The thing about Jacob was that he had a lot of heart. He knew what he wanted and he chased after it. But the problem was that it wasn't his and what he did wasn't right. I don't know what would have happened if Jacob had waited for his prophecy to be fulfilled instead of stealing it from Esau, but stole it he did, even if it was Esau's fault for giving it away. I mean, come on. You're hungry. I get that. But your little brother says "sell me your birthright for this stew" so you get melodramatic and say "I'm going to die of hunger anyway so you can have it." Like, was that the only food in the camp? Wouldn't say there be other people around with food, like servants, who would willingly give you food for free or just because you're the boss's son? And then what would happen when you didn't die of hunger?
But Jacob - Jacob wanted the birthright. He hungered for the blessing. From when he was born, he had probably lived with the words "and the older will serve the younger" rattling around in his head. Maybe even from the womb, he had lived with that desire in his heart and when he saw the opportunity, he took it. And then he took the blessing as well, though technically, the blessing went with the birthright. And then he ran, and he never stopped running until -
The difference that marked Israel was that he had "striven with God and with men and had prevailed". The blessing of Abraham had long passed from Abraham to Isaac and to him as Jacob, but he had still been running. He was still living in the fear of his lie and maybe the fear for his life. But by the time Jacob becomes Israel, he's settled his differences with Laban - they've drawn a line where neither will cross to harm the other - and he's met Esau and appeased him. He has stopped running away.
More than that, he's wrestled with God in the dark of the night and clung on until he received his blessing - not through trickery this time, by pretending to be someone else, but from God himself, in his own name. He's returned to the beginning of his journey, Bethel, where he first saw God, and God appears to him again, blessing him in his own right.
The thing about our God is that He is a God of closure. He is the Author and the Finisher of our faith. As much as I like open ended stories, there must always be a form of closure which says "this is the end... even if it's only for now". When Jacob first met God in Luz, God says "Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you." (Genesis 28:15). At the end of this episode, in Genesis 35, God brings Israel back to Bethel and reaffirms His promise. Jacob's chapter as runaway birthright stealer had closed. A new chapter as Israel, father of the twelve tribes had begun.
I began writing fireplace back in high school as part of a weekly devotional for my cell group. Our youth group had been called firebrands, so I called my write ups "by the fireplace", which was later shortened to "fireplace". Since then it moved from my now-defunct lycos email list to my yahoo email list to my gmail email list and finally to my blog. It's been following me through up and downs, from weird write ups to fervent rants, including mountaintop experiences to awkward deconversion posts. It's time to lay it to rest.
I'm coming to the end of something. Maybe. I've said this before. I'm also coming to the start of something. I've said this before too. But I'm the type of person who needs to say it many times, to reaffirm it many times until it becomes real. Maybe because there is a need to speak it into being and since I don't really speak much, I write it down often. After all Habakkuk 2: 2-3 tells us to :
“Write the visionSo as fireplaces comes to its end, maybe something new will take its place. I don't know yet. I've been thinking of something but I don't know how it will work. Or whether I should make it work.
And make it plain on tablets,
That he may run who reads it.
For the vision is yet for an appointed time;
But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie.
Though it tarries, wait for it;
Because it will surely come,
It will not tarry."
But we'll see.