Engage the Word: Let’s Make a Deal!
Today’s ETW reading is from Genesis 27 & 28. In it we follow the sad developments in a dysfunctional family. Rebekah wants the best for her son and she’s willing to betray her husband and his other son to get it. The Brady Bunch this ain’t. Jacob follows his mother’s lead and deceives his brother, stealing a blessing meant for him. What a shameful act. How sad when family members begin to see each other as a means to an end.
Jacob misinterprets his apparent “success” and continues on with the pattern of selfish manipulation, even in his just beginning relationship with God. The truly amazing thing is how God chooses to work through this mess to bring about good things. God chooses to work with Jacob as the blessed son and comes to him through a dream. It is a glorious sight: a great ladder or staircase going up to the sky with angels ascending and descending on it. If this isn’t awesome enough, next the LORD is standing right next to Jacob! If you’ve studied the Bible all your life you notice a lot of theological things going on here. Jacob was no theologian. If you have developed a deep reverence for God as holy and worthy of worship for his own sake, regardless of what he might or might not do for us, then you see this as a powerful vision of God’s faithfulness, a deeply reaffirming blessing. You would be filled with awe and realize how significant it was for God to visit you in such a personal way. You would feel unworthy but thankful and mark this down as one of the great moments of life. Feelings of doubt would melt away. But if that’s you, Jacob isn’t like you. Not yet.
Jacob’s latest adventure in missing the point is to think it’s all about the place where God appeared. Truly it becomes sacred because God was there, but Jacob thinks it’s the ground itself. And instead of a deep and maturing appreciation for the holy, Jacob thinks that his obedience is up for the bidding. It’s almost like: “Well, God, I see that you’re really interested in blessing me and for the most part I think that’s really cool and all. But let’s not be too hasty here. I’ve got some really important things going on right now. The most important thing is me surviving and being comfortable. Sooooo…if you’re really interested, keep me safe on my journey. Make sure I’m well fed and clothed. And IF you manage to get me back to this place, I will make you MY God. I’ll even start putting you first financially. I’ll tithe. See there, God. I’ve made you an offer you can’t refuse!”
Do you try to cut “deals” with God in times of crisis? At the time we probably don’t realize how foolish it looks. But it’s about as selfish as it could possibly be. But our God is so gracious, so determined to work out his ultimate plan, that he sometimes works with us and our ridiculous manipulative ideas about him. Jacob’s schemes catch up with him. God doesn’t shield him from that. But he also gets an opportunity at redemption. He gets an opportunity to grow up, make things right, and truly be blessed. Jacob learned some important lessons the hard way (See Genesis 29-33 for the full story). But we can learn from him that God does not exist to make us comfortable. We exist to experience the joy of loving relationship with him. If we finally lay down our schemes and accept the grace he offers us in the way he offers it to us, we will find the peace we seek. Let God examine your heart. Come just as you are, admitting how much you need God. Confess and turn away from old manipulative ways. Receive forgiveness. Enter into holy friendship with God. Begin to live in new ways in the strength God provides. God says, “Yeah, let’s make a deal. You give me all your sin and selfishness. I’ll give you a new heart and show you a new way to live and change your world.”