Friday, May 25, 2007

Jakob the Alley Cat

I know two Jakobs and never much liked either.

Jakob 1 was a gray alley cat outside my apartment in college. He sometimes startled us with his bizarre noises at night. He ate squirrels and whatever the deli owners left for him.

Jakob 2 is the one in Genesis with the two wives, two concubines, and twelve sons.

I have bristled through sermons that challenged me to be like Jakob. Jakob was a rotten scoundrel, who cheated, lied to, and manipulated his parents, twin brother, uncle, two wives, and twelve sons. His son Joseph, on the other hand, I liked. He was handsome and hardworking and long-suffering. He became the prime minister of Egypt. I wanted to be like Joseph.

But then I read Genesis carefully. I read about Abraham, faithful; about Isaac, mostly forgettable; about Jakob, mean and ornery; about Judah, strong but wicked; about Joseph, good and righteous. And I noticed the true protagonist of the story. He would later call himself “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jakob.”

Abraham and Jakob are not the lead characters in the story. They were not primarily examples for us to follow or to flee. These men were loved by God. Nothing else made them special. They are not the story. God is the story. He used Isaac and Jakob and Judah and Joseph to send the Messiah. They were marked by the one who loved them.

I love Jakob now, but only because he reminds me that God is the story and his love defines us.

Psalm 46:11 says, “The God of Jakob will be our fortress.”

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