Useful to God
teacher's guide Lesson 6

Lesson Six

Jacob: The Deceiver

Texts: Genesis 25:27-34; 27; 30:27-43; 47:9

The objective of this lesson: To stress the fact that we can be useful to God's purposes when the principle thing we see as we review our lives is the consequences of turmoil.

At times, we must learn the hard way--when consequences of experience are forced to demonstrate the folly of desires. That is why "hindsight" is so much more accurate than a desire to shape "our future." It is amazing what the experience of 65 years of living can do in evaluating our desires when we were 20 years old. This is not a reference to pessimism of age trumping the optimism of youth. It is a reference to the knowledge of outcomes trumping the folly of unwise desires. Often what we want is not what we need.

What can seem so important to us when we are young adults can seem so foolish when we are old enough to look back and view our lives with the "sight" of experience. Personalize these lessons with your own personal experience. Give your students opportunity to share the folly of inexperience seen through the later eyes of experience.

I am impressed with this: what Jacob desired at the beginning of his adult life and his evaluation of his past as an old man were in stark contrast. To me it is the contrast between "I want it all, and I want it now!" and the later realization of all the damage done by that attitude. What seemed an excellent idea at first resulted in a troubled life. Yet, God used Jacob powerfully!

What was viewed by Jacob as opportunity in early adult life was understood to be the root of turmoil in later life. Yet, with all the misery of his turmoil, God was able to use him in powerful ways. There are two keys to being useful to God's purposes: (1) never becoming too old to repent; (2) never becoming too old to learn.

Esau and Jacob were twins (Genesis 25:24). Even before birth, the two struggled with each other to the extent that Rebekah asked God to explain the situation. To her it was revealed that (a) each child was the source of a nation, and that (b) the older would be the servant to the younger [which was not at all typical of her time].

Jacob and Esau were in conflict even before birth. It is commonly a challenge for people who (1) are aggressive and (2) are quite different to be in conflict. That is true of Christians today. In the Church of Christ of the 20th and 21st centuries, there are few things as "bad" as being wrong. Consider Romans 14--what we struggle to recognize is of no problem to God, even when we reach different conclusions.

When they were grown, definitely men by our standards, Jacob took advantage of Esau. Though they were twins, they were quite different. Esau returned from hunting extremely hungry. Jacob was cooking. Esau wanted some of the food Jacob prepared, and Jacob was willing for him to have the food if Esau would sell his birthright for the food.

Jacob was greedy, and Esau was foolish (frivolous). Both were self-centered, but in quite different ways. Neither would have appreciated that observation.

Two things must be considered. (a) Food preparation was a long process--there were no "fast food" venues, or "pre-prepared food," or quickly available snacks as are common today. (b) The birthright was valuable. For example, if there were four sons, the inheritance would be divided into five parts with two parts going to the oldest son as his birthright because he was the first son to be born. Though Jacob and Esau were twins, Esau was born first. The birthright was his, not Jacob's. Jacob's request was not equal, nor was it a small request! Esau was foolish, and Jacob was greedy.

Esau exaggerated his situation. Jacob saw selfish opportunity in his brother's frivolousness. Esau saw only the desires of the moment. Jacob saw the future at the expense of the needs of his brother.

Typically, the birthright also had family leadership implications. Though God said the older would serve the younger before their birth occurred (see Genesis 25:23 and Romans 9:10-13), neither evil nor greed had to occur for God's purposes to be accomplished through Jacob.

Never conclude that something happened unrighteously because it could not happen any other way. God does not have to resort to evil to keep His promise though evil cannot keep Him from keeping His promise.

Usually the father conveyed the birthright to the oldest son as he pronounced the family blessing near the time of the father's death. Isaac, in his anxiety seemingly produced by the combination of being elderly and blind, told Esau to prepare to receive the blessing. Rebekah overheard Isaac's conversation with Esau and urged Jacob to prepare to deceive his father. When Jacob was fearful of the consequences of an attempt to deceive Isaac, Rebekah assured him he would endure no consequences.

This would seem to indicate Esau was not serious in selling his birthright. He did not tell his father, "What you intend should be given to Jacob." Everyone in the family understood the significance of what Isaac intended to do.

As the result of all aspects of the deception, Jacob succeeded in his deception. Isaac pronounced prosperity on Jacob and leadership over nations and in the family. When Esau came to Isaac shortly, the deception was evident. Isaac trembled violently, and Esau was in anguish. Esau determined in himself he would kill Jacob when Isaac died. Rebekah decided the best way for her to protect Jacob was to send him back to her family to acquire a wife, which she did.

The consequences of Jacob's act included Isaac's immediate reaction and Esau's intent when Isaac died.

When Jacob worked for Laban [Rebekah's brother] for seven years in order for Rachel to become his wife, Laban deceived Jacob by giving him Leah. Jacob, because of that deception, endured years of rivalry between Rachel and Leah.

The consequences in Jacob's life continued to occur. (In our lives and mistakes, be certain to distinguish between consequences for an evil decision and forgiveness for an evil decision. Because forgiveness has occurred does not mean consequences are canceled. Also distinguish between temptation and sin.)

Jacob then deceived Laban in regard to Laban's sheep and goats. The result eventually was animosity between Jacob and Laban's sons (see Genesis 31:1). He also noted a change in Laban's attitude toward him (Genesis 31:2). The end result was Jacob's failed attempt to move his family and livestock back home secretly.

When one does not learn that deception produces consequences, he or she will continue to drink from the trough of deception.

Later Jacob's own sons deceived him into believing his favorite son, Joseph, was dead (see Genesis 37). The man, who as a young man wanted it all quickly, acquired instead an extremely troubled life. When presented to Pharaoh as an old man, Jacob said, "The years of my sojourning are one hundred and thirty; few and unpleasant have been the years of my life, nor have they attained the years that my fathers lived during the days of their sojourning" (Genesis 47:9).

The consequences of deception continued. The deceiver again was deceived.

Yet, in all this, God found Jacob useful. Though Jacob repeatedly learned "the hard way," he learned. Though he could have been much more useful to God than he was, his life still served God's purposes.

At times it takes a lot to teach us. If you can, get your students to think about (even share if they so desire) things they had to learn the hard way.

Never conclude your mistakes are too huge for you to be useful to God's purposes. Even if you must learn "the hard way," learn! Do not fear learning, understanding, and repenting. The issue in your life is not how useful to God you could have been, but how useful to God are you willing to be right now. Serve God! Let the mistakes of your past be the wisdom of your today! Let the purposes of God be benefited by your existence!

Never allow your mistakes be bigger than the compassion of your forgiving God. Do not have your students minimize their mistakes, but to have faith that God will accept repentance and extend forgiveness. Do not justify evil behavior by concluding God uses your evil for good purposes. Consider Romans 9:14-33.

For Thought and Discussion

  1. At times, we must learn how? What is that?

    At times we must learn the hard way. That is learning through the consequences of experience instead of the warnings of wisdom.

  2. Why is "hindsight" more accurate than looking into our future?

    "Hindsight" sees through both the eyes of experience and the eyes of consequence.

  3. What Jacob desired as his adult life began and his evaluation of his life as an old man were what?

    They were in stark contrast.

  4. Before birth Esau and Jacob struggled. What did God tell Rebekah about them?

    1. Each child was the source of a nation.

    2. The older child would serve the younger child.

  5. Explain how Jacob took advantage of Esau.

    Tell the story of Esau's extreme hunger when he returned from hunting, and Jacob's taking advantage of Esau's situation.

  6. Explain how Jacob deceived Isaac.

    Tell of the "deal" Jacob offered Esau.

  7. Explain how Jacob deceived Laban in regard to Laban's live stock.

    He manipulated the breeding of the livestock to his advantage. Note that both Laban (Genesis 30:35, 36) and Jacob (Genesis 30:37-43) sought to manipulate the other to each one's own advantage. This is not a recommendation of their efforts but a statement of what they did.

  8. Talk about some of the ways Jacob was deceived.

    Consider the incident of Leah being substituted for Rachel, the incidents of Rachel and Leah's rivalry, the manipulation of livestock, the incident of Dinah (Genesis 34), and the incident of Joseph.

  9. What is not the issue in a person's life today?

    The issue is not how useful to God you could have been had you lived your life differently.

  10. What is the issue in a person's life today?

    The issue is are you willing to be useful to God right now.

Link to Student Guide Lesson 6

Copyright © 2008
David Chadwell & West-Ark Church of Christ

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