Comment 1

Arriving on Empty — An old man worships

“He leaned on the top of his walking stick and worshiped God.” {Hebrews 11:21}

Darkened by layers of skins and blankets, his tent felt cool, despite the irrepressible heat of the desert. Here and there strands of sunlight pierced through cracks in the coverings and like gleaming pillars, stood as sentinels around the temporary room.

There he stood, ancient as the desert that birthed him, leaning upon his cane and with a whisper spoke the future over Joseph’s sons, his grandsons. He passed the paternal words on to his sons, his earthly possessions were no doubt divided and Jacob, the last of the trio of the Hebrew forefathers, was empty-handed leaning on a walking stick standing barefoot on an animal skin floor.

One hundred forty seven years old. Finally empty handed. Finally worshiping God.

Jacob had become an old man. Illness and age moved in and set up residence in his body. He was in Egypt, a foreigner there, yet welcomed by the Egyptian government because of his son, Joseph’s, preeminent position just beneath King Pharaoh himself. He had discovered himself surrounded by all twelve of his sons again after many years of brokenness and bereavement, thinking his favorite son, Joseph, had died.The significant moments of Jacob’s life marked the way to this destination in an Egyptian countryside as rocks across a stream lead to the promise on the other side.

Jacob’s life bore the sordid smudges of deceit, betrayal, bloodshed.

As Bible-readers lifting the tent-flaps onto this man’s public and private life, we have for us in the life of Jacob a complete timeline.We see glimpses of his existence from the heel-grabbing birth, to his conspiracy to steal his brother’s birthright, to his marvelous love story with Rachel.

We see the pain in the struggle between his sister-wives, the wrestling match that left him crippled yet with a healthy view of God, the devastation of his daughter Dinah and the neighbors his sons had schemed to destroy. He played favorites with his children, devised plans to surpass his neighbors and relatives in wealth, fell victim to more than one fatal scheme.

Jacob made plenty of mistakes. Mistakes with collateral damage and far-reaching consequences. He fought, loved, lusted, mourned, cheated, dreamed and hid in fear. He made and lost fortunes. His family wore his sin as a mantel across their collective shoulders.

Sound like anyone you know? As we peer back into our own lives, our parents’ lives, we can see the dramatic and damaging, thrilling and serene, right and wrong — it’s a complete timeline.

We run into problems when we do this: we can’t marry the events of our upbringing with the greater purpose of God. There are awful parts of Jacobs life that I have read in Genesis and responded, “Why? What was the purpose of that?” My own life presents impossible situations and I cannot get a grasp upon their purpose in making me who I am.

What if my life was displayed for centuries in God’s story of redemption for all to see and study, analyze and judge?

The answers we formulate to the question of ‘why did this happen?’ aren’t always satisfying or compatible with our perspective.

Jacob wasn’t honored by God because of his perfectly lived life. No chance of that — we know too much!

Jacob didn’t worship God on the end of his stick in a tent because he earned that right.

Jacob worshiped God because he lived a marred and ruinous life and God proved His faithfulness in spite of Jacob’s choices. God chose Jacob. We don’t know why, darn it. I, personally don’t get it. But God chose him.

And after one-hundred-forty-seven years, Jacob turned in empty-handed worship to God. He had no tricks, no schemes, nothing to offer God. No agenda. The words of paternal blessing he would speak to his sons and grandsons would be the words of God. All Jacob possessed was faith that God would be faithful to His Word.

This faith, born, tested and cured in the desert life of Jacob, stands in the faith “Hall of Fame” in Hebrews 11. Jacob, on his own merits does not deserve to be there. Do we?

{Jacob’s story can be read and wondered about in Genesis 25-48 — It’s wild and weird, troubling and I believe, true.  What does God have to say to you from the pages of the life of Jacob?}



1 Comment

  1. It tells me that like David, Jacob was a man after God’s own heart, even with all the mistakes. It tells me that there is always hope for slugs like me. I’m encouraged by God’s word and by your words. There is no perfection this side of heaven, and while I strive to honor the One who’s called me, I know my steps on this side of heaven will fall short, though I will never stop striving. In striving God rests my heart, like leaning on the cane He provides for my soul.
    Nice job, I like the style. It is humble, thanks.

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