The Selection of Jacob
Genesis 27:14-24
And he went, and fetched, and brought them to his mother: and his mother made savoury meat, such as his father loved.…

But now hear me for a moment in defence of that Divine Providence which allowed the substitution of this particular man, Jacob, in the place of this particular man, Esau, as the third of the patriarchs. The importance of a right choice here is not easily over-rated. For several reasons the character of the patriarchs was to influence and mould the character of the Hebrew race more than could be done by any of the whole line of law-givers, princes, prophets, and warriors — Moses, perhaps, excepted, To have the right man, then, was indeed important. But was Jacob he? or, at least, was he more fit than Esau? He was. What was Jacob? Let us see. A man may be described by three things — whether he has ends — what they are — and how he reaches them.

1. Whether he has ends. Esau had not, He was one of a class of characters who live without any distant ends to reach — who live very much from day to day, working perhaps energetically for their little daily plans, or floating from interest to interest. Jacob was, above all things else, a man of purpose.

2. The next question about a man is, What are his ends? Two traits in a man's ends lift up the man — the remoteness and the generosity of his ends. If very remote — that is, if a man takes into his vision the whole scope of his life, and with a masterly power brings under his whole existence to that far-oft end — that man, even though his ends are selfish, is a superior person. Now Jacob was certainly that man. Show me such a man anywhere, and I will show you his equal here. Seven years of the hardest service he served for Rachel, and counted them but as seven days — and then seven more. He wore through twenty years of the hardest life, carrying on his design that he should be the successor and heir of Isaac, and though he was of a timid nature, never yielding that purpose, even when he stood in the presence of the avenger Esau himself. Never was there a more patient, tenacious soul. This was singular, for remember that primitive men may be persistent in passions, but not in purposes, save in that one passion and purpose — revenge. But Jacob had all the calmness and tenacity of an advanced age. His end, however, may have been a selfish one. Self-advancement? Yes. But, considering the age and place, self-advancement was one of the higher forms of virtue, especially when we know that the end Jacob sought had a certain sacredness about it — the hope, namely, that he should be in the line of God's special favours — should take eminent place as His servant.

3. The third test of a man is the means he uses to reach his ends. Jacob's were bad enough. Remember, however, that the rule, the end does not justify the means, was unknown to Jacob — is, in fact, a great and modern discovery in morals, not fully known even yet. And remember, besides, that whatever his means were, they were always effective, and never gratuitously wicked. On the whole, then, here was a mixed character as to its excellence, but a high character as to its ability. Nay, besides — this very mixture, the very defects of character, made Jacob a fit instrument of the Divine purposes. He was, even in his weakest points, far better fitted to lay the foundations of a family and kingdom than the impulsive and purposeless Esau. Had he been a more purely excellent man, he would have been less fitted. A style of character purely excellent cannot lay a permanent grasp upon the men of early ages, or men of any age not high enough to receive it. The powerful great man is the one who is at once above and yet along-side of his fellows. Hence we see, as a matter of fact, that among the patriarchs, though Abraham is most revered, Jacob has been the truly influential man with the Jewish masses. He has moulded the mass of the Jewish people into his own image. I regard this as specially providential. Thus the purer and higher were led to God and held to God through the high spirit that was in Abraham; the body were held to God and their religion through the lower soul of Jacob. They could be inferior Jacobs when they could not be properly children of Abraham.So, through lower and higher instruments, the purposes of God are worked out.

1. Among the thoughts suggested by the subject, notice first the effect of success in the judgment of character. Esau, once gone under, holds no place.

2. Notice, again, how poorly we judge of mixed characters. The same Jacob who over-reached his father, his brother, and I might say destiny itself, the supplanter, the robber, who "from a shelf the precious diadem stole, and put it in his pocket," was yet the same who wrestled all night with God. Truly we are all of different natures, marvellously mixed — a worm, a god! This should teach me at least some things, such as humility to myself. I know by this that the statues of the demi-gods stand on clay feet — that my best moments, my best feelings, are but a part of me — that I have a whole world of things to repent of, and to be ashamed of, before God. That, and nothing of soul growth, was especially the fact with Jacob. His character was unlike that of the other patriarchs in this: Abraham and Isaac, such as we see them at first, are very much such as we see them at last. But Jacob only becomes his real, that is, his higher self at the last. At the bottom of his young and eager ambition and selfishness there was at the very first, as I have said, something good, the root of a great tree of right — namely, the real sense that God's blessing and favour were above all value — and so in his blind, but most earnest way, he went to work to grasp them.

3. There is one test every man should solemnly try himself by, one test of what our ultimate selves and our ultimate destiny will be — Does the good part of our characters grow?

(A. G. Mercer.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And he went, and fetched, and brought them to his mother: and his mother made savoury meat, such as his father loved.

WEB: He went, and got them, and brought them to his mother. His mother made savory food, such as his father loved.

The Deception of Isaac
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