Chronicled in Genesis
Jacob means “heel” or “supplanter.” That should tell you where this story is going right away. Jacob was born a few seconds behind his brother Esau. The feisty young’en was so intent on getting a blessing—even in the womb—that he came out clasping his brother’s ankle trying to be born first (the firstborn always got the birthright).
Jacob lived up to his name in spades. In an elaborate plot concocted by his mother Rebekah, who favored him, Jacob gained his aged and blind father Isaac’s blessing. Jacob also swindled Esau out of his birthright for what essentially amounted to a bowl of soup. The man thought he was taking the easy route toward favor. He found out the hard way that shortcuts never pay off and deceit always has consequences. Esau was enraged at his brother’s actions and plotted to kill him. Rebekah sent him to her brother Laban’s house in Haran.
As I touched on in the discussion of Leah, Jacob was duped by Laban into serving fourteen years for the love of his life, Rachel. Talk about a taste of your own medicine. Laban also changed Jacob’s wages throughout this time in an effort to keep Jacob’s flocks from outnumbering his own. Jacob did indeed reap a penalty for his deceit, but God chose to honor the blessing his father gave him in spite of his former ways. Jacob’s flocks, and therefore his riches, kept growing, much to Laban’s chagrin.
Tensions began to mount between Laban and Jacob. Jacob loaded up his entire family and began the trek back to his native Canaan, where he feared an angry Esau awaited. To try to smooth over his past discretions, Jacob sent a tribute of flocks and herds as a peace offering. During these travels, Jacob had a peculiar night in which he encountered an angel of the Lord. The two wrestled from dusk until daybreak. The angel eventually touched Jacob’s hip socket, giving him a permanent limp and constant reminder of his struggle with the Lord.
Jacob demanded a blessing. He was obsessed with the idea of blessing. But, you have to admire a man who places a blessing in that high a regard. I think God honored that in some respect. The angel changed his name to Israel (loosely interpreted as “struggles with God”).
Israel did meet back up with Esau and the two mended fences, so to speak. They even buried their father together. Israel also saw his own family reunited after years apart. Years of sown discord had caused him to bear great pain, but, as he grew in God, Israel eventually enjoyed the blessing he fought so hard for so many years earlier. As time wore on, the old Jacob sort of melted away, leaving Israel behind. He became a revered man of character in his old age. He is now referred to as a Hebrew patriarch.
So, how do we triumph in the midst of trial? Let the Lord keep working. He’ll perfect you.