Genesis 28-36: The Life Of Jacob
In Chapter 28 we read of how Jacob goes away from his home. He is sent off by Rebekah to her brother Laban's place to escape Esau's wrath. Jacob was still unmarried and probably about 70 years old at this time.
It says in 28:11, "after the sun had set." Though that is referring only to a geographical fact, yet the sun had indeed set on Jacob's life, spiritually speaking too. He had been living for the world, and had grabbed and cheated. And yet God met with Jacob in mercy and told him that He had a great purpose for his life. "I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father " God told him, "The land, wherein thou sleepest, I will give to thee and to thy seed. And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth: thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and IN THEE and thy seed all the tribes of the earth SHALL BE BLESSED.” (verses 13, 14).
This is called "the blessing of Abraham” (Galatians 3:14). When God called Abraham, He had told him, "And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and magnify thy name, and thou shalt be blessed. I will bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curse thee, and IN THEE shall all the kindred of the earth be blessed:" (12:2, 3). God repeated it here to Jacob. In Galatians 3:14, we are told that this blessing becomes ours, when we are filled with the Holy Spirit. It says, “That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Christ Jesus: that we may receive the promise of the Spirit by faith.”
What then is the purpose of being filled with the Holy Spirit? It's not that we might speak in tongues! The main purpose is not physical healing. Paul was never healed from a "thorn in his flesh". The primary purpose of the fullness of the Holy Spirit is that God might bless us and thus make us a blessing to every family that we encounter on the face of the earth (Galatians 3:14).
When God fills us with the Holy Spirit, we will be a blessing to all people. No-one will be able to meet us without being blessed in some way! It's like these heavily-perfumed ladies. You can smell their perfume even when you are a few feet from them! Anywhere they go, people smell their perfume. So will it be with us. If we enter a home we will bless that home, whether we visit it for five minutes or five days. That is "the blessing of Abraham" -rivers of living water flowing with blessing to thirsty people everywhere.
God said to Jacob that night, "That's My calling for you. I am with you." When God fills us with the Holy Spirit, He Himself will be with us (verse 15). He told Jacob, "And I will be thy keeper whithersoever thou goest...neither will I leave thee, till I shall have accomplished all that I have said." Jacob woke up and said, "How terrible, how awesome is this place! This is no other but the house of God, [Bethel] and the gate of heaven.”
But now let see how he responded to this fantastic promise from God. "And he made a vow, saying: If God shall be with me, and shall keep me in the way by which I walk, and shall give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, And I shall return prosperously to my father's house: the Lord shall be my God.” (verse 20). He says effectively , "Lord, I am not interested in all those things. Just take care of me on this journey, give me enough food to eat and clothes to wear, and protect me from accidents and robberies along the way. Bring me safely back to my father's house. That's all I want. I am not interested in being a blessing to all the families of the earth. If you give me these material blessings I have asked for, I will give You tithes of all my earnings, and build a house for You. Bless my business Lord, and I promise You, I will give you 10% of all my profits." That unfortunately is the response of many Christians to God today. God wants His children to be filled with the Spirit and to have the blessing of Abraham so that they become a blessing wherever they go. But what are the prayers of most Christians like? They pray saying, "Lord, give me a comfortable job with a large salary. Heal me of my sicknesses. Help me to build a good house for my family. Get my children married to rich, good-looking partners. And protect us from all dangers. And we will give you a percentage of all our earnings"!!
Is that what God has called us for?
Many Christians have missed God's best, because they settle for earthly blessing, when God has called them to "every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places".
They settle for something material and temporary when God has called them to inherit spiritual and eternal blessings. God doesn't want us to have any regrets in eternity. But many are exactly like Jacob. The sun has indeed set on such believers too.
Jesus referred to the ladder that Jacob saw in verse 12, as a picture of Himself. “You shall see the heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.”(John 1:51) Jesus is the ladder from earth to heaven . And we can praise God that the foot of that ladder came right down and touched the earth instead of hanging some distance above our heads! Jesus was "made like unto us, his brethren, that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest before God" (Hebrews 2:17).
But God did not leave Jacob. He was determined to break him in order to bless him. But how does God do that? He allows Jacob to deal with a craftier person than himself in a man called Laban. Jacob who had cheated his father and his brother now finds someone who cheats him. It's interesting to see how Laban cheated Jacob in getting him married to Leah instead of to Rachel. In those days they used to have a big feast before the wedding. So Laban, crafty man that he was, said, "Let's have the wedding at night" -so that people's faces would not be clear. Then he got Jacob thoroughly drunk at the feast, so that Jacob would not know what was happening around him. Laban then put Jacob's hand into the hand of a heavily-veiled girl and asked Jacob if he would marry her. Jacob thinking it was Rachel said "Yes" and got married! The night was dark and he could not see the face of his bride who lay next to him in his tent. When he woke up the next morning he discovered it was Leah! Jacob had met his match in Laban and been outsmarted at last! And he had worked seven years for his wife!
He now tells Laban, "I wanted Rachel." Laban says, "Sorry. Around here, we have to marry off the older girl first. If you want Rachel, you'll have to work another seven years for me." And Jacob had to say "OK". That was how God began breaking Jacob's human strength.
In 29:20, we read: "So Jacob served seven years for Rachel: and they seemed but a few days, because of the greatness of his love." It wasn't a desk job that Jacob had. It was hard work in the fields, looking after sheep. He had to work in the hot sun during the day and sleep outside in the cold at night. He even lost his health. But yet it says that he felt the seven years were just like a few days for him -because Jacob's love for Rachel was so passionate and so strong.
If Jacob could serve like that for a woman, how should I be serving the Lord who loved me and gave His life for me?" Nothing can equal the joy of serving the Lord, when we serve Him out of love, and do not seek for money, or honour, or comfort, or fame.
Do you find your labour for the Lord heavy? It's because you don't love the Lord with all your heart.
Finally, in chapter 30 Jacob begins to cheat Laban in return and to steal his sheep by crooked methods. When he has amassed enough wealth, he plans one day to leave secretly (Chapter 31) . Then he hears that Esau is coming to meet him. He is scared, because he imagines that Esau must be coming to kill him. But we see something wonderful in Chapter 32. Even though Jacob was still the same old grabber and schemer after 20 years, yet the angel of God met him on his way. None of us would have wasted our time with such a selfish man. Which earthly company would continue the employment of a man after seeing him deceive them and ignore their orders for 20 years? Every earthly company would dismiss such a man. But God did not dismiss Jacob. And He doesn't dismiss you or me either, despite our numerous failures. He still comes and meets us through his messengers.
The word 'angel' can also be translated as 'messenger.' When God sends a messenger across your path, it's a mark of His love for you. When God gives up on you, one mark of it will be that He does not send you any more of His messengers with a message. God sends His messengers to us to show us His love, especially when we are going to encounter some danger or evil.
When Jacob heard that Esau was coming, he schemed as to how he could escape. He put the three wives whom he did not like, right up in front. And he put Rachel and himself right at the back -so that even if all the others got killed, he and Rachel would escape! Jacob is still the same old selfish person he always was. It's a great encouragement for us to see that God picked up such a selfish man and transformed him into an 'Israel'-a prince of God.
We then read how God met with Jacob, wrestled with him, and dislocated his hip. He does drastic things in order to bring us to the place He wants us to be. He broke him and said, "From now on you are going to be a prince of God” (32:28). When could God call him "Israel"? Only after 60 or 70 years of struggling with him and finally dislocating his hip and breaking him thoroughly. Then God says, "Let me go now”.
And at last Jacob says, "I will not let You go unless You bless me." This man who had spent his life grabbing money, grabbing the birthright, grabbing property, grabbing women and grabbing sheep, now leaves everything and grabs hold of God. He says, as it were, "God, I have lived for money, women, property and many earthly things. But I want You alone now." God is waiting for that day to come in our lives too. Then He will say to us as He said to Jacob, "You will no longer be called a grabber or a deceiver (Jacob). You will be called a prince of God (Israel) because you have striven with God and have prevailed.” When did Jacob become an overcomer? When his hip was broken. This is a great truth that we see right from the beginning of Scripture:
God has to break us before He can empower us. It is the broken man who leans upon his staff like Jacob, who becomes the prince of God, and not the great, mighty 'Mr. Universe.'
God has to break you, dear brothers and sisters, before He can make you what He wants you to be. And then we read these wonderful words in Chapter 32:31, "immediately the sun rose upon him " Again a geographical fact -but true spiritually in Jacob's life as well. Twenty years earlier the sun had set on him. Now the sun rose.
In Chapter 34 we see that Jacob had twelve sons. But he also had a daughter, Dinah. And Dinah got him into a lot of trouble, when she decided one day to take a walk all by herself. This chapter has a warning for all young girls. All young girls should read Chapter 34 and see the problems that Dinah caused for her father. She thought she could take care of herself. But some man fell in love with her "and he took her, and lay with her, and defiled her." Her brothers got so upset with this man, that they went out and murdered all the men in his city. And Jacob's name began to stink in that area. It all started with one girl who decided to wander off on her own one day. She who has ears to hear, let her hear.
In chapter 35. The Lord now told Jacob to go back to Bethel. In a sense, it was Jacob's fault too that he got into all these problems. Because if he had gone straight back to Bethel after God had met with him in Peniel, this sad and violent interlude (in Chapter 34) would never have taken who place.