Portraits of Grace: Jacob
Scripture: Genesis 32:22-30
Portraits of Grace: Jacob Genesis 32:22-30 (Jacob wrestles with God.)
Here’s a list of some famous lies.
- The check is in the mail.
- I'll start my diet tomorrow.
- One size fits all.
- This hurts me more than it hurts you.
- I just need five minutes of your time.
- Your table will be ready in a few minutes.
- Open wide, it won't hurt a bit.
- I’m not selling anything.
All of us hate being lied to, deceived, manipulated, or told half truths. In fact, it’s almost like God created us to physically convulse to lies. When we lie our bodies unconscientiously physical responds by breathing faster, our heart rate goes up, our pupils dilate, we fidget more, we use shorter sentences, we blink more frequently. Our bodies literally physically react when we lie.
If that’s how we, with all our imperfections, respond to lies, deceptions, and manipulations, can you imagine how God, who is holy, responds to lies? Proverbs 12:22 get right to the point, The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy.
This morning we’re concluding a series of messages called Portraits of Grace in which we been looking at people in the OT who God used in mighty ways to carry out his work, even though they were deeply flawed. God painted over their sin-stained portraits with his grace, forgiving them in Jesus, and mightily using them.
Today, we’re looking at Jacob. Jacob was the grandson of Abraham and Sarah and the son of Isaac. Jacob had 12 sons and at least 1 daughter. These 12 sons became the progenitors of the 12 tribes of Israel. Jacob was a big deal, but here’s the thing…Jacob was a lying, deceiving, manipulating person. Jacob is NOT a person I would like to hang around with.
Have you ever known someone who chronically lied? I knew someone like that. I won’t give any details as to when I knew this person other than I was considerably younger. On the drop of a hat, this “friend” would lie and twist truths and only tell half of a situation, the half that met his needs. And everyone knew it. Of course no one trusted him and everyone, after they got to know his ways, kept him at an arm’s length.
Jacob’s life was fascinating. He had an older twin brother, whose name was Esau. In Hebrew the name Jacob means the heal catcher or the one who grabs at the heel from behind. Here’s why he got that name. Genesis 25:24-26, When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb. 25 The first to come out was red, and his whole body was like a hairy garment; so they named him Esau. 26 After this, his brother came out, with his hand grasping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob.
In Hebrew this idea of grasping the heel is a euphemism for a liar and cheater. From it, we get our expression, “You’re pulling my leg.” In other words, you’re not telling me the truth.
God, speaking to Israel was crystal clear. In Leviticus 19:11, he told them, Do not steal. Do not lie. Do not deceive one another.
Back in the days of Jacob, being the first born son was everything. The first born son was the one who would receive the father’s entire inheritance and the greatest blessing. This reality placed Jacob against his older twin brother, Esau. Making things worse, the two brothers were as different as could be. Esau was a rough and tumble boy who loved the outdoors and he was a master hunter. He was a man’s man. Jacob, he was a momma’s boy. Adding fuel to the fire, Rebecca, the mother, favored Jacob over Esau.
Let’s get personal. When you take a relationship and you manipulate it, you stretch the truth or only share the part of the truth that favors you …you always have a good reason for doing so. Look at the place I work. Everyone there does it. If I don’t work the system the system is going to work me. If I don’t climb the ladder I’m a failure.
Jacob was a schemer and scammer. He worked everyone, especially that older brother Esau. On one occasion, brother Esau just got back from a hunting trip and he was starving. Jacob sees an opening and pounces. He manipulated Esau into giving his birthright away. Instead of being a good brother and helping Esau in a moment of need He sees a weakness and he goes in for the kill.
Later on, when Jacob & Esau’s father, Isaac was dying, Jacob again goes about cheating and deceiving. Isaac the father was old, hard of seeing and hearing. Jacob disguises himself as Esau, bald-face lies to his father and get Esau’s blessing.
To do something like this to someone… you have to objectify them, thinking of them as an object to be used and then thrown out, robbing them of their humanity and dignity.
This process of dehumanizing someone has been the beginning of some of the gravest acts of humankind. Genocide of entire people groups… mass shootings in schools or a theatre…but dehumanization also takes place when decide to lie to someone.
God never dehumanizes a person. Each of us, despite our flawed portraits, we are of infinite value to God. We see this truth in the parable told by Jesus. Mt. 18:12, “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?
We can see God’s value of each person in the life, death and resurrection of his son, Jesus. Even though God detests the sins of our lives he sent his son to the cross to pay the price for our sins. Rather than dehumanizing us he wants to say, “Through your faith In Christ my son, you are my son or daughter.”
Deception leads to destruction and that’s what almost happened to Jacob. Father Isaac dies and now Esau sees Jacob and says “I’m going to kill you.” Jacob is forced to flee to another country and finds his uncle Laben, who himself is a master liar and swindler. Uncle Laben takes Jacob to school and steals 20 years of his life.
At this point, Jacob is at the lowest point in his life, alone, with virtually nothing, expecting to be killed by his brother…but here in Jacob’s lowest of lows, God comes to him.
Jacob, going back to his brother, is alone at night when a man comes upon him and they fight all night long. Genesis 32:24-28, So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 The man asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob,” he answered. 28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”
Wrestling with God, Jacob only deserved death, but that’s not what he got. God only wounded him and then after that God blessed him.
God has this incredible knack of meeting us in our lowest places. I guess that’s because it’s in those times that we’re not so full of ourselves.
Jacob probably limped the rest of his life, that limp was a reminder of God’s grace. He deserved death, but instead he received a blessing.
All of us have a bit of Jacob inside of us. Instead of giving us our just deserve, God looks to bless us through forgiving death of his son Jesus. That’s called grace.
Titus 3:4-7, But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
God looks at you and me and says my plan for you is not to harm, not to see your destruction. My plan for you is for you to prosper, for you to have hope and for you to have a future.