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Finding Harmony in Advent: Day 19 – Jake’s Change

December 19, 2013

Jake’s Change

But Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept. Genesis 33:4

This may seem like an unusual story for Christmas, but it tells a story of grace.

* * *

Jake, everyone knew, was a pretty slick operator. He got what he wanted. “He’d cheat his own brother,” the neighbors said, and they were right.

Before he was ever born, local legend went, Jake and his brother Eric, fraternal twins, struggled in their mother’s uterus. Eric was born first, heir to his father. But Jake came out grasping Eric’s heel. The midwives said it was a bad sign.

Eric and Jake may have been twins, but were as different as they looked. Eric was an outdoor kind of guy. Jake was, well, some said he was a momma’s boy, preferring to cook and help his mom in the house.  Rumor was that one day Eric was starving to death and smelled the homemade soup Jake had been cooking. Eric said that Jake could have the rights of the first born if he’d only give him a bowl of soup.

Eventually the old man died but in his last moments, Jake and his Mom tricked the blind old man into rewriting the will, making good on the weak moment when Eric had said Jake could be the first born. When Eric found out he wanted to literally kill his brother. They had never gotten along. Now this.

Mom urged Jake to take off for her brother’s home in a distant city. On the way Jake stayed in a cheap motel that had a pillow as hard as a rock. When he tried to sleep, he had a dream about angels going up and down a stairway. It made him think. In the morning he got the Gideon Bible out of the drawer and read awhile before going on his way. Maybe he had been a little too conniving. What if his brother came after him? Would he really kill him? Jake made a rash promise to God that if he was just able to get back home safely, then maybe he could believe in the God that his father had always tried to tell him about.

When he got to his uncle’s place, he soon discovered he had met his match in Uncle Larry, who just may have been more of a wheeler and dealer than Jake.  He promptly fell in love with Uncle Larry’s prettiest daughter, Rochelle (cousins weren’t too closely related to marry back then). But she had an older sister, Linda, and custom was the oldest had to marry first. Jake struck a deal with his uncle: I’ll work for you for seven years if I can marry Rochelle.

Time arrived for Jake to marry Rochelle, and Larry threw a big wedding feast.  Jake got drunk, and Larry substituted Linda for Rochelle in the honeymoon suite. When Jake realized what had happened, he screamed to his uncle, “How could you deceive me like that?” His uncle shrugged and said the oldest had to marry first.

Memories of the deception he pulled on his own father haunted him. Larry said he could marry Rochelle after his honeymoon with Linda was over, if  he’d work for Larry another seven years. Which he did.

Well after many years and numerous sons, Jake was a rich man, but longed for home. Maybe he could buy his brother’s forgiveness.

On his way home, he again stopped at the terrible motel. It still had rocks for pillows. He remembered the deal he had made long ago with God, that if he got back home safely, he would serve God the rest of his life.

He sent messengers and his family ahead with gifts, while he prepared mentally to meet his brother. He had another powerful dream, fighting a man all night. No one could win. Finally, in his dream, the other guy knocked Jake’s right hip out of joint, saying, “You will wake up tomorrow and take a new name, Israel, as a sign of your change. You have learned your lesson. Crooked as you are, God loves and accepts you.”

Jake woke up. What a dream.  His right hip was powerfully sore. As he crossed the river on the last leg of his journey, he limped. Jake could see his brother coming and so he hobbled forward, bowing to the ground as he neared his brother.


But Eric ran to meet him and threw his arms around Jake’s neck, kissing and hugging him. Jake knew that everything was going to be okay. God had made good on their deal—and that lousy limp would always be a reminder that even inside, he would never again be the same. (Adapted from Genesis 25-33, and with a tip of my hat to my high school Bible teacher, Darrell Hostetler, who helped me love the story of Jacob)


Christmas is a powerful reminder that God does love us and sent us Jesus.  And the world has never been the same.

Jacob and Esau’s story is also a reminder that old rivalries and family conflicts can be put to rest.

Your thoughts?

Ted Swartz and the late Lee Eshleman perform the story of Jacob and Esau memorably in this DVD produced in the late 90s.  Still worth checking out if you’d like to share this story with new generations.


From → Faith, Family Life

  1. Caro - Claire Wiles permalink

    Another thoughtful message today that I enjoyed reading and pondering over.
    Have had our share of family conflicts over the years but feel that life is far to short to get tied up in knots over the things that often have started these things.. Christmas is a good time to put them aside and contemplate our many blessings because of Him who came to earth to save us.

    • And so many times the participants can’t even remember what started it exactly. You put a good point on the post. Thanks, Caro-Claire.

  2. Caro - Claire Wiles permalink

    So true! Working on trying to defuse incidents that happened so many years ago and are not even relevant now.
    So many times they are petty things that in light of what really matters are so unimportant! When you have been faced with life and death situations, you realize just how short life is to be bothered with these trivialities!

  3. It is my earnest prayer that family and friends discords will be straightened out, although it is only the Holy Spirit who can do that. Thanks for the reminder that, with God, anything is possible, if it is His will.

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