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JACOB HE WOULDN'T LET GO
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He Wouldn’t Let Go
In our last two stories we learned about the faith that Abraham and Isaac had. One of the most important lessons we learned was that it was not easy to trust God to work out His plan for us. We always think that when God promises something to us it has to happen at a certain time. Abraham had to wait until he was one hundred years old to have the son that God had promised him. Isaac, his son, also had to wait for twenty years to have children. So to begin our story about Jacob we find that he had to wait also. Just because God does not answer when we expect, it doesn’t mean that He is not going to answer at all. Faith takes time to grow but God always answers on time.
The story of Jacob is a story about a man who had to learn about faith the hard way. You see, even before his birth, God had a plan for him. God had told his parents three important facts about him and his brother. First: Two great nations would come from them. From Jacob came the Israelite nation and from Esau came the Edomites. Herod, who was ruler when Jesus was born, was a descendent of Esau. The next event mentioned was that one of them would be stronger than the other. That would mean one of these would be physically stronger. That would be Esau. Finally, God said the older would become the servant of the younger. That was God’s plan, that Esau would become a servant to his brother Jacob. God decided long before it happened that this would take place. At the birth of Jacob and Esau, they received their names in an unusual way. Esau came first being red in color and hairy. His name, Esau, means “red”. At the time of his birth, a strange thing happened. A hand was holding on to his ankle. So Jacob received his name from this action which means “Heel Catcher.” Even at birth we see Jacob was going to have a hard time trusting God. The title of our story is that he was a man who wouldn’t let go.
All through his life he was a man who insisted of having his own way. There was nothing that kept him from getting what he wanted. When he wanted something he would not quit until he received it. Lying and cheating were all right to Jacob if it meant that he could get his own way. That became Jacob’s method to get what he wanted. Jacob trusted in himself to get what God promised to him, God’s way was not through lying and cheating.
One day when Esau came home from a busy day. Jacob promised to give him some of his homemade Stew if he would trade his birthright. That meant the oldest Son would have the right to receive the family fortune. With the birthright he also had the right to the father’s blessing at the end of the fathers life: The blessing would be a prayer for the continued success of the firstborn. Both of these, the birthright and the blessing would automatically be Esau’s. Jacob was a selfish man. He made his brother Esau promise to give him his birthright, and later with the help of his mother, Jacob tricked his father Isaac, into giving him Esau’s blessing when Isaac was blind and dying.
Esau was angry. He determined to kill Jacob after his father died. Because of this Jacob had to leave. He left to live with his uncle Laban who lived far away. Jacob was a man who had a hard time trusting God. He thought that he had to make his own way without God’s help. He was now about to begin his journey of faith.
While he journeyed toward Haran, where his uncle lived, something strange happened. As he slept he had a dream. He saw in his dream a ladder going up to heaven and angels were going up and down this ladder. God was at the top of the ladder and spoke to Jacob. He gave him the same message that He gave to Abraham and Isaac. First, that he would inherit the land where he was sleeping: Second there would be a great number of people who would come from him: Third that he would be a blessing (bring great joy to others): Fourth that through his people the whole world would receive a blessing. This fourth promise refers to one who would come from Jacob’s family. He would be the promised Messiah whom we know to be Jesus.
Jacob knew that he was now in the presence of God. This was the beginning point of Jacob’s faith. Through this experience he knew that God was real. Jacob set up some stones as a memorial so he wouldn’t forget. It is important that we remember the times that God speaks to us. He called that place Beth el which means the house of God. God was not finished with Jacob. He was about to discover how his brother Esau felt when he lost what he thought should have been his.
Laban, Jacob’s uncle, was worse than Jacob when it came to cheating. For twenty years, Jacob fought and argued with Laban. Jacob loved his daughter Rachel and served him seven years to marry her. Instead Laban disguised his oldest daughter, Leah, and forced Jacob to marry her against his will. He served seven more years and finally got to marry Rachel. Now Jacob had two wives. After 20 years of living with someone as bad as he was, Jacob left and headed for Bethel. On his journey he was about to face his brother Esau. Now he had two people who were his enemies. He couldn’t go back to Laban and now he couldn’t go forward because Esau was there. We might say he faced a difficult decision. God, however, was still with Jacob but disliked his selfish ways. He sent his servants on ahead to try to make things better with Esau. While he was alone and afraid of what was about to happen to him he had another visit from God.
This event took place at night and a person sent from God wrestled with Jacob until morning. It was a long hard battle. We might say it was the time of Jacob finding true faith in God. Jacob had to learn how to let go of all the evil practices and selfish ways that controlled his life. The Angel wrestled all-night with Jacob but sometimes it takes longer for us to remove the selfish areas of our life. It is hard to let go of them. At the end of this wrestling match Jacob was weak. All he could do was hold on and this time he wasn’t holding on for selfish purposes. He was holding on to receive the blessing from God. Jacob after a long time finally came to the place where he was about to trust God alone. The blessing he received was that his name would change from Jacob “the heel catcher” to Israel “a prince with God.” His new found faith would allow him to speak with God for others.
Following this experience, God did bless Jacob and he had twelve sons who later became the twelve tribes of Israel. From his son Judah our lord Jesus came: The tribe of the kings. Jesus is the Lion of Judah. Because of Jacob’s time with God, his relationship with Esau healed and Esau forgave him.
As we close, what are some of the lessons that we could learn from Jacob’s life?
1. God has plans for our lives. Even before birth, God is in control.
2. Sometimes we need to experience difficulty before true faith can happen.
3. The wrong choices that we sometimes make will not prevent God’s will from happening.
4. It takes time for God to remove our selfishness.
5. It is best to decide to follow God when we are young and not wait until we are older to learn the true meaning of faith. It is harder to unlearn selfishness when we are older.
6. Jacob made many enemies by being selfish. It is far greater if we spend our time in being a friend.
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