‘Jacob the father of Judah…’ (Matthew 1:2)
Read: Genesis 25:19-34; Genesis 27:1-40; Genesis 32:22-32.
He was born pulling back, not just anyone, but his own brother, to push himself forward. That was the essence of his first name – Jacob – a synonym for self-advancing scheming. He took advantage of his brother’s hunger to take his birthright (Genesis 25:19-34). He impersonated his brother to steal his blessing (Genesis 27:1-40). He tricked his father-in-law, ensuring he got the strongest of the flock (Genesis 30:25-43) and ‘deceived’ him by not telling him he was running away (Genesis 31:20).
Are we so different? How often have you taken advantage of someone’s vulnerabilities – knowing they’ll do what you want if you say it like this, or remind them of that? How often do you pretend to be someone you’re not to get what you want – exaggerating your positives whilst airbrushing your negatives, in the hope of advancing yourself in some way, even if it’s only in the opinion of others?
Deception is destructive, it brought murder to the mind of Jacob’s twin brother. Its evil is to be shunned, not least because it’s also the modus operandi of Satan, the father of lies (John 8:44).
Does God give up on Jacob? No. Of course not. He helps him come to terms with the consequences of his sin. Jacob knows he cannot face the potential fury of his brother without God. In his extraordinary encounter with God at Jabbok, Jacob is given a humbler walk and a new identity (Genesis 32:22-32). Figuratively, we can see this as a picture of confession. We wrestle with God, but not against him, to bring our sins of deception into submission. We are humbled as we honestly own the ways we have manipulated the truth, and people, to get our own way. Whilst we put on our new Israel-like name again, our new creation identity in Christ, and experience the promise of God’s great forgiveness being faithfully fulfilled. Such that, we should never read ‘God of Jacob’ in the Bible, in the same way again. He is not just the God of the historical person Jacob, but of self-advancing schemers, like you and me, today. Hallelujah: God’s children are never disowned despite their sin!
God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, I am broken by my dishonest deception. I have tricked others into getting what I want from them. I have made people think I am cleverer, more attractive, and holier than I am. I have even pulled others back, highlighting their faults and failures, to push myself forward, and make myself look good. Please cleanse me. Thank you for forgiving me. Help me to walk with a limp, with a greater awareness of my sin, and to grow in humility as a result. But please also help me to walk more confidently in the beloved child identity you won for me at the cross, that any need for deception will be defeated by the width, length, height and depth of your unfailing love. Amen.