I don’t know about you, but I grew up watching “rasslin’” on TV. Dusty Rhodes, the American Dream, was just about everybody’s hero with his bionic elbow. I can remember dishing out a few of those with my friends, and getting a few in return. I mean, you couldn’t very well dish them out without taking a few in return. The thing about wrestling on television is this: it doesn’t matter whether what you see is real or not — it is just great entertainment to us. Am I right? Choreograph it all you want; we eat the stuff up. In the interest of full disclosure, I haven’t watched wrestling in decades. I couldn’t even name a current star in the business, but there’s a good “rasslin’” story in the Bible that is more than just entertainment. It isn’t choreographed, and there is a very important message here.
You find it in Genesis 32. It’s the story of a man by the name of Jacob. Back in those days, you could tell a lot by a man’s name. His meant “supplanter” or “heel-grasper” because he came out of the womb holding onto his brother’s heel. The idea is that he would be someone who would constantly trip up or deceive other people – a pretty apt description of Jacob. He was a man that made his life out of deceiving others. He conned his brother out of his birthright. He knew that when Esau came in from his long days of hunting, he was tired and hungry, so he made sure to be there waiting with a bowl of his favorite stew. In fact, I can just see Jacob, waiting at the door of his tent, with the stew bubbling just right watching for Esau, and just as he passes by, fanning the aromas just so they catch him as he passes by. So, he tricked his brother into trading a bowl of stew for his birthright as the firstborn son. Later in life, he worked with his mother to deceive his father Isaac to get the preferred blessing before Isaac died. Jacob was a man who knew how to scheme and to plot. He truly was a heel-grabbing, birthright-supplanting, father-deceiving conman.
Now before I go on with this story, let me remind you why I am re-telling these stories: they are life changing. Asaph told us in Psalm 78 that if we tell these stories to our children for 4 generations that they have the potential to change their lives and break the cycle to the extent that three things will happen: they will set their hope in God; they will not forget the works of God and keep His commandments; and they will not be like their stubborn and rebellious fathers. In other words, we can completely break the cycle of sin, oppression, repentance, and forgiveness. Now, of course, that means telling the whole story complete with all of the warts, all of the nastiness, all of the flaws, reminding our children that yes, we all make mistakes. Yes, we all sin and come short of the glory of God. But even when we who are the children of God are not faithful, God is faithful, and that when we fall down, by His grace, we can choose to get back up again. And we see that in the life of this man named Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham.
So, in spite of the fact that Jacob was one of the biggest conmen of Bible history, he gets the blessing of a lifetime. It hardly seems fair, but in our story, Isaac pronounced the blessing on Jacob thinking he was Esau. He made him the master over his brother and gave him preeminence, but you gotta understand something. God was still on the throne of heaven. God was not taken by surprise. He knew what was going on here, and He used the sinful actions of this man and incorporated them into His plan because He knew what Jacob could and would become. He knew that Jacob would fall down many more times in this life, but by His grace, He would get back up again. But because of his deception, Jacob was forced to run for his life. Esau was out to kill him. But on the way, Jacob encountered God at Bethel in a dream. So, think about this. As part of the blessing of a lifetime, Jacob gets to meet God for the first time in his life (see Ge. 27:20 and 28:13).
What an awesome moment. He lays down that night – exhausted emotionally and physically. All he really wants is to sleep, and he encounters God in a dream, but this is not the kind of dream that most of us have. This is God truly visiting Jacob. Can you imagine that? He sees the literal stairway to heaven, and God comes and introduces Himself to this sinful man. But that’s not all. He makes promises to Jacob. In Ge. 28:13, This heel-grabbing, father-deceiving, birthright-stealing con-man meets God at Bethel and gets the title deed to the Promised Land. And as if that isn’t enough, he gets the promise of God’s everlasting presence and protection. Are you kidding me? This guy? What’s he done to deserve the same kind of promise that Jesus made to us in Matthew 28:20? About the same things that we have – cheating, stealing, lying, add your favorite sin to the list.
Isn’t it amazing how judgmental we can sometimes be? We fall down, and by God’s grace, we get back up, but we sure don’t want certain other people to be able to do the same. They don’t deserve it – I mean, look at who they are or look at what they have done. But those kinds of attitudes really say more about what we believe about God’s grace than what we believe about their sin, so we need to be very careful to examine our own hearts. But the story doesn’t end there. More tomorrow.