By Mike Baird
Faculty, College of Theology
The Freedom of the Blessed
The Jacob Journal is a reflection on the life and times of the biblical character of Jacob, son of Isaac and Rebekah.
Was it a coincidence that I left home for the first time only after I had received a blessing from my father? I had never been away from the tent more than a day at a time and then seldom had I ventured far.
Although I had stolen the blessing and had to leave in a hurry to try to escape the murderous wrath of my brother, Esau, I still felt a strange assurance. I was afraid of what Isaac might think, afraid of what might meet me on the journey, but still not afraid to leave, to be out on my own.
This was the first time I had no fear of being away from my father.
The way it happened was strange indeed. That day, when I left the presence of my father with his blessing, I couldn’t help but stay close to the tent to hear what would happen when Esau returned.
I heard father say something, probably telling Esau that the blessing and birthrights were already given. I distinctly heard Esau exclaim, “Bless me! Bless me, also, oh my father!”
And Esau cried – for the first time in his life, Esau cried. At least, I had never heard him cry before. But I knew how he felt. I was crying, too.
I’m not sure if I cried for joy or out of some sadness. I remember feeling both at the time. I had the birthright and blessing, but I had offended my brother deeply.
At first, there was a wicked sense of delight. In my own self-centeredness, I couldn’t understand why Esau would miss the birthrights. He had been so flippant and careless about them in his youth. It seemed natural to me that he wouldn’t, or shouldn’t, care about what I did to deceive Isaac and steal the blessing.
But Esau’s tears brought profound sadness.
It occurred to me that all sons, all children, want the blessing. The blessing is not intended just for the most deserving or the neediest, but for all the children of the family.
Family is not x and y and z living in the same tent. The family is x + y + z, individuals whose lives flow together and get all mixed up in one another. It seems obvious that you can’t exclude one from the blessing without bringing a curse on all.
I cried from sadness that my brother was feeling the pain I had felt and that I had, in a way, caused it.
Then, over Esau’s sobs, I heard my father give a blessing of sorts.
“You shall not have the blessing of the dew and the rain, but you shall serve your younger brother. BUT WHEN YOU BECOME RESTLESS, YOU SHALL BREAK HIS YOKE FROM YOUR NECK.”
When I heard those words, I knew instantly that they were not only for Esau, but for me as well. It was the “restless” and “break the yoke” parts.
Isaac was giving Esau permission to leave and find his own life if that is what he needed to do. Isaac was no longer able to give Esau any kind of blessing that would help him, but he was able to give Esau his freedom.
And there I was, standing outside the tent, feeling the power of that strangely liberating word. The curse that had been mine for so long was losing its grip. The child bound inside of me was starting to break the chains.
My restless, conniving, blessing-stealing soul was being set free. I still loved my mother, and at long last I was at peace with my father, but I knew in that moment that I was ready to leave home. I knew I was ready to move out like Esau had moved out.
It is a curious thing to observe. My cousin Bethuel (named after the great patriarch of my mother’s family) was the Esau of his family. He had enjoyed the favored status. All his brothers and sisters had settled on the family homestead to help their father work the land. Bethuel was the only one who moved out and got his own land, the only one to leave his father’s side when he grew up.
It wasn’t an act of rebellion or contempt. It was a free soul enjoying his freedom, living his own life. I really don’t think Bethuel or Esau could consciously identify the phenomenon, the freedom of the blessed. But I could. The blessing was fresh and real to me.
“Esau bore a grudge.”
That is what the record says. He was angry, vengeful and looking for blood.
How could I blame him? Since I left home so quickly after the incident, I didn’t know until many years later if he was my friend or my enemy. I assumed the latter.
Suffice it to say that Esau ended up living further away from Isaac than I did. He started his own nation, too! He became restless and broke the yoke just like I did.
Then, just when you think you have licked all your demons, just when you think you have grown up and become an adult, God sneaks in a surprise to remind you that “you’ve only just begun.”
On the day I left home for the old family homestead in Haran, some 300 miles away, as I walked out the door, my father made this comment:
“May God Almighty bless you. May He give to you and your descendants the blessing of Abraham.”
A blessing from God to become like my saintly grandfather Abraham.
I kept walking but the words were not left behind. Up until then, I had thought that the blessing of home and family was enough. I hadn’t realized I had left God out of the picture. The rest of the journal will help you see what a mistake that can be. And how patient and persistent God can be with his blessings.
I can’t tell you that it was a real blessing leaving home. I can’t tell you that the journey was made in joy. I can’t tell you that life was easy and fun from then on.
But I can tell you that the blessing of family is the most liberating experience a child can have, regardless of how near or far he is from home.
But I also have to say that it is just a transition to a far greater and more important struggle to find blessing, the blessing of God.
Catch up on the Jacob Journal by checking out part 4 of 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.