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.
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!
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].
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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!
For Thought and Discussion
Link to Teacher's Guide Lesson 6
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