The Judeo-Christian Scriptures are a providential recording of God’s dealings with His people. The LORD definitely doesn’t try to hide the failings of His people. Foe example, in Jesus’ genealogy, which opens the entire New Testament (Mt. 1:1-16), we see ancestors of Jesus who were born of prostitution and adulterous relationships (Mt. 1:3,6).
In Genesis 27-40, we see the beginning of the formation of the Messianic nation through which God will bless the world. In this narrative, we see Jacob and his mother Rebekah conspire together to steal the blessing of the firstborn from Esau (Gen.27). Jacob then flees to his mother’s relatives in Northwest Mesopotamia to escape Esau’s wrath.
Jacob, who’s name means “he grasps the heel” (figuratively, “he deceives”), meets up with his mother’s brother, Laban. In Laban, Jacob meets his match as far as conniving and deception goes. They play a cat-and-mouse game for 20 years from which Jacob garners 2 wives, 2 maidservants and 13 children. Twelve of these thirteen children are born in Northwest Mesopotomia, with only Benjamin born back in Canaan. Jacob’s favorite wife, Rachel, dies as she gives birth to Benjamin (Gen. 35:16-20).
One of the most well-known and important passages from our reading today recounts Jacob’s all-night wrestling with the Angel of the Lord (probably a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ) in Gen. 32:22-32. The LORD wrenches Jacob’s hip and we are probably meant to see a spiritual breakthrough in the breaking of Jacob’s self-willness. He is broken of his manipulative and deceptive tendencies and the Angel of the LORD changes Jacob’s name to Israel, which means “he struggles with God” or “Prince with God”.
Our reading today ends with the beginning of the story of Joseph, Jacob’s second youngest son, and the only other child of Rachel. Ironically, Jacob’s 10 oldest sons deceive Jacob (i.e. Israel) into believing that Joseph is dead, but in reality, the brothers have sold Joseph to a caravan of Ishmaelites. Joseph ends up in Egypt, away from the Promised Land, but not away from the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God blesses Joseph in Potiphar’s household and in prison as Joseph learns to trust the LORD in a deep and maturing way.
In our reading, we see the long-suffering commitment of God with His people. He honors their faithfulness and He is merciful with their failings, but He allows them to experience the painful consequences of their sinful decisions. The LORD deals with us in the same way. The Apostle Paul writes the following regarding God’s dealings with His people, Israel, under the Mosaic Covenant. “These things happened to them as examples (i.e. types) and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come” (1Cor. 10:11). This is the Good News of Jesus Christ. Pastor John