“Then Jacob made a vow saying, ‘If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my Father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God, and this stone which I have set up for a pillar shall be God’s house; and of all that You give me I will surely give one-tenth to You.” Genesis 28:20-22 (NRSV)
From his birth Jacob has been a grasper … a schemer … willing to do most anything to get his way. The second of fraternal twins to be born to Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob sprang from her womb grasping the heel of his older brother, Esau. Ever envious of his older brother, Esau, Jacob sees a golden opportunity to best him. One day Esau returns from hunting game and he is famished. It just so happened that day Jacob had a made a savory lentil stew. You would expect brothers to be willing to freely share with one another. While Jacob will not give Esau some stew to satisfy his hunger, he is willing to sell him some. The price is Esau’s birthright! Not truly realizing the cost and only knowing his immediate hunger pangs, Esau agrees and forfeits his birthright to Jacob.
In Chapter 27 of Genesis, prompted by his mother Rebekah, Jacob is presented with an opportunity to seize his father Isaac’s blessing before he dies. Isaac is expecting his son, Esau , to return with game from his hunting trip and to prepare food for him. While Esau is out hunting, Jacob dons some of his brother’s clothing and puts animal skins on his hands to resemble his hairy brother. Jacob goes into his father Isaac, whose vision is failing, impersonating Esau. Jacob successfully convinces Isaac that he is Esau, by the stew, his scent and his hairiness. Jacob deceives his father and secures the blessing that rightly belonged to Esau.
In today’s reading, brazen Jacob bargains with God. He says, ‘If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my Father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God, and this stone which I have set up for a pillar shall be God’s house; and of all that You give me I will surely give one-tenth to You.” Imagine his audacity to say to God you do this and this and this and I wil1 do so and so. Have you ever found yourself bargaining with God? In this instance, we are left believing that Jacob gets even the best of God, but Jacob’s story does not end there!
Later in Chapter 32, after we read of Jacob having crossed the Jabbok, he was left alone and a man wrestled with him. “When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, ‘Let me go, for the day is breaking.’ But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’ So he said to him, ‘What is your name?’ And he said, ‘Jacob.’ Then the man said, ‘you shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans and have prevailed.’ ” Jacob bargained with God, but in the end God won and Jacob became a changed man!
God, we are not in a position to bargain with You except to plead for Your grace and mercy. In Christ’s name, we pray. Amen.