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.
But now, O Jacob, listen to the LORD who created you.
O Israel, the one who formed you says,
“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.
I have called you by name; you are mine. (Isaiah 43:1)
Jacob lived his unique, exciting life with God. Jacob’s older brother is Esau, and they were twins. They were rivals from their mother’s womb, and Jacob was more aggressive and greedier than his brother Esau. Jacob struggled to be the firstborn, but he only grabbed Esau’s heel as he was born. Jacob failed to be the firstborn. However, Jacob had never given up his ambition to be the firstborn.
Later, Jacob tricked his brother Esau into selling his brother’s birthright for one bowl of stew when Esau was extremely hungry after hunting all day. Then later, he deceived his father Isaac by disguising himself as Esau. Isaac was old and had poor sight, gave all blessings reserved for the firstborn son Esau. Soon Esau found out what Jacob did, and he decided to kill Jacob.
Thus, Jacob fled to his uncle Laban, who lived 700 km away. It was a long and dangerous journey. On the first night, he slept laying his head on a rock under the cold night sky in the middle of the wilderness for the first time. However, God, who loved Jacob, came to Jacob. Jacob was in fear of his brother Esau, his long journey filled with unknown dangers, and his uncertain future. Jacob did not call upon God even in such a difficult situation. God lavishly blessed Jacob and made with Jacob the same covenant that God made with his grandfather, Abraham, and his father, Isaac. God chose Jacob as the heir of God’s covenant — to be the father of many nations and the source of blessings to all. God also promised to protect Jacob throughout his journey and return to the place where Jacob met God.
The following morning, Jacob built an altar and prayed to God while making a 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.”
Under God’s protection, Jacob safely arrived in the town where his uncle Laban lived. God also prepared Laban’s heart, and Laban warmly received Jacob while saying, “You really are my own flesh and blood!” What a comfort to Jacob! However, Jacob did not remember God.
Jacob then kept living his deceptive and greedy life while competing against Laban, equally deceptive and greedy. Laban switched Jacob’s bride on the wedding night and forced Jacob to work for him for seven more years for free with the condition to get married to Rachel, whom Jacob loved. Jacob never forgot what Laban did, and Jacob made Laban payback to him.
Jacob offered a deceptive deal with Laban, and Jacob increased his wealth deceptively at his uncle Laban’s expense. But Laban’s sons noticed what was happening, which made Jacob no longer stay with Laban. Jacob realized he was trapped in between Laban and Esau, and he had no place to go. Then Jacob finally remembered God, who came to him when he was sleeping under the cold night sky to flee from Esau, and prayed. (In reality, God made Jacob remember Him out of His love.)
God answered by telling Jacob to return home where Esau was. To Jacob, it was a really hard choice to go home to get killed by Esau, but Jacob obeyed God. Indeed, Jacob surrendered to God for the first time, and he listened to God rather than using his cunning mind filled with earthly wisdom. While hiding in Laban’s house for the last twenty years, Jacob truly believed Esau would surely kill Jacob. Even so, he decided to follow what God told him to do so.
Despite Jacob’s obedience, the situation was getting worse. Rachel, his wife and also Laban’s daughter, stole Laban’s treasure idols when secretly departing from Laban following Jacob. Laban later found about his stolen treasure idols. Laban became furious and decided to kill Jacob. Laban set out in hot pursuit. Jacob did not know what Rachel did and did not know the danger was coming to him.
God then intervened Laban the previous night before catching up with Jacob and warned, “I’m warning you—leave Jacob alone!” Laban became fearful of God. When Laban caught up with Jacob, Laban could not do anything because of God but just complained about the stolen idols. Laban thoroughly searched, but he could not find his treasure idols because God kept Laban from seeing them, on which Rachel set on. Jacob became mad at Laban without knowing the truth. Then Laban and Jacob made a peace treaty, and Laban blessed Jacob before leaving Jacob and Jacob’s family. Again, God protected Jacob. Without God’s protection, Laban could have had already killed Jacob. However, Jacob did not know this fact.
As getting close to home, Jacob heard Esau was coming to him with an army of 400 men, which made Jacob truly fearful. Thus, Jacob sent three lavish gifts to Esau to ease Esau’s heart. Then Jacob attempted to cross the Jabbok River with his family and his possession, but he could not. Jacob completely believed Esau, who surely would kill Jacob.
Thus, Jacob sent all his family and possessions to the other side, and he was left alone. Jacob could not confront Esau because of his sin committed against Esau. He was in fear of Esau for the last twenty years, and he did everything that he could. But his fear of Esau, who surely would kill him, never left Jacob. It was the moment Jacob had to confront his sin directly and pay the consequence of his sin, tasting in fear of death by Esau.
Jacob prayed throughout the night. God sent His angel and let Jacob wrestle with His angel because he could not release the angel until God’s forgiveness and assurance. The day was breaking, but Jacob tenaciously held the angel. Knowing that the angel could not prevail, the angel touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket. It gave extreme pain to Jacob, and Jacob became limp for the rest of his life. Then as the angel was leaving, the angel gave a new name, Israel, to Jacob, telling “you have fought with God and with men and have won.” Indeed, Jacob prayed and prevailed because of God’s mercy and love, not because Jacob was truly more powerful than the angel. Jacob became a new man in God, but he became limp. The beginning of Jacob’s new chapter of life in God had just started.
The following morning, Jacob crossed the Jabbok River limping. Then he stood in front of all his family and possessions. As Jacob approached his brother Esau, he bowed to the ground seven times before him. Then Esau ran to meet him and embraced him, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him. And they both wept. Yes, God, who dearly loved Jacob, prepared all things, which made this beautiful scene.
Indeed, God did more than what Jacob asked. Jacob left empty-handed. Now Jacob safely came back with eleven sons, and great wealth accumulated. However, after being saved by God from the hand of Esau, Jacob did not go to where Jacob promised to come back if he safely returned. Instead, Jacob went to Succoth (“shelters”).
God forgave Jacob, and his brother Esau also forgave Jacob, but Jacob was uncomfortable with Esau. It was the power of sin. Sin tenaciously clings to Jacob and keeps accusing Jacob while putting Jacob into the same fear in his heart. Jacob had a really hard time getting out of the sin. Thus, first, Jacob chose a place to get peace in his mind while staying in Succoth. In this way, his sin truly taught Jacob what’s the consequence of his sin so that Jacob would not forget it forever.
Yes, God does not want us to forget how terrible our sin is. Our suffering from our sin helps us not to the same sin again. It is God’s love. If not, what would our life look like? Commit sin, confess sin for God’s forgiveness, receive God’s forgiveness, and then commit the sin again. It is so easy and convenient, which does not help us. We need a strong, unforgettable mark in our lives not to commit the same sin again. God let us experience the consequences of sin out of His love. It is not God’s punishment, because we are His dearest children.
After getting peace in his heart, Jacob made another detour to go down to Shechem, not Bethel, where he made a vow to God in his prayer. He did not go directly into the town and he settled outside of the town. Then Jacob observed their lifestyle, which looked good to his eyes. Then he moved into the town. In the town, Jacob lived a good life packed with earthly funs. Jacob finally had a truly joyful life after the twenty years of fear of Esau for the first time. Jacob found his life in the town of Shechem.
However, his joyful life did not last long. A disaster came. The local prince, Shechem, son of Hamor the Hivite, saw Dinah, Jacob’s daughter. He seized her and raped her. Then as revenge, his sons tricked every male in the town was circumcised as a condition to let Dinah married to Shechem. Three days later, when their wounds were still sore, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s full brothers, took their swords and entered the town without opposition. Then they slaughtered every male there, including Hamor and his son Shechem.
Jacob realized what his sons did, and he felt extreme fear of the people around him and telling, “You have ruined me! You’ve made me stink among all the people of this land—among all the Canaanites and Perizzites. We are so few that they will join forces and crush us. I will be ruined, and my entire household will be wiped out!”
Finally, Jacob saw what was happening in his life. Then he returned to God, and authentically prayed with a contrite heart. God heard his prayer and answered,
“Get ready and move to Bethel and settle there. Build an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother, Esau.” (Genesis 35:1b)
God’s message was clear – get rid of idols and come back to Him. Then Jacob told everyone in his household,
“Get rid of all your pagan idols, purify yourselves, and put on clean clothing. We are now going to Bethel, where I will build an altar to the God who answered my prayers when I was in distress. He has been with me wherever I have gone.” (Genesis 35:2b-3)
So all Jacob’s family gave Jacob all their pagan idols and earrings, and he buried them under the great tree near Shechem. As they set out, a terror from God spread over the people in all the towns of that area, so no one attacked Jacob’s family. God again protected Jacob, whom God dearly loved.
Finally, Jacob returned to Bethel, and he built an altar. Jacob made the twenty-year journey, which made him discover and truly experience who God truly was. Jacob became a new man in God, called “Israel,” who was truly qualified to inherit God’s covenant, not as Jacob, who grabbed his brother’s heal out of his greed.
Israel, the new Jacob, then set out home. God, for this time, tested Jacob. God wanted Jacob to see his own spiritual maturity with Jacob’s eye. Jacob’s most beloved wife was Rachel, and she delivered his last son while dying. Before her death, Rachel called the newborn baby, Ben-oni (“son of my sorrow”), but Jacob called him Benjamin (“son of my right hand”). The world gave Jacob the sorrow of losing his most beloved wife, Rachel. It was not all. Rachel poured out her grief as breading her last breath. However, Jacob had a different experience. Jacob experienced God and His right hand, who kept guiding him throughout his life. Although his situation was sorrowful, he saw God’s hope and strength in faith. He overcame worldly pain and sorrow. The grief, sorrow, and pain could not defeat Jacob. Then Jacob buried Rachel in Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem).
We all know Bethlehem is the place where our Jesus Christ was born. There was sorrow and death in Bethlehem, but the eternal life and hope came to us through the same place, Bethlehem. Thus, we should not be despair or dismayed when we experience earthly sorrow and pain. The same place will turn into God’s comfort and peace, and most of all, His hope and strength will prevail in our lives because of God, Our Ever-Loving Father dearly loves us, which is our hope and faith in Him.
Then Jacob finally came back home, where he left to flee from Esau. Jacob lived with his father, Isaac, and Esau until Isaac, his father’s death. His father lived 180 years and returned to the Lord, and Esau and Jacob buried Isaac together.
God carved Israel out of Jacob, and God fulfilled God’s covenant. Abraham, his grandfather, and Isaac, his father, just received God’s covenant, but Jacob physically received the covenant by being the father of the twelve tribes, also called Israel (the new nation’s name composed of twelve tribes.)
After his father Isaac’s death, Jacob settled in the land of Canaan, where his father and his grandfather lived as foreigners. Like Jacob, we all live here on earth as foreigners. Our citizenships belong to heaven, and we are just sojourners on the earth. Nothing we came with, and nothing we will take when we leave. It is the transient place where we glorify God, which is our true destiny. Let’s ask ourselves. Why did God create us?
the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise. (Isaiah 43:21)
Jacob then enjoyed living with his twelve sons and faithfully followed God. Jacob lived out God-centered life. None of his sons was like the old Jacob, who was deceptive, greedy, driven for earthly things, and cunning, which was God’s blessing. Among Jacob’s twelve sons, one son was unique. His name was Joseph, who had dreams and lived for his dreams.
When Joseph was seventeen years old, he often tended his father’s flocks. He worked for his half brothers, the sons of his father’s wives Bilhah and Zilpah. But Joseph reported to his father some of the bad things his brothers were doing. Among his brothers, Joseph was least popular.
On the other hand, Jacob loved Joseph more than any other son because Joseph had been born to him in his old age. So one day, Jacob had a special gift made for Joseph—a beautiful robe. But his brothers hated Joseph because their father loved him more than the rest of them. They couldn’t say a kind word to him. However, it was a part of God’s plan that nobody understood at that time. As we see from the next week, each son did whatever he thought was right, but God made all work together for God’s perfect plan.
We meet people who hate us without any special reason. Or we sin because we act on with our hands to make our earthly desire work out as Jacob did. As a result, we suffer and live under constant fear, as Jacob live in fear for twenty years. Then what should we do? We lift our eyes and wait for God’s hand, which is always merciful and filled with His unfathomable love. We might not be able to understand God’s plan immediately, but we will know as the time comes.
I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1-2)
Aren’t we mere mortals who cannot see even one second future? We’d better remember God and wait for God while believing in God’s infinite goodness. Jacob had to wait twenty years to be reborn as a new man in God and additional years to be mature. Then Jacob became the true heir of God’s promise. Thus, we continue fixing our eyes on Him and keep walking our walk with Him while trusting in Him and rejoicing in Him in His strength and hope, although our situation is completely hopeless without an exit.
He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep. (Psalm 121:3-4)
God never slumber nor sleep. His eye never leaves us because we are His beloved children. As God loved Jacob, regardless of Jacob’s unfaithfulness, God always loves us under all circumstances. It is our faith and hope in God.
The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore. (Psalm 121:5-8)