Over the last few weeks, we’ve started journeying through the Old Testament, and exploring the story of God and His people. We’ve seen how God created everything to be good, and how people sinned by not trusting God. Last week, we looked at the story of Babel, and how humanity had come to a point of not knowing who God is and what He is like. So God acted to change that. He chose one man, Abram, and called him to follow Him. God gave Abram some incredible
promises. He said, ““I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
From this point on, the story of the Old Testament is the story of God’s revelation of who He is to humanity, especially through Abraham and his descendants. Ultimately, God Himself would become human; the Son of God, Jesus, would arrive in our midst, and definitively show us what the Father is like. Jesus was also the heir of Abraham through whom the whole world would be blessed – blessed with the offer of forgiveness of sins and life together with God.
We are privileged to be able to look back on all that God has done, and to see who He is displayed through history and our own lives. But it all starts back in Genesis 12. Abram trusted God, and did what God asked. But that trust had to grow and develop. In fact, I want to suggest that Genesis 12-50 is all about God’s chosen people learning to trust God and to rely on him. They fail and they succeed – but what remains steadfast throughout the story of Genesis is God’s faithfulness to His word.
Of all the stories in Genesis 12-50, the most famous are probably those of Abraham, Isaac, and Joseph. But this weekend, we’ll be focussing in on Jacob’s story. Jacob is the one who, with his mother’s help, tricked his blind father, seemingly at death’s door, into blessing him rather than his brother. He’s also the one who worked 7 years to marry his sweetheart – only to be tricked into marrying her sister first.
Jacob doubtlessly grew up hearing about the promises of God. But Jacob was a self-made man. He would reach out for what he wanted – doing whatever it took to get it. But he was on over-reacher, and was often scrambling to escape the consequences of his actions. And it was in those dark times when we hear of God speaking to Jacob. Jacob was the sort of person that had to learn how much he needed God. He had to learn to trust God completely. He had to learn that, despite his cleverness, he couldn’t save himself.
Jacob’s story is the story of God’s wrestling with sinful man. It’s the story of God bringing us to the end of the rope, breaking us even, until we realise how much we actually need Him. In The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis says that, “When [God] talks of their losing themselves, He means only abandoning the clamour of self-will; once they have done that, He really gives them back all their personality, and boasts that when they are wholly His, they will be more themselves than ever.”
Jacob’s story is the story of how we have to lose in order for us to overcome. Because it’s only in surrender that we are “more than conquerors through Christ” (Romans 8:37).
Today’s passage: Genesis 12-50, with a particular focus on Genesis 25-33.