Brother Edward Issitt brought a really insightful message to us on Sunday about the Patriarch Jacob. Here are some reflections on his message and its theme.
Jacob was a man of energy and cunning. He purchased his brother’s birth right for a bowl of stew, he disguised himself to receive his father’s blessing, and used selective breeding to extract the maximum pay-out from his father-in-law. He famously wrestled with God in an incident which gained him a new name, Israel: “struggles with God.”
For all of his ambition and drive, he was left devastated by the death of his beloved wife, Rachel; but found consolation with his son by her, Joseph. He heaped praise and status upon Joseph much to the annoyance of his other 11 sons. The result was a plan by his siblings to kill Joseph, which resulted in his sale into bondage instead.
But, here we have a dilemma, what will the brothers do to conceal their brother’s fate. They devise a plan to take his “coat of many colours” and to douse it in blood. They cleverly take it to Jacob for identification. He mistakenly, but logically, concludes that Joseph has been devoured by a wild beast. He rents his own clothes, and buys into this lie of his own invention.
Gone now is his drive. For twenty years he mourns the loss of his favourite son, and by application his favourite wife. He even concludes that all he has left is Benjamin (his youngest son by Rachel). He is separated from God. He has lost his will to live. He, in fact, seems to be living up to his name – Israel. He sees the lies. He sees his hurt. For twenty years he “contends with God” the author (in his mind) of his misfortune.
It is in this state that he enters into the period of famine in the land. How is it that this man of cunning and overarching ambition, no longer has the means to provide for his family after years of plenty? Simply – he has lost the ability care. He was dead inside.
The result is that his remaining sons must journey to Egypt, a land where cunning preparations have been made (by Joseph!). After their encounter with their brother, the children of Israel return to their father with the news, that Joseph is alive. They are forced to tell all that has happened and upon the overturning of the lie, Jacob is revived. Truth has that effect.
All too often we are Israels. We contend with God. We blame him, our brethren, or others for our “bad luck” or misfortune. We fail to look for truth, as we easily buy into lies which make for the easier options. But God is good. He does not want anything bad for His children. So today let us not wrestle with God, but submit. In that acknowledgement of His sovereignty we to can be revived.