And Jacob worshipped as he leaned on the top of his staff (Gen. 47:31).
And so it ends, Jacob’s long busy life of intrigue and wrestling.
Ever has he schemed, manipulated and deceived to get the blessings which God intended to give him even before he was born (Gen 25:23).
And his intrigues backfire–disastrously. Quite possibly, they slow down the destiny God had always intended for him. Again and again–as a consequence of his deceitfulness, and his attempts to look after himself–he’s on the road, in flight from Esau, from Laban, from Esau again.
Exploiting Esau’s desperate hunger, he demands his inheritance in exchange for a bowl of lentils. Esau now hates him. Exploiting his blind father, he pretends to be Esau, stealing his blessing. Now Esau’s resolved to murder him and Jacob’s on the road (Gen. 27:41). Never again will he see the mother who adored him.
He flees to a father-in-law fully as deceitful as he was himself. Works seven years to be given a near-sighted bride he never wanted. Has his wages changed seven times. Still, he attempts to look after himself, and does get the better of Laban with his selective breeding. And consequently has to flee again by night. His beloved Rebecca steals her father’s household Gods without Jacob’s knowledge, and dies, falling victim to his rashly invoked curse(Gen 31:32).
As he had deceived his old father, his sons deceive him, breaking his heart with their fabricated account of Joseph’s death. He lives twenty years without his favourite, gifted son. He deceived and was deceived by his three generations of his family. Deceit warps one’s character; the deceivers of the world then practice their evil arts on you without compunction.
On the night before his dreaded meeting with Esau, Jacob wrestles in the darkness with a man by the Jabbok River, who unable to overpower him, casually disables him. Sensing the divine, Jacob declares, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
He is blessed.
After that crippling encounter, after he learned his limits, after he sees God, Jacob becomes passive. He gives up his trickiness and scheming, and comes to the end of his life with no more intrigues, no more wrestling. He is now a jellyfish in the stream of God’s will, and God, in painful contorted ways, positions his family smack-dab in the stream of salvation history. Joseph’s son will save his family from famine, will help them become a multitudinous people, and they will return to Canaan with the wealth of the Egyptians.
* * *
And that long life of wrestling with God and man, all ends well after all. It all ends in worship.
“And Jacob worshipped as he leaned on the top of his staff.”
It ended well because of the mercy of God.
Because what Jacob wanted more than anything was God’s blessing.
Because he had eyes to see the thin veil between the worlds, the ladder between heaven and earth with angels ascending and descending on it. The angels were there all along. It took quiet and spiritual eyes to see them.
Because he had eyes to see that man in the darkness was God. God was there in the darkness for anyone to see; Jacob had the holy night vision to see him.
Because realising that the most precious in life was God’s blessing, he refused to let God go unless he was blessed, even if the cost of that blessing was a limp, a somatic memory of that divine encounter.
God blessed him because Jacob asked him to, because Jacob demanded that he did so, because Jacob would settle for nothing less than God’s blessing, because he physically refused to let him go until he blessed him. As God would have blessed anyone who pursued him with the intensity that Jacob did.
And so it all ends in blessing. It all ends in worship.
* * *
The irony in Joseph’s story is that God had always intended to bless him. And if he had waited for God, not taking advantage of Esau, not deceiving Isaac, not seizing an advantage over Laban, God would have still blessed him. Almost certainly sooner.
Because God sovereignly chose Jacob seeing in him the toughness, the pertinacity, the God-hunger to be a father of our faith.
He had the character of a man of destiny, a man God could use. Eager, hard-working, imaginative, enterprising, thinking out of the box, with eyes to see the spiritual world, to see angels and God himself as only the seers do.
God honoured Jacob’s numinous sense of God’s sovereignty, his sense that what was really important in life was that one operate under God’s blessing.
* * *
Oh may it be so for me at the end, after all the excitement and all the grief; the things I succeeded at and the things I failed at; the things I am proud of and the things I cringe at; the relationships which have endured and the relationships which have crumbled; the times I refused to speak to God and the times I spoke to him all the time; when the evening comes and the sun goes down, may I like Jacob, lean on my staff and worship.
Yes, let it all end like this, in worship: I worship you. I worship you because you made me. I worship you because you are infinite, and I love to lose myself in you. I worship you because you are the sea into which I run and sink, tonight and every night, and there I shall find peace, a drop lost in your sea.
Oh at the day’s end, at my life’s end, let it all return to singing