Jacob’s life was a mess. Four wives, thirteen children, strained relations with family, a daughter who was raped, two sons who slaughtered an entire town…some of it inflicted upon him, but most the result of his own selfish, sinful choices. But there is one constant in Jacob’s life. God has been faithful to provide and take care of him and has even promised great things to come about through him and his progeny. He has brought Jacob back into the land and given him a new name: Israel, a reminder that God is the One who fights for him. Clearly God has blessed him…not for anything that Jacob has done, but because of who He is and His choice to bless. And although Jacob is back in the land and has built an altar and called God his God, he seems to forget his promise to return to Bethel, and instead buys a plot of land to settle in Shechem.
On the surface, it doesn’t seem like a big deal, but Jacob had promised on oath to return to Bethel. In narrative literature, the lesson is learned through the characters…by what happens to them and by the consequences of their actions. In the case of the trip to Shechem, Jacob’s daughter is raped and two of his sons commit mass murder. We find out also that Jacob’s clan has picked up foreign gods as a result of their excursion. Probably not a good decision to go to Shechem. Fleeing from there, the terror of God is on the inhabitants of the land (God fighting for Jacob). And God reminds Jacob to return to Bethel to fulfill his oath.
Seeing Jacob’s life displayed in all it’s tragic glory is…encouraging. You see, I’m a lot like Jacob in many ways. I too tend to want to take matters into my own hands, to “grab the heel” and gain the upper hand. I too have a hard time trusting that God will fight for me and remembering that He has done so in the past. I too face the consequences of selfish, sinful choices that I have made. But God, in His infinite wisdom, chooses to use broken vessels to accomplish His purposes. And I too am thankful for that.
Until next time…stay salty.