Some people seem to live dream-like lives, don’t they? That was Esau, Jacob’s older brother. He was probably chosen first when their friends were picking teams for games. He was probably the teachers’ favorite. Esau got into the best colleges, joined a great fraternity, graduated with honors and got a high-paying job. His family was beautiful.
Have you ever known people like that? Everything comes easily to them. They aren’t anxious about anything because they don’t need to be. It’s not that they don’t work, they just don’t work too hard, and they get – not what they deserve – they get more.
For the rest of us, life is more of a challenge. So we understand Jacob. Jacob’s name means striver, hustler, supplanter. And that’s exactly what he needs to be to get on in his life. Some people have it made, and others of us have to make it happen.
In Jacob’s story – may be our story – we discover that making our own dreams come true is a perfect way to go the wrong way in life.
The best dreams come from God. The best dreams, the things we most deeply yearn for priceless gifts, things like being loved and respected, cherishing those who are close to you, having integrity, beholding beauty, discovering joy in your work, being able to make a positive difference in other people’s lives. Dreams like that are blessings from God. And blessings cannot be hustled. They can only be received.
Rebecca, Jacob’s mother, had told her second child that God had promised that he would be blessed. God had even come to Jacob twice to assure him of the promise. But, Jacob was obsessed with the idea that he had to get something away from Esau, his oh so not-identical-twin, whose life seems to have such dreamlike wondrous qualities. Jacob was certain he has to make the dream of being blessed come true for himself.
That’s when Jacob’s life heads the wrong way. And maybe yours or mine has too when we have decided we can’t wait for God to bless us so we will just make a way for ourselves.
When Isaac had grown old and blind and wanted to pass on the blessing he received from Abraham before he died, Jacob and his mother come up with a scheme. They dress Jacob like Esau and when Isaac asked, “Who is there?” Jacob answered, “I am Esau.”
It was a lie, of course. That is a problem.
But the larger problem is that God had promised to bless Jacob.
Jacob, the man God had chosen to bless, was standing in front of his blind father with goat’s wool strapped to his neck and hands. A ridiculous scene, except that many of us can remember moments when we have tried to dawn the life and skin, abilities and attitudes of someone else in hopes that it would get us what we were sure we needed to get for ourselves.
God sees through our disguises. God sees us. God wants to bless you. But you have to stop pretending to be someone else.
As a result of Jacob’s deception, he has to run away from home because his Esau is so angry at him, that he wants to kill him. Jacob has been hustling and running his whole life trying to grab hold of the dream of a blessing. But now as he runs away, he finally falls exhausted.
While Jacob was sleeping a great ladder appeared between heaven and earth. Angels were going up and down the ladder. God was standing right next to Jacob at the base of the ladder. God said, “I am the LORD, the god of Abraham, your father and of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants. You shall be as many as the dust of the earth, and through you, all others will be blessed”.
Before this night, Jacob had dreamed that if only he could climb the ladder of success, he could make wonderful things happen. He strived and schemed and tried to climb, but he never got to his dream.
Maybe you know what it is like to climb up the ladder of success and not make it to the top. Or worse, to succeed and then discover that the ladder was leaning against the wrong wall and all that hard work has taken you to a place where you do not want to be.
Did you notice that in God’s dream, Jacob isn’t even on the ladder? He’s not climbing. The angels are going back and forth. God is standing right there next to him, where he lays exhausted and resting on the ground. Jacob just receives the blessing, the grace, the promise because God gives it.
That’s hard for us strivers. It’s hard just to receive. But that is the way with God’s grace. If you try to achieve God’s grace, it will elude you. If you insist on inventing your own dream of your life or grabbing someone else identity, position or style, your life may – in the rare chances look like a success – but you will have gone the wrong way from God’s blessing.
Jacob didn’t become perfect when he woke up. And all the sibling rivalry and family dysfunction were not gone in an instant. He still had a lot of work to do, to establish a family, flourish in the nomadic economy, to grow an empire. But something has shifted inside of him, and he made fewer choices that wrong, he now he was moving in the right direction. Now God could work with Jacob, and he could be a blessing to the people as many as the dust of the earth.
When we make receiving God’s blessing our dream, God blesses us. Just as we are. And we are on our way to bless the world with who we are, just as we are. As soon as we stop trying to do it our own way or someone else’s way, we will be a way for the good news that God will bless each and every dusty one of us.