This is an excerpt from Sunday’s sermon. The full sermon can be found here. Better yet, join us for worship! We gather each Sunday at 11am to worship together. We also have a bible study at 9:30am and a time of fellowship after worship. Directions are here.
Oscar Wilde once said, “Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future”. In other words, no matter how good we may be, we’ve never been perfect and no matter how many mistakes we make, we’ve got a chance, with God’s grace, to try again. There are many great examples of this saying to be found in scripture and one of the best is the life of the star of our Old Testament lesson: Jacob. The grandson of Abraham, the son of Isaac and the father of the sons who will become leaders of the twelve tribes of Israel, Jacob plays a significant role in the history of the people of God. However, Jacob was not always the upstanding fellow that such a place in history might make us think he must have been.
From the very beginning of his life he was grasping for the golden ring of success and trying to get ahead. Jacob had a twin brother, Esau, who was the first born of the two. Yet Jacob follows behind him so closely, trying to get ahead of him, he was even grabbing onto his brother’s heel. In fact, the name Jacob means ‘one who grasps’ or ‘trickster’. It’s an expression indicating one who tries to take another’s place. Tricky Jake’s grasping didn’t stop there either. Years later, his impulsive brother Esau trades his birthright to him for a hot meal. Some time after that, Jacob tricks his father into giving him, the second born son, the blessing and inheritance that rightly belonged to the first born son by disguising himself as Esau and deceiving his elderly, blind father. Jacob is certainly not the most trustworthy guy.
Later on, Jacob meets his conniving match in his father in law who manages, in a kind of poetic justice, to trick Jacob by bait and switch tactics. Jacob had fallen in love with Rachel and he agrees to work for seven years in order to marry her. When the seven years are up, Jacob gets married and he discovers the next day that he was not given Rachel as his bride! It turns out that he has married her sister, Leah. Jacob must then work an additional seven years to get the wife he wanted. That was a pretty dirty trick he fell prey to, but we do not need to feel too sorry for Jacob because not only does he end up with twelve sons between these two wives, he also manages to manipulate a good deal of property out of the hands of his father in law. That was, of course, before had to leave and return to his father’s land because his shady dealings finally caught up with him. For some reason strange reason, his father in law was not particularly trusting of him.
God tells Jacob, it is time to go home. So he and his two wives and everyone in his household pack up and go.
It is interesting that, in spite of Jacob’s shady dealings, manipulation and grasping at success, God is still with him. Actually, Jacob has some very interesting experiences with God and divine things. Jacob prays, looks for God in many places and, in his own way, wants to be faithful. Once, long before this text for today, when he is on the journey to find a wife, he has an amazing dream. In this dream he sees a ladder going up to heaven and angels going up and down this ladder. In this dream God speaks to him and says: I am the God of Abraham and Isaac. (That’s a title God uses that will one day become: I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.) The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your descendants; and your descendants shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your descendants. Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you.
Sound familiar? It might because it is the same covenant promise that God made to Abraham. In this dream of Jacob’s God renews the covenant he once made with Jacob’s grandfather. This is quite a surprise because it means that God chose to bless all the families of the earth, all peoples, through a sneaky, manipulative, grasping, very flawed man……