“Is God unjust?” asks the Apostle Paul in Roman 9:14. It was a rhetorical question to be sure, but when we read the story of Jacob, Paul understood the conclusion we might be tempted to draw.
Jacob, the beloved. How could God say, “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” Were those unjust words? Paul says no. “For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who has mercy.” Could not this knowledge be the source of Jacob’s worship as he leaned over his staff while blessing Joseph’s sons?
Jacob, the heal-grabbing cheater. He who had connived and contended from birth— into birthrights, into marriage, into wealth, who had striven with God Himself, earning a new name in the process— this Jacob-turned-Israel, at the end of his life must have pondered in awe the mercies of the Lord. Until his dying day, we see Jacob summoning his own strength and power and will, and yet all along it was God who acted in mercy to fulfill His promises to this offspring of Abraham and not to his brother. Every one of God’s promises to Jacob was fulfilled; the land, the offspring, God’s presence, His keeping, and His bringing back. Were not these fulfilled promises on Jacob’s mind as he leaned over his staff in worship when blessing Joseph’s sons?
Jacob —the fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham and Isaac, the buyer of birthrights, the receiver of Isaacs blessing, of God’s blessing, the giver of blessings to his sons and to Joseph’s— in the very act of blessing his descendants, leaned on his staff in worship. Was he perhaps reminded of the one promise he had received that had yet to be fulfilled? That in him and his offspring “shall all the families of the earth be blessed?”
Jacob, the worshipper. Why did the writer of Hebrews introduce this new detail of Israel’s life story? The striving, contending, heal grabbing cheater, at the end of his life once more summons his strength, this time to bless his descendants. But Israel’s strength is spent. He leans on his staff in worship of the only One in whom he, and all we who contend with God, can find true rest. In the promised descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, through whom all families on earth would be blessed, Jesus Christ, the Lord.
“Come, Thou long expected Jesus, born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us; let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation, hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart.”
Click on the About link at the top of the page to find out how we use tiny objects like the one above to help remember each of the 25 people in the genealogy of Christ we will be reading about during the Advent season.