Freshman First 40 — Day 38
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 26, 2011
Gen 28:10-17; Gen 32:22-31:1
One of the great figures of the Old Testament is Jacob – the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham. The Bible passages listed above tell us of two dramatic encounters between Jacob and God. Interestingly enough, the two events mirror one another in several ways. Each takes place “on the road.” Each takes place in the midst of great anxiety about Jacob’s relationship to his family. Each occurs in the middle of the night. And each encounter comes as Jacob is in a particularly vulnerable place.
Jacob’s first meeting with God takes place as he is running for his life. All his life Jacob has been a schemer and a smooth talker; but when he tricks his brother Esau out of his inheritance, he finds himself in a situation he can’t talk his way out of. He is forced to flee for his life – and there, on the road, God meets with him. The second meeting occurs 20 years later, as Jacob is trying to escape from yet another family member. This time he is running from his Uncle Laban – a man who has proven to be even craftier than Jacob the schemer! What is more, as Jacob travels back toward the land of his youth, he receives word: “your brother Esau . . . is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.” (Genesis 32:6) It is a message that Jacob receives – understandably! – with “great fear and distress.” (Genesis 32:7)
One thing worth noticing in these stories is that these dramatic encounters with God – these times when God meets and speaks with Jacob powerfully – both happen in times of transition. The Genesis accounts make clear that Jacob was clever; good at manipulating others and working the angles to his own advantage. But it was when he was moved outside of comfortable and familiar settings, when he was placed in situations he couldn’t control, that God appeared to him. In much the same way, we may find the transition to a new community, a new school, a new set of peers and friends challenging and unsettling. We are made uncomfortable; we are no longer in control. Jacob’s story suggests, however, that often these are the very moments when we are most open to hearing God’s voice. Transitions are times of spiritual opportunity.
DR. STEVE GUTHRIE
School of Religion