From Jacob to Jesus
Sometimes life lands us in strange situations. Sometimes we recognize our own contribution to the disorder; sometimes we don’t. So it’s always good to review in our hearts the absolute sovereignty of Almighty God, even over the messes in our lives.
If some time has passed since you read the story of Jacob and Esau, you might want to go back and review it. “Then Jacob went on his journey and came to the land of the people of the east (Genesis 29:1) …”
Enter Rachel stage right. Then Laban, Rachel’s father. Then Leah, Rachel’s older sister. Jacob’s family will be quite colorful, to say the least. He’ll try to marry Rachel, only to get Leah first. In Chapter 30, Jacob will also father children by both of the servants mentioned in the text. Does the Bible condone multiple spousal arrangements? The short answer is “no.” But the Bible is incredibly candid. Rather than hiding the faults and flaws of its key figures, the Bible frequently shows us humanity in its deepest sin. The Old Testament includes polygamy involving even some of the patriarchs of Israel.
When God created the world, it is quite clear that He intended for marriage – which is His institution – to involve one man and one woman (Genesis 1 and 2). There was to be monogamy, and this the Lord declared “very good.” The taking of more than one wife was reported as early as Genesis 4:19, but it’s never described in a positive light. The problems surrounding such relationships seem to jump off the page. Genesis 30 is Exhibit A. In a nutshell, God’s communicating an event is not the same as God’s condoning an event.
In the New Testament – in First Timothy 3:2, 12 and Titus 1:6 – we’re told that a pastor-teacher must be “the husband of one wife.” The Bible likens the relationship of husband and wife to that of Christ and His church! In Ephesians 5:25-33, Paul explains this relationship and refers to Genesis 2:24 – the marriage between one man and one woman. But the Bible tells us the truth: Jacob married more than one wife. He’ll be renamed “Israel,” and he’ll have twelve sons and a daughter. So despite the sins of the characters, as well as those of the readers, we have an infallible guidebook in the Scriptures.
Back to Jacob. He’s not the firstborn son, and this is a big deal. (As firstborn, Leah had to be married before Rachel, but that seems peripheral to the story compared to Jacob’s lack of firstborn status.) The first belonged to the Lord. Not just the fruit of the fields, or the animals, but even the firstborn son (Exodus 13:2; 22:29) God reserved for Himself.
Jon Levenson of Harvard writes: “The iron law of primogeniture was universally practiced by all ancient cultures. It meant that the oldest got all the marbles; he got almost all the inheritance. If the inheritance was divided up equally, the family would lose their status in the community. Thus the firstborn got everything, and he had to be the benefactor for everyone else. The firstborn was the ultimate hope of the family.”
Here’s the biggest shocker in the saga: God chooses Jacob, not Esau (the actual firstborn). I suppose that I could say a number of things about this, but this first comes to mind: Our God is an equal opportunity scrambler! The one who thinks they ought to be on top doesn’t always end up on top. I’d also like to point out that God doesn’t treat women, or children, or slaves, or Gentiles, or outcasts (or whomever else) in the ways that we often expect.
So back to our story. Rachel is very beautiful. Leah is not. Leah is firstborn, but she’s not loved. And she knows that. Jacob is the cousin of both young women. He’s a man on the run because he’s stolen and cheated and made more than his share of enemies – including his own brother. Any blessing in Jacob’s life is simply because God has His hand of blessing upon him. Jacob falls in love with Rachel, not Leah. (Uncle Laban appears to be bit of a scoundrel like Jacob, but that’s another story for another day.)
Right after our first parents Adam and Eve sinned, God promised (Genesis 3:15) that a Savior would come into the world. But not just anybody could be that Messiah. God sheds more light as the Scriptures unfold. The Savior will come from the seed of the woman, and He will crush the serpent’s head. (He will ultimately conquer Satan.) He will come from the line of Shem (Genesis 9:26). He will come from the line of Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3, 7). This eliminates all other family lines as possibilities. He will come from the line of Isaac, and not Ishmael (Genesis 17:18-21; 21:12; Hebrews 11:17-19). He will come from the line of Jacob, and not his twin brother and firstborn Esau.
Jacob fathered twelve sons, but in the end eleven tribes will be eliminated as possibilities for the Messianic line. Only one tribe will remain, the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10; Hebrews 7:14-17).
Who in the world is Judah? He is the fourth son of Jacob. But not through Rachel. God’s firstborn will come into the world to save us, through Leah (Genesis 29:35). Leah was not Jacob’s first choice, but she was God’s first choice for this marvelous purpose. Proverbs 19:21.
Are you in a mess today? I’d say that you can trust Christ to redeem even your strangest circumstances. What say you?