Rascal or Man of God?

When you read the book of Genesis you may come away feeling superior to Jacob, but God saw something in him that man didn’t see and He chose him to be the father of the nation God would call His own earthly people.

He was the younger of twin boys and quite a rascal. He didn’t get married until he was 84 and then he had 12 sons and several daughters and when he was 130 he moved from the land where he was born to an entirely different culture in Egypt.

In those days the first born son inherited a double portion of his father’s goods. Before he was born God had promised his mother he would get the double inheritance but he and his mother forced the issue by trickery. Forcing your will with God doesn’t work and they both suffered many things because of their actions.

At Peniel, God changed his name to "Israel." He wrestled an angel all night who crippled him and forced him to admit he was Jacob, whose name means “trickster.” God renamed him "Israel" which means “he persists with God.” He finished life well, worshipping God, leaning on his staff. He died in Egypt and was buried near Bethlehem in the land God promised him.

God must have loved him a lot because He put up with him for 147 years and then named His chosen earthly people after him. God never named a nation Abraham or Isaac or David or Solomon, but to this day there is a nation of Israel.

Christ could have come through the lineage of Esau, the firstborn son, but Esau rebelled against God and was rejected by God for that disobedience, so God chose to have the Redeemer come through the lineage of Jacob. It went from Adam through Seth to Noah, Shem, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah and David on down to Mary from whom was born the Lord Jesus Christ.

Esau disobeyed God and married two girls from idol worshipping nations. These marriages took place approximately 37 years before Jacob received the blessing.

Genesis 26:34-35.34: "And Esau was forty years old when he took to wife Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Bashemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite:
35: Which were a grief of mind unto Isaac and to Rebekah."

After Jacob got the birthright blessing, Esau married a daughter of Ishmael. Genesis 28:8-9 8: "And Esau seeing that the daughters of Canaan pleased not Isaac his father;
9: Then went Esau unto Ishmael, and took unto the wives which he had Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael Abraham's son, the sister of Nebajoth, to be his wife."
This marriage may have been an attempt to win the approval of Rebekah and Isaac, his mother and father, because it was "within the family." If that was the case, it failed.

Remember the covenant God made with Abraham that “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed?" God promised that the Redeemer would come into the world through the lineage of Abraham and at Luz He reaffirmed that to Jacob.

Abraham was Isaac’s father, Isaac was Esau’s father, so Esau was in line for the promise to bless all the families of the earth. But Esau despised his birthright because of lack of faith in God and because of his love of the things of the world and was removed from the line that ultimately produced our Lord Jesus Christ.

God's purpose for Esau and Jacob prevailed regardless of how unfair or unjust it might seem to us. The sequence of events that led Jacob down the road to his place in history was one of a man who made all the wrong moves, broke all the rules, yet found himself right in the middle of God's amazing grace because he always repented and came back to God.

We can thank God for mercy like that because each one of us stands where Jacob stood! Isaac tried to give Esau the blessing but Esau, in a moment of weakness, had sold his birthright to Jacob. Isaac’s sensual appetite was just like Esau’s. Like father, like son.

Jacob had previously used that weakness to get title to Esau’s birthright. Rebekah also had her own scheme to favor her favorite son Jacob. Here’s the other side of the coin: like mother, like son. This is a family split right down the middle.

God had promised Rebekah that her eldest son would serve the younger before the twins were born. Now she’s going to try to solve God's problem before Isaac gives Esau the birth- right. She may have done it with a sincere motive of trying to make sure God’s promise was carried out, or she may just have been greedy, but she opened up a can of worms.

Remember the story of Uzzah, the priest who reached out with his hand to steady the Ark of the Covenant when the oxen stumbled and the Ark was about to tip over and he died in the process? That, too, was a sincere gesture to help God solve a problem. But sometimes when we say "I'm going to do that even if it kills me," it does.

God could have worked everything out without the help of Rebekah and Isaac. Instead they took matters into their own hands and caused a lot of folk a lot of heartaches.

I have some mixed emotions right here. Esau sold his birthright to Jacob because of his own selfish interests. Now he wants to go back on the deal. It wasn’t fair but after all he had agreed to it. When Esau realized his brother had already gotten his father's blessing, and with the help of his own mother, he was so angry that he planned to kill his brother as soon as their father died.

That created a problem that Rebekah hadn’t thought of. Jacob would have to go to her brother Laban for a few days. Those few days stretched into 20-years and he never saw his mother alive again. Jacob was about
77-years old when he left for his mother's relatives in Haran.

From that point on things were never the same for Jacob-or the whole family, for that matter. He was about to make a major physical move that would involve a spiritual change in him. He went to Haran one way and returned another, not physically but spiritually.

Genesis 28 opens with the impression that Isaac has finally seen the light. He appears to accept the will of God for Jacob and gives Jacob his unconditional blessing and some advice the way he should have done years earlier. Genesis 28:1-2. “And Isaac called Jacob, and blessed him, and charged him, and said unto him, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan. 2: Arise, go to Padan-aram, to the house of Bethuel thy mother's father; and take thee a wife from thence of the daughters of Laban thy mother's brother.”

Isaac warned him not to marry a Canaanite. The Abrahamic covenant of blessing and prosperity was to be perpetuated through a family who weren’t idol worshippers.

Jacob's change began the day he left his mother and father and a brother that was bent on killing him and hit the road for Haran. He went to a totally unfamiliar country to meet aunts, uncles and cousins he probably never had seen.

When he would get there Uncle Laban, who was skilled in the art of trickery, would be more than willing to give Jacob some experience in dealing with a trickster. Strangely enough, through those dealings Jacob was going to learn the hard way what it means to obey God. We can learn a lot about our own encounters with life's problems from his experiences.

Look at Genesis 28:10-19. The first night on the road, Jacob found himself almost to the city of Luz. He knew they customarily closed the city gates at sundown so an enemy couldn’t attack them at night so he planned to stay in the open field that night.

Genesis 28:10-11. "And Jacob went out from Beer-sheba, and went toward Haran.
11: And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep."
He probably fluffed up his stone pillow and went to sleep! It’s no wonder he had a dream with a pillow like that!

I think this is the original Hard Rock Motel! This could be where the saying, “between a rock and a hard place” originated. We probably all have spent a night or two there.

12: And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.
13: And, behold, the LORD stood above it, and said, I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed;
14: And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.
15: And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.
16: And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not.
17: And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.
18: And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it.
19: And he called the name of that place Bethel: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first."

What a dream that was! Jacob's night, with the ground for his bed and a rock for a pillow turned out to be a wonderful blessing. God renewed the Abrahamic covenant with him and added the promise that wherever Jacob would go, He would be there with him.

We know God planned this stop for Jacob and that He also has an itinerary for us. Jacob had a lot to learn about God and so do we. Sometimes it takes us through things that aren’t of our own choosing and it may include a stay or two at our own personal Hard Rock Motel. God arranges stops like this into our lives just like He did Jacob, and for the same purpose. He’s teaching us to depend on Him and it usually contains a blessing.

Through these experiences we discover things about God and His activity in our life that we don’t recognize until we are really affected by it. I can full well testify to that.

I want to mention something about that rock-pillow in a way that you may not have seen before. The Rock of Ages is Jesus. Think of Jacob’s pillow as the Rock of Ages.

There’s no better place to lay your head down along with all your worries, your fears, your mixed emotions, thoughts that trouble you, everything, than on the Rock that is Jesus Christ. How else could we possibly go to sleep with a rock for a pillow unless it's that Special Rock?

Remember Daniel when he was in the den of lions overnight some years after Jacob's time? Scripture says that the king who had him put there couldn’t sleep. I picture Daniel laying there with his head cushioned on a nice soft warm lion, sleeping peacefully because he trusted that whatever God allowed to happen to him was for his absolute best.

When Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt across the Sinai wilderness and up to the Promised Land, God provided for them physically and spiritually all the way. 1 Corinthians 10:4. Paul called that Leadership a Rock, “they did all eat the same spiritual meat; and did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ."

Here's a metaphor: Jesus is the Rock. That Rock is unmovable and yet soft and compassionate. This means that when we find ourselves "between a rock and a hard place" in life we can change that to a resting place on the Rock that is Jesus Christ.

Dear old David was in trouble a lot of times but he always took his troubles to “the Rock that is higher than I.” Psalm 61:1-2. "Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer. 2: From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.” When we’re led by the Holy Spirit to the "Rock that is higher than I" we’re going to find a place of rest and peace regardless of all our anxious thoughts and confusion. It’s like seeing a stairway to heaven like Jacob did.

I want to make some practical and spiritual applications from what Jacob did that lonesome night. Verse 11 says;

First, "He took of the stones of that place"
Second, "He put them for pillows"
Third, "He lay down in that place"

When he took the stones of that place he did something God wants us to do. He accepted the place where he was and the circumstances he found himself in. He took what was available and made it fit the circumstances. He could feel sorry for himself and complain about the miserable situation or he could find a way to turn his liabilities into assets "in that place."

If life dumps you in a rocky place and the only things you have to work with looks like a lot of rocks, wouldn't it make sense to see what you can make out of those rocks?" The first thing to do is "take the stones of that place." Put them to use.

Don't try to ignore them, they’re not going to go away. Don’t try to deny them, or run away from them. Take them and make something out of them.

The second thing he did was “he put them for his pillows.”

Not everyone can use a rock for a pillow. The opportunity, the potential, is available to us. But not everyone can do this because of how we see the stones. How we look at the situation is what determines how we use those stones.

We can blame somebody for our troubles which amounts to throwing stones at somebody else. Or we can let them weigh us down with self pity. Or, we can use them to strengthen our spiritual lives. One thing sure, stones can’t be converted into a soft downy featherbed and pillow. Life is never that easy.

God has given us the gift of freedom to choose how we respond to any situation, any problem or difficulty. It’s available to every one of us. We’re free to look at our troubles as barriers or as opportunities. We can respond negatively or we can accept God’s plan for our lives willingly. Isaiah said, “I heard the voice of the Lord saying whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.” Isaiah 6:8.

Now let’s continue with verse 11 again, “And he lay down in that place.”

Jacob made pillows out of his stones and "lay down in that place." We wouldn’t normally stay in the Hard Rock Motel overnight if we had a choice. Sometimes it’s because of some foolish mistake or blunder on our part and at other times it’s for some unknown reason like Job experienced. Whatever the cause, like it or not, our choice or not, our fault or not, we’re faced with being in “that place." Jacob chose to "lay down in that place" and sleep.

Sometimes the hardest thing to face is how much of what we do for the Lord are we doing in our own will like Rebekah and Jacob did?

We have some of both Isaac and Jacob in our lives. Study Isaac’s life and you’ll see he was rooted and grounded confidently in God. Jacob’s life had weaknesses, failures, and lots of struggles to overcome. We need to know the God of Jacob as well as the God of Isaac; He’s the same God that saw Jacob through to the end. That can be a source of great comfort to the believer.

We need to recognize our own weaknesses and as believers we have Christ's strength in us and our security is in Him.

Every believer can say; "I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him against that Day" 2 Timothy 1:12

There are always two sides to a story. When we try to live the Christian life we’re going to experience both some positives and some negatives.

Here are some scripture examples of the negative side followed by the positive side.

1 Corinthians 2:3 "I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling"
2 Corinthians 2:14: "Thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ"
1 John 1:8. "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves"
Romans 6:14. "Sin shall not have dominion over you"
1 Corinthians 1:9. "We had the sentence of death in ourselves"
Philippians 1:21. "To me to live is Christ"
2 Corinthians 13:4. "We also are weak in him"
Philippians 4:13. "I can do all things through Christ"

When trouble comes I don’t believe a Christian has the right to feel sorry for themselves if they are in the will of God. It would mean that we aren't trusting God, actually telling God He is treating us wrong. If God has dealt us the hand, it is for our own good, and He is with us always.

Our Christian life will be stronger, happier, and more peaceful when we accept that troubles are a part of our life for the Lord. This was true of Jacob and it has been true with God’s people throughout history.

Just remember, Jacob, the man God chose to name His people after, went through a major portion of his life as a cripple but he finished well, leaning on his staff, worshipping God.