February 7, 2012

Jacob: Scoundrel Saved by Grace

In the book of Genesis, we met a lot of "famous" Bible folks: Adam & Eve, Cain & Abel, Noah, Abraham & Sarah, Isaac & Rebekah.  Then, in chapter 26, Jacob and Esau are born, about whom the Lord said:

Two nations are in your womb,
and two peoples from within you will be separated;
one people will be stronger than the other,
and the older will serve the younger.

Before their birth, we learn, as Isaac and Rebekah did, that there's going to be something unusual about this pair.  What on earth does God have up his sleeve?

The story continues like a soap opera.
  • Parental favoritism: Dad loves Esau; mom love Jacob.
  • Unkindness: Jacob gets Esau's birthright in exchange for stew.
  • Marital disunity: Rebekah encouraging her son to deceive his father.
  • Deception: Isaac dresses up at Esau and steals Esau's blessing.
  • Murder plot: Esau plans to kill Jacob once his father is gone.
  • Dishonoring of parents: Esau intentionally takes wives from peoples his dad hates.

It's a mess.  And these are God's chosen people we're talking about!  Yup.  You've read it all over the Bible, The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  So, what in the world?!

After all of the lies and deception, Rebekah devises yet another scheme to help Jacob run away and escape being murdered by his brother; she convinces Isaac that Jacob needs to go find a wife from within their family to avoid marrying a Canaanite woman.  Isaac blesses Jacob and sends him on his way.

En route, God meets Jacob in a dream and a change occurs in him because 

he personally encounters the Living God.

Here's the text, Genesis 28:10-20.

Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Haran. When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the LORD, and he said: “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” 
When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.”
Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it. He called that place Bethel, though the city used to be called Luz. 
Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s house, then the LORD will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.”

In modern language, I think we can say that with this encounter, Jacob is converted!  A scoundrel is saved!!  A self-centered, unkind, deceitful, sinful jerk is worshiping His God!!!  (Even crazier, God spoke blessing into Jacob's ears and heart before he began to worship Him.)

I'm baffled by this story,

but it gives me so much hope.

*     *     *

Are you feeling like a scoundrel today?

Have you deceived someone, not quite told the truth, lost your patience with your spouse or child(ren), participated in evil, chosen injustice over mercy?  Are you letting yourself be defined by your less-than-clean history, your screwed up family, your mistakes, your very scoundreliness?

Did you read the above story?  I don't know if Jacob was feeling bad about what had been going on in his life, but at the very least, he was aware that he was "on the run" because of it;

and God met him THERE.

Scoundrelly child of God, guess where God will meet you?  You got it, right in the mess where you find yourself!  I don't know what you know about the Bible, but it is the story of redemption from beginning to end.  God didn't suddenly "get nice" when he sent Jesus; Jacob's story is in the Old Testament.  God is in the business of rescuing people from slavery - slavery to their sin and brokenness, bound by the only way they know how to function ... as scoundrels.

Do you know what happens when a scoundrel encounters the Living God, the God of Jacob?  Worship.  Just like Jacob, our hearts are opened up to love and honor the only one who can meet us where we are and transform us into what He wants us to be.

When you're convicted of sin, a Scripture verse comforts you, a prayer is answered, or a "God-thing" occurs, do you recognize the presence of God in that place?  Do you respond with worship, giving praise and thanks to the God of Jacob who is at work in your life?

Dear child of God, you belong to Him, He has a plan for your life, and He calls you His own.  Under the economy of grace we receive FAR MORE than we deserve; we deserve death, but instead our sins are forgiven, Christ's righteousness is imparted to us, and the Holy Spirit takes up residence in our hearts so we are never alone.

As with Jacob, this all begins with God meeting us when we're "on the run"; while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Then the pursuit continues, as the Holy Spirit works in our hearts that we might share in God's holiness.

Fellow scoundrels saved by grace, join me today in worshiping the God of Jacob!

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