Today, Joel asked if we could read the Bible together for a while. Of course! He asked what I wanted to hear as he peeled open the creased pages of his travel Message. I said, "I want to hear about Jacob." So, Joel flipped his Bible open and lo'- he landed right in the beginning of that very story.
There are a lot of interesting things that happened in this tale. Lots of God promising blessings heaped upon Abraham and Sara. Then promising blessings heaped upon Issac and Rebecca. Both generations of couples doubted and faltered, hurting people around them while discovering that even though they were total screw-ups, God wasn't going to go back on his promise to them. When you finally get to Jacob's tale, you can't help but think this guy is one sneaky bastard. I find myself shaking my head in disapproval and defending him all at the same time. I love him and hate him...probably because he is me. We all are Jacob at some point in our lives.
From the get-go, he is portrayed as a cheat. He tricks his brother (who, in his defense, is not the brightest candle in the box) out of his birthright. Then he tricks his father (Issac) into giving him his brother's blessing. Having taken everything that was rightfully his brother's, he had to leave town because his bro was fixin' to kill him. Jacob goes to stay with his mom's brother under the guise of looking for a bride (which was only second to escaping his brother's wrath). He met his cousin Rachel right away and fell head-over-heels in love. He stays with her family for a month and helps out on the property. After a month, his uncle says that he wants to pay him for his hard work and asks Jacob what he would like in return for working the land. Leban (his uncle) let him name his price.
If you have ever read this story, you are going to remember thinking that Leban was the cheat later on. But today, I discovered something new- Jacob was given the chance to name his price. And what did he say?
"I will work for you for 7 years if you let me marry your youngest daughter Rachel"
All this time, I thought Leban asked Jacob to work 7 years in order to marry Rachel. If you read ahead you will see that when the 7 years was up, Leban allowed Jacob to party really hard on his wedding day and then slipped his oldest daughter, Leah, into the marriage bed. Jacob, somehow, didn't notice he was sleeping with the wrong sister until the next morning and by then, it was too late. The biblical deed had been done. So, he had to work another 7 years for Rachel. This caused so many quarrels and awful family feuds. Both sisters vying for Jacob's affection. One popping out sons right and left and the other, more beloved, giving him her servant to sleep with, and so on. It was an Old Testament soap opera if there ever was one.
What struck me about this story is that Jacob made that deal himself. What would have happened if he had said, "Uncle, I just want to marry Rachel." Why did he throw all those years of work in there? Leban had already said he wanted to pay him because he was family, why didn't he just tell him what he desired?
I think Jacob did what we all do. He didn't really believe that he could accept the blessing. He didn't think he deserved it or had worked hard enough for it. This happens to us so often on our spiritual walks. We ask for God's blessings and then we don't accept them. We have been given access every day of our lives to abiding joy and the miracles that come with it, but we don't just take hold of the blessings that are available to us. We barter with God, we bargain, or we take matters into our own hands. What if we just let go and say, "Thank you"?
Jacob didn't deserve Rachel but there is the possibility that he could have just married her right away. Instead, he created a situation of toil and turmoil.
What if we just say, "Yes"? What if we just embraced God's blessings instead of inventing terms around them. God didn't put the terms there. Why do we? This is called GRACE. We have already been giving our inheritance in Christ. We already have full access to the Kingdom and love in the present. We are the ones that think we still have to work for it. What if all we actually have to do is choose it. Be present to it and allow God to transform our daily living because we were able to just say, "We want your blessings" and then accept them.