Blessings come in many flavors. Jacob received two in his life. The first came as the result of trickery encouraged by a spiritually weak mother. He disguised himself enough to fool his blind father, Isaac, into thinking that he was blessing his eldest son, Esau. Isaac spoke these words:
Then his father Isaac said to him, “Please come close and kiss me, my son.” 27 So he came close and kissed him; and when he smelled the smell of his garments, he blessed him and said,
“See, the smell of my son
Is like the smell of a field which the Lord has blessed;
28 Now may God give you of the dew of heaven,
And of the fatness of the earth,
And an abundance of grain and new wine;
29 May peoples serve you,
And nations bow down to you;
Be master of your brothers,
And may your mother’s sons bow down to you.
Cursed be those who curse you,
And blessed be those who bless you.” (Gen. 27:26-29)
Like Jacob, we crave blessings like that, with their appealing flavor—a pleasing blend of prosperity and prominence, with a reassuring aftertaste of divine protection. Some of us spend our lives secretly siphoning such things from every situation and relationship we go through. We assume that it’s just our nature to be takers rather than givers. We wonder why some people avoid us; it’s because they hear the subtle sucking sound as we approach.
Jacob’s stolen blessing turned rancid. Jacob had to pay for it by fleeing a vendetta from his brother Esau. He spent twenty years in self-imposed exile. Only when he returned to face his brother and shower gifts on him did he receive his second blessing. That came from God.
Then God appeared to Jacob again when he came from Paddan-aram, and He blessed him. 10 God said to him,“Your name is Jacob;
You shall no longer be called Jacob,
But Israel shall be your name. ”Thus He called him Israel. 11 God also said to him, “I am God Almighty;
Be fruitful and multiply;
A nation and a company of nations shall come from you,
And kings shall come forth from you.
12 “The land which I gave to Abraham and Isaac,
I will give it to you,
And I will give the land to your descendants after you.” (Gen. 35:9-12)
Jacob had been renamed Israel at Peniel after he wrestled a heavenly messenger for a blessing before meeting Esau.1 It seems that God pressed the pause button for two chapters while Israel journeyed from Peniel to Bethel. Reminding Jacob of the change of his name was like hitting PLAY again. Then God Almighty (El Shaddai) spelled out His blessing for Israel.
What a difference there is between the blessing of man and the blessing of God. This time Israel was promised a legacy that would extend through the generations. Like God’s blessings on Abraham,2 which it echoes, it would overflow to bless other nations. It is not self-centered and short-lived; it is expansive and inclusive.
Which blessing will you and I choose for our lives? That of an immature Jacob who focused on his immediate needs and wanted his ego pampered or that of a humbled man desperate for God’s highest? Our world is so intensely focused on self interests that even our churches have absorbed some of the flavor. Yes, of course God loves to meet our needs, but should every song, sermon and supplication focus on that?
There’s a hidden blessing in store for spiritual wrestlers. Those who will step into the ring with God and refuse to let go until He blesses them will receive the reward. They are the ones who will have learned to stay in the fight of life—the fight that is required to secure a valuable spiritual legacy. At times there will be loneliness, fatigue, pain, even dislocation. But those bitter or sour flavors will eventually give way to a sweet and lasting satisfaction. Spiritual wrestlers must first allow God to meet their deepest needs and remake them as givers more than takers. Once a connection with the Source is established and the flow is in the right direction there is no limit to the blessing that can result.
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