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Jacob Gen 28; 10-17 Gen 35; 9-15
Someone could ask if it is possible for man to secure the blessings of God solely through their own efforts; or perhaps, if a believer has to cling to God, and completely lean on Him in order to receive His blessings. More often than not, believers find themselves in situations whereby they are forced to fight the temptation to rely on their own 'guts' regarding temporal things, and to God when their own attempts fail. The scripture brings out plentiful illustrations of this. One of the most significant instances is documented in Genesis 32 where Jacob wrestles with God in an attempt to ensure the security of his blessings.
The Book of Genesis is surrounded by a great deal of conflict, with most people arguing that the text is complicated, and that the book comes out as if it was woven out of different threads obtained from diverse sources. Vawter (2013), however, argues that such thinking only denies a reader the opportunity to draw coherent application principles from the text - if people "take the claim of scripture seriously that Genesis, as all scripture, is part of the revelation of God in Christ," then they will obviously find value in the content (Vawter, 2013, p. 106).
Genesis 28:10-17 and Genesis 35:9-15, the two accounts that form the basis of this text, reverberate with most believers (Vawter, 2013). It is natural for humans to desire God's blessings but it, in most cases, proves difficult to grasp such blessings because of "man's constant struggle to earn the blessings for himself rather than trusting God to provide it" (Vawter, 2013, p. 105). No one illustrates this better than Jacob who, rather than trusting God to fulfill His promises, finds himself helping Him along (Kim, 2012). Even before Jacob was born, God had predicted that he (Jacob), and not his twin brother Esau, would receive their father's promise (DeLashmutt, 2014). Jacob bests Esau twice; first, he "takes advantage of Esau's intense anger and cons him into selling his birthright for a bowl of stew," and secondly, he takes advantage of his father's old age, cooks up a scheme posing as Esau, and receives what was meant to be Esau's blessing from his father (GSLC, n.d.). Of significance is that Jacob "steals the blessing by his own means, rather than waiting on God," to keep His word. In so doing, he brings upon himself Esau's wrath, and is then forced to flee to the land of Haran where his uncle Laban lived (GSLC, n.d.).
God meets Jacob at Bethel and reassures him that not only would he be blessed, but he would also return safely to his home (Gen 28:11-19) (DeLashmutt, 2014). Jacob vows to give to God a tenth of his income, to sanctify the headstone upon which he had rested his head, and to make the Lord his only God (Kim, 2012). However, "even after this incredible eye-opening experience with God, Jacob still tried to secure his own blessings by deception and craftiness towards Laban" (Vawter, 2013, p. 106).
For the next 20 years, Jacob lived in Haran. God kept His word; He was with Jacob, led him to prosperity in terms of wealth and family (Gen 29-30), and kept him safe from Esau, who was coming to meet him (Gen 32-33), and from Laban, who was pursuing him (Gen 31) (Wessner, 2000). Jacob, on the other hand, had not bothered to return to Bethel where he had made his vow (Wessner, 2000). It becomes apparent that Jacob has forgotten his vow, and God, in Genesis 35:1 commands him to go back to Bethel (Wessner, 2000).
These two accounts reinforce a number of theological themes. To begin with, Genesis 28:10-17 illustrates that sin separates believers from God and makes them uncertain about their future (GSLC, n.d.). Jacob had a lot on his mind as he left for Haran, finding himself in a strange valley by nightfall. Jacob must have come to the realization that he was paying for his sinful, deceitful deeds. He was very certain of his sinfulness, and was separated not only from his family, but from God as well (GSLC, n.d.). Many are times human beings put their desires above others, or like Jacob, help others out, hoping to get something…[continue]
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