had called him, he responded by leaving family and moving West, what followed was a period of silence from God. This silence lasted until he arrived with his servants, flocks and family at Bethel. He told Jacob he was not troubled by the silence because of the inner peace he had as a result of obeying God. Only on arrival at Shechem and Bethel was the silence broken. God confirmed that his descendants would occupy that area.
The applies today. God has only to speak once and expects obedience. God called me to serve Him in Lebanon. What followed was seven years of preparation as I trained and studied before I married the wife of His choice and arrived in Lebanon.
Confirmation following obedience came in various ways. My father was promoted three times in my final year at Bible college enabling him to send me to university. God will unfold His will one step at a time. He requires the first response of obedience before He reveals the next step. We got married. We had no place to stay, no money, no transport, no teaching post although my wife was a nursing sister working in schools.
God overcame every obstacle. The minister who led my wife to faith in Jesus, married us. The Ywca provided the venue of the service and reception. We were given an Austin mini and a place for the honeymoon. I was given a teaching post. A year later we were on our way to Lebanon after a year of Arabic study in Jordan. It was a valuable period of discovering the culture of the Arab people.
3 Jacob applying what he was taught by Abraham
Abraham told Jacob that Isaac was not his first born. Sarah his wife suggested that he sleep with Hagar her servant to obtain a son. Ishmael was born and gave pleasure to his father. God remained silent for thirteen years until He promised Abraham that Sarah would have a son. Both of them laughed. It was the laughter of unbelief in their old age. They were asked why they had laughed and doubted as nothing was too hard for the Lord.
When Isaac was born he was given his name meaning laughter. It would remind his parents of the power and faithfulness of God. Their hearts were indeed filled with laughter. Ishmael the first born was sent away and Isaac took his place and everything was left to him.
What impact did this have on the life of Jacob? He was not the first born. He realised that if Isaac could take the place of Ishmael, then he could take the place of Esau. Why would he want to do so? Jacob valued what Abraham valued, he wanted a relationship with the God of Abraham, to be led by Him so he could follow in the steps of faith of grandfather Abraham. For about ten years he learned about the life of Abraham who was a living example of a life of faith in God who continued to complete the work begun in him.
So Jacob waited patiently in the camp and cooked lentil stew every day. One day Esau came to the camp without having killed any game. He was captured by the smell of lentil stew which wrapped its arms around his nostrils drew him to the source of the smell of the stew. He asked for that lentil stew. Jacob agreed if Esau to sold his birthright as the first born in exchange for the lentil stew. Esau replied that he was on the verge of death so the status of first born was of no value to him.
For a bowl of lentil stew, bread and a drink he despised his status as the firstborn. In that culture he was declaring that he attached no value to the lifestyle of his parents and their belief in God. Never once in all the life of Esau and his descendants, is God ever mentioned. The transaction took place. Esau despised his birthright. Jacob valued that. He did not value the lifestyle of Isaac but of his spiritual father Abraham.
All of us are faced with choices in life. We cannot blame our parents for we must take responsibility for the decisions we make. God will bring across your path men and women who have a close relationship with God. Two men played a very important role in my life. One was Stan who took over the office where I worked. He ran his own church and invited me to an Easter camp where I discovered that I needed a daily involvement with Jesus. Later he invited me to hear a missionary speak about work in Lebanon. The meeting was far away and I had no transport. God made it possible for me to be there. God called me to serve in Lebanon. The other man that God used in my life was a Messianic Jew named Harold who taught me the life of faith, while I studied at university.
Jacob valued the position of firstborn. He wanted the God of Abraham to be his God. He wanted to have a relationship with Him, to have the values and traditions of Abraham.
What is the evidence of this? Abraham told Jacob that he had given a tenth of the spoils to Melchisadek who was priest of God most high and who gave him bread and wine. He had given a tenth not because it was stipulated but out of gratitude. When Jacob met God for the first time as he was leaving his family, he promised that if God took care of him, he would give a tenth back of all he was given. As an act of gratitude.
Giving to God is an act of gratitude. A tenth is not stipulated in the New Covenant but it states that the Lord loves a cheerful giver. It is an indication of how much the relationship with God is valued. Giving out of gratitude that others might come to faith in Jesus.
On returning home after serving many years the sending church praised the Lord for providing for us. They had failed to do so. They had some mystical idea that the Lord would meet the needs of His servants. When missionaries were required to raise their financial support before leaving for the field of service, God prompted a few to respond. Other declined as they saw the problems but failed to consult God. Israel saw Goliath and responded with fear but David saw God and was victorious.
Jacob wanted to be like Abraham and not Isaac. He did not trick Esau. Food in exchange for status and future blessing. Jacob had a foretaste of eternity. Throughout life we must choose to live either for time on earth alone or for eternity, to be involved in the Kingdom of God by making it known and seeing the difference that Jesus reigning in a life, makes in the changes He brings about. A change of priorities, values, the choices He makes for the right spouse who will encourage and build up their relationship with the only God.
So much of our lives is only theory until we practise what we are taught. Only then do changes take place. It is like learning Arabic. It needs to be spoken but some fear that the mistakes they make would cause them to be ashamed. So they only know it in theory.
4 Abraham Tested
When Abraham arrived in the promised land it was going through a period of famine which was a test of his new faith in God. He failed to consult God. He did not consider the problems that would arise in Egypt but was only thinking of the needs of his animals.
As a shepherd it was the natural decision for the welfare of his flocks. He foresaw that his wife Sarai would draw the attention of the Egyptians. They agreed to let it be known that beautiful Sarai was his sister. Sarai was taken by Pharoah. Abram had the idea that his God was confined to a certain area or only known to him.
There is no “by faith” in the letter to the Hebrews regarding his move to Egypt. It required an act of God to extricate her and him. Abraham discovered that the God that called him to leave Haran, could work in the lives of others to accomplish His plan for a life. Jacob would discover that God was not restricted to a certain area when he left home in his seventies for the unknown, God dealt with him at Bethel. Later on arrival in Haran, in the home of Laban Jacob was deceived many times and later acknowledged that if the God of his father Abraham (note what he said) had not cared for him he would left Laban after serving him for twenty years, empty handed. Both Abraham and Jacob had to discover the reality that the God that had called them both was present everywhere. That instead of resorting to their own manipulating of the situation to avoid trouble and loss, they should trust God alone in every situation.
One of the fringe benefits of being called by God to leave family and society to serve Him is to learn to rely on Him only. Not to have family or friends nearby but to discover that the Lord knows the needs of His servants wherever they are. We were sent to study Arabic in Amman Jordan. We had to fend for ourselves. We had to learn to communicate with people in their language so we could bargain when making purchases. It was a period of steep learning the language and culture of the people. The best way of getting involved with the local church. Not to arrive with the idea that we are the experts but as students willing to listen, learn and make many mistakes causing others to laugh while not losing heart.
Abraham told Jacob that trouble resulted from Lot his nephew also having flocks which caused friction as the pastures could not support two families. So they parted. After Lot had left and settled near Sodom, the Lord appeared to Abram to confirm all that he would possess in the future. Jacob stored in his mind what Abraham told him about Lot and later when his brother Esau wanted to live with him Jacob declined as they had different values and he had a relationship with God.
We are called to belong to the Triune God. To identify with His family. To love one another and help one another in our common goal of making known the only way of salvation. The only way to the Father is through Jesus the Son. We were workers called by God from many countries and various groups of believers in Jesus. We all had a relationship with God. We worked with God and not for Him. All that we accomplished is what He did.
5 Abraham to the Rescue
Lot had taken up residence in the area of Sodom and Gomorrah which was a well-watered area that provided good pasture for his animals. He identified with the people and when the area was invaded and overrun by the king of Elam, Lot and his family were also taken prisoner. This was was reported to Abram who gathered his trained men and rescued Lot. When he returned, Abram decided in advance that he would take nothing that belonged to the king of Sodom lest he should say that he had enriched Abram.
After this Abram had second thoughts and was afraid of retaliation in the future from those he had defeated. In Genesis 15 The Lord spoke to Abram in a vision to deal with that fear.
Abram was told not to be afraid as the Lord would be his shield and his great reward. This came because of Abram’s decision not to take anything belonging to the king of Sodom in case he claimed that he had enriched Abram. He wanted to say that all he had was God’s doing. He gave a tenth to Melchisadek king of Salem who brought him bread and wine, out of gratitude not stipulated. When he blessed Abram he introduced him to God Most High.
How did Jacob learn from this event? Later when he was staying in the camp of Laban, he agreed to work seven years for Laban’s daughter Rachel. On his wedding night after serving those years he was deceived by Laban and discovered it was Leah. Jacob served a further seven years receiving his two wives and their maids in a single week. After serving Laban for fourteen years Jacob was asked what his wages should be? To that Jacob replied, ”I do not want you to give me anything.” Genesis 30:31. Like Abraham his spiritual father he wanted nothing from Laban but was prepared to serve as a shepherd and his wages would be the speckled or spotted sheep.
I know of no author who comments favourably about this response of Jacob. He identified with Abraham in not wanting anything from a man who did not have a relationship with God. Later this was shown by the fact that in spite of Laban changing his wages ten times, God prospered Jacob.
We all need to decide beforehand that we will only rely on the Lord and not on man when we are involved in His service. In the lives of Abraham and Jacob God prospered them because they honoured Him in advance. Jacob had listened well. Many years had passed before he acted in the same way as his spiritual father.
Eric Liddel would not compete in a race on a Sunday in the Olympic Games. Before he ran a longer distance on another day he was given a verse “He that honours Me I will honour.” He won and it turned out that the longer distance suited him better.
God waits for us to act like Abraham and Jacob in advance to act out our faith in God. To trust God to act for the sake of His Name. In 1980 I was required to raise support before we could return to serve in Lebanon. I tried and failed. I called out to God, ”What do You want me to do?”
‘Nothing just trust Me. I will fill your mouth with laughter. “I never mentioned the subject again. God did it and filled me with laughter when I led my sister to faith in Jesus, before we left for Lebanon
6 Abraham taught Jacob the righteousness of God
Abraham shared with Jacob how he had told the Lord God that he was childless. Then God took him out into the night and showed him the stars and said his descendants would be as many as those stars. Abram believed God would carry out His promise and God credited his faith as righteousness. He had the righteousness of God all his life. God never found fault with Abraham. He had the righteousness of God as a gift through faith in God.
God said He was the Lord who called him to leave Ur of the Chaldeans to give him the land where he was residing. Abram told Jacob that his descendants would be strangers in a country not their own for four hundred years and serve there as slaves before they came out with great possessions. He said God had made a covenant with him regarding the land He would give his descendants. In this covenant God would do everything to carry out His promise. All of this would take place in the distant future. He was not told how it would happen.
Jacob learned an important lesson of trusting God to keep His promises. He felt he had a part to play but only if had a relationship with the God of Abraham. He learned that Abram and Sarai tried to solve the problem of being childless by getting Abram to have a child through Hagar. God remained silent until Abram turned ninety-nine and then renewed his covenant with Abram with circumcision as the sign of the covenant. It would be a reminder to all generations of no confidence in the ability of man to bring pleasure to God. The only way would be by exercising faith in God.
The Lord changed the name of Abram to Abraham the father of many nations. Not only his descendants but also the Gentiles would regard him as their spiritual father when they too would receive the righteousness of God as a gift through exercising faith in His keeping His promises.
All this time Jacob stayed in the camp living a very ordinary life. Abraham died at the age of a hundred and seventy-five when Jacob was fifteen. Esau was always out hunting while he had his mother Rebekah as company. He was taught to cook lentil stew and used flat bread as a spoon. Physically he was well developed as he later showed by moving a rock cover from a well. His strength would hide his spiritual weakness. It was needed when he protected sheep and rescued them from wild animals.
When Jacob eventually left home to seek refuge from the wrath of Esau he followed his parents' instructions to stay with his mother’s family. He arrived at Bethel where he had a dream. God promised that his descendants would be many and spread all over the world bringing blessing to many. God promised to stay with him, care for him and bring him back home. Jacob said that the Lord was in that place. He knew all about the Lord through listening to Abraham and when he received the blessing of Isaac. Jacob promised God that if He carried out what He promised, then the Lord would be his God and in gratitude he would give a tenth back to Him. He had listened well to Abraham doing what he did in life.
Jacob heard how Abraham had obtained a wife for Isaac from his relatives in Haran. He saw how different his mother was to the local women who were the wives of Esau that made life miserable for his mother. He obeyed his parents regarding the choice of a spouse. He remained single until he was in his seventies.
(Believers in Jesus in the Middle East do not go courting but attend Bible study conferences where they meet others who love the Lord Jesus. Our teacher was approached by a believer who said,” I would like to marry you. Will you pray about it?” Both he and she were from good families. She prayed and they got married. They named their children after Protestant preachers and teachers.)
Seek the spouse of God’s choosing. Allow Him to bring that about. God always knows who will stay loyal and who will really be a spiritual blessing in the family unit. I am so thankful for the spiritual lady He brought into my life. We did not have an easy period of courtship with ongoing issues that had to be resolved. It was used by God to cause us to rely only on Him for the victory. It made our relationship with Him very personal and enriched us. Only after He was victorious did He enable us to adopt our children.
7 Abraham made to wait
Abraham told Jacob that though God called him when he was 75 years old he had to wait for God to give him a son. He told Jacob that they thought they could help God out by his sleeping with Hagar but it only brought trouble. Ishmael was born and God was silent for thirteen years before Sarah was promised a child of her own. Both Abraham and Sarah laughed at the idea so the child was named Isaac to remind them that nothing is impossible with God. Abraham told Jacob that they procured a wife, his mother Rebekah for Isaac from their relatives in Haran. Later Jacob would have noted the behaviour of the wives of Esau which had removed the joy of living for his mother. He too would find a wife there.
Jacob was made to wait patiently. He cooked lentil stew every day after taking the place of Esau as the firstborn. Eventually Isaac wanted to bestow his blessing on Esau while ignoring that Esau had sold his status to Jacob. Isaac wanted to bless a son who never had a relationship with God. He was thwarted by his wife Rebekah who prepared Jacob by placing Esau’s clothes on him and preparing the food that Isaac loved, so that he would receive the blessing. When asked by Isaac how he was able to bring him the food so quickly, Jacob said that the Lord, Isaac’s God gave him success. Esau would never have used those words. So Jacob was given the blessing which involved God in his life, something that would have not have made sense to Esau.
Esau planned to kill Jacob after the death of Isaac so Jacob’s parents sent him to Laban their relative living in Haran. Jacob had never married any of the local women because he noted how the wives of Esau made his mother’s life miserable. So Jacob was told to leave home for Haran to stay with relatives.
Isaiah 64:4 No ear has heard, no eye has seen what God has prepared for those who wait for Him.
Waiting is never easy. Jacob had to wait a long time to leave home. He had to wait seven years before he married the wife of his choice and another seven years before he could enlarge his own estate.
Bible college is a good place to find the spouse pleasing to the Lord. Marry a child of the devil and you will have trouble from your father in law! I had never had a girlfriend. I liked the ladies at Bible college but had no idea on how to deal with them. My fellow students seemed to be experts in dealing with the fairer sex. They laughed at my futile attempts. I was always getting into trouble so a roommate told her friend to pray for me and she became my wife after the Lord placed His love in our hearts for each other at the oldest mission station in Africa. Genadendal The Valley of Grace. She preached a sermon that was regarded as one of the best ever preached by a student. I was not worthy of her.
We could not have children so applied to adopt. We asked God not to give us children unless they came to faith in Him. Three times God stopped us adopting. Gifts were given prior to the adopting of our Armenian daughter which required the hiring of a lawyer. We were made to wait. Eventually we adopted our son as well. Both have come to faith in Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. We are glad we waited for God.
Those that wait for the Lord will renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
While waiting for God to unfold His purpose for your life keep close to Him through prayer and reading of His word the Bible. Use it to prepare for the future so that you are ready when you meet people who have no hope or relationship with God. It seems that nothing is happening but God is at work. Use the waiting time well. Jesus waited thirty years before He started His public ministry. As His servant I had to wait six years to obtain qualifications before marriage.
Jacob had to wait before Rachel his wife bore him two sons. First Joseph who was the son of his old age and then Benjamin. Jacob’s many older sons took care of his livestock while Joseph stayed with him and later Benjamin. Joseph turned out to be an exceptional son. His time with his father Jacob caused him to learn about the Lord. He must have listened to Jacob just as Jacob had listened to Abraham. The dreams he had, prepared the way for his future service. Had he not disclosed them to his family, his brothers would not have got rid of him.
God has a variety of ways to prepare His servants to make Him known. Allow Him the freedom to prepare you to accomplish the good works He has planned in advance for you to do.
As one who owes much to older men of God who taught me how to live in a relationship with God so I urge you to make friends with godly believers if you do not have parents who love the Lord Jesus Christ and seek to please Him in everything.
8 Abraham tested by The Lord
The Lord who never found fault with Abraham called out his name to get his attention. Abraham responded instantly. He was told to sacrifice as a burnt offering his only son Isaac whom he loved, on a mountain in Moriah. Early the next morning he and Isaac set out with two servants. Abraham cut pieces of wood for the fire. On the third day they left the servants with the donkey while Abraham and Isaac climbed the hill. Abraham, said they would worship and then return. There was no doubt in his mind that somehow Isaac’s life would not end. Isaac carried the wood while he held the fire and the knife. Isaac noted all they had but that the actual offering was missing. Abraham told him that God would Himself provide the lamb for the burnt offering. So they continued together.
Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood before binding Isaac and laying him on the altar. Isaac had to be willing to be the offering. He could easily have run away. He took his knife and was about to kill Isaac when the angel of the Lord called out Abraham, Abraham. Do not harm your son. Your love for God is evident because you have not allowed him to come between you and your relationship with Me. Abraham suddenly saw a ram, entangled in a bush and sacrificed it in place of his son. He called the place Yahweh Jireh The Lord will provide.
The Lord promised Abraham once more that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars and through his seed all nations would be blessed, because he had obeyed Him. Abraham and his party returned to Beersheba.
Abraham shared this with Jacob. Later Jacob would also be tested by God. He had to rely on God to bless him when Laban changed his wages ten times. Later his sons returned with Joseph’s blood-spattered robe and his favourite son Joseph was “lost”. God had tried to prepare him for that loss through the dreams that Joseph shared with the family. Jacob spent twenty-two years mourning the loss of Joseph. God remained silent. Sorrow for Jacob lasted for the night but joy came in the morning and lasted for fifteen years when he saw Joseph who was the Lord’s way of providing for him and his family in the years of famine.
Does God do this today? Our children left home to pursue their goals. That same year we were called by God to return to Lebanon. Jonah 2:8 Those that cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs. So we left our society, home and church to return to Lebanon for a further six years. We really felt the loss and emptiness of our home without our children. How gracious God was in bringing both of them back into our lives in Lebanon to stay with us and discover for themselves the life God had planned for them. Our daughter and her husband took our place as leaders of the work and our son met his wife there and helps to cover the needs of the larger family.
Like Jacob during this period of lockdown when we are unable to move around, our children are taking care of us in various ways. They keep in contact. They buy what we need.
God has the freedom to disturb us in our old age and use us when others might regard us as obsolete and of no use in reaching the lost. God has chosen the weak, despised things of this world so that no man will take the praise and the glory that only belongs to God.
What about you? Have you asked God how He could use you? The fields are ready for harvest. The workers are few. Be available. Be prepared. Stay in tune with God. Allow Him the freedom to use you in these days when so many are unemployed and without hope and a relationship with God that will never end. Invest in eternity. Think of what will give you pleasure after you have left your short sojourn on earth. Meeting others that have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb of God. Money that grows not and will be left behind, could be used to help those seeking to extend the Kingdom of King Jesus.
9 Finding a spouse for his son
In the area of the Middle East marriages are often arranged between families that have the same religious beliefs. The children are taken into consideration but if a suitable spouse is found they are expected to marry. Second cousins marrying would preserve the area the family owned. The idea is that eventually the spouses would come to love each other while preserving the good name of the family. ‘Father let your will be done’ applies to his approval of the partner for his child.
As has been stated what believers are willing to do is first establish whether it is the will of their heavenly Father who they should marry. The role of the mother is to have children, the father has to provide for his household. Adoption is not practised by either Jew or Arab unless a couple do not have children they might rear a child from other members of the larger family.
Abraham told Jacob that he did not want his son Isaac to marry a Canaanite woman but a relative that lived in Haran. So he sent his estate manager to find a spouse for his son. His servant was sent with ten camels conveying everything that would appeal to a family of the bride. The servant made his task a matter of prayer, asking that the Lord God of his master would cause the woman of His choice to come into contact with him. It was a specific request. That the woman would give him water to drink and provide the same for his camels.
Beautiful Rebekah daughter of Bethual, son of the wife of Abraham’s brother Nahor, did exactly what the servant specified. He gave her gifts of value and discovered that she was related to Abraham. He worshipped the Lord. Eventually Rebekah was willing to leave home and return with him to become the wife of Isaac. Abraham had assured him that the Lord would cause his trip to be a success. Indeed that is what took place and the servant gave the Lord the credit for leading him to the very person he had come to find for Isaac. Rebekah and her nurse accompanied the servant as they rode on the camels. Rebekah asked the servant about the man in the field and was told it was Isaac. She covered herself with her veil and Isaac married her.
Twenty years went by and the couple remained childless so Isaac prayed asking for children. The Lord answered his prayer and twin boys were conceived. Rebekah wanted to know why the babies caused discomfort so she asked the Lord who told her that two nations were in her womb. One would be stronger than the other and the older would serve the younger. The firstborn who was red and hairy was named Esau. The younger was grasping his heel and named Jacob. Esau became a skillful hunter. Isaac loved Esau and shared meals of venison. Jacob stayed in the tent with his mother who loved him. He cooked meals of lentils, using bread as a spoon. Remember Abraham and Jacob had each other as company for fifteen years.
Esau arrived back in the camp after fruitless hours of hunting and asked Jacob to give him the lentils. Jacob sold the bowl of lentils with bread to Esau in exchange for his status as the first born. He remembered that Isaac had replaced Ishmael as the firstborn. So he could replace Esau. The Bible states that Esau despised his birthright. He showed he cared little for the values and beliefs of his parents by marrying at the age of forty Hittite women who made life miserable for Rebekah. He should have consulted his parents. He acted on his own without involving them or God.
Jacob continued to wait possibly for another thirty years while Isaac who became a father at the age of sixty had to endure Esau’s wives. At the age of a hundred Isaac started to lose his eyesight and about thirty-five years later told Esau to hunt wild game and prepare the food that he liked so that he may give his blessing to Esau before he died. No protest from Jacob that he had bought the status of the firstborn. Both Isaac and Esau ignored that. Isaac lived longer than he expected. Another fifty years.
Rebekah overheard Isaac and instructed Jacob to obtain two young goats so that she could prepare tasty food that Isaac loved. Jacob saw problems: he was smooth skinned while Esau was hairy. She overcame that problem by covering Jacob’s arms with goatskins and dressed him with Esau’s best clothes. She gave Jacob the flavoured meat and bread to give to Isaac.
Jacob was a poor actor. He did not disguise his voice nor imitate Esau’s way of speaking. Isaac detected that it was the voice of Jacob. The language of Jacob using the name of the Lord was also unlike Esau. Isaac had his doubts so Jacob said he was Esau. Isaac ate the food and after he kissed Isaac, his father caught the smell of Esau’s clothes and said that the smell of his son was like the smell of a field that the Lord has blessed. Isaac blessed Jacob that the son of his mother would submit to him and those that cursed him would themselves be cursed while those he blessed would be blessed. All of Isaac’s blessing should have been intended only for the firstborn of the family, the status of which had been sold to Jacob.
Esau arrived and called on Isaac to eat the venison he had prepared so that he might receive his blessing. Isaac trembled and asked who it was that he had already blessed and confirmed that it would happen. Esau wept and blamed Jacob for taking his birthright and his blessing. He forgot his role in the loss of his birthright and status. Isaac told Esau that he had made Jacob lord and blessed him that he would prosper. The blessing of Isaac for Esau involved his living by the sword, serving his brother and remaining hostile towards him.
Esau must have spoken audibly to himself that he would kill his brother Jacob after the death of Isaac. Rebekah heard that and first spoke to Jacob to leave their area and seek refuge with her brother Laban in Haran. She spoke to Isaac that Jacob was not to marry a Hittite woman and Isaac supported her by telling Jacob to marry a daughter of Laban. He repeated his blessing that God Almighty bless him and make him a community of peoples, that the blessing of Abraham about the land would be also Jacob’s.
Esau learned that his wives had brought no pleasure to Isaac so he married a daughter of Ishmael. Jacob left his home at Beersheba and arrived at Bethel where he spent the night and dealt with the Lord God for the first time. He had learned much from his time with Abraham so the Lord was no stranger to him. He did not have to ask ”Who are you Lord?” God said He was the Lord that God of his father Abraham and the God of Isaac.
Every soul has a choice in life. Either to imitate Esau and leave God out of their life or imitate Jacob and have a relationship with the God of Abraham who rejoiced to see the day that the Lord Jesus would appear on earth. When challenged that He had never seen Abraham, Jesus replied, ”Before Abraham was, I AM”(John 8:58) Meeting Jesus is a life changing experience. It is the start of an eternal relationship.
Learn like Jacob from those like Abraham who have walked by faith with God. Learn to lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path. God has good works planned for your life in advance. Seek the spouse of His choosing. Seek His will and allow Him to teach you through the Holy Spirit, the truth about God, yourself and creation. It is an adventure. Never a dull moment.
Of course there are periods of silence when God expects obedience to what has already been revealed. As you obey Him you will receive further insight. In His light, there is light. Do not allow others who have no close relationship with God to remove the peace and joy that is the result of the finished work of God on the cross. The joy of the Lord is your strength. His peace surpasses understanding. The world dangles its attractions before you, the applause of others, of abundant possessions instead of abundant life. Be not misled, we come into this world naked and we will leave this world in the same way for eternity.
Will it be one of eternal loss or eternal joy in the presence of the Father, the Lord Jesus, the Holy Spirit and all the redeemed who overcome the evil one by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony?
Those who hope in the Lord, their strength will be daily renewed, they will soar at times like eagles, they will run at other times with a message to proclaim to the nations and they will not grow weary, even in old age they will bear fruit, they will walk most of the time and not faint. It is living one day at a time, the righteous will live by faith, not in themselves but in God and His unchanging character and word. Jesus said that God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He is the God of the living and not the dead. One day those that are a new creation will meet the old and new covenant saints but all will bow and confess Jesus is Lord to the glory of God.
Will you be there? Will you be honoured or ashamed?
10 Jacob on his own but not alone
Following the instructions of his parents he left for Haran to stay with relatives. When he arrived at Bethel he had a dream. In it God revealed Himself as the God of his father Abraham and the God of Isaac. God had recognised that Abraham had taken the place as the spiritual father of Jacob. One could say that Abraham adopted Jacob as his son passing on to him his walk with the only God so that when God revealed Himself to Jacob it was not something strange. Jacob was promised that the land on which he was lying would be given to him. He was promised the presence of God who would be with him wherever he went and would bring him back. Jacob promised that the Lord would be his God and he would give Him a tenth of all he received. This was a reminder to him of his spiritual father Abraham who gave a tenth of everything to Melchisadek. It was not stipulated but was an indication of gratitude. If you were to measure your gratitude by your giving, would it give you pleasure?
On arrival in the area of his destination he consulted shepherds who informed him they were from Haran and that Laban’s daughter Rachel was approaching the well to draw water for her sheep. Jacob revealed that he was physically strong by removing the large stone over the well before he drew water. Then he kissed Rachel and told her that he was a son of Rebekah. Rachel ran and told her father. People do not usually run because it is humbling but in her eagerness to inform her father Laban she revealed the enthusiasm of youth. Jacob was welcomed by Laban and stayed a month as a member of the family before being employed. Rachel would become his wife after serving Laban for seven years as a shepherd.
Note the timing of the meeting of Jacob and Rachel. God is never late, never early but always on time. I met my wife in my second year at Bible college. She too had gone there to prepare to serve. Things do not just happen, everything by Him is planned, as the song goes. Those seven years for Jacob seemed like seven days because of his love for Rachel. On his wedding night he was cheated and in the space of a week he received two wives and two maids who became the mothers of his children. Not a happy home with his wives competing for his affection. I have met the children of different mothers who told me that there was often conflict in the home.
Jacob served Laban well for fourteen years and had little to show for it apart from the children that were born. Rachel was the last to conceive and Joseph was born as the son of Jacob’s old age. Then Laban and Jacob agreed about his wages for his own family. Jacob wanted nothing from Laban just as Abraham wanted nothing from the king of Sodom. What he received was due to his work as a shepherd. Laban changed Jacob’s wages ten times but if the God of his father Abraham and the fear of Isaac had not been with him, he would not have prospered. Note how Jacob referred to Abraham as his father, and the God of Abraham.
Jacob was conscious of God providing the needs of his family. He discovered that his God was greater than his circumstances. Jacob went into detail how his wages were changed but how God overruled the actions of Laban. At first Jacob tried to manipulate the birth of the lambs but eventually left it to God to counter the actions of Laban. The same applies to all who serve God today. Jesus said, ”Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all your needs will be met. “As one who has served God for over fifty years this is true.
Allow God to use you when He chooses to do so. After all the vineyard is His. The salvation of the elect is all His doing for His glory alone. He invites us to work with Him as His fellow workers. This removes the burden and concern for the lost knowing that the Lord reigns. You will discover that people will come into your life. Be ready. Ask the Lord for the right approach or questions. People have told me that I asked a question that kept going through their mind until they came to personal salvation in Jesus. Others have responded to tracts left with them.
11 The Silent treatment
From the start of Jacob’s arrival at Haran, where he met Rachel and stayed at Laban’s encampment Jacob endured God’s silent treatment. He was where God wanted him to be, doing what God wanted him to do, looking after sheep. God had spoken in a very personal way to him through his dream at Bethel and promised His presence. He was told he would return to the area of his parents. For the next twenty years God appeared to give Jacob the silent treatment. No contact by assuring him of His presence while Laban took advantage of him and defrauded him over and over. Though God was silent, He remained active.
God noted how Jacob did not love Leah as much as he loved Rachel the only one he wanted to marry, so Leah had children while Rachel remained barren. Nearly fourteen years passed before Rachel bore Joseph the son of Jacob’s old age. Then God continued to be silent as Jacob continued as a shepherd caring for Laban’s sheep and receiving as wages the speckled, spotted sheep. Laban kept changing his wages but God though remaining silent caused Jacob to prosper in spite of the efforts of Laban to think only of his family needs.
After twenty years and not before a change took place. The sons of Laban no longer looked with favour upon the prosperity of Jacob and his family. The Lord broke His silence and told Jacob to leave Laban and return to the area of his family and relatives. The Lord promised His presence. Jacob shared this with his wives and they agreed that their father Laban had treated them like strangers and they did not wish to remain in the area. So Jacob and his entire little community left the area of Haran without informing Laban. Three days passed and the area that once was occupied by the tents of Jacob was empty resulting in Laban pursuing Jacob. It took him seven days before he caught up with Jacob’s family. God spoke to Laban and warned him not to say anything good or bad to Jacob. Not to make promises he would not keep nor threaten harm. Laban feared God.
This is the way God still works. Years go by with little direct contact from God although He remains involved. Then a change takes place. As in the case of Jacob so in all the lives of those who are called to follow Him. Circumstances change. God speaks directly to His servant. The servant consults the family who are in agreement. The decision is made and is confirmed when God deals with the opposition.
A personal application. I stayed at the home base for twelve years. My circumstances changed when my children left home. God called me to leave and return to serve Him in the Lebanon again. The home church was informed but were not prepared to be involved. God confirmed by raising up others until the local church changed their minds. I was required once more to trust only God and not man. “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Jim Elliot
When God calls you, do not focus on the problems but on the One who called. Is anything too hard for the Lord? God in my case encouraged me by raising up fresh supporters, I led a woman of 84 to faith in Christ and she became an example to her city that God could save at any age. We left behind our children but surprise! They joined us in Lebanon. The one met his wife there and the other was called to serve her people.
12 Genesis 31,32 Learn to trust when God intervenes
When Jacob left his parents to find refuge from the anger of Esau at the campsite of Laban at Haran, God met with him and assured him of His presence. Twenty years of serving Laban during which his wages were changed ten times, Jacob became aware that the sons of Laban no longer regarded him as family but as one who had prospered at the expense of their family. Jacob sensed their hostility. At the same time the Lord spoke to him directly after not doing so for twenty years. The Lord told him to return to the land of his parents and promised His presence would remain with him.
Jacob spoke to his wives sharing with them the hostility of their father Laban, reminding them how his wages had been changed ten times but that God who had first spoken to him at Bethel, had prospered him because of the way Laban had treated him, He had become wealthy while Laban had become poorer. Jacob told his wives that God wanted him to return home. Rachel and Leah totally identified with Jacob as their father Laban regarded them not as family but as strangers. They told Jacob to do all that God had instructed him.
Jacob left with his family and flocks without telling Laban. Three days later Laban found out and pursued Jacob. It took him seven days to get to Jacob who would have followed the route of The Fertile Crescent where there was grazing and water for his livestock. The night before he confronted Jacob, he was warned not to make promises to Jacob which he would not keep nor to threaten him with harm to force him to return.
Note the aspects of God guiding Jacob: His circumstances changed. God spoke to him. He consulted his family. God intervened warning Laban not to harm Jacob. All four happened at roughly the same time. Expect God to confirm when He calls you to assure you of His presence by various means.
Laban met Jacob and questioned him why he had left without a formal farewell. He told Jacob that he had the power to harm him but was warned by the God of Jacob not to make promises or threats. Jacob responded by informing Laban that he feared his ability to break up his family. He allowed Laban to search his camp for the stolen idols. None were found.
Jacob then went over his twenty years with Laban. He had served him well, what was lost in caring for the sheep, he bore. He reminded Laban that his wages had been changed ten times. Jacob attributed his prosperity to God, the same God that had warned Laban in the night. Laban suggested a covenant in the presence of the God of Abraham and Nahor, that Jacob would care for his wives. Jacob promised in the name of the Fear of his father Isaac to do that. No mention of Abraham who was dead Laban kissed his daughters before returning to Haran.
All who belong to the family of the Father will be taught how to deal with future problems by the lessons learned. Before Jacob met his brother Esau, he experienced God dealing with Laban so that he would not be harmed. Before every Esau there will be a Laban. Store in your memory how God has helped you in the past and build on that by trusting Him to guide and provide in the future.
13 Faith grows only when exercised
When Jacob parted with Laban God sent angels to make him aware of His presence. He needed that as news arrived that Esau his brother was coming to meet him accompanied by four hundred men. Esau wanted to show Jacob how he had prospered and it was in Esau’s mind a way to show how he valued his brother Jacob with such a reception.
Jacob had sent a message to Esau calling him lord and himself as his servant. On hearing about the response of Esau, Jacob was filled with fear. He had not forgotten that he had taken Esau’s status as firstborn followed by the blessing of Isaac. Esau however had prospered and the past was forgotten. He showed by his greeting of Jacob that it gave him pleasure just to see his brother. Esau was content with material prosperity. As stated before, no mention of God.
Old Jacob continued to act relying on his own ingenuity. He divided his family and possessions so that at least one would escape. Then when he prayed, he addressed the God of his spiritual father Abraham and his biological father Isaac, reminding God of His instructions to return home and the promise of prosperity. He told God how he arrived at Haran without anything but due to the kindness and faithfulness of God he had become two parties. Jacob remembered the promises of God. He did not build on what he had experienced of God’s carrying out His promises. God had kept him from the wrath of Laban. He could also do that when Esau arrived. He had to learn the lesson of trusting God in similar circumstances. Instead he felt he had to pacify the expected wrath of Esau by sending him gifts of animals.
Then he crossed the Jabbok river which is located in Jordan. He sent his family with his possessions over the river while he stayed alone on the East bank. It is a river than often runs dry because of its location in a usually dry area. (I have been there.)
A man wrestled with Jacob. Another indication that Jacob was physically strong. He had moved the stone over the well when he watered the sheep of Rachel. They wrestled all night until the man touched the socket of the hip of Jacob which weakened him and slowed him down. (I know that by experience as my left hip is very painful so I can no longer lie on that side)
Jacob held on to the man and would not let Him go until He blessed him. Who was the man? It could have been a pre-incarnation appearance of Jesus. Jacob asked his name. No response.
He was told that his name would be changed to Israel. One who wrestles with God and is victorious. The man would not reveal his name to Jacob but instead blessed him. Jacob knew he had been in contact with God. Thereafter he walked with a limp. It slowed him down, it weakened him but his life was never the same. Whenever the new aspect of the character of Jacob appeared, the Bible states his name as Israel and whenever it is the old Jacob that name is retained.
Physical strength hides spiritual weakness. The Apostle Paul said after he had been given a thorn in the flesh that it weakened him but when he was weak physically then he was strong spiritually because he was not relying on natural ability but on God. Later he wrote, I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Jacob had to be weakened to stop him relying on his own efforts.
Jacob saw Esau approaching with his army. He divided his family so that Rachel and Joseph were at the rear just in case. He bowed to Esau who asked him about the gifts of livestock he had received. Jacob urged him to receive the gifts. Jacob alone mentioned God in all he said to Esau. He told Esau not to stay with him and his family because of the children and the animals who would slow them down. So Esau departed for Seir and Jacob set up camp at Shechem. Note the old name of Jacob is used as he was still relying on himself. Jacob was told to return to the area where Isaac lived. He failed to listen and bought a site for his camp at Shechem.
He that has begun a good work in you will bring it to completion. Just as Jacob was weakened physically so he had to be taught to acknowledge God in all his ways. He failed to do that by setting up camp at Shechem and not moving on to Bethel where he first met God and brought trouble on his family. He was out of the will of God and suffered.
14 Leaning to his own understanding
Genesis 34 Jacob set up camp near Shechem after paying for the site. He had previously been told by God to return to his family. There was no word from God who had already told him where to go to his relatives and God waited for him to carry that out. Dinah his daughter while visiting ladies in the area was raped by Hamor who wanted to marry her. Jacob heard about it and did nothing until his sons returned home. It was Jacob’s fault for not listening to the instructions of God. He could not defend his decision.
Hamor was willing to do anything to marry Dinah. The sons of Jacob stipulated they would only agree to the marriage provided all the males of Shechem were circumcised. The men of the city agreed. While they were all in pain Simeon and Levi killed every male before plundering the city. Jacob’s response was out of fear for the reaction on the locals.
Did he pray? No mention of that. God told Jacob to go to Bethel where the Lord first appeared to him and build an altar to God. God dealt with the fear of retaliation by causing Jacob to be obedient to what he had previously been told. To obey is better than sacrifice.
Suddenly Jacob knew what to do. He told his family to get rid of all the idols they had, to have a good wash and wear clean clothes as they were going to Bethel where Jacob first encountered God who spoke to him when he was distressed as he left home. The same God who had never left him.
How did Jacob know exactly what to do and say? Only after God caused him to turn from the fear of man to the fear of God. Jacob knew the family needed a fresh start. A complete break with the past. Rachel had to get rid of her idol. The family gave him all the idols and rings in their ears. The locals in that area still rely on a brass eye with a blue bead which they think will protect them from the evil eye. But how did Jacob’s family view all they had relied on? As dead. They buried everything. When they did that, God acted and the fear of God came upon the locals so that the family of Jacob was spared. It appears that today God acts in the same way when His people live according to His word and trust in Him alone and not live out of fear for man or seek the approval of man.
God waited for such a response before He acted. Note that He never found fault with Jacob but rather caused him to be obedient to what he had already been told. Jacob’s family arrived at Bethel where he built an altar. There God affirmed that Jacob’s name was changed to Israel. He revealed to Israel that He is God Almighty and that the land given to Abraham and Isaac would be his and his descendants.
After leaving Bethel Jacob lost Rachel when she gave birth to Benjamin before he arrived with his family at the camp of Isaac at Mamre. In time for the death of Isaac aged one hundred and eighty who was buried by Jacob and Esau. Genesis 36 details the family line of Esau. God is never mentioned. God said in Malachi, “Jacob have I loved and Esau have I hated.”
Two nations began with the birth of Esau and Jacob. Esau lived a life without any reference to God. Jacob wanted the God of his spiritual father Abraham to be his God. It appears that Jacob was the first person to be adopted so he could be taught about a relationship with God. God recognised that Abraham had taken the place of Isaac. Abraham and Jacob had so much in common.
We too need to be obedient to God in detail. God values obedience as an indication of the gratitude of those He has redeemed. He will convey what pleases Him. He will confirm that in some way and expects us to carry that out without. When God dealt directly with Jacob, he knew what to do. Why had he not done that before. He knew about the idols and the charms that his children were relying on. He had not dealt with that. Yet the moment the Lord told him where to go and what to do, he knew that nothing in his camp must provoke the jealousy of God. We must serve Him with an undivided heart. God only not God first must be our motto.
15 Joseph loved by Jacob
Rachel the woman Jacob first met when he arrived at Haran, was the only one he wanted to marry. She eventually gave Jacob his last two sons. Joseph was known as the son of his old age and kept him company while his other sons were shepherding his animals. Because they had different mothers there was constant conflict. The children of different mothers in the Middle East complain of the conflict and rivalry that takes place as each mother wants her children to be favoured. Joseph brought back a bad report of the behaviour of his brothers. Jacob showed he favoured Joseph by giving him a special robe which aroused the envy and anger of his brothers.
Because Joseph stayed in the camp with his father he would have been told about Abraham and what Jacob had learned when Abraham had taken the place of Isaac as his adopted or spiritual father. Then Jacob taught Joseph about his own life and his relationship with the Lord. This accounts for the character and behaviour of Joseph being so different to that of his brothers. Just as Jacob was so different to Esau due to being taught about a personal walk with God so Joseph discovered through Jacob the life that pleases God. That way of life does not just happen. God has to do a work and He uses people to bring that about.
Joseph had two dreams which he told his brothers and his parents that they would one day humble themselves and bow to him. Jacob rebuked him and his brothers hated him. Why did he have those dreams? It had the desired effect. None of the family knew about the future. Thirteen years later a severe famine would envelope the whole area. Jacob’s family would face disaster. God acted in advance to preserve the family of Jacob.
In my case God acted in advance in 1980 when I came under very strong conviction to change my savings into US $ . I did not want to do so as the $ was falling in value. Eventually I was obedient. Four years later we had a narrow escape when a rocket hit our kitchen and we returned home. That year the local currency changed from parity with the $ to two. This made it possible for us to buy our house for cash. We are still residing in it.
Jacob sent Joseph to find out how his brothers were coping with their shepherding of their flocks. When he eventually arrived his brothers decided to get rid of him and sold him to Ishmaelites who took him to Egypt where he was bought by Potiphar the captain of Pharoah’s guard. The brothers showed Jacob Joseph’s ornamental robe covered with goats blood and Jacob assumed the death of Joseph.
Why was Joseph so different to his brothers? Why was Jacob so different to Esau? Because of the time spent with his spiritual father Abraham who had a close relationship with God and three times was called the friend of God in the Bible. So Joseph was different because of the time spent alone with Jacob learning about his life and that of Abraham. Later he could have written the details of the life of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob while he served Pharoah.
Jacob would have told Joseph how Abraham was tested when the Lord God told him to offer Isaac as a burnt offering. Abraham obeyed and at the moment of execution discovered that God was known as Jahweh Jireh The Lord who provides, when He provided a ram to take the place of Isaac. Neither Joseph nor Jacob knew that would happen again in their lives. Joseph would be removed and Jacob would lose him for twenty two years. The dreams that Joseph told his brothers and parents should have helped Jacob to cope with the loss of Joseph. Easy for us to know the whole story but at the time Jacob never stopped mourning. Yet God had acted in his life before events had taken place. Like him we are taught in advance so that we will exercise faith in the Lord God who is always in control.
God has ways of preparing people for service in His Kingdom. He takes His time. He is never in a hurry but when the chosen time has arrived He says, ”In its time I will do it quickly.” Once more His servants must learn to wait and in the mean time use their period of waiting well. Not wasting it with activities of little value that are quickly forgotten but study of His Word and seeing how it applies in daily life. Learning to obey God in detail.
Joseph did what his father told him to do in checking up on his brothers activities. He must have also spent much time with Jacob finding about his relationship with God. Nobody becomes a godly person without the Spirit of God giving him insight and understanding. Joseph showed that in his life. Note how Judah was prepared to sleep with a prostitute at a well whereas Joseph would not sin against God when he was enticed by Potiphar’s wife and suffered for being righteous. This shows that Joseph had learned much in his relationship with his father Jacob. Joseph was godly in all his actions. No wonder Jacob wept so much because his son was so different to all his brothers.
Use your time well. Develop your relationship with God. Be ever ready to share Him with others. Be prepared by obtaining literature to aid you in your reaching out to the lost. You do not have to be in full time ministry to make Jesus known. Joseph stayed at home and responded to the Spirit of God in his life. Rely on God to use you in His appointed time.
16 You meant it for evil, God meant it for good
The Lord was with Joseph which Potiphar recognised made Joseph a man of exceptional quality. He was placed in charge of his home and allowed to make all the decisions. Like his father Jacob he was well built and drew the attention of the wife of Potiphar. He refused to respond to her request to have sex with her. His response was,” How could I sin against God?” So unlike Judah his brother. One day she tried to compel him to sleep with her. He fled from youthful lusts and ran out leaving his garment which she used to falsely condemn him. He was sent to Pharoah’s prison, but God stayed beside him and he gained the favour of the warden who placed him in charge. Everything Joseph did was a success because the Lord was with him.
Two servants of Pharoah were confined. Joseph explained the meaning of their dreams. Both turned out as he predicted. Joseph stayed in the prison for a further two years. Pharoah had two dreams which Joseph was able to explain and showed that a man needed to be a appointed to be in charge of seven years of bumper harvests followed by seven years of famine. Joseph was elevated to be in charge as Pharoah realised the Spirit of God was in him. At the age of thirty Joseph was in charge of the land of Egypt for seven bumper years of harvest which were stored. Then the years of famine began. Jacob sent his sons to buy grain in Egypt. He did not send Benjamin because he must have discerned that his sons were involved in the loss of Joseph.
When Joseph saw his brothers, he treated them harshly accusing them of being spies. They admitted being the sons of one man. Another, the youngest was with their father and one was no longer a son. Eventually he made one stay in Egypt while the others returned with the grain they came to buy. Their money they paid was left in each bag that was given them as well as provisions for their journey home.
When Joseph heard the talking about their past actions in getting rid of him, he turned away and wept. The brothers brought the grain to Jacob and told him that they were not to return to Egypt unless Benjamin was with them. Jacob was horrified. He had lost Joseph and Simeon was left behind in Egypt and Benjamin had to accompany them on the next trip. He felt that he was losing all the time. The grain was used up so they had to make a second trip to buy grain for the family. Judah promised Jacob that he would take personal responsibility for the safety of Benjamin. He played the role of the firstborn. Jacob anticipated further loss. He had become totally negative in outlook. God did not intervene. Jacob had already received the dreams Joseph had told. In our case we have the word of God, the Bible. When we act according to it, it pleases God and every now and then He does something very personal and special in the lives of His children that confirms their desire to live according to His word and do His will.
Joseph ordered that the brothers be brought to his house. They felt they were being punished for their past behaviour. Simeon rejoined them. Joseph wept privately when he saw Benjamin. The brothers sat in order of their ages. Benjamin was given five portions to show how Joseph felt about him. Joseph had to find out if the brothers had changed in their behaviour. He arranged for his cup to be placed in Benjamin’s sack of grain. When it was found and they were brought back to be confronted with Joseph, it was a test as to how they would react. Would they discard Benjamin as they had discarded him? Judah asked to take the place of Benjamin so that his father would not suffer further loss.
Joseph told all the Egyptians to leave so that only Joseph and his brothers heard what followed. When Joseph made himself known to them none of the local people knew what the brothers had done to him. It showed that he had forgiven then. He pointed out that though they were at fault in getting rid of him, God was involved preparing to meet their future needs. Joseph kissed all his brothers and wept over them. Total forgiveness. He told them to bring his father to Egypt.
To make the journey of Jacob possible, the brothers were given carts to convey him and his possessions to Egypt. He warned them not to quarrel on their way back On arrival, they told Jacob that Joseph was a ruler in Egypt. He did not believe them but when he saw the carts, his name changed to Israel after his spirit revived. He resolved to travel to see Joseph.
When he reached Beersheba Israel offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. God called out to Jacob using his original name. He promised to make his family into a great nation. and promised to accompany him. He would be buried in the same place as Abraham.
Joseph met Israel at Goshen and embraced him weeping for a long time. Israel said he was willing to die having seen Joseph. The new name of Israel was used to indicate the change that had taken place in Jacob He was a hundred and thirty years old when he met Pharoah. He lived a further seventeen years. Before he died he blessed his sons. His sons feared for their future, thinking that Joseph would take revenge for their past behaviour. Joseph did not find fault with them. He told them that though they intended it for evil, God intended it to bring about the saving not only of his family’s lives but also many Egyptians.
Jesus of Nazareth was rejected and put to death out of envy by religious people. They intended to harm him and put an end to His life. Their very act was how God achieved our salvation. The stone the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing and it is marvellous in our eyes. God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Both Joseph and Jacob would have remembered the dreams of Joseph how they were fulfilled resulting in the salvation of their family. This same God is at work in all our lives. He has good works planned in advance for us to do. He has chosen us in Christ before the creation of the world. No purpose of His can be thwarted.
17 Without fault?
God never found fault with Abraham, Isaac or Jacob. He remained committed to completing the work He began in them. When they failed, He acted to rectify the situation.
Abram failed to consult God when there was a famine in the area God intended would be his. God extricated him and actually prospered him. Abram was afraid that the kings he had defeated would in the future retaliate. God dealt with that fear assuring him of His presence and protection. This He confirmed by making a covenant with Abram, one in which God would do everything and Abram receive everything. Abram reminded God that he was still childless so God promised him his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky.
Abram failed when he tried to come to the aid of God by having a son through Hagar. God’s response was silence for thirteen years and Isaac replaced Ishmael as his firstborn Abram failed when he said Sarah his wife was his sister and Abimelek took her. Abimelek was given God’s shock treatment so that he rebuked Abram for his dishonesty. Abram admitted that his ignorance of God caused him to think God could not protect him in the Negev. Sarah was restored to him Abraham prayed and God healed Abimelek.
Isaac failed when he loved Esau his son who cared not for his faith and values. He wanted to bless and entrust the future of his family to a man who never had a relationship with God and married the local heathen women who made the life of his mother miserable. God did not get involved but enabled Rebekah to accomplish what he told her before Esau and Jacob were born. That the older would serve the younger
The Lord appeared not to be involved in the life of Jacob until he left his parents bound for Haran and the family of Laban. It could be because of all that Abraham had taught Jacob about his life and how God kept him when he did not consult God in various situations. So when the Lord appeared to him in a dream at Bethel He said that he was the Lord the God of his father Abraham and the God of Isaac. Jacob knew about this God. He promised Him a tenth of all he was given. It revealed that Abraham had taught him well.
Jacob wanted nothing from Laban after he had served him for fourteen years for his daughters. He imitated Abraham who wanted nothing from the king of Sodom. Jacob failed when he tried to manipulate the results of his work as a shepherd. His wages were changed ten times by Laban but God had prospered him. He feared Laban so did not inform him of his departure. God warned Laban not to make promises or threats.
Jacob failed to learn from his experience with Laban and tried to placate Esau whose only thought was to meet his brother. God heard his prayer but then saw how he acted as though he had to deal with Esau on his own. God did not say anything to Esau. Why not? Esau had never consulted God. God loved Jacob and dealt personally with him. He had to weaken Jacob physically before He blessed him spiritually by giving him the new name of Israel. One who has struggled with God and is victorious.
Jacob failed to listen to God who told him to return to his parents. When he returned, he set up camp near Shechem. The actions of his sons caused him to fear retaliation by the locals. God dealt with that fear by telling him to build an altar at Bethel where he first encountered God. Jacob buried all the idols, charms and clothes. No longer living with a divided loyalty, so the fear of God descended upon the area which prevented any from harming his family.
Jacob failed to listen and learn from the dreams of Joseph and it resulted in twenty two years of mourning the loss of Joseph. Only when he heard that Joseph was alive was his faith renewed as shown by the use of his new name Israel. God met with him at Beersheba.
Did Joseph ever fail? He reported the behaviour of his brothers to Jacob. It was a fact. The result of more than one mother. It still happens today. He tried to arrange his release from unjust confinement but these are minor blemishes of one who had the approval of the Lord. Far from home he maintained his integrity and awareness of God. He waited until the appointed time. He explained the meaning of the dreams of the servants of Pharoah. It was an important event in his life because it was the evidence needed that Joseph could explain dreams which took place as he predicted.
When Pharoah had two dreams his servant told him how Joseph had accurately predicted what would happen. God still works this way. He plans in advance. God planned in advance the arrival of the Messiah and all the predictions were fulfilled, God does this in the lives of His servants. (He has done so in my life) So Joseph was called to explain the dreams of Pharoah and gained promotion as ruler under Pharoah.
When he saw his brothers he remembered the two dreams he had had. He took his time to find out whether his brothers had changed. He attributed his key position to the working of God to preserve his family and the people of Egypt in a time of a famine of seven years.
Why was Joseph so different to his brothers? Why was Jacob different to Esau? Both times it was due to the time spent with one who had had a good relationship with God. Joseph the son of Jacob’s old age was one who feared God and despite suffering unjustly, experienced the presence of God which did not embitter him. He dealt very graciously with his brothers and family by providing their needs without charge. He wanted to bring about change in the behaviour of his brothers and remove their fear of him. As he said to them “You intended to harm me, but God intended to use your act to bring about the preservation of the family and others.”
Why was Abraham different to others? He obeyed God. He allowed God to teach him. He trusted God and was credited with the righteousness of God which enabled God to complete the work He started when He called Abraham to leave his society for a life of faith in God alone.
Why was Isaac different? Was he? He had to learn in another way. His wife was obtained for him. His children were only born after he prayed. He chose to love a son who cared not for the God of his parents or their values. So many wasted years. God had His way to accomplish what He had planned. Isaac eventually admitted that Jacob would be the son to carry out the wishes of the God of his father Abraham.
Why was Jacob different to Esau? Because of his time spent with his father Abraham, who taught him about his relationship with God. He listened well and behaved and believed as he was taught.
Why was Joseph so different to his brothers? Because of the time spent alone with his father Jacob. He was conscious of living in the presence of God, even in Egypt where he declared he could not sin against God. He viewed the arranging of his life due to the presence and activity of God.
There is only one God. There is only one way to know this God as Father. Jesus said that He is the only way to the Father. Try to go any other way and you will meet God not as your Father but as your judge. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. Only one did all that was required of Him. There is salvation in no other for there is no other name under heaven given amongst men whereby we must be saved. He would be called Jesus for He would save His people from their sins.
God is very positive when revealing how He calls and works in the lives of His elect. He does not focus on their failures but acts to cause them to allow Him to rectify the situation. In Hebrews God stated a few times, today if you hear His voice harden not your heart. Retain a receptive heart that is willing to change in attitude, direction and discover fresh insights as you grow in your relationship with Him. In your old age bear fruit, the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
18 Jacob’s final testimony
After the silence of God of twenty-two years during which He remained active while working in other ways and with other people, Jacob met God at Beersheba and was told not to be afraid of going to Egypt as God would be going with him and would transform his family into a nation. He promised him that Joseph would be at his departure from this life. Joseph met his father Israel, (the new Jacob) and greeted him with with an embrace and many tears.
Israel said he was willing to die after he had seen Joseph. Israel promised Joseph an extra ridge of land identical with the name of Shechem. Dealing with Joseph and his sons it is his name of Israel but when he came to bless his other sons his old name of Jacob is used.
Prior to blessing his sons Israel singled out Joseph that the God of his fathers, his spiritual father Abraham and his biological father Isaac, the same God who had been his Shepherd all his life to bless the sons of Joseph. Jacob asked that they regard Abraham, Isaac and Israel himself as their fathers. The new name of Israel is used because Joseph was alive and his father is rejoicing.
Reuben lost his position of firstborn through a single act of defiling his father’s bed. Simeon and Levi did not take his place through their act of revenge and Judah was given the blessing of the firstborn. He would be the leader of the next generation and the status of leadership would always be retained by his family until the Messiah arrived whom all the nations would obey. Jacob longed for the Yeshua in verse 18. Joseph would be a fruitful vine always kept alive by a spring. He would remain steadfast because the Mighty One of Jacob also known as the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel would help him and bless him with many children. He was regarded as a prince among his brothers.
Consider the life of Jacob how it started and how the time with his spiritual father Abraham made him so different to Esau. Through times of enduring so much opposition from family and relatives, Jacob prospered because the Lord had promised to be with him. The Lord was greater than his circumstances in the period with his family and later with Laban. The Lord was greater than his stubbornness when he wrestled with God after planning to deal with the problem of Esau his way. The Lord was greater than his failures when he set up camp at Shechem. He was aware that just as he was a shepherd so that Lord had become his Shepherd.
Jacob would be the first to say that all that he had accomplished had been through the Lord God of his fathers. How gracious is this God that He does not us to sweat the small stuff as my son teaches me and his children. God always has in mind the larger picture. All His children are sinners saved by grace. They will fail and let Him down but He will continue to work like a potter with clay, he will keep working until He is satisfied with the finished product. So He wants us all to focus our attention on Him and allow Him to deal with aspects of our lives that are not yet exposed to His light and love.
No temptation has assailed you but such as is common to man. God is faithful and He will not allow you to to be exposed to a trial that you cannot endure. He will provide a way to overcome at the time so that you do not rely on a method but on Him. Each trial is different.
As you get older you get weaker. You become even more dependent on the Lord. The apostle Paul was able to write while in prison that when he was weak, he was strong because he could do everything through Him who gave him strength. I am restricted in my moving around. At my age in my eighties that I have not much time left. I have asked for more but am aware of a weakening and slowing down. Nothing is too hard for the Lord. My request is that I will bear fruit in old age. What of you? Will you hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant?”
19 The God of Jacob is our refuge
A last look at the life of Jacob. The Psalms state the the God of Jacob is our refuge. It also tells us to be still and know that the Lord is God. Look back over the life of Jacob and see how the Lord dealt with him. Very similar to Jesus’s account of how the Prodigal Son was restored by his father.
The young man who returned having lost everything regarded himself no longer as a son because when he told his father to give him the portion of the estate that was due to him, he was declaring that the father was no longer his father and he was no longer his son as he was not prepared to look after him in his old age.
Now he is returning and views himself not as a son but as a servant that he had become when he was feeding the pigs. He is aware of his total unworthiness because he had sinned against God and the man he once called father by not staying at home and caring for him as well as rejecting his role as the father.
While he was a long way off the father who was expecting his return and expecting him to have failed sand lost everything, saw him far down the road, he noticed there were no camels bearing products, just a man without shoes, old clothes and utterly destitute.
The father did what he had never done before, he ran down the road which is contrary to the culture of that area. Men who are respected walk very slowly to preserve their dignity and status in society. (A missionary ran down the road as he was late for church. A policeman ran after he him and stopped him. He was asked why he was running as only thieves run. He had humbled himself. I ran out to kick a soccer ball with boys as I walked down the road. A shop keeper shouted at me a rebuked me for doing what was very shameful and humiliating.)
When the father reached his lost son, he embraced him and kissed him many times. He did not speak to him. Not a word was said. God so loved the world that He gave His only Son. His love was seen by his action not just words which is of little value. The lost man admitted that he had sinned against God and his father and was no longer worthy to be called his son.
The lost man had brought himself back to the presence of the father but had no idea what would happen. The father told his servants to place the best robe, the father’s robe around this man to cover his nakedness and dirty clothes that revealed his past. (We are clothed with the garments of salvation and the robe of righteousness. God’s righteousness.) Put a ring on his finger. It would have been a seal ring so that thereafter the man would act with the authority of the father. No longer lost but restored as a son. (Judah Ben Hur was adopted by Arias to take the place of the son he had lost, was given a seal ring after the formalities of adoption were complete.) Jesus would never have used the term of adoption as it was a Roman custom but He taught adoption because the father was cancelling out the action of the son rejecting him as father and the ring indicated the change of standing and status.
The servants were told to put sandals on his feet. Only slaves walk without shoes. My Arab son of five years rebuked me for walking without shoes as it was a great shame in that culture. So the prodigal was no longer a slave or hired servant, but a son. The fatted calf was killed so that reconciliation could take place between the former lost son and the whole community. They needed to know of the restored relationship, that the past actions of the son were covered over by the actions of the father.
Three other steps were taken to complete the restoration of the relationship of the son and the father. The father regained his status and position of one who was in total control and he alone acted and dictated the order of the restoration of the son. No rivals tolerated. Total submission to the will of the father.
The son after admitting total failure allowed the father to do everything to restore him. He received the humbling of the father, his embrace, the father’s robe, the father’s ring of authority, (seal ring of the Holy Spirit) the sandals, not just restored as a servant but as a son. The new testament reveals what the son received. Grace. God’s riches at Christ’s expense. Grace upon grace. Grace that is sufficient to cope with the trials that are common to all and the celebration that the father arranged. A song of rejoicing was heard that had not been heard before. How do we know that? The older son heard the sound of rejoicing and asked a servant because he had not heard it before.
Seven aspects of salvation and restoration. That was the experience of Jacob. He received the status of firstborn, the blessing due to being the new firstborn. He received his wives, his children. His possessions, his name was changed, the preservation of his family in a time of famine, he received the restoration of his sons, but above all he grew spiritually so that God would say about him, Jacob have I loved and Esau have I hated. The God of his spiritual father Abraham and his biological father Isaac had remained with him as He promised and blessed him as he prospered despite those opposed to him and the circumstances of life.
The God of Jacob is our refuge. The promise of Jesus: All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you and lo I am with you always to the end of the age.