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Five Days with Jacob

Day One - What’s In a Name?

Genesis 25:19-34 and 27:1-29

“After this his brother came out, with his hand grasping Esau’s heel, so he was named Jacob”  Genesis 25:26

The story so far – Abraham, ‘Father of many’, had one son, Isaac -‘laughter’ late in life born to his barren wife. Now Isaac’s elderly barren wife is pregnant with twins ‘jostling’ each other in the womb and fighting to be first to emerge. Esau, ‘the hairy one’, wins the battle but hot on his heels and holding on tight was Jacob, ‘the heel-grasper’ – a Hebrew idiom meaning deceiver or trickster. Nice name!

Rebekah, the mother, had been told by God (possibly when she was groaning at the non-stop jostling!) that there were two nations in her womb and that the older would serve the younger. But how could God be right when the firstborn inherited everything and Isaac, the father, loved Esau more? Maybe Rebekah decided she needed to give God a helping hand by feeding Jacob with stories of this prophesy or maybe Jacob was jealous of Esau’s relationship with Isaac and all the benefits of getting out first. Whatever the case, Jacob tricked Esau into handing over his birthright and later, on Rebekah’s instructions, shamelessly lied and deceived his elderly father to get the firstborn’s  blessing – living up to his name!

God had the plan in hand. Was Rebekah afraid God might be wrong so took action herself? Do we do this sometimes? Jacob lived up to his name as it was what was expected of him. What ‘names’ or expectations do we live up to or allow to define us?


Dear Father, Thank you that you have a plan and purpose for each of us. Help us to trust that you have it all in hand, Amen.



Day Two - Tables Turned on the Trickster

Genesis 27:41-45, 28:10-21 (chapters 29-31)

‘I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go’ Gen 28:15

Esau, understandably, was a bit miffed at being deceived so Rebekah sent Jacob away. There seemed no resolution to the conflict between the brothers.

Jacob ran, afraid for his life. At this point God shows up in a dream, not to chastise Jacob for his lies, deceit and blasphemy - but to bless him and promise to be with him. Wow! What has Jacob done to deserve this? Absolutely nothing! This is grace.

God meets us where we are and speaks into our lives and we get to choose how we respond. Jacob responded with fear, awe and a deal! If God looks after him He will be his God and Jacob will give a tenth of all God gives him.  Amazingly, God honours this deal. A relationship is established, a blessing is received without trickery, freely given from the Father who will watch over him.

The story unfolds and Jacob’s heart is changed. He faithfully works hard, honours his ‘deal’ with God, is blessed with family and, through some God-directed ‘trickery’, with flocks and wealth.

Laban’s family are jealous and miffed so Jacob runs, scared again and perceiving no possible resolution. This time Laban chases him, resolves the conflict and makes a covenant of peace between them.

How much does fear control what we do or don’t do in life and are we willing to trust God to help us with our fears and the conflicts we face.


Dear Father, thank you for your grace that draws us into relationship with you and that you love and bless us just as we are. Help us to respond to this amazing grace with trust, Amen.



Day 3 - Unfounded Fear and a New Name

Genesis 32 and 33:1-11

‘Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome’ Gen 32:28

It’s time to face the music. Twenty years have passed and the Trickster is returning home to face Esau with all that he has accumulated. After all the long years of experiencing Gods faithfulness, blessing and protection, does he approach Esau with confidence of reconciliation? No, he approaches with ‘great fear’. He still hasn’t got it! Again he prepares to deceive to protect as he divides his family in two and sends gifts ahead of him in an attempt to pacify Esau’s expected wrath.

However, he has learned something and this time calls on his God for help.

And God meets him - this time as a man, a wrestling man, a man challenging and testing Jacob’s strength, a man pushing Jacob to his limits. This time Jacob does not retreat in fear and is not afraid to face the conflict. Before he lets the man go, he demands a blessing. He shows strength in place of weakness, determination in place of deception, expectation in place of fear. And in return God changes his name to Israel ‘the one who struggles with God’ – now that’s a name!

And with his new name Jacob leads his family to meet Esau, prepared for more struggle but is greeted with a hairy hug and twin tears!

God longs to give us a new identity and show who we are in him. Perhaps today you could take some time to ask God for a ‘new name’ and choose to live from this understanding of how God sees you.




Day 4 - Grief and Blessings

Genesis 35:9-18, 27-29; 37:3-4,31-35; 45:23-46:1-7, 29-30;(48 and 49) and all the story of Joseph if you wish!

“May the God before whom my fathers walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day, the Angel who has delivered me from all harm- bless these boys.” Genesis 48:15-16


The final part of Jacob’s story is marked by much grief as he loses his beloved wife, father and son. Before these deaths, God meets with Jacob as El Shaddai, ‘God Almighty’ - reminding Jacob of his amazing promises – preparing him for what is to come.

With each loss comes a blessing.

Rachel, dying in childbirth, calls her son Ben-Oni ‘Son of my sorrow’. Jacob, knowing the importance of names, blesses his son with a new name of hope, Benjamin ‘son of my right hand’.

Isaac is buried by Jacob and Esau, blessed in reconciliation.

The ‘loss’ of Joseph resulted in blessing for many as God used him to save lives during seven years of famine.

But Jacob suffered these losses sorely. He ‘refused to be comforted’ – “in mourning will I go down to the grave”.

I guess many can relate to this. Grief overwhelms. Comfort can be difficult to perceive or receive. Some push away this most uncomfortable, unpredictable feeling and withdraw from any real connection with themselves, others and God – afraid of the overwhelm, afraid of the depths - rather than trusting that God meets us at our depths and is the God of all comfort.

But there is a happy ending! Jacob is reunited with Joseph. At the end of his life, surrounded by his family, he praises God and blesses each of his sons for the individual futures God has revealed to him - including Judah the lion cub whose descendant is the Lion of Judah!



Father, El Shaddai, we place ourselves in your hands. Help us to trustingly come and allow you to comfort our grief and our fears knowing you will bless us and long to use us to bless others, Amen.





Day Five - A Name of God

Psalm 46

“The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress” Psalm 46:11


How amazing is it that Trickster Jacob gets to be included in a name of God!

‘The God of Jacob’ is mentioned many times in the Bible. What did he do to be so honoured?

Jacob was just an ordinary man who encountered our extraordinary God.

God loved Jacob despite his lying, deception, manipulation, fear and lack of trust. He loves us despite our flaws too.

God chose Jacob for a purpose and no matter how often Jacob tried to take things into his hands or was fearful at every step, Gods plans were fulfilled and a nation established. In the same way God is able to fulfil his plans through us even when we get it wrong or try to manipulate things through fear or lack of trust. He gives us a new name and a new identity.

God meets Jacob at his worst. Meets him in his most fearful, darkest times. He comforts, strengthens, prepares and blesses him. God longs to meet us where we are too.

Perhaps God being called ‘the God of Jacob’ is to teach us that God can be God of the ordinary, deceitful, manipulative, fearful person. He can be God of anyone and he longs to be called the God of …. (insert your name here).

Through the sacrifice of Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit we have an immense privilege which only a chosen few in the Old Testament had– the possibility of a personal relationship with El Shaddai –



Almighty God we can learn to trust, struggle with and be blessed by in order to bless others.

Lord God, be my God. Rule in my life and let me be a blessing to others, Amen.

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