Greetings in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Praying for you, your family, your community, and the rest of the world. Right now, the whole world is suffering because of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Let’s pray together to God, Our Ever-Loving Father, His mercy and protection on all, and God’s healing on those who are infected by the COVID-19. We all believe God’s grace and love rest on all who look upon Him every moment with faith in Him.
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
Jacob was the second-born son of Isaac and Rebekah. The firstborn son was Esau, and Jacob always wanted to be the firstborn son. Indeed, Jacob grabbed his brother’s heel as he was getting out of her mother’s womb. Since then, his relentless desire to be the firstborn had never stopped. His goal was to be the firstborn son to have the birthright reserved for the firstborn son. Jacob had never been happy until he got what he wanted, and his desire drove him. Jacob was a slave of his earthly desire, and all of his life was the very product of his desire to acquire the birthright of the firstborn son, and he was always ready to use whatever means he could use.
One day, Jacob lured his brother Esau to sell Esau’s birthright for his lentil stew. Esau was exhausted and very hungry after hunting. Jacob intentionally displaced his delicious stew before Esau’s eyes, and, as expected, Esau said to Jacob, “I’m starved! Give me some of that red stew!”
“All right,” Jacob replied, “but trade me your rights as the firstborn son.”
“Look, I’m dying of starvation!” said Esau. “What good is my birthright to me now?”
But Jacob said, “First you must swear that your birthright is mine.” So Esau swore an oath, thereby selling all his rights as the firstborn to his brother, Jacob.
For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:16-17)
Jacob was full of the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, and pride of life, but Esau was not much different. His desire of hunger for a lentil stew was just ephemeral like a morning fog that soon disappears as the sun rises, but he sold his precious birthright for one bowl of lentil stew, which was not from our Heavenly Father, but from the world. Esau gave in to his hunger that would pass away soon.
Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and lentil stew. Esau ate the meal, then got up and left as if nothing had happened, but it was a big mistake. It came back to him and bit him later. However, when he knew what had happened, it was too late. His brother, Jacob, stole his blessing from his father, although Isaac prepared the blessing for his firstborn son, Esau.
Rebekah, Jacob’s mother, and Jacob deceived Isaac as Esau went out to hunt for his father, Isaac. Isaac thought he was giving his blessing to his firstborn son, Esau, and gave every blessing he had to Jacob instead of Esau. To perfectly deceive Isaac, Rebekah took Esau’s favorite clothes, which were there in the house, and gave them to Jacob. Rebekah covered Jacob’s arms and the smooth part of his neck with the skin of the young goats because Esau was a hairy person. Then Rebekah gave Jacob the delicious meal, including freshly baked bread, which were Isaac’s favorites. Jacob even kissed Isaac while pretending as Esau for Isaac to smell the scent of his brother, Esau, from his brother’s clothes.
Jacob being deceived, gave all blessings that he had to Jacob instead of Esau. As soon as Isaac had finished blessing Jacob, and almost before Jacob had left his father, Esau returned from his hunt. Esau prepared a delicious meal and brought it to his father. Then he said, “Sit up, my father, and eat my wild game so you can give me your blessing.” Then Isaac realized what had happened, he said, “Your brother was here, and he tricked me. He has taken away your blessing.”
Esau exclaimed, “No wonder his name is Jacob, for now he has cheated me twice. First, he took my rights as the firstborn, and now he has stolen my blessing. Oh, haven’t you saved even one blessing for me?” However, it was too late. Indeed, his contempt for his birthright bore the fruit. Isaac had no more blessings to give to Esau because Isaac gave all to his brother, Jacob.
From that time on, Esau hated Jacob because their father had given Jacob the blessing. And Esau began to scheme: “I will soon be mourning my father’s death. Then I will kill my brother, Jacob.”
But Rebekah heard about Esau’s plans. So she sent for Jacob and told him, “Listen, Esau is consoling himself by plotting to kill you. So listen carefully, my son. Get ready and flee to my brother, Laban, in Haran. Stay there with him until your brother cools off. When he calms down and forgets what you have done to him, I will send for you to come back.”
Rebekah sent Jacob away, and Jacob went to Paddan-aram to stay with his uncle Laban, his mother’s brother, the son of Bethuel the Aramean. Jacob suddenly became a fugitive who ran for his own life. His earthly desire worked well as he planned. Jacob was able to steal his brother’s blessings, but the outcome was not what he expected.
Jacob left Beersheba and traveled toward Haran. Haran was about 700 km away, or about 440 miles away, which was not the distance that anyone at that time should not take lightly. The long journey was difficult and filled with perils and life-threatening events while going through wildernesses and dangers of strange people he did not know and vicious wild animals.
As the sun went down, Jacob had to worry about where to stay the night. He searched for a place to sleep for the night. Jacob found a stone to rest his head against and lay down to sleep. He was alone in the middle of the wilderness as the night came —none with him anymore, especially who loved Jacob. As the night deepened, fear fell on him. It was not like his home, safe and filled with love. Only with him were the dangers of wild animals and coldness and fear.
He closed eyes for sleep, but he could see vividly — his father’s face blessing him without knowing that he was being deceived, his brother’s face filled with rage and wrathful desire to kill him, and his mother’s face who reluctantly sent away himself due to Esau. It was only the first night. The night was long, and the morning was fleeting. He heard howling wild animals. Jacob thought he had achieved what he always wanted to have since he was born as the second-born son, but it quickly led him to the most miserable place. He begged for sleep, but it was not easy.
Nobody was around. The only one who was with him was himself. He struggled and struggled to sleep. He got up repeatedly, which was a truly terrible experience that he had never had before. Jacob was truly helpless, who fell from the height of his dream to the bottom as he ran for his life and tried to sleep in the middle of the wilderness at night alone.
However, what Jacob felt was not the complete picture. Jacob did not know, but Jacob was not alone because God was with Jacob. God saw Jacob struggling and begging for sleep in the middle of the wilderness alone. Purely driven by his earthly desire, Jacob had no way to know the truth that God was with him always.
God had to wait until Jacob became calm down from his earthly desire as being released from his driven nature for the earthly desire. Jacob fell deep into sleep, and his strong worldly desire was no longer master of him as being detached from his driven self. In his dream, God came to him. Jacob dreamed of a stairway that reached from the earth up to heaven. And he saw the angels of God going up and down the stairway.
At the top of the stairway stood the LORD, and He said,
“I am the LORD, the God of your grandfather Abraham, and the God of your father, Isaac. The ground you are lying on belongs to you. I am giving it to you and your descendants. Your descendants will be as numerous as the dust of the earth! They will spread out in all directions—to the west and the east, to the north and the south. And all the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendants. What’s more, I am with you, and I will protect you wherever you go. One day I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised you.” (Genesis 28:13b-15)
Jacob stole his brother’s blessing to satisfy his earthly desire, but what he was not what he wanted, but what God wanted. Jacob did all that he could do – deceiving and hurting — to satisfy the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life, but the fulfillment of his desire drove him out to the wilderness rather than getting what he wanted. Then he found that he was alone and became extremely fearful of his brother, Esau, who tried to kill him. Indeed, it was the lowest part of his life. He knew he had nothing to grasp. He was empty-handed. He tasted the bitterness of the end of his earthly desire.
Then God came to Jacob when Jacob was alone in the middle of the wilderness. Everything was so fearful because of what he did to Esau, his brother, and Isaac, his father. His guilt pressured him down, and the weight of his guilt was unbearable. However, it was a part of God’s plan. God chose Jacob as the true heir of His promise given to Abraham and Isaac.
Jacob was too worldly to be the true heir of God’s promise. So far, he had been driven by his own earthly desire. Wherever he went, he planted earthly seeds and harvested the crops of the earthly seeds — deception, hatred, isolation, and coldness that the world can only offer instead of truth, love, union, and warmth that Our Father God full of love and compassion always provides. Indeed, there was no way to pour God’s blessings into the worldly vessel of Jacob.
The lonely night in fear of his brother Esau in the middle of the wilderness was God’s loving hand that started chipping away the worldly jaggedness of Jacob. Jacob hurt all of his family and himself too, and his worldly jaggedness would continue hurting all around him and including himself. How can such a person be the true heir of God’s promise?
God let Jacob hit the bottom of his life. After hitting bottom, Jacob’s heart was slowly opening to God, but he did not notice it. Although it was the greatest opportunity to come back to God, he just worried in fear and suffered from the consequence of the sin that he committed against his brother and his father. Surely, the consequence was heavy, cold, and fearful.
Even so, God had the greatest plan for Jacob not because Jacob was upright before God and men but because of God’s one-sided love toward Jacob. God’s plan was to transform Jacob into the true heir of the promise of God given to Abraham and Isaac. God revealed this secret in Jacob’s dream. Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!” He was in awe as he realized God’s presence. What an improvement! So far, in Jacob’s dictionary, God did not exist. As soon as he realized God’s presence, he became afraid and said, “What an awesome place this is! It is none other than the house of God, the very gateway to heaven!” He became fearful of God in awe. The Godly fear of Jacob came from his true appreciation of the sin he committed against his brother and father.
The next morning Jacob got up early. He remembered what his father, Isaac, did whenever he met God – worship God. Jacob took the stone he had rested his head against, and he set it upright as a memorial pillar. Then he poured olive oil over it as his father, Isaac did. He named that place Bethel (which means “house of God”). For the first time, the worldly Jacob met God.
Then Jacob made this vow:
“If God will indeed be with me and protect me on this journey, and if he will provide me with food and clothing, and if I return safely to my father’s home, then the LORD will certainly be my God. And this memorial pillar I have set up will become a place for worshiping God, and I will present to God a tenth of everything he gives me.”
The above is Jacob’s first authentic prayer to God. By the way, how was it compared with the first prayer of Abraham after he met God? Jacob’s worldly character is truly pronounced. Abraham took a 180-degree turn by leaving everything to follow God obediently and silently. Jacob was still making a deal with God! God came mercifully to Jacob with compassion and love, but Jacob’s response was rather transactional and cold. Jacob’s position was, “If God gives good things, then I will be good to God. If not, I will not be good to God.”
God showed His mercy, but Jacob responded worldly. He met God of love, mercy, and compassion, but he was transactional (tooth to tooth, eye to eye) and cold. His cunning worldly character still governs Jacob himself, not the Godly character. Only was the difference that he did not deceive God in awe and fear in the presence of God. Even so, God gave all good things to Jacob. Why? God loved Jacob. God was always with Jacob when he deceived his father, and when he tricked his brother with one bowl of lentil stew. And, God was with Jacob when Jacob hit rock bottom and became helpless by begging for sleep in the middle of the wilderness alone.
God started his good work in Jacob by intervening Jacob by appearing in his dream. Jacob could not fully understand what the dream really meant except that God was there with him. The dream was the same covenantal promise given to Abraham and Isaac, but Jacob could not fully appreciate it due to his driven earthly human nature. He was not ready for the promise of God. However, the dream in the middle of the wilderness alone was enough to nudge Jacob to move in the direction that God wanted. For example, as soon as Jacob got up, he prayed to God, which was the first giant step for Jacob, transforming Jacob into the Jacob that God truly desired — the heir of God’s promise given to Abraham and Isaac.
God loves us, and as needed, God let us experience fear, loneliness, coldness, rock bottom of our lives like Jacob. Why? Again, the reason is God loves us. Then what should we do? What did Jacob do first early in the morning? Jacob recognized God’s presence and prayed. Yes, God wants our prayer. There is a right or wrong prayer to God as long as our prayer is authentic to God. Even if our prayer is still of the world like that of Jacob, God will continue loving us and guiding us as we will see next week. That’s it. What is the worst before God? The worst is not to pray. God eagerly waits for our prayer as parents eagerly wait for children who come back and talk to parents. Then God tells us and guides us through the paths of righteousness. Yes, we should listen carefully God and His loving voice. Please remember this amazing truth: regardless our prayer, God listens to us and always with us because God loves us whether we behave immaturely like Jacob or mature like Abraham and Isaac. This is our hope, comfort, peace in Him, and our faith in Him, who is love.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)