(SHAMELESS PLUG) A blog is supposed to be in some ways a reflection of what’s happening in the blogger’s life. What’s happening right now for me includes preparations for the imminent publication of my book on the life of Jacob. Pacific Press tells me it’s due on October 1st. Whether that means the actual date of printing, etc., when it’s released to the public, or when I’ll actually hold a copy in my anxious hands– only time will tell.
A related thing that occupies me is preparing a series of presentations on “Lessons from the Life of Jacob,” that I will give at camp meetings, men’s retreats, and other speaking engagements.
When people have discovered I was working on this project, many have said, “Jacob. Oh, I really identify with him.” Me, too. That’s one of the major things that attracted me to his story.
It seems like so often we imagine biblical characters as perfection personified– no struggles, no doubts. I remember a secular reviwer’s dislike for the movie “Luther” (2003). His main criticism? The Luther in the movie didn’t strike him as a real because Luther is portrayed as “uncertain.” Apparently, he sees Christians as filled with certainty.
Maybe it’s just me, but, the best Christians I know, the ones I admire the most, often struggle with uncertainty. While certain about God’s goodness, they are (wisely, it seems to me) quite uncertain about themselves and their own wisdom.
I think many Christians share this misconception. They see biblical characters as moving confidently from one step to another, never doubting God’s will. Then they attempt to emulate this mistaken model, and we get a sort of double hypocrisy. Attempting to appear like an imaginery, non-existent saint.
One thing that’s very difficult to do is paint a halo over Jacob’s head. He tries to buy the birthright, deceives his father, and shows such favoritism to one son that the other brothers want to murder him. He’s a towering figure, with big flaws. And yet, today we speak of “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” A people and a nation bear his name, Israel.
And that name, Israel, comes from the fact that he struggled with God. That’s a real encouragement to me, and anyone who ever struggles with God, with understanding Him, and conforming to His will.
And that’s one of the first, and most abiding lessons I received from my wrestling with writing Jacob’s story. We all struggle. And that’s all right.