By Mike Baird
Faculty, College of Theology
Stealing the Blessing
The Jacob Journal is a reflection on the life and times of the biblical character of Jacob, son of Isaac and Rebekah.
Have you heard the phrase, “The eternal child?”
To me, this means that a person never grows up completely. We may try to leave childhood behind, but childhood never leaves us. Even at 40 years old, my young adult years, I was still a child in many ways. (In our culture, young men seldom become independent and leave the family before the age of 40 or 45.)
Mind you, I was a responsible, hardworking man, making a significant contribution to the family business. My brother Esau had already married and moved out of the family tent. He usually pitched his own tents quite a ways from the rest of us.
But some unseen bond still held me there. It kept me from being able to move out like I wanted to, needed to.
The incident I am talking about in this entry of the journal was the moment of transition for me. It was a very perplexing, complicated event in my life.
My mother, Rebekah, called me in one day and told me to get two goats so she could fix a meal for our father, Isaac. She explained that Isaac, who had been having serious health problems, had decided to finalize the will, pronounce the blessing and pass on the birthrights to Esau. This meant that Esau would take control of the flocks and family. He would be the boss.
When she told me what was happening, my mind immediately flashed back to that day in our teen years when I had tried to coerce Esau to give me those rights. I thought then that it was all settled, but as the years went by, apparently Esau forgot his promise, which didn’t surprise me. I would have forgotten, too.
But I hadn’t forgotten the feelings of jealousy. The years had not taken away the feelings of my childhood and youth, the sense that something wasn’t right, deep down. The sense of need for a blessing from my father.
I guess my mother always knew, or at least suspected that I felt this way. That is why she called me in that day and told me I was going to receive the blessing.
As you know from the record, my mother helped me deceive my father by giving me one of Esau’s leather jackets and a pair of hunter’s pants to wear. The plan was to make Isaac, who was mostly blind by then, think that I was Esau and give the birthrights to me.
As I look back, I realize this was a transition for me because for the first time I had the courage to face the “curse.”
Up until then, I’m not sure I had thought about my situation as a curse. But something my mother said brought everything into perspective. I remember protesting the plan, “What if my father realizes he is being tricked? He will curse me, not bless me!”
The reply was, “Let the curse fall on me.”
When the word “curse” came out, for the first time I fully realized that I had some unhealed wounds from my childhood and youth. It wasn’t a curse in the usual sense, with all the evil and darkness it implies. But it was a kind of curse nevertheless.
I protested and almost backed out of the plan because I wasn’t sure my mind and heart could endure hearing my father openly proclaim what I thought were his true feelings towards me. I was afraid the spoken word would affirm all those feelings of worthlessness.
The Day of Blessing
On that day, I resolved to take action. I was going to deal head on with my past. Even if I had to smell, feel and look like Esau, I was going to stand in front of my father and ask for a blessing. As you know, our plan succeeded. Well, sort of.
I got the blessing and the birthrights. I heard my father say to me, “Come here my son and kiss me. Ah, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field the Lord has blessed.”
The rest of the words faded away in the joy of that moment of communion with my father. I believed I finally knew how Esau had felt all those years, although I realize now that Esau had problems and “childhood” issues of his own.
But for me, in that moment, I was facing the curse and seeking the blessing. That is a healing process. I had the good sense to quit living in the past and accept myself as an adult, to think of myself as worthy of a blessing. I truly believe it was God’s doing. He gave me the grace to accept myself and my family as they were and open my heart to the blessings that life offers. It was like closing one door behind me and opening another before me.
I said above that the plan sort of succeeded. As you can easily imagine, Esau was not too happy when he came back to the house and found out what had happened. Esau’s reaction made me painfully aware that my actions had been selfish and deceitful, and had caused pain and confusion.
As a result, I eventually had to leave the tent—I mean leave and go far away. But as you will see as you follow my story in this journal, in the most real sense, the plan did succeed. I did receive the blessing I sought.
I have often pondered how or why God would use a deceptive, destructive action like mine to accomplish any good thing. This situation was truly messed up. It was carried out by a greedy young man, encouraged by a scheming wife and mother and resulted in a significant loss to my brother. Not to mention the disappointment of the father.
You might remember the message God gave to mother as she was questioning God during the pregnancy. “Two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.”
By my act of stealing the blessing and birthrights, I saw to it that Esau would have to accept me, the younger brother, as the family leader. So is this the simple answer—God decreed that it would be that way? But does that mean He also wanted my family to be riddled with favoritism, jealousy, deception, anger and disappointment?
Because it took all those things to make this event take place. It is a mystery to me.
Abraham and Sarah
My father Isaac often told us a story about an interesting event in the life of my grandfather, Abraham. He related to us how Abraham and Sarah, my grandmother, left this land not too long after they arrived.
There was a drought and severe famine, so they headed south to Egypt to find food. He told us how Abraham became scared for the safety of his family among all those strangers, so he lied to the customs officials when he crossed the border. He told them that Sarah was his sister (which wasn’t exactly a total fabrication, but a lie nonetheless).
This may seem like a small mistake or weakness to you and me, but it got Abraham in big trouble. He was arrested and deported from Egypt. It was quite an embarrassment.
But we can all see looking back that God brought something good out of it. Abraham and Sarah ended up back in Canaan, precisely the place God wanted them. I think this incident was the origin of a family saying we still use today: “A broken pot is God’s opportunity to create a beautiful vessel.”
I used to think it was an oxymoron to speak about a stolen blessing. You can’t get a true blessing from God by trickery and lying.
From the human perspective, it is hard to understand how God works. As humans, we are barely able to see beyond the quagmire we live in. We can only see the misery we live in and hope that somehow things will get better.
But God sees the whole picture. He has all of our days, from beginning to end, in His mind. God intends that every one of us live with His blessing. He can even make a stolen blessing become a part of His great plan. He can take a perfectly good mess and, without any contradiction to His sovereign and loving character, make it into a perfectly good life. He can make a broken pot beautiful.
That’s a mystery all right. A mystery of grace and love.
Questions for Reflection:
- Has God done this to you, using a sin, failure or confusing situation in your life to bring something beautiful?
- Is there a “childhood” event in your life which now you know you need to look at from the divine perspective of His wisdom, power and love?
Catch up on the Jacob Journal by starting at the beginning. Check out part 1 in this series.
About the Author
The 21st century author of this journal is Mike Baird, PhD, retired professor of Christian studies. The ideas and insights found here come from a life lived, not from a fantasy world. It is his prayer that you will see yourself mirrored in some of Jacob’s struggles and decisions, and that you will discover the timeless spiritual resources which Scripture and the Holy Spirit speaking through it have made available to us.
Dr. Baird originates from Glendale, AZ. He received his BA at Grand Canyon College (now GCU). His MDiv and PhD were completed at Southwestern Baptist Theology Seminary, Fort Worth, TX (Go Cowboys!). He and his wife have three children and five grandchildren.
He has enjoyed teaching college students for the last 35 years. He is a member of First Southern Baptist Church, where he teaches a Bible study class on Sunday mornings and sings in the choir.
What he has enjoyed greatly over the years is participating in the Ethington Theatre Series as a guest actor. He has been in 27 productions, his favorites being the Shakespeare productions.
He encourages students to use their time at GCU to clarify and sharpen their sense of calling. You are here to equip for the work of the Kingdom. Don’t squander the opportunity.