Thursday, November 22, 2012

Jacob's Daddy Issues - Session 5

A couple weeks ago we concluded Session 5 of  the Great Adventure Bible Timeline Catholic Bible Study - The Study of Salvation. I got through the entire book of Genesis! Yeah, that feels pretty good. For the first time in my life I can honestly say that I have learned more about our Biblical Patriarchs than ever before. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and his 11 brothers - their strengths and their weaknesses... how they were so human and flawed, just like us. How they trusted in God, and sometimes doubted God. Their lives were messy and complicated and God was with them every step of the way, drawing them into a deeper relationship with Him.

One really interesting theme from this session is the life of Jacob and his relationship with his father. While the Bible doesn't go into too many specifics of the dynamics, I don't think it is a stretch to "read between the lines" and to suggest that Jacob had to have some real issues and insecurities that he probably struggled with for his entire life. The kind of wounds that only God can heal.

Let's take a brief look at Jacob's bio. His dad, Isaac, at the age of 40, was overtaken by Rebekah's beauty, and he married her, and he loved her. After struggling with infertility for almost 20 years the Lord God heard Isaac's prayers and granted them... double! Rebekah was blessed with twins. Esau and Jacob, who battled from the start, in utero. Esau was the first born, ruled by his passions and often profane, yet favored by his father. Jacob, the younger twin, quiet and cunning, he was his mother's favorite child. How it must have hurt him to sense that his father loved his older brother more than him. He probably spent many hours in vain as a young boy trying to gain the approval and affection of his father, to no avail. All little boys want to be loved by their father and be the "favorite one".

As the boys grew older, they did not grow closer. Jacob ended up "buying" his brother's birthright for a bowl of stew, after Esau was clouded with famine due to a day of hunting and so hungry that he could not think straight. This essentially doubled Jacob's inheritance, and he would take over the rights that were usually set aside for the eldest child. Later, after their dad, Isaac, grew old and blind, he made plans to call Esau in for the coveted final blessing, which would bestow him with the promises of wealth, fertility, and prosperity. His dad wanted some of his good hunting game first, however, and sent him off to bring back fresh meat to prepare a delicious dinner. While Esau was gone, Jacob's mom helped him craft a disguise where he would pretend to be his brother. And to top it off, she would prepare the dinner, exactly to Isaac's liking, as she knew perfectly well how to do, and then Jacob would pretend to be his brother, pretend to have hunted and cooked a special meal for his dad, and then steal the blessing away from Esau! Jacob was scared he would be caught, but his mother encouraged him. It wasn't easy, but he received his father's blessing through deceit and fraud. How could he feel good about himself after what he did and how he did it? He had received the blessing, sure enough, but it still didn't change the fact that his father didn't want HIM, he wanted his brother, Esau to be his beloved and blessed son! And not only that, but when Esau figured out what happened, he wanted to kill Jacob. The Bible doesn't tell us how his father felt about all this specifically, except that he trembled violently and recognized that his younger son acted with guile. We can only imagine the anger and bitter disappointment that Isaac felt for his failure and loser of a son, Jacob, who ends up fleeing the house so his brother won't murder him. This was not a good scene!

After things have cooled off a bit, Jacob is blessed again and sent away by his father and mother to the Northern land of Haran to find a wife. He eventually sees his young woman/cousin named Rachel and wants to marry her, he agrees to work for her for 7 years. On their wedding night, his Uncle, Laban, "switches" his youngest daughter, Rachel, with his oldest daughter, Leah. So, Jacob wakes up in the morning to see that Rachel was "switched" with her older sister Leah and he has now married and consummated marriage to the wrong woman! When questioned, Laban replies that in his country, the oldest comes first! (Talk about What Comes Around Goes Around!) Jacob was getting a taste of his own medicine. He works 7 more years for the woman that he originally wanted. One can't read this without knowing that somewhere in this life experience God is trying to teach an important lesson to Jacob, however, through it all, Jacob still has the blessing and it is all part of God's important plan.

Jacob goes on to father 12 sons with Rachel and Leah, who will become the Fathers of the 12 tribes of Israel. He later reunites with his brother, Esau.

The day before the two brothers are about to reunite after many years of estrangement, when at Peniel, Jacob encounters a mysterious supernatural being (an angel in human shape who represents the Son of God) who battles with him for his life throughout the night. Jacob is wrestling with God! Is he angry with God because of the lost relationship with his own dad? Clearly he has divine assistance while fighting the angel, as no mere mortal human would have the strength to hold back one of God's angels.  God is showing Jacob that it is HIS will, and that neither his brother Esau, nor his father can determine or sway his God given destiny. God has chosen him, not by his merit or because of anything he has done to deserve it, but simply because it is God's will. When the angel says "Let me go, for the day is breaking." Jacob replies, "I will not let you go, until you bless me." What a peculiar response. He is still yearning for the blessing, the affirmation and the acceptance from someone, anyone, from The Father, because deep inside he knows that the actual blessing he got from his biological father was not truly intended or deserved. He must have deep seated insecurities and inadequacies and this is why he wrestles with God in this cryptic bible passage in Genesis 32:22-32. Jacob is then blessed by God and is given the name of Israel. He has seen God (or at least one of his angels) face to face, has lived to tell of it, has been humbled by being "touched on the thigh" and wounded by God, and ultimately healed by God, who has provided him with the fatherly love, relationship, and approval that he has been yearning for his entire life. He has truly earned his blessing this time. How fulfilling this must have felt for Jacob.

For those of you who can relate to Jacob because of lack of parental approval or affection, I think God can heal and make us whole again. He can provide meaning to our suffering and an ultimate plan for our lives. I know it is hard to imagine that He loves us even more than our parents, spouses, and our closest family and friends, but this thought provides me comfort at times when I am sad.

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