So Jacob went up to his father Isaac, who felt him and said, “The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” 23 He did not recognize him, because his hands were hairy like his brother Esau’s hands; so he blessed him. (Genesis 27:22-23)
There is a saying that comes out of God’s work with Abraham and his descendants that says that we are “blessed to be a blessing.” Oddly enough, no matter what our story has been and how we go the blessings that we got, life only moves forward. Whatever our past has been, we are then called to act now to make a better future for others.
Jacob and Esau were brothers and rivals. Esau was older – the family blessing was to be his. But Jacob was his mother’s favorite. She wanted him to have it. She tells Jacob to get a pelt of fur and place it over his arm. Esau is a hairy young man and Isaac, their father, is getting old, blind and senile. He is an easy mark for stealing the blessing. The trick works and Jacob is blessed. Esau is cut out of his rightful place and now Jacob has control of the family fortune.
This doesn’t mean easy street for Jacob. Esau is murderously angry when he discovers what has happened. Jacob is forced to flee for his life. Having it doesn’t result in all that Jacob and his mother had hoped. In fact, it appears that he has the blessing and loses everything as a result.
A bit later, Jacob will be alone in the wilderness and have a dream. It is a famous dream known as “Jacob’s Ladder.” In the dream Jacob sees a ladder with angels ascending and descending from heaven to earth. He encounters God, who tells him that he has been blessed to be a blessing. All the people of the earth will be blessed through him. It is an amazing event and Jacob awakes stunned by what he has discovered. In spite of his devious nature and in spite of stealing his brother’s blessing, God still wants him to be a blessing to others. In fact, not just to some others. God wants Jacob to be a blessing to “all the families of the earth.”
This reminds us all that we are to always take stock of our blessings, wherever they have come from. All of them belong to God. If we have done things we shouldn’t have to accumulate more than our share, we are still (perhaps even more) expected to turn from the things we have done and work toward the good of others. A few blessings in our hands are still to be a blessing to everyone around us. Even when we are in the wrong, God continues to use us to do what is good and right.