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Mirror, Mirror

At some point along the way, I came to realize the more I dislike certain character flaws in others, the more likely it is I am beholding in them a mirror image of my own unsavory traits. How deflating this was to discover, but over time I’ve come to embrace these “reflection experiences” as steps in the transformation process, humbling revelations of my need for confession, course-correction and growth. In this way, God uses even sins—those of others and our own—and their consequences to expose our shortcomings and to weary us of our will. This is precisely where we find Jacob: having deceived his father into giving him the firstborn blessing, he fled its rightful recipient, Esau, who had sworn to kill his scheming sibling. Jacob escaped his brother, only to encounter a man who, over the next 20 years or so, would emerge as his doppelgänger in deception and every bit his equal—Laban. Let the games begin.

Jacob had offered to work for Laban seven years in exchange for permission to marry his daughter, Rachel. Hidden under the wedding veil, however, was Leah, the older daughter, who Laban thought should marry first! “Why have you deceived me?” demanded Jacob.1 Laban ultimately honored his promise of Rachel’s hand in marriage, but only “in return for another seven years of work.”2 Said Jacob, tiring, to Laban, “Send me on my way so I can go back to my own homeland … You know how much work I’ve done for you.”3 Laban prevailed once again, however, convincing Jacob to stay and tend his flocks, but this time it was Jacob who got the upper hand, scheming a way to deplete his father-in-law’s wealth while building his own. When Jacob “noticed that Laban’s attitude toward him was not what it had been,”4 he fled again, a humbler man. “If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been with me,” said Jacob to Laban, who had pursued him, “you would surely have sent me away empty-handed. But God has seen my hardship and the toil of my hands, and last night he rebuked you.”5 Jacob’s guile had failed him, but the God of his fathers had not.

“There’s a divinity that shapes our ends, Rough-hew them how we will,”6 wrote the Bard. Though God created us to thrive under His blessing and as a blessing to others, we are drawn to ways and means that serve us first and most, but never best. Yet even in our rebellion, God commands the consequences of our decisions to show Himself faithful and to bring us to grace, “that we might not rely on ourselves but on God.”7 Jacob has reached this point. Have we?

Father, your love for me never changes. Thank you! Do what you must to draw me to yourself, that I would rely completely on you. Grace me to trust and obey. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

1 Genesis 29:25
2 Genesis 29:27
3 Genesis 30:24
4 Genesis 31:2
5 Genesis 31:42
6 Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. The Oxford Shakespeare, edited by Stanley Wells and Gary Taylor, (New York: Oxford University Press), 685.
7 2 Corinthians 1:9

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God Waits

Meet Jacob. If ever there were a man whose name fit his disposition, it was he—Jacob means “deceiver,” and what an accomplished deceiver, he was! Add schemer, for good measure. He callously commandeered his older brother’s birthright, diabolically duped his unseeing father into giving him the blessing of the firstborn, and he absorbed his father-in-law’s wealth while managing his flocks. “Isn’t he rightfully named Jacob?”1 fumed Esau, his twice-bested twin. Jacob even bargained with God, offering, “If God will be with me and will watch over me … so that I return safely to my father’s house, then the Lord will be my God.”2

Deception and scheming declare in devilish tones: my desires are more important than your wellbeing. People are means to our ends, expendable if it comes to that, and injustice is merely collateral damage. “All’s fair in love and war,” we blithely chirp. What we don’t realize when we manipulate and mislead is that treachery and lies are also isolating to us—like Jacob fleeing a vengeful Esau and decades later a cheated Laban, we run away from the consequences of our actions or live in fear of them. Even if we remain, we live at arm’s length from once-trusting, now-cynical victims; though present in proximity, their wounded trust, or what’s left of it, has moved on. There we exist, alone with our spoils.

Yet our scheming is no match for God’s character. “If we are faithless, he remains faithful”3—this is His nature, and He will not waver from it, even in affront; He will not be moved from His redeeming love. He speaks the wise counsel of conviction into our soul, and He allows repercussions of our actions to take their toll—all that we might set aside our conniving ways and turn to Him for newness of life. Wrote Paul, “Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?”4 Yes, in tireless kindness, God waits for the Jacob’s of this world to tire of control and to rest in His wisdom and ways, for our wellbeing is His desire.

Father, how good you are! Even my worst will not change your best. Lead me away from my controlling ways, and strengthen me to trust you and to rest in your wisdom, sovereignty, power and love. Amen.

1 Genesis 27:36
2 Genesis 28:20, 21
3 2 Timothy 2:13
4 Romans 2:4 NLT