Who in your life would you say is a real character? Usually we say a person is a character when they are wild, crazy, bold, extroverted, or humorous. Maybe certain people in your life come to mind.
But the reality is that every single one of us is a character. We are each made in God’s image, as the very first chapter of the Bible, Genesis 1, teaches us. We are each unique, interesting and valuable, in our own ways. Furthermore God loves each one of us. And he loves us even when we are flawed, difficult, or struggling.
So we are starting a series about characters, and we’re going to meet some flawed, difficult, struggling characters that God loves. They are all found in the Old Testament stories of ancient Israel. What we’ll see is that these characters are very down to earth. Yes, sometimes they do amazing things, but they are also flawed. As we study them, we’re going to find them very relatable because even though they are oftentimes considered to be heroes of the Bible, they are people just like us. People who sometimes make terrible choices. People with fears. People with great potential, which they can squander. And all people whom God loves and redeems and uses, even in spite of their weaknesses.
Today we meet one of those characters in Genesis chapter 25, a guy named Jacob.
Earlier in the book of Genesis, God had called a man named Abraham to leave his family and hometown and travel to a new land called Canaan, which is the area of the world that, today, we call Israel and Palestine. God made a special covenant or treaty with Abraham saying that through Abraham, God was going make his family into a great nation that would be a blessing to the whole world. Eventually Abraham had a son with his wife Sarah, which was miraculous because both of them were very old, and they named their son Isaac. Isaac would grow up and marry Rebekah. God also said to Isaac that he was going to fulfill the promise he made to Isaac’s father Abraham to turn their family into a great nation that would bless the whole world. But you have to have children to make this happen, right? So far, in two generations, things hadn’t progressed all that far. Abraham, Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah. Four people. Not a very big family, let alone the beginning of a nation. That bring us to verse 21. If you’d like, read Genesis 25:21-26.
This is the account of Jacob’s birth. He is the grandson of Abraham and Sarah, and he is the son of Isaac and Rebekah. He is also the twin brother of Esau, who was older, born just before Jacob.
The imagery we read in verse 22 is important. Even in the womb, the twins were jostling each other. Wrestling. Did Rebekah know she was having twins? Maybe all the activity going on in there was enough of a hint? Or maybe the extra movement concerned her, leading her to think something was wrong. She inquires of the Lord, and he responds that she has two nations in her womb. Ladies, how would you feel if God told you that? Rebekah would be left wondering, “What in the world does that mean? Two nations in my womb?” Then the Lord says something prophetic. “One people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.”
This is so interesting, and it is our first clue in the story that we have a character on our hands. God’s prophetic word is confirmed in the next few verses, which tell us the birth story. The younger son, Jacob, comes out grasping the heel of his older brother Esau! And that is what the name Jacob means, “He grasps the heel.” This is a foreshadowing of much more to come. Check back in to the next post to see where this is heading.