Jacob is one of the few people in the Bible where we get a good long look at his actions, and his character. He is hardly a great role model, and yet he is shown to us, warts and all. Scripture does not airbrush him into looking good. I find it a great comfort and a great challenge, that God does good things through not-so-good people. I also think it shows great faith, that the founder of the Jewish nation, and later the disciples of Jesus, are shown to have very ordinary faults and failings, which don’t stop God working great good through them.
Isaac is getting old and it is time to pass on the blessing given to Abraham and Sarah, that came to him: land, descendants and a blessing to the whole world. Isaac instructs Esau to hunt and prepare his favourite food. Rebekah has heard all this, and helps Jacob, her favourite, to dress up as his brother, and take her quickly prepared food into the old man. Isaac is suspicious about the voice, but Jacob passes the smell and feel tests, and receives the powerful blessing.
When Esau finally returns, he discovers what has happened and he pleads for the blessing, but it can’t be revoked. Esau has to come to terms with that, which he does in his typical Esau way, by planning to do away with Jacob as soon as their father is gone.
Rebekah once again involves herself, getting Jacob sent back to her family in distant Haran, to find a wife from her relatives. Jacob hurries off into the unknown, carrying the great blessing, and little else besides. We could expect him to have a very troubled sleep by the roadside. Instead he receives the gift of a beautiful God dream (Genesis 28:10-22) where God personally reaffirms the promises, including that all the peoples of the world will be blessed through him, and tells him that his journey will go well, and that God will bring him safely back. Jacob responds to this, by making the stone he slept on a sacred site, but he also can’t help himself. He tries to make a deal with God. ‘If you bring me back safely and do all this, then you can be my God, and I will give you a tenth of everything.’ He still hasn’t learnt to trust.
I believe this dream also applies to each one of us. It invites us to remember that God is with us, that we are standing on holy ground, and that we are connected to heaven and are always in God’s heart and God’s care.