I don’t know how much you’ve thought about Jacob (from the OT: Genesis 25-49), father of the twelve tribes, son of Isaac, brother of Esau. I’ve been reflecting on Him and his legacy over the past few months.
There are a few things which immediately spring to mind, mostly Sunday school stuff. If you went to Sunday school, you might have learned he tricked his brother Esau out of his blessing, he worked hard for his wife (wives) and he wrestled with God and God changed his name to Israel.
What we miss is a whole bunch of other stuff that is actually reported in the Bible. When push came to shove, he didn’t have a very high moral standard. He did sleep with his wives maidservants and had children with them. He was indignant in the face of Labans’ dishonesty, but previous to this he had cowardly snuck out while Laban was away from home.
When it came to raising his children, it appears there was little to no appropriate parenting – if you read between the lines - looking at the behaviour of the sons in their youth. They appear to be wild, narcissistic, borderline sociopathic, snots, with the exception of the youngest, whom we have little report of. Until they behaved themselves into a corner they couldn’t get out of. This took varying degrees with each it seems.
If you think about it, it took being sold into slavery and an unjustified prison sentence to make Joseph into a man. What kind of foundation did God have to undo if he had to use such a drastic measure in order to make him ready to rule Egypt? Yes, the seeds of greatness were already in him, but my crikeys – that’s a hard soil to till if those seeds needed that kind of stimulation to germinate and grow…
I know more than my fair share of really good parents who have children who are not pleasant to parent. Mental health, brain injury, trauma, all these things can be outside of parents’ control. I’m not ragging on Jacob just for the fun of it. I’m not writing a post about parenting. Even though at the moment it might look like it.
The point of my reflection over this time has actually been the difference between Jacobs’ blessing of his sons at the end of His life and the blessing Moses gave them later on – at the end of his life.
Jacobs blessing of his sons is found in Genesis 49. It is a real mixed bag. My own reading of the incident is this: It seems even though they have all grown up, and the family has resolved the majority of their issues from their younger days, Jacob manages to lay the past at the feet of those of his children whose behaviour he cannot (or will not) let go of. Either because they are still behaving in those ways, and he cannot see past it to call them to higher and better things, or his own internal issues are stopping him from seeing they have grown up and changed.
When it comes to Moses blessing the tribes in Deuteronomy 33, I find it interesting he does not reference them as a body under the names of the 12 men, (using collective pronouns) but individual pronouns, he, his, etc. It is almost as if God through Moses, is going back through time, undoing the hurt Jacob did through his earth-bound parenting, correcting the worst of the “blessings” and strengthening the best.
This is where we come to the point of this whole thingy.
How much do WE live in the grace of how God sees us, despite our past behaviours. Also, how much are we willing to allow others to live in the grace of how God sees them.
These are deliberately not questions. These are statements for reflection. There is a distinct difference. Allow them to sink into yourself and hit the bottom.
Grace does not give us permission to continue to behave in our old patterns, nor does it give people permission to allow us to do so. Grace asks hard questions at appropriate times, and can require those questions to be answered.
Grace also calls us above our past selves. I wonder what sort of relationship Jacob may have had with Reuben (for example) if he had been able to call him above his base sexual self and teach him a better way – Jacob would have needed to show a better example himself as well probably… (There’s so much material available in the dynamics of these relationships to explore)
God always calls us back to the BEST of who He created us to be. To ALL of who He created us to be. Unless we were a better version of ourselves in the past, it’s not often He references the past to do this. I certainly know He doesn’t reference my past to call me into higher and better things. If He did that, I’d be perpetually afraid of myself and what I might do. As I used to be.
“For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” Galatians 2:19-21 (NIV)
Instead He tells me who I am to Him, and where we are going. Only ever one or two steps ahead – just enough to keep me motivated, a big enough dream to have something to grow into, and occasional glimpses of what it really means in the grand scheme of things to remind me what I’m doing is not as small as it looks on the outside. Seriously, you have no idea how what you’re doing actually impacts the Kingdom – and if you do know, fun, isn’t it!!
Living in the now and towards the future is the way we were made to best impact the world around us. The past is a chain which can tie us down. Hearing from God how He sees you, how he sees others and calling yourself and them out to it makes a significant difference.
God Bless You Very Much