The patriarch Jacob is not a very popular character. I don’t think I have ever heard a sermon about his positive traits. We all know him as a deceiver, and one who got back as bad as he gave. And we tend to like that when someone gets their comeuppance. Except, of course, when it’s us who’s getting what they deserved.
There’s a lot about Jacob that I like. Firstly, I really like his desire for Esau’s birthright. In those times the firstborn son would inherit the leadership of the family once the father died. He would be in charge. That is an honourable position. Jacob wanted that position, and it seems that Esau didn’t.
Esau was a hunter, and sometimes when you go hunting you can be gone a long time. Esau was hunting for a while, and he came home hungry. Jacob had a stew ready to eat, and since it would take time for Esau to prepare his own food, he asked for some of Jacob’s. Jacob trades him some lentil stew for his birthright. I guess that is a good example of immediate gratification as opposed to considering the future. What is interesting about this story is how Esau is referred to in Hebrews:
Hebrews 12:16 “See that no one is … godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son.”
The Bible refers to Esau as being godless because he had no respect for his birthright. Jacob, on the other hand, clearly wanted the birthright, just as he also wanted his father’s blessing. To be fair, though, it was Rebekah’s idea, Jacob’s mother, to disguise her son Jacob in Esau’s clothing to deceive Isaac. Jacob could have said no, but he wanted the blessing of the first born, so he went along with the deception.
Jacob’s choices did not bring all that he wanted, and he had to run from his family for several years. He wanted something good but trying to obtain it the wrong way led to many difficult years for him.
There was not a lot of joy in Jacob’s life, as he himself tells Pharaoh when he has been reunited with his son Joseph and brings his family to live in Egypt. But another thing I really like about this man is that he ends well. His faith in the Lord is strong right until his dying day. After all his struggles, having been driven from his home and the mother who really loved him, and then working hard to start his own family. He was deceived on his wedding night, making love to the wrong woman! He was deceived by his uncle many times, and eventually ran from him with his wives and children. His favourite son was taken from him, and then many years later he thought he had lost another son. But then Joseph is returned to him, and he is the one who has saved Egypt and the surrounding countries from famine. How easy, amid all this, would it have been for Jacob to question God and to turn from following him. But he didn’t. And as he nears his death, we see him blessing his children and prophesying over them.
I am in my seventieth year, and I also want to end well. I have known some people who have lost their enthusiasm for walking with the Lord as they got older, as their kids got older, as they were left with less responsibilities. It is too easy to retire from working and think that now it is all up to younger people. I intend to follow Jacob’s example and continue to bless my children and my grandchildren and prophecy great things over them.
I believe it is good to want more from God. Ask for more. Press in to God. Show him how important knowing him, walking with him, pleasing him, is to you. Do it when you are young. Do it when you are middle aged. And do it when you are old.