Life Sucks When You’re Not The Favorite.
The book of Genesis gives us insight into the struggle. It start with the story of “the leg puller” (also know as Jacob). The con-man who deceived his brother Esau out of the most valuable things in ancient life: an inheritance, and the blessing of the father.
Jacob was born minutes after his twin brother but due to culture and personality, Esau was the one who became daddy’s favorite.
And this story is all about how Jacob did everything possible to earn what the favorite gets without trying.
While their father Isaac enjoyed Esau th hunter boy, Jacob watched from inside a tent with a heart yearning for the same connection. There is no mention in the Bible of Isaac’s love for his younger son, but it does state this cruel fact: “Isaac loved Esau, because he ate of his game.”
Here are some basic family ethics: you are not meant to have favorites, and it is super nice to eat with the whole family around the table. But Isaac (who himself was Abraham’s favorite son) favored Esau and cherished eating alone with his best-loved boy.
As Jacob watches this preferential treatment, he does not realize that he is a Bible figure who will become the subject of sermons for years to come. He has no clue that one day his name will be part of what identifies God on earth. He is just a boy, hungry for attention but born thirty seconds too late.
The Supplanter was fortunate to have a mother who heard God’s leading about his destiny. While the young boy experienced unmerited rejection from dad, mom waited for the perfect moment to make her favorite son the one with the birthright and the blessing.
The right set of circumstances were presented and deception number one was achieved. The combination of hunger and tiredness in Esau gave Jacob the opportunity to trade for his brother’s birthright: all in exchange for a bowl of stew. This transaction tripled Jacob’s inheritance, as he would take over the rights and double portion that were usually set aside for the eldest child. #Jackpot
But the work was not finished when gaining the birthright. Jacob wanted more than just the possessions of the father—he was after his heart.
Years later, as Isaac grows old and blind, he made plans to give Esau the coveted final blessing. This laying-on-of-hands would bestow upon him the promises of wealth, fertility, and prosperity.
Isaac wanted some of Esau’s hunting game first, and sent him off to bring back fresh meat to prepare dinner. While Esau was gone, Jacob’s mom helped the youngest son craft a disguise. While she cooked the dinner Isaac was expecting from Esau, Jacob dressed up to look like his older brother.
And so deception number two was a bit more complicated, but for the first time in his life, Jacob would feel and smell like his hairy brother, and maybe experience what its like being the favorite.
Just before going in to the tent where Isaac waited, fear arose in Jacob because he understood how well his father knew his older brother. For years he saw them hunting and eating together. Countless times he heard them from a distance laughing and talking about God’s promises. Jacob knew that if he were to be caught, his father would curse him on the spot! There would be no other reaction. He knew well how much Papa Isaac wanted this for awesome Esau.
But, in a mix of faith and fraud, the theater of pretend was complete. Jacob entered the tent, played his part right and finally received his father’s blessing.
How many of us continue to play dress-up in the hopes we will receive the father’s blessing?
We pretend to be someone we’re not, and forget what God has said about us from the beginning.
Yes, Jacob heard his dad speak words of honor about his life. Identity and future were released by this father of promise. Jacob was empowered as the first born son.
The problem is that Isaac’s desire was for Esau to remain as his beloved and blessed son. How could Jacob feel good about himself after what he did and how he did it? He received the full blessing, but it still didn’t change the fact that his father didn’t want him.
Moments later, when the deception is made known, Esau is furious and Isaac is powerless. To preserve Jacob’s life, his parents send to a foreign land. He needs to get away from the older brother, who now walks as the rejected and is ready to kill his younger brother to recover the stolen identity.
Jacob ends up in the land of Laban his uncle. There he falls in love with Rachel and in order to marry her, he is required to work for seven years as a shepherd in the fields.
He works the term and earns the right to marry his dream girl, but now, he is the one who is deceived. After his wedding party, he wakes up to see that Rachel was switched with her older sister Leah. He has now consummated marriage to the wrong lady!
So he stands as a man out-hustled by his new family. The principle of sowing and reaping is in full display when Jacob questions Laban about this deception and his father-in-law replies, that in his country, the oldest comes first.
Cheated out of love, and forced to work some more, Jacob finally gets to be with Rachel. Then, after years of hard labor and after parenting twelve sons birthed from four different women, Jacob decides to return home.
Isaac his father, Rebekah his mother and Esau his brother are still alive in Canaan. Jacob is now wealthy, fruitful and full of revelation. He has had different encounters with the God of his grandfather Abraham and he believes that something better is before him. He understands that his father-in-law will not give him what he’s looking for, and with one final deception, he leaves his current situation to face the consequences of his past.
On his journey back, while Jacob fearfully prepares to reunite with his angry brother “he finds himself alone and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.”
In one of the most interesting stories in the Bible, Jacob goes toe to toe with what seems to be the Angel of the Lord. This supernatural being is physically fighting with him and is ready to finish the bout when Jacob grunts, “I will not let you go unless you bless me!”
We don’t know who initiated the fight but we know that Jacob ends up with a painful and surprising victory.
His whole life has been a constant pursuit of this ultimate blessing but he does not know any way to receive it other than through struggle. His assumption is that he does not deserve it, but he wants it anyway (just as we all want it anyway).
Isaac’s youngest son knows no other way to receive a gift, for he has always had to fight, outsmart and cheat. He is still yearning for the blessing, the affirmation and the acceptance. He knows deep inside that the blessing he got from his biological father was not truly intended so he is still fighting, still looking, still Jacob.
The only way he wins this fight is if “the man” himself allows him to win. He was raised as the weak one of the family but in this encounter Jacob struggles with God almighty, and succeeds.
He was intentionally wounded by God so he would stop fighting, a wounding that becomes a sign of healing, the end of the struggle.
He got a new way of walking, and with it, a new identity in the ultimate Father. Every step he took from that moment onwards was a limp into acceptance. The man with the swagger was now the man with the limp, and a man with a limp is a man you can trust.
Finally the man asked him, “What is your name?”
“Jacob,” he answered. Then the man said, “your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”
Heaven knows your story dear reader.
You have struggled with God and with humans. Life has been unkind and people have been unfair. You have been trained to work hard for the father’s blessing and you have been given names that relate to your broken past, not your glorious future.
You have misunderstood God and His reasoning for your existence, while others have misunderstood you and rejected your uniqueness. Yet, you have made it this far and God is ready to give you a new identity; You will overcome.
Jacob the supplanter became Israel the prince. This man who used deception to earn favor became the one who represented God’s chosen and favored people. God showed Jacob that it is His will for him to be blessed, and that neither his brother Esau, nor his father Isaac can determine or sway his God given destiny. The Father has chosen him, not by his merit or because of anything he has done to deserve it, but simply because it is God’s will.
It is the God of his fathers who has finally given him the love, relationship, and approval that he has been yearning for his entire life.
We all have a father wound and we are all hungry for a father’s love. It’s only in the place of Bethel where we meet God face to face, that we can be healed and fed by our Father in Heaven. The process might feel like a lasting wound but the limp will become the sign of your encounter and the end of striving.
You are His favorite. And your limp proves it.
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