I want to focus on one man for a few lessons and look at his family, and his life story as God related it in His Word. To do that, today we plan to move around the area of Genesis 24-26 and then at the end, drop into Genesis 27 and hopefully “catch” something we can all digest. Our focus is on the story of Jacob.
To prepare us, I want to begin with a set of questions that require you to be brutally honest with me. Are you ready?
First, let me ask: “How many of you are parents? One of my friends would say it, “How many of you own another human?”
With that number in mind, “How many of you honestly recall and are willing to publicly admit, that you lost one of your children for a time during their time under your supervision?”
To let you relax and make you breathe a little easier, let me tell you a story out of the “Smith Log” from a few years back, when my third child was still a tiny toddler.
Dottie and I were packing for a camping trip when we lived in Jerusalem. At that time, also living in our home was a young lady from South Africa who helped in our office and sometimes took care of our children. We were three adults watching over a busy travel office, a growing ministry and three little children. On that morning, Dottie and I were packing the van to go on a trip with all of our family, and we both thought Karen (the South African girl) knew where the kids were (I thought they were playing in their rooms). My little red-head, Sara Joy, took that opportunity (a breach in parental security) to make a break for it and wander down the street and cross the road to the local mall across the way. When mom and I realized that she was gone, and we had no clue where she was – we both moved swiftly down our street hollering for her and scanning yard by yard. After what seemed like a decade or two in lost child time, we discovered that Sara was sitting happily enjoying treats with the security guard at “Kanion HarE” in Gilo, our Jerusalem suburb’s local mall. The security guard spotted her wandering in the parking lot and took her in until parents came calling for her. He was kind and, to be honest, Sara didn’t feel lost. She knew where she was. She knew what she was eating. She was perfectly happy. We were panicked and, truth be told, near nervous breakdowns, both of us! Though Sara found safety, for a time, in the hand of a security guard at the local mall, she had two issues. First, the security guard wasn’t the right place to find true parental security; and second – she didn’t realize she wasn’t really safe. That guard wasn’t her real daddy, and he didn’t have her true long term interest at heart. He did his job, but it wasn’t the safety she would find in her family, holding mom or dad’s hand.
There is a point to the story of this unsettling memory. As we look at the introduction to Jacob’s life as God dropped him into the arms of his parents, we will see that Jacob started life believing real security came from grabbing a familiar pattern his parents lived out in front of him – instead of grasping God’s hand and following Him. His early life illustrated a truth that is so important for us to consider, God told it in His Word. Here is the big idea of his story I would like you to consider…
Key Principle: Real safety comes from grabbing the right hand and letting your true Father guide you.
We must cling – not to the pattern of life we learned growing up – but to the Savior of it!
If you study it carefully, you will notice that Jacob’s life was a struggle to learn how to hold his true Daddy’s hand – and not the other many hands he could easily have clasped to feel secure. Look even closer, but that is your story and my story as well!
Let’s take a moment and “set up” the story beginning in Genesis 24.
First, a quick overview of the text is probably justified. It is significant that the author of Genesis spent ten whole chapters on Jacob.
• He only spent 11 chapters describing the long period of time from creation, the flood and on to the tower of Babel.
• He included 14 or 15 chapters on Abraham (12-25) from which God established His covenant people.
It seems like ten chapters is a rather large stage for teaching God’s lessons. His story must be important – and we will find it truly IS.
Second, I am also forced to at least suggest that if modern “reality TV” is any indication of what Americans think is interesting, this short series on Jacob should be riveting. More than most stories of the Bible, his tale graphically displays the unusual interrelations of an entirely dysfunctional family, and cautiously highlights the influence bad parents can have on their children. This story is almost a “made for TV” series.
Let’s start the story with Isaac: Jacob’s dad.
Genesis has already been chronicling the life of Isaac, his dad. What is shared wasn’t particularly flattering, but does help us understand the family from which Jacob emerged. Genesis 24:1-9 opens with a scene late in the life of Abraham, when he had a servant set out to look for a wife for his son, Isaac. We begin here in our look at Jacob, because knowing his dad will help you understand the setting of his life. The servant of Abraham (we suspect it is Eliezar) is in the scene…
Genesis 24:10 recorded: Then the servant took ten camels from the camels of his master, and set out with a variety of good things of his master’s in his hand; and he arose and went to Mesopotamia, to the city of Nahor.
It isn’t a stretch to admit that living in the shadow of the towering figure of Abraham; the Bible offered few details on Isaac, as though he really didn’t do much that was significant. That’s probably an unfair assessment (since I am not even mentioned in the Bible at all), but I think you understand why I said it. Isaac’s little story feels like, when you read it, a journal of “going along” with God’s work in his family. One writer called his story one of “passive acceptance” because he seemed to do the right things, but he was not presented as a very passionate player in the drama of his own life!
Consider the example of the scene we were just looking at and the fact that Isaac didn’t find his own wife – his dad sent a servant to do it. If I understand Genesis 25:20 properly, I can’t help but notice he appears to have been forty years old at the time. (Talk about a late launch!) …At least the servant knew where to look.
Oddly, if you look back into Genesis, it seems the place to meet a potential wife was at a watering hole, a well or a spring.
• Moses met his wife at a well in Midianite territory and chased away harassing bandits.
• Jacob scoped out the coming of Rachel by asking at the local well and then gallantly helped remove the stone over that well with the others who were gathered there.
Here’s the thing… in Genesis 24, Isaac didn’t even go to the well to find a wife. His father’s servant traveled a distance, found the right well, and got him a wife. It feels like we are being set up to see Isaac as a rather passive guy, and if you read the story – you will see that feeling fits the later narrative.
Isaac wasn’t a bad guy. I don’t want to only include his weakness. When he hit a wall, he was as likely to seek God as NOT, but that isn’t the most rousing endorsement. He had God’s blessing, but that wasn’t a guarantee he could be a good dad, just a rich one. Drop into Genesis 25 and take a quick look for a moment.
Genesis 25:11 It came about after the death of Abraham, that God blessed his son Isaac; and Isaac lived by Beer-lahai-roi….21 Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was barren; and the LORD answered him and Rebekah his wife conceived.
It seems Isaac learned some level of trust in God. Consider that:
• God’s blessing became personal after Abraham, not just from Abraham (25:11).
• When trouble came; he prayed – so he had some kind of walk with God. Isaac knew that God could deliver in the need for a baby – because God did it for HIS DAD years before. At the same time, he knew it took a relationship with God to steady him through the days of disappointment and keep him from undue impatience with God’s timing!
• God seemed to step in when asked and answer the prayer in accord with the promises given to Isaac’s dad. It seems like God wanted to keep the story going in Isaac, even if he was weak and passive.
I guess if I could communicate anything, it would be that Isaac just wasn’t a great leader or deep man of passion as he is shared with us in the text…
As we close in on the story of Isaac – observe the story that introduced Rebekah: Jacob’s Mom.
Go back again to the story of the servant that discovered Rebekah as a wife for Isaac, who became Jacob’s mom. The servant came to the well, and Rebekah offered to water his ten camels, while the man prayed she would make the offer as a sign to him:
Genesis 24: 19 Now when she had finished giving him a drink, she said, “I will draw also for your camels until they have finished drinking.” 20 So she quickly emptied her jar into the trough, and ran back to the well to draw, and she drew for all his camels. 21 Meanwhile, the man was gazing at her in silence, to know whether the Lord had made his journey successful or not.
It is clear in the text that God’s choice was Rebekah. To really grasp what we learn about her from this little snapshot, there are a few things you should probably know about camels that make this story shine with vivid detail.
• First, they can drink 21-22 gallons in a single standing. Since a gallon is 8.3 pounds, a thirsty camel could add more than 200 pounds from one long drink. As a former helper in the camel drive, I can tell you that you NEVER let them drink that much in a single standing, or they will get drunk. It happens because of their blood vessels and the way the blood passes through their brain area.
• Since there were ten camels and Rebekah watered all of them, and since they had just come “hot off the desert sands” – I think it is obvious that Rebekah possessed incredible biceps and back muscles, and was not built like a “fashion week” model on a red carpet. She was one formidable woman you wouldn’t want to arm wrestle! (She was, no doubt, listed on “Farmer’s Only” dating sites).
If you took the time to research the whole account of her early days in Genesis, you would discover Rebekah was from nothing short of treacherous family of “used camel salesman” types like her brother Laban – who became a legendary manipulative negotiator, as we will see later in the series. Funny enough, her dad was also quite passive based on the text.
Put Isaac and Rebekah together and I think it is safe to conclude from reading the Word that the natural passivity and weakness in Isaac opened the door to allowing Rebekah, Jacob’s mom, to take over their home. Add to that the fact that she had experience engaging dishonesty and manipulation growing up with a passive dad and her brother Laban back in Mesopotamia. In the end, baby Jake was no match for what his parents patterned in their home.
Pattern One: Favoritism
In Genesis 25:26-34, the Bible records that Jacob capitalized on his twin brother Esau’s impulsiveness and cleverly manipulated his brother to promise away his “special legal standing” (called his “birthright”) in exchange for some stew. Dropped into the text of that story, one verse announced a glaring problem of the pattern in the home that we need to spot in verse 28:
Genesis 25:28 Now Isaac loved Esau, because he had a taste for game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.
Do you see it? It looks like Jacob had a passive dad who focused on “what he liked” in meat, and was hard to get attention from if you weren’t a skilled hunter like Jake’s brother. Isaac had a favorite and Jake wasn’t it.
Don’t overlook the fact that the Bible made clear Isaac loved Esau for “what his child did for him.”
Now consider that Jake had a brother that was impulsive, driven by his immediate desires (something that seems to have been learned from his dad). Now add the third ingredient: Jake was raised by a manipulative mom who had a special love for him. She knew he was the promised future leader and she knew her husband didn’t have the same warmth for him that she felt.
Everyone wants to believe their momma loves them, but this picture is one of favoritism by both parents… Let’s assume that Rebekah told Jake what God told her about the younger son (him) ending up over the older son (Esau). In an environment where manipulation is rampant, can’t you see how easy it would be to convince yourself that working to bring about what God promised was no vice?
Now skip a stone across Genesis 26 for a moment.
The two big stories of chapter 26 show examples of God’s inordinate blessing on Isaac. A famine came, but God took care of him because of His previous promises to Abraham. Isaac lied to Abimelech (a local ruler) but God looked out for him (26:10) and multiplied his crops one hundredfold (25:12) – not because of his wrong behavior; but in spite of it.
Pattern Two: Inordinate Prosperity in Spite of Actions
Genesis 26 showed that Isaac’s wealth was significant, God-given and undeserved. Jake’s manipulation tendencies, as well as those of his mom, would only get stronger in the face of a huge windfall of cash. Ask any lottery winner or inheritance recipient who ever had manipulative relatives how they “upped their game” after the cash showed up.
Jake and Esau’s inheritance left them with a huge pile of cash and prizes. That brings us to the moment in the series where Jake’s mask fell completely off and his manipulations became crystal clear in Genesis 27.
Perpetrating Fraud by a the bedside of an elderly father (Genesis 27)
As we get to the center of this lesson, let’s remember that you and I got more from our parents and our home than the size of our nose and color of our hair. We got character stamps on our heart and ways of dealing with relationships. For many of us, our core values were established in our lives by our family before we were ever conscious of what was happening. These core values, character stamps and relationship coping mechanisms create the “default setting” in our lives – and take the place of grabbing God’s hand…
It is easy for any of us to fall back on “learned patterns” over the
“pulling” of our Heavenly Father.
Manipulators like Jake learned early not to trust God and grab His hand. They learned to get what they wanted through clever trickery. Life was a peach, to be plucked by one who was clever enough to see it.
Genesis 27 opened with Isaac, now old, stuck on a bed in the tent where the pattern he modeled in his home now reigned supreme.
Isaac was on his cot – now old and unable to see. Like many a dad, he taught at least one of his boys the value of work and productivity. He called to Esau. The text recorded:
Genesis 27:1 Now it came about, when Isaac was old and his eyes were too dim to see, that he called his older son Esau and said to him, “My son.” And he said to him, “Here I am.” 2 Isaac said, “Behold now, I am old and I do not know the day of my death. 3 “Now then, please take your gear, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field and hunt game for me; 4 and prepare a savory dish for me such as I love, and bring it to me that I may eat, so that my soul may bless you before I die.”
Had the birthright not been traded, it wouldn’t have been wrong for Isaac to make a request of his first born, Esau. Yet, it seems he was ignoring the fact that Jacob now held the birthright, because Isaac had a favorite. Don’t forget the verse:
Genesis 25:28 Now Isaac loved Esau, because he had a taste for game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.
Mom and dad each had their FAVORITE – setting up a struggle in their home for the future. Dad chose his favorite based on PRODUCTIVITY (stuff that Esau could do) and mom based her favoritism on RELATIONSHIP and COMMUNICATION at home. These are age old patterns.
• Dads, we cannot measure our sons by their pitching ability or their accomplishments on the shop floor. They are our sons when they are lazy and discouraged and equally our sons when they are productive. I cannot say it strongly enough: Sons are desperate to hear dad say he loves them.
• Moms, even the boy that barely speaks coherently is still your son. They need the tenderness and care in more subtle ways perhaps, but they still need it. Don’t overestimate the ability to “schmooze” – it may not be authentic expression.
Based on the few pieces of information we have, the passage seems to indicate that either Rebekah and Jacob knew that Isaac didn’t agree with Esau’s word to trade away his birthright, or they all kept him in the dark regarding the whole affair. Either would have been completely wrong. Keep reading:
Genesis 27:5 Rebekah was listening while Isaac spoke to his son Esau. So when Esau went to the field to hunt for game to bring home, 6 Rebekah said to her son Jacob, “Behold, I heard your father speak to your brother Esau, saying, 7 ‘Bring me some game and prepare a savory dish for me, that I may eat, and bless you in the presence of the LORD before my death.’”
Rather than dealing directly with her husband, Rebekah learned to eavesdrop and plot. Don’t miss that none of that lesson was lost on Jake, either. He observed that in order to get ahead, one must cheat, lie and use deception.
If you are familiar with the story, you know that Rebekah sets up the plot to trick her aged husband in Genesis 27:8-10. She cooks the meal that would satisfy him and even provides a costume for Jake to feel like Esau in Genesis 27:11-15. Genesis reminds us this way:
Genesis 27:16 And she put the skins of the young goats on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck. 17 She also gave the savory food and the bread, which she had made, to her son Jacob.
Consider mom’s cunning nature – she watched for opportunities to get what she truly wanted.
Think about her demanding nature – she didn’t act as though she truly cared if her son shared her hunger for control or her value system. She was going to force him to do what was best for him even if her husband couldn’t see it, and even if HE couldn’t see it! The words echo from Genesis 27:8:
“Now therefore, my son, listen to me as I command you,” and later… 27:13 But his mother said to him, “Your curse be on me, my son; only obey my voice, and go, get them for me.”
Both statements reveal a woman that had her mind made up. A demanding nature is tied to EGO – the idea that only I know what is best.
Consider her manipulative nature – she blatantly used her husband’s obvious weaknesses. Instead of guarding him in love, she was looking PAST his life and getting her son set up. She was using a WRONG MEAT (Genesis 27:9) and working on the trick with the skins and hair.
I can’t help but note that Rebekah didn’t seem to recognize that dragging a curse upon herself was no light matter. She wanted what she wanted so much that she didn’t believe the plan could go wrong.
Jails are filled with criminals that have the same idea!
She completely lacked boundaries – she raided Esau’s clothing at will – simply to have her plan work. Did she not believe that he would hear how the plan came together?
I suspect that there was much more to her helpin her son. She may have been unaware of it, but her zeal was likely FED BY HURT. Genesis 26 includes a mere sentence that tips off the whole problem:
Genesis 26:34 When Esau was forty years old he married Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite; 35 and they brought grief to Isaac and Rebekah.
Do you see it? It looks like MOM was not happy with the daughters-in-law. She wasn’t unfounded in her complaints that Esau married local girls and that was NOT in accord with God’s stated words. Often trouble starts when a child disobeys God’s Word and marries one outside the limits of God’s Word.
We (parents) can see it, and they (children) don’t want to. We have tears and disappointment, but we don’t know what to do about it – they married them! We STEW (Esau pun intended) and when it comes out – how RASH we can be!
Let’s dive to the big truth here. The default setting in your relationship pattern may be to hide the truth, to fail to communicate, or to out and out lie to get your own way. You must face the wrong patterns you were brought up with. They aren’t the true hand of your real dad.
Early learned behavioral patterns picked up in a fallen world often don’t reveal our Heavenly Father’s ways. – That is important to remember.
You and I must STOP COPING with poor relationships and start SURRENDERING paths to the Lord for a complete overhaul.
Jacob believed that trickery in the service of self was no vice. If he was more clever than his dumb and dirty brother, that was Esau’s problem. Then it progressed as he grew older….If he was slicker than his sick dad could catch – no matter.
Jacob learned to fake WHO he was, and even what RELATIONSHIP HE HAD WITH GOD in order to get what he wanted. It was Jacob who openly used “God words:”
Genesis 27:20 Isaac said to his son, “How is it that you have it so quickly, my son?” And he said, “Because the LORD your God caused it to happen to me.”
Jacob lacked the normal bond to his father, because he had an inordinate one with his mother. His mom felt no need to protect her ailing husband, and Jacob had no repulsion at tricking his father.
Jacob had no reflex reaction to breaking God’s Word. He was not going to honor BOTH his father and mother. The ship had long ago sailed on coveting. Now he could LIE and STEAL his brother’s blessing – justifying it against his brother’s stupidity.
This wasn’t simply “finder’s keepers” – this was IDENTITY THEFT. Yet, Jacob had been building what police call a “rap sheet” (list of crimes) for a long time!
Make no mistake about it; all of us must learn to carefully examine the “default pattern settings” in our life – many of which were adopted from our family behaviors and relationships. We have to look at our attitudes, our attachments, our way of behaving in relationships, our authenticity – and move from DEFAULT setting to RESET BY FACTORY.
We must not grab the pattern instead of our Father.
Real safety comes from grabbing the right hand and letting your true Father guide you.
The story is told that in 2007, a small ship left the harbor in Nova Scotia with two adults and two children. A series of failures on board the vessel, as well as horrid storms that crashed into the eastern US and Canada effectively made their return to land impossible. Blown about in the night, the small vessel had lost lights, sails, engines and its guidance radar. She was being hurled about by waves, with little hope to protect the small family that huddled below deck as the waves crashed around them. Mom and dad were clutching tightly to both of their young children. There was little else they could do. The series of terrible events that led them to this point was now irrelevant. All that was left to do was hold each other, pray, sing and hope that God would deliver them. It would take a miracle. Thankfully, they served One Who traffics regularly in miracles. With no idea where they were for several hours, they were startled when they heard a pounding on the hull of the small ship. Dad went topside and was shocked at what he saw. Nothing could have prepared him for this! Apparently, the waves had pushed them through the storm right back into the inlet, and now that tiny vessel was knocking against the dock from which they had departed the day before. How can this be? They had no steering. They had no way of knowing which way to go even if they had. What they had, was a complete dependence on their Father in Heaven. They held tightly to Him, because He was all they had left. When things seemed most out of their control, they remembered to intentionally put them all in His control. The truth is, that is where they always were. Pulling the rope onto a pole on the dock, they plucked the children from the deck and came into the boathouse feeling as though God just set them down gently after a horrible fright. They were safe because they were where He wanted them to be.