Another way to figure this out would be to compare the stories of Isaac and Jacob. You can look them up in the book of Genesis; that first big, long book in the Bible. Not only will you find their stories quite compelling; you’ll also find the details very clarifying. In a nutshell, Isaac lived like there was a God, and Jacob didn’t (at least for the first half or so of his life).
Check out the Contrast…
Contrast one: Isaac and Jacob were both second born boys who were told by their parents that they were to receive the blessing and destiny of God as firstborns. Why? Because God said so. So check out Isaac. Most memorable was his willingness to get up on an altar and let his dad slit his throat—and all the while knowing he was the one through whom there’d be a great nation someday. Isaac never fought for nor tried to protect what God said was his. He knew… even if he died… God was God and he’d get what was coming.
Jacob on the other-hand sought to play God (the logical outcome of not believing in God). God had said he’d be blessed as the firstborn, so Jacob went to work for himself. First he swindled his hungry brother out of his birthright, and then, with mother’s help, impostor-ed as his older brother and faked his way into the birthright, lying to his father’s face. Jacob was sure God had said this was his, he just didn’t get that what God promises, God means to deliver.
Keep reading on and you’ll find that right after this big deception, Jacob, having run away for fear of death (by, of course, his angry brother) actually prayed to the affect of ‘if you bring me back here safe and blah, blah, blah, and blah, blah, blah (a string of conditions) you can be my God, God!’ Hummm… and who’s playing the part of God in that conversation?
Isaac and Jacob both wanted to marry. Isaac’s father’s servant prayed and headed out to pick a wife for Isaac. And what did Isaac do? Hung around home and waited. If you read this part of the story you’ll see that God honored the servant’s faith and Isaac’s new wife made him happy and consoled him after his mom’s death, how nice. Talk about trusting.
Jacob, on the other hand, was asked by his uncle if there was anything he could give him in return for all the work he’d been doing, and this is when Jacob made that famous offer to WORK for seven years to get the wife he wanted. Instead of responding to the offer with a yes, I’d like your daughter’s hand in marriage, it seems Jacob thought he had to earn that wife, and here was his downfall. His request was taken to heart by his greedy uncle Laban—who couldn’t have dreamed up such a plan if he’d tried—and in the end Jacob worked 14 years and was tricked into marrying two sisters. (No truer recipe for disaster.)
Isaac and Jacob and their careers. Isaac and Jacob were both quite wealthy. But the Bible points out that Isaac was blessed and then blessed again. And you read how jealous and greedy neighbors took over Isaac’s wells and pastures, and what did Isaac do? He moved to a new location and became even more successful. Even Isaac’s enemies eventually came begging to make peace with him because they could tell Isaac was only going to get stronger—and he was a good man.
And for the blessings on Isaac, a man who never fought to become successful and wealthy, Jacob became wealthy by manipulation and deception (again). He used the techniques of his times to grow big herds of strong animals for himself at the expense of his uncle’s flocks. He made it happen, arranging the breeding of the animals, stacking the deck in his favor. You definitely get the sense that this was Jacob’s Modus Operandi—manipulation. When he wanted to return to his father’s house, he waited until his father-in-law was gone, rushing away without a farewell.
And so the list could go on. You’ve actually got to go read this all for yourself to get the full depth of things. Like how much pain and conflict and separation Jacob endured for all his self-made-man decisions and manipulative workings. Not only will you see yourself in Jacob, but you will also see how God finally reaches him—and us. Ultimately, God comes face to face with the striver in a wrestling match. Yes, and then at Jacob’s plea, God blesses him.
And what a blessing it was! God gave Jacob a blessing in the form of a new name. Jacob’s name literally meant heel-holder, or supplanter (striver or grasper), so God renamed Jacob, calling him Israel. And do you know what Israel means? God Prevails. Indeed.
Clarissa Worley writes from the Pacific Northwest.
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