Parsha Thought – Vayetze

Jacob Talks with Laban
(illustration from the 1897 Bible Pictures and What They Teach Us by Charles Foster)

This week’s portion continues the story of one of my favorite Scriptural characters, Jacob.  In last week’s portion we saw a younger Jacob, and how he acted in order to get the Birthright and Blessing for his own.  While the reasons for wanting these probably included the right understanding that Esau would have squandered them, he was deceptive in his methods.  This week, the same character traits that Jacob showed to Esau are juxtaposed as Laban shows them to Jacob.

It would be easy to be easy to simply respond, “turnabout is fair play” or something similar and move on, but the reason Jacob goes through these events is not some cosmic karma.  It is part of the divine encounter he had with Elohim at the beginning of his journey.  At the end of the dream, Elohim made the following promise:

Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.

Genesis 28:15 NASB

The promise of Elohim keeping Jacob was not just a physical promise, it was a spiritual one as well.  Jacob’s rough edges needed to be removed, and what better way, then to show him his own character through the actions of another.  And so, Jacob’s dealings with his Uncle over the next 20+ years were fraught with hardships, politics, and intrigue.

But the impact went beyond his relationship with Laban.  Leah, Rachel, and his children begin to fight among themselves, though not with the same “good intentions” that Jacob did with Esau.

None of the patriarchs are portrayed in Scripture as perfect saints.  Each has their own struggles, challenges, and learning experiences.  This is hope for us.  They are not more perfect than us, nor we them.  This is what encourages me the most in the account of Jacob.  The reason he is held up for us as an example is not because he approached each situation with righteousness, but because he learned from the circumstances that life threw at him.  Jacob changed.  This is the key to living a righteous life, a willingness to learn and be changed by the working of the Messiah in our lives.

I think that this ability is seen previously in Jacob’s line, but with him it is pronounced, even highlighted.  It reminds me that while I have screwed up my life in so many ways, I am not beyond hope, not beyond redemption.  It is possible for me, through the work of the Ruach (Spirit) and the Messiah Yeshua to change.  To become righteous like my Master and King.  Like Jacob, this isn’t completed in a single encounter with the Living Elohim, but through a lifetime of work.  Like Jacob, my own family has suffered from my character flaws, but will strengthen their own walk through the course of their lives.  Brought closer to Him in their characters, and repairing the breaches that I myself caused.

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