Jacob Epstein, Jacob and the Angel
For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Matt 7:2).
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy. (Matt 5:7).
As a man sows, so shall he reap. (Gal 6:7).
These principles run though Scripture from Genesis to Revelation.
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I’ve been following Christ with increasing seriousness for 24 years now–but have loved Christ for much longer.
However, I no longer play Scripture roulette—try to find a verse which will tell me what to do and will provide a way out of the maze of decision.
When I don’t know what to do, I seek the face of Jesus and the voice of the Holy Spirit. And then, or concurrently, I look for principles running through scripture.
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And this is one: that what a man sows, he shall reap.
Believing it is a practical version of what Proverbs calls, “the fear of the Lord.” We are careful in our behaviour, especially when no one is watching, when we can get away with things, because God is watching, and what a man sows, he shall reap.
When we have the upper hand, when we can get away with things, when no one will ever know, when we can, with impunity, be mean, cruel or dishonest—the secret good or evil we then do determines the course of our lives, and the sweetness or bitterness of them. It determines the things that happen to us. It determines our destiny.
How so? Because a very good mathematician is keeping score. Because an impartial referee is watching the game.
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Jacob cons Esau out of his birthright and his blessing because he could, because he could get away with it, he thought.
And yes, well, desperate with hunger Esau promises that Jacob could have his birthright as the eldest son (a double share of the inheritance). And Jacob then lies to Isaac, claiming to be Esau, so getting the blessing Isaac intended for Esau.
And God watches it all, and God does not like it. Instead of receiving the blessing Isaac intended for Esau, Jacob goes through 20 years of unhappiness as a hired man, while Esau stays home and becomes very rich, being blessed in exactly the way his father wanted him to be.
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Jacob falls in love with Rachel, “who is lovely and form and beautiful”. Leah, we are told, had weak eyes, which, in the years before corrective lenses, probably affected her facial expression as she scrunched up her eyes to see better, and her posture as she stooped to see.
And Jacob, after serving seven years to pay the bride price for Rachel, gets Leah, whom he neither loves nor wants. He then has to serve yet another seven years for Rachel whom he does love and want. Fourteen years to pay bride prices while Esau stayed at home hunting, and marrying a third wife with family wealth, building up a small army of 400 men (Gen. 32:6).
Jacob is tricked in a way ironically parallel to his own deceptions. He who tried to trick his older brother out of his birthright now is tricked out of seven years salary for a older sister he does not want.
But Laban had no idea of how Jacob had tricked Isaac and Esau. It wasn’t exactly dinner table conversation. But God who watched everything allowed Laban to deceive Jacob as Jacob had deceived Esau and Isaac.
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We reap what we sow because character is destiny, I feel convinced. Have you come across a lovely kind person whom everyone likes? Talking to them you largely hear good things about people, about how people were lovely to him. Were Jacob such a person would Laban have had the heart to trick him so cruelly? Very likely not.
Do you know bitter, abrasive, power-hungry, manipulative people? They are angry about many things, cross with many people. In a weird way, like appears to be attracting like.
The universe reflects your character, measure for measure. Your life often serves up to you what you are, measure for measure. Now, this perhaps sounds like something from The Secret.
But, in fact, it runs through the Bible: what a man sows he shall reap. The measure we give is the measure we shall receive. Measure for measure.
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Jacob whose name means deceiver is deceived and things do not go well for him until he seeks to be blessed by the source of all blessing who blesses him with the ambiguous blessing of a limp, a reminder in his flesh that if he, Jacob, the manipulator, is going to live the rest of life under God’s blessing, he MUST rely on the source of all goodness and blessing for blessing, and not on his own ingenious tricks and stratagems.