Dear church,

Jacob lied. It was a flat-out, bald-faced lie. 

“Are you really my son Esau?”

“I am.”

That was not true. We might be inclined to figure out ways to get around the fact that Jacob was a liar and cheat, just as Esau knew him to be. But this cannot be done. One of the key patriarchs of the faith was a liar. And his father, another key patriarch, was extremely gullible. 

But Isaac was old and vision-impaired, so we can cut him some slack. Perhaps. But if we do, we are forced to heighten the guilt of Jacob. Jacob was acting against the ways of God. “Cursed be anyone who misleads a blind man on the road” (Deuteronomy 27:18).

This can cause us stress because we instinctively want the fathers of the faith to be good men. It doesn’t seem right for them to have so many flaws, and to obtain the promises of the covenant with God by deceit. 

But we really ought not to feel stress about the sinfulness and deception of Jacob. And we really ought not to downplay what Jacob did. He was a sinner, plain and simple. In that way, he was exactly like you and me. 

God was working out his plan by using imperfect people, even in all their imperfections. This is the only kind of people God had available to work with, after all. The apostle Paul wrote, “All have sinned …” (Romans 3:23).

The power and grace of God emerges in the fact he uses weak and sinful people to accomplish his purposes. God chose one man – Abraham, also flawed – and decided to imbed his promises for humanity in him. Abraham and his flawed family would carry those promises into the future – all the way to the Messiah, and beyond. 

One of the interesting things about Jesus is he emerged from this sinful lineage. Jacob is mentioned in the very first verses of Jesus’ genealogy (Matthew 1:2). King David also is mentioned, and he was a murderer and an adulterer. In fact, every name in the list of Jesus’ ancestors was the name of a sinner. 

If we really looked into their lives, we would cancel them.

But again, God was working in and through the lives of these sinful people to bring his good purposes to fruition in Jesus Christ. God doesn’t want us to remain sinners, of course. He wants us to walk away from our sinful lifestyles, regardless of what form they take (John 8:11). 

We ought not to feel like God won’t work in our lives until we clean up our acts. As Genesis 27 shows us, God can use anything or anyone to bring his good plans to bear. And his good plans are for his chosen people to become free of sin and death and to walk in harmony with him for eternity. 

God understands our frailty and failures, and he chooses to enter into our lives anyway.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Corinthians 4:7).

Another way to look at this passage is to “zoom out” and consider it from the big picture. God chose Jacob before he was born. The older brother, God had said, would serve the younger brother (Genesis 25:23). Esau, who was born first, would serve Jacob.

One of the more common ways to view this text is to recognize it as foreshadowing the way in which the Christ came along later, after Israel had been in existence for thousands of years. Christ and his church become the younger brother here – and, yes, the church is a brother with many flaws. 

The point is that right standing with God is not simply a matter of “human will or exertion” – or even birth order (Romans 9:16 – please read all of Romans 9-11 when you have a chance). Instead, it is a matter of faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

These are just some things to think about as you consider this chapter.


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