Earthly Consequences; Heavenly Mercy

Parashat Vayeizei (And He Went Forth)
Beresheet (Genesis) 28:10–32:3
Haftarah: Hosea 11:7–14:10

In this weeks parasha, we read of the famous story of Jacob & Laban, and Laban's deception of Jacob in his search for a bride. In this story, there is a principle here that we need to understand in God's economy, which is that of consequences. Often, we forget that while, yes, God has a plan, and yes, the Father has forgiven our iniquities through faith in His Son, the reality is that there are still earthly consequences for our actions.

We see this evidenced in Jacob's life. In verse 26, it is written, “But Laban said, 'It is not the practice in our place to marry off the younger before the firstborn.'” Does this not remind us of the fact that Jacob stole the right of the firstborn and the blessing from his brother? Here we see Jacob suffering the consequences of his deception of Esau, by being deceived by Laban. Yet, despite this, one of the amazing realities about this entire story is the fact that it carries a prophetic element, which is something that we can learn from today.

This prophetic element is found in the Haftarah portion reading of this week. In the book of Hosea we read:

A contention The LORD also has with Judah, to charge Jacob according to his ways; he will return to him (recompense) according to his deeds. In the womb he seized his brother by the heel, and in his mature strength he prevailed (contended) with God. Yes, he wrestled (strove) with the angel and prevailed; he wept and beseeched Him. He found Him at Bethel, and there He spoke with us, and the Lord, the God of armies, The LORD is His name. So as for you, return to your God, keep grace and justice, and hope to your God always.”
Hosea 12:2-6 (3–7 In the Hebrew Bible; my translation directly from the Hebrew)

These verses begin with an important statement of the contention that the LORD had with Judah. In the Tanakh (Hebrew Scriptures), it can often be difficult to differentiate between the names Judah and Jacob/Israel, as they can refer to the children of Israel in the broader sense. So, it is possible to read this entire passage both in reference to Jacob specifically, but also in reference to the children of Israel, in general.

It continues to say, “ charge Jacob according to his ways; he will return to him (recompense) according to his deeds.” As we know Jacob deceived Esau and, therefore, he already paid the price here on this earth when Laban did the same back to him. However, Hosea 4:8-9 refers to Israel as a whole when very similar Hebrew words are used: “They feed on the sin of My people, and long for their wrongdoing. And it will be, like people, like priest; so I will punish them for their ways and repay them for their deeds” (emphasis mine).

There is also a very interesting reference in Jeremiah to Jacob's act of deception. It ties in well with my suggestion that "Jacob" can refer to the children of Israel collectively. Keep in mind that Jacob's Hebrew name is "Ya'akov" while reading this passage:

“Let everyone be on guard against his neighbor, and do not trust any brother; because every brother utterly betrays(“עָקוֹב יַעְקֹב” “Akov Ya'akov”)* and every neighbor goes about as a slanderer. Everyone deceives his neighbor and does not speak the truth.They have taught their tongue to speak lies; they weary themselves committing wrongdoing.Your dwelling is in the midst of deceit; through deceit they refuse to know Me,” declares the LORD.
Jeremiah 9:4–6 (3-5 in the Hebrew Bible), emphasis mine
* The meaning of this phrase in Hebrew is “each brother will follow Jacob”

Returning to our Haftarah portion, the verses in Hosea continue to describe the wrestling or the striving of Jacob with the Angel of the Lord, which is a reality we see until today; the descendants of Jacob — who became the children of Israel — still wrestle with God in a very interesting relationship. Yet, as the last verse of this specific Scripture portion says, there is always opportunity to return to God: “So as for you, return to your God, keep grace and justice, and hope to your God always.” I personally love that this is always our choice to make and that God is ready to receive us!

I wrote that the story from Genesis has a prophetic element that holds true for each and every one of us today. In so many ways, we can relate to Jacob and his story! Like Jacob, we all wrestle with the truth at some point in our faith journey, and we all fall short of the glory of God. However, God's grace and mercy are always available to us when we are ready to receive them; just like with the children of Israel, God longs for us to return to Him, to keep His grace and justice, and to put our hope in Him!

Shabbat Shalom,

Did you know? — Lone Soldier

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