I suppose it's about time that I answered that question. Have I failed my children? Yes, I have. Have I made mistakes that I regret? Yes, absolutely. Would I do things differently now if I had the chance? Yes, I would. Am I different than any other parent who is willing to be honest with themselves? No, I'm not. And finally, do I genuinely believe that God is able to redeem my mistakes and failures by His grace, sovereignty and mercy? Yes, without a doubt.
In my study of Jacob's life in Genesis, I came across a cross reference in the New Testament in Romans 9:10-16 that sheds further light on the story:
"Not only that, but Rebekah's children had one and the same father, our father Isaac. Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad--in order that God's purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls--she was told 'the older will serve the younger.' Just as it is written: 'Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.' What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, 'I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.' It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy."
This is a difficult passage to understand, so I dug into my commentaries to get a more complete understanding. Two things seemed to stand out to me. First, God does not always follow tradition, nor is He "obligated" to us by virtue of our behavior or our "good works". God's sovereign choosing is His to display. We may not always (if ever) understand why He ordains certain circumstances and chooses to refrain from others. Second, God's sovereign choosing incorporates the free will of man and His sovereign purposes. Somehow, by His divine nature He is able to meld these together in perfect harmony for the benefit of those He loves. This passage illuminates for us that God has the "divine right" to demonstrate His mercy and compassion on whomever He chooses.
For some whose image of God is distorted or immature, this may seem to paint a "capricious" picture of God. But to others, who know themselves and have tasted the abundance of His grace in their own lives, it is the source of deep and abiding comfort.
I think this was true of Jacob whose multiple encounters with God's grace changed his life. Jacob, whose name meant "conniver" would have his name changed by God to "Israel" reminiscent of God's covenant promise to Abraham. God's own covenant people, Israel, would be birthed through Jacob's line as promised to Rebekah even before his birth.
In Genesis 49 we read Jacob's final blessings pronounced upon his twelve sons, who represent the tribes of Israel. In the middle of his blessing upon Joseph he speaks about God's faithfulness that sustained Joseph. This is what he says:
"But his [Joseph] bow remained steady, his strong arms stayed limber, because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob, because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel, because of your father's God who helps you, because of the Almighty [Shaddai- the God who provides], who blesses you with blessings of the heavens above... Your father's [Jacob's] blessings are greater than the blessings of the ancient mountains, than bounty of the age-old hills."
At the end of his life we see no more of the conniver. We see a man convinced of the gracious hand of God at work in his own life and in the life of his sons who represent the future of God's covenant people, Israel.
This is where I find myself today. Have I failed my children in some ways? Yes, but I am convinced that the same God who rescued a little girl at age 10 whose life was being ravaged by abuse, is the same God who graciously demonstrates His love, sovereignty, and mercy in the lives of my daughters and my grandchildren both now and forever. Amen!