by John Mehl on November 03, 2023
“You’re going to get what’s coming to you!”
That’s a phrase we usually hear with some aggression to it. Or some anger behind it. And understandably so.
There’s a man from thousands of years ago who lived out quite the legacy of “getting what’s coming to him.” His name was Jacob, and even from before his birth, we get to know Jacob as a struggler, a fighter. Genesis 25:22 says, “...the children [Jacob and his brother Esau] struggled together,” within their mother, Rebekah. More than mere pregnancy issues, this struggle would serve as a divine foreshadowing because the two brothers would grow up to constantly clash with one another. A key piece of that struggle was because, contrary to familial customs, the Lord revealed to Rebekah that “the older (Esau) shall serve the younger (Jacob),” (Genesis 25:23).
Right there, it is important for the reader to understand that it is apparently the will of the Lord for Jacob to be the primary recipient of the Lord’s blessing and a key figure in his plans, over his firstborn brother Esau. We may not know why the Lord would choose this — reversing what seems to be a natural order of familial blessing — but it is clearly the Lord’s will over Jacob’s life to uniquely and specifically use and bless him.
Let’s keep going. Jacob grows up to steal his brother’s blessing from his father (Genesis 27), establish a transactional, conditional relationship with Yahweh (28:20-21), receive a taste of his own deception-medicine from his uncle (29), and become a literal struggler/wrestler with the Lord (32:22-32).
It’s a pattern and a theme all across Jacob’s life that he is a struggler — a point of conflict and strife between himself and God, as well as himself and others. In many ways, we see Jacob paying a great price for all the seeds of conflict he has planted. He is a man who “got what was coming to him!”
But there is also another way to see Jacob’s story.
Long past his days of conflict with his brother, and his years of clashing with his uncle, Yahweh keeps after this man, Jacob. Yahweh was the one who knew Jacob even before he was born. Yahweh was the one who picked him and chose to use his life for greater purposes than he could ever fathom. While Jacob clearly sought his own plans through his own means, ultimately meeting up with his own consequences, Yahweh never stopped his pursuit of Jacob’s heart.
Right here in the middle of Jacob’s story, we need to see that God is forever true to his promises, even when we don't deserve them. 1 Corinthians 1:9 – God is forever true to his promises. Joshua 21:45 – Not one of the good promises which the Lord had made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass. 1 Kings 8:56 – Blessed be the Lord, who has given rest to his people Israel, according to all that He promised; not one word has failed of all His good promise.
If God declares that the unfolding of his plan for his people is going to find its way through Jacob’s life, then it is a certainty! And because of that, how the people God choose to arrive at his plans and how we receive his plans in our lives matters a great deal!
Because Yahweh sticks alongside our guy, Jacob, he would one day find a remodeled legacy. Verse 9 of Genesis 35 tells us that “God appeared to Jacob again… and blessed him. And God said to him, ‘Your name is Jacob; no longer shall your name be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.;”
Much like Jacob’s struggles in Rebekah’s womb and his birth order mattered a great deal over his life, so did his name. The name Jacob was emblematic of “a struggler” or “a deceiver,” and that is what Jacob was — and that is why Jacob often “got what was coming to him.”
But the Lord purposed more for him. The Lord intended to bring more into and through Jacob’s life than just what his actions deserved. When God re-named this man, he “re-legacied” him. More than just a deceiver, God intended this man’s purpose to be a resilient, gritty extension of his love for the whole world. Some scholars assert that the meaning of the name “Israel” is a further extension of a wrestler or contender. But others see more nuances in the nature of the name possibly representing one through whom God strives, undeterred. The persevering one.
Let’s try to put all of this together from God’s point of view. From his very birth, Jacob was always going to “get what was coming to him.” Jacob was always going to be the one through whom God would uniquely and specifically extend his purposes for his people in the world. How Jacob/Israel chose to get there resulted in family dysfunction, relational wounds, and a legacy of manipulation. He still “got what was coming to him” by receiving his father’s blessing and as the unique recipient of the Lord’s plans, but it could have been so much better! He could have arrived there without so much relational carnage in his wake.
There is both a caution and an encouragement in Jacob/Israel’s story. There is a caution in the posture by which we choose to receive the Lord’s plan for our lives. We will certainly ultimately receive whatever it is that the Lord wants to put in our hands. But how we get there may be full of strife and manipulation that leaves quite a wake of damage behind us. But there is also a great encouragement that the Lord is undeterred even by our contentious actions. He is faithful to call the best out of us, even if we don’t see it in ourselves! Even if he has to entirely rename or “re-legacy” us!
From that, I want to leave you with a few questions to hopefully think deeply on:
How do we posture ourselves when we are awaiting “what's coming to us?”
Are we graspers? Are we manipulators? Are we hesitant to step forward? Or do we patiently and then actively receive?
What might the Lord want to call out of us, regardless of our past or even our pattern of legacy?
We do not need to be defined by our struggles or our shortcomings. God knows us from before all of that and he also sees something more in his good intentions for us.
May we be people who “get what’s coming to us” with open and ready hands!