Author: Charles Hegwood, M.Div., Contributing Author for Foundations by ICM
The Stolen Blessing
When you think of Israel, look no further than the man who bears the name. He is the father, quite literally, of the twelve tribes. Such a man as Jacob should invoke great reverence. In fact, you would think that such a man should be a model for all of us to follow. Yet Jacob’s story is a story that is marked by his disobedience and God’s grace. Let’s look at the story of how Jacob, the man God chose to bless, lied to his father to steal the blessing from his brother.
Genesis 27: Background
First, let’s get a little background information that will help us to understand the story found in Genesis 27. First of all, Jacob’s very name means heel grabber, deceiver, or better put, usurper. As we will see, Jacob lived up to his name. Before this chapter, Jacob steals Esau’s birthright by tricking him into giving up the birthright. We will see Jacob run at the end of this story only to wrestle with God and be given the name Israel. If you read on in Genesis, you will see Jacob get tricked and humbled when he was seeking a wife. I say all of this to say, Jacob’s story is one of God’s grace and mercy on a sinful man.
The story of the stolen blessing begins with Isaac realizing he was nearing death. Therefore, Isaac calls Esau, his oldest son, to receive the blessing. Fun fact, Isaac lives forty more years after this story happens. That is a slow death. Now blessings in the Old Testament are important. And if you recall Jacob’s birth narrative, he was supposed to receive the blessing and not Esau. This is in itself a bit of a problem and Rebekah, their mother, is concerned. What is her strategy for making sure God’s plan is followed? Her answer is to use Jacob to trick her husband and for Jacob to willingly trick and lie to his father. From the beginning of this story, we should be struck by the brokenness of all of our characters. Is this what God meant when he told Rebekah that, “the older will serve the younger?” Certainly not. Yet God does use this broken situation to bring about His plan.
Isaac wanted a meal hunted and cooked by Esau. Rebekah’s plan was for Jacob to deceive his father and usurp his brother by bringing the meal while wearing the skin of a goat and his brother’s clothes. This plan relied on Jacob’s ability to trick an old man who can’t see well. And he does just that. He masked his identity with fur to simulate Esau’s hairiness and with his brother’s clothes so that he smells like a man who has been out in the field.
Upon entering the room with Isaac, Jacob announced his arrival. Isaac asked who it was. Time for Jacob to come clean. Except that is not what happens. Jacob lied and told his father he was Esau. When Isaac asked about how he could hunt and cook the meal so fast, Jacob invoked God in his lie. Do not pass over the fact that the man God chose to lead His people was using God’s name to aid him in a lie to steal a blessing. In fact, the verbiage used is striking, “the Lord made it happen for me.” God would have given the blessing to Jacob on His goodness and sovereignty and yet in the context of this story, Jacob is making it happen for himself. Brothers and sisters, we cannot make it happen for ourselves. We must obey God and let God work. Jacob does not.
As we continue to follow the story, Jacob has at least five opportunities to stop the charade and come clean with the truth. He blatantly lies three times by saying that he is Esau. Isaac then blesses Jacob all the while thinking it was Esau. Jacob, with the help of his mother, lied and manipulated his aging father. This is broken. We, as the reader, may ask, “how can God use such a broken story?” This is a great question. It is the right question. The whole reason for us digging into this episode of Jacob’s life is to see how God uses broken people. Jacob, Isaac, Esau, and Rebekah were not able to usurp God’s plan with their sin. He will work through the brokenness to bring about what He said would happen. God uses us in our brokenness. His grace is truly sufficient. Rebekah sought to obtain God’s will through trickery. Jacob lied and manipulated his father to obtain what he thought was God’s will. Yet God blesses Jacob later with many children, some of which become the fathers of the twelve tribes.
Brokenness and Blessing
As we begin to conclude this account let us not run past the elephant in the room. If God can use broken people, are there consequences to sin? In this story there certainly are consequences. Jacob would have to run far away to escape his brother’s wrath. Jacob never saw his mother again. She died while Jacob was in exile. A family was broken. There was a price to be paid for Jacob’s sin. Sin always causes brokenness, but as we see in Genesis 33 Jacob and Esau meet again and it is a joyful, restorative meeting.
Digging deeper into Jacob’s story, we find sin and brokenness in relation to God’s goodness and mercy. The man named Israel lied, cheated, and manipulated people. He even used God’s name to sell his lie. And yet all that his sin broke, God restored. Jacob and Esau, through the grace of God, met again and made peace. God blessed Jacob with sons who became the fathers of the twelve tribes. The story of Jacob displays God’s grace in taking a broken man and redeeming him to bring about, in his family line, salvation for the whole world through the Savior of the world; Jesus.
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