Something happened in the family of Pa Isaac Abraham that split the family and sent the younger of the two sons fleeing for his life. It started with each parent favouring one child above the other. Isaac loved Esau because he hunted wild game to satisfy his appetite for their tasty flesh. But his wife Rebekah loved Jacob who was an indoor man who was always available and seemed to have been attached to her more than Esau whose passion was hunting. He was most of the time on the move in the bush after a wild game and Hittite women. These two children had their faults which would create a lot of problems in their lives later, but their parents were blind to these faults because of the love they each had for his or her favourite child. Esau was unstable; he could endure long hours in the bush chasing wild animals to satisfy his father’s love for meat (so Isaac saw nothing wrong with that boy to correct), but could not endure a few minutes of hunger to prepare a meal. He carelessly threw away his rights as a firstborn because of food. He forgot or did not care that those rights came with the family blessings. He was in line to receive the covenant promises and their attendant blessings made to his father Isaac and Grandfather Abraham by God because of being the firstborn son of his parents. He gave them away cheaply to satisfy a hunger which was not going to kill him anyway.
Jacob, on the other hand, was shrewd, crafty, and calculating; he seized every opportunity to take advantage of others in their weak moments. He did that and collected his brother’s birthright in the first instance. Then with the assistance of his mother, he deceived his old and blind father to finish what he had started by collecting the blessings that were part and parcel of the birthright his father meant to give Esau. Rebekah thought her son was just a smart boy who would find his way in life with that smartness, therefore, did not need rebuking for his bad behaviour. It was on account of these intrigues in the family that Jacob left home and was on the run to escape his brother’s wrath, who was quietly planning and biding his time to kill him after their father’s death.
Parents must learn a lesson from this family’s experience. You must not love one child above the other children and openly display that affection. You must show equal love and affection for each child because each of them is unique and cannot and must not be expected and forced to be like the favoured child before he or she will be loved in the same way. Even if you have a special affection for a particular child, you do not have to make it obvious to the rest of the family. It tends to create bitterness, insecurity, and hatred among the children who perceive that they are treated as second class children. Then, whatever faults you see in your children, do something to rectify them before it is too late. Otherwise, they will only bring you sorrow in the course of time.
It was while on the way to his uncle Laban’s place in Paddan-Aram that God appeared to Jacob and made wonderful promises to him.
“Meanwhile, Jacob left Beersheba and traveled toward Haran. At sundown he arrived at a good place to set up camp and stopped there for the night. Jacob found a stone to rest his head against and lay down to sleep. As he slept, he dreamed of a stairway that reached from the earth up to heaven. And he saw the angels of God going up and down the stairway. At the top of the stairway stood the Lord, and he said, “I am the Lord, the God of your grandfather Abraham, and the God of your father, Isaac. The ground you are lying on belongs to you. I am giving it to you and your descendants. Your descendants will be as numerous as the dust of the earth! They will spread out in all directions—to the west and the east, to the north and the south. And all the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendants. What’s more, I am with you, and I will protect you wherever you go. One day I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised you.”” (Genesis 28:10-15 NLT)
That was a wonderful encounter that Jacob had with the LORD. Here was a lonely young man leaving home for the first time, caught up with darkness in the middle of nowhere. With no comfortable tent and bed to sleep in, he was exposed to the wild animals and the cold winds of the desert at night with just a stone as his pillow. Before falling asleep, his thoughts must have wandered back to his home and its comforts; and he must have longed for his mother’s delicious meals as his stomach growled with hunger. He must have thought of the events that led to his present predicament with misgivings and wished he had not listened to his mother’s advice. With those thoughts chasing one another in his mind, he finally drifted off to sleep. It was under such uncomfortable circumstances that the LORD appeared to and made mouth-watering promises to him.
One would have thought that with God’s personal appearance and the unsolicited promises He made to him, Jacob would have jumped up with joy and gladness that he was being watched over, and would have handed over the reins of his life to the LORD there and then, and asked for instructions for what to do next.
But Jacob’s response was a puzzling and sad one at that. The LORD appeared to him and made definite promises to be with him, protect him wherever he went, would not leave him UNTIL (emphasis mine) He had fulfilled every promise He had made to him.
The Creator of the universe, the LORD God Almighty, the LORD of lords and King of kings, the omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent God, appeared to him, a sinner, on account of the covenant He had made with his grandfather Abraham. Jacob did not build an altar to call on Him, but out of His mercy and love for Abraham His friend, God came to reaffirm that covenant with his grandson Jacob. Jacob did not merit this visit and covenant one bit. He was a cheat, a liar, a supplanter, and a trickster. He took advantage of his elder brother’s hunger to divest him of his birthright as the firstborn; later he connived with his mother to deceive their blind father Isaac, an old man, to collect the blessings that their father had promised Esau. It was in his flight for his life that the LORD came to establish the covenant with him and promised him His protection and provision in all his journeys. But though God made those wonderful promises, Jacob still did not build an altar to call on the LORD, the God of his father Isaac, and grandfather, Abraham.
Instead, Jacob made this miserable and foolish response:
“Then Jacob made this vow: “If God will indeed be with me and protect me on this journey, and if he will provide me with food and clothing, and if I return safely to my father’s home, then the Lord will certainly be my God. And this memorial pillar I have set up will become a place for worshiping God, and I will present to God a tenth of everything he gives me.”” (Genesis 28: 20-22 NLT).
God had said, “I will be with you. . .”
But Jacob got up to say, “If God will be with me . . . if He will provide me with food . . . if I return safely to my father’s house . . . then the LORD will certainly be my God. . .” By implication, Jacob was telling God that he was not sure God would keep His word! He proceeded to lay down his own conditions to Him and made it clear that if He did all that He had said He would do, then, and only then, would the LORD be his God! How could a man see God face to face and receive His word of promise that can never fail (Isaiah 55:10-11) and still doubt God and say, “If You will do what You have said, then You will be my God and I will give you a tenth of all that You give me?” It became a matter of bargain as far as Jacob was concerned. “If You do it for me, then I will do it for You.” Jacob by that statement made it clear that he did not believe God. He would go on his way and only when God would fulfil His promise that he would trust Him with his life and substance. Yet Jacob found it easy to believe his mother who had assured him that his life would be safer with his uncle Laban back in Paddan-Aram and he set out to go to him.
Why did Jacob not trust God when both his father and grandfather had trusted Him and walked with Him in faith? Could it be that his father Isaac failed to teach him the way of the LORD? Or did he not witness how God led his father? Could it be that he did not know the God of his fathers? Or did he not believe God because He could not see Him protecting his father who had to fend for himself by telling a lie to Abimelech that his wife was his sister? Whatever might have been the case, Jacob did not believe God; he did not have confidence in Him and proceeded with his journey as he had planned in spite of the encounter he had had with God. Is that not what many of us do?
God has promised us His presence, protection, and provision as His children. In fact, even when we were His enemies, He loved us and sent His Son to die for our sins. Now that we are His children He will do us nothing but good. Why then do men find it difficult to believe God and His word? Why do they find it easier to put faith in mortal man than in God whose word is eternal? It seems to me that men find it easier to believe mortals more than God because He is not visible, and therefore intangible; moreover, He does not do things according to our expectations Nor. He does not work according to our timetables. God does not reveal to men how He works and how He will answer their prayers. In Isaiah 55: 8-9 He says, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.” But men want to physically see and assess a person’s estates before deciding to trust him or not. Yet, even though God declares that the earth is His and all that is in it, since men cannot see Him with their naked eyes and have no idea of how and when He will grant their requests, they prefer to put their trust in human beings who they can see as well as their wealth that they can point at. These give them more confidence than God who they cannot see even though He is trustworthy and reliable. It takes a courageous faith for a man to put his trust in God who is Spirit and cannot be seen with the physical eyes. It takes courage to trust Him and wait for Him to act without trying to help Him solve our problems when we see others who rely on men apparently making it and rising to greater heights of prosperity.
We can relate to God only by faith, not by sight. Without faith, it is impossible to please Him (Hebrews 11:6).
The things and persons that men see with their eyes, and handle with their hands, give them more confidence to repose their trust in them.
Going by the suggested reasons above, it is, therefore, not surprising that even though Jacob had the rare privilege of seeing God (though in a dream), he could not trust Him! Maybe he concluded as many do today, “It was only a dream,” and ignored the encounter that would have changed his life there and then and saved him from all the troubles he encountered for the next twenty productive years of his life.
When he finally arrived in Padan Aram, he met more than a match in his uncle and father-in-law, Laban, who tricked him time and time again in the matter of Rachel and Leah, and his wages that the man changed ten times. He was tossed about by the two sisters he was compelled to marry because of his strong feelings for Rachel, which Laban took advantage of and exploited. These sisters added to his troubles by giving him their maids to marry as they engaged in a bitter rivalry to gain and maintain the upper hand in his affections! I wonder how he survived it! All the while, God was waiting patiently for Jacob to come to the end of himself and give Him a chance to fulfil His word to him.
Perhaps you are like Jacob. God has done so much for you and desires to have your life in His hands so that He can bring to pass His plans for you. Just take a few minutes and take stock of your life and what you thought was luck, was actually God working things out for your good behind the scenes. But as most men do, the more God shows you His love, the more you keep running from Him in order to pursue some dream in your mind. You have encountered difficulties but instead of turning to God, you have turned to men, believing their promises more than you believe God’s! Yet the Bible has very strong warnings about trusting men and shunning God.
“Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man And makes flesh his strength, Whose heart departs from the Lord. For he shall be like a shrub in the desert, And shall not see when good comes, But shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, In a salt land which is not inhabited.” (Jer. 17:5-6 NKJV)
“Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing.” (Psalm 146:3-4 NIV)
This is God’s word and it stands eternal! Why still insist on doing things your way by trusting men until you hit a brick wall before finally turning to the LORD?
You did meet disappointments as the Scripture in Psalms has indicated. People you trusted disappointed you after promising to help you. They gave good excuses about why they were unable to fulfil their promises. You went from one man to another, but it was the same story. Putting your trust in the arm of flesh is like trying to run with a sprained ankle; you will not succeed. Men make promises easily (and they are very sincere when making them) with the hope that all things will work according to plan. They make a quick mental calculation, nod their heads as things fall into place in their minds and they set a date when they will fulfil their promise. You go away full of hope and assurance, already feeling relieved of the burden based on the integrity of those making the promises. But they are not God; they do not know what is going to happen before the time set for the fulfilment of their promises will come. They do not see the obstacles that will render the fulfilment difficult, if not impossible.
However, God sees and knows everything both present and future that will militate against a promise that is made to you. He also knows the limitations of the man of flesh and blood (who promises with such assurance) and his lack of control over certain factors that he cannot see. But God has the power and resources to fulfil His promises to you. He can create what is not available to enable Him to fulfil His promises. He is not a man; therefore, He is not limited by anything whether in heaven or on earth. Trust Him, He will not fail you. Trust Him because He loves you. Take the “risk” and try God today. Wait patiently for Him and see whether He will not keep His word to you. Do not claim for yourself a promise that God has not specifically made to you.“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, And whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, Which spreads out its roots by the river, And will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, And will not be anxious in the year of drought, Nor will cease from yielding fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:7-8)