Pharaoh asked Jacob, “How old are you?” and Jacob replied, “The time of my stay on earth has been 130 years; they have been few and difficult, fewer than the years my ancestors lived.”-Genesis 47:7-9
After Jacob is presented to Pharaoh, we’re told the first question he was asked by Pharaoh is “how old are you?”
I find Pharaoh’s bluntness in asking Jacob his age a bit unnerving.
This is probably because growing up I was taught that it was extremely impolite to ask adults how old they are.
No doubt, Pharaoh’s question stemmed from pure curiosity because the truth be told Jacob must have looked pretty old by now.
Well, without batting an eye, Jacob answers 130 years and sums up his time on earth by saying “And few and evil have been the days of my life.“
This is quite a deep and philosophical statement that I feel echoes the complexity and ups and downs we all go through in our lives.
In the final analysis of Jacob’s life, we can see that he was successful in achieving everything men in that day and age sought after and strived for with all their might and cunning.
Jacob acquired the birthright and the blessing.
He succeeding in marrying Rachel his beloved wife.
He gave birth to 12 sons and grew his clan substantially.
However, although he got everything he wanted, it was not in the way he would have wanted.
Ever since Jacob clashed with his twin brother in the womb, everything was a struggle for him.
Sure, he succeeded in displacing Esau.
But afterwards, it cost him much fear, lingering guilt and a long exile.
He obtained Rachel, but only by having Leah imposed on him resulting in much domestic strife.
And then, he loses Rachel early when she gives birth to Benjamin.
Although he becomes the father of 12 healthy sons, there is enmity among them and he spends twenty-two years continually grieving over his favorite son, who he believes is dead.
When his name is changed from “Jacob” to “Israel” by the divine adversary he walks away with a permanent wound.
What is the great spiritual takeaway here anyway?
Is it that all good things in life must be accompanied by an equivalent amount of pain-in-the-neck difficulty?
Well, when I prayed on this, I felt like the Lord communicated the following two points to me.
First, note that a lot of what Jacob accomplished in his life was based on fleshly effort and human cunning.
Jacob wasn’t changed until that fateful night when he wrestled against God and came to the realization that he could not go on without God.
The lessons from Jacob’s life warn us that even if we achieve the ambitions of our hearts, if we try to do something minus help or input from God, the resulting fruit may be bitter indeed.
The second great takeaway I got from this is the ultimate futility of most of our cherished desires and goals anyway.
Do you remember a time when you were a kid and your parents took you shopping with them?
While mom and dad were off doing their thing, you made your way to the toy section and found a toy that YOU JUST HAD TO HAVE.
You grabbed it, went back to your parents and in your best sugary “oh please pretty please” voice begged them to buy it for you.
Since they didn’t hesitate buying things for you in the past, you figured that toy was as good as yours.
But this time, for whatever reason, your parents responded with a firm NO!
Do you remember your shock?
Maybe you started balling or threw a temper tantrum right there in the store.
Your life was ending right there in Target or K-Mart (or wherever) and there was nothing you could about it.
However, now when you look back at your ridiculous tear-drenched self that day, you realize how pathetic the whole situation was.
Well, in the light of eternity, I submit that whatever earthly desire you’ve got your heart set on right now has about as much relevance as that Barbie doll, BB gun, or whatever silly thing you were drooling over in that store when you were a kid.
I am also reminded of King Solomon who acquired in abundance all the earthly things men this side of heaven lust after.
Money, sex, and power.
He had it all.
And what was his conclusion to the matter?
So yes, Jacob got everything he wanted.
But the consequences were far more pain than contentment.
Jacob’s life, in sum, is a story with a happy ending
But it withholds any simple feeling of happiness at the end.
CONNECTING THIS TEACHING TO THE NEW TESTAMENT
“Now listen, you who say,
“Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city,
spend a year there,
carry on business and make money.”
Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.
What is your life?
You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.
Instead, you ought to say,
‘If it is the Lord’s will,
we will live and do this or that.'”