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Jacob - The Way of God
by James Vasquez
( Part 3 - click here for Part 2 )
"Be off, I send you now in search,
Of brothers far away,
Who graze our flocks near Shechem midst,
The heat of summer's day.
"And bring me word of how things go,
And what their needs may be,
Assuring them their father longs,
Their safe return to see.
"Your coat, dear son, of colors bright,
They'll see afar and then,
A fitting welcome will they plan,
These thoughtful, hardy men."
And with these words I said goodbye,
To Joseph, younger son,
Who, 'spite his wild and selfish dreams,
My favor he had won.
And now each son removed so far,
I quite alone am found,
And will years past consider and,
The ways of God propound.
The ways of God! How dark at times,
What mystery therein lies,
Yet with unfolding years light dawns,
And vanquished hopes arise.
In foreign lands I labored long,
Two wives were my reward,
And then another span for flocks,
Fulfilling the accord,
I had with Laban father of,
The women I called mine,
Whose table prospered greatly then,
Enriched with meat and wine.
He saw his flocks and land increase,
And still was not content,
My wages did he change ten times,
Not asking my consent.
I suffered 'gainst the cold by night,
By day the sun's harsh ray,
From hunger, countless sleepless nights,
When in bare fields I lay.
But God whom once I questioned well,
Uncertain where he dwelt,
Again and yet again proved true,
As I his presence felt,
Protecting me from Laban's schemes,
And helping me to gain,
A hoard of children and of flocks,
For all my grief and pain.
And if at times I ventured to,
Somewhat like Laban be,
Returning, thank you, ill for ill,
Well, mind you, that was me.
And just when Laban's sons did think,
To bring me some great harm,
Believing they had lost their wealth,
And next would be the farm,
The Lord said I should take my things,
And with my family flee,
Returning to my fathers' land,
And he would be with me.
And what that promise meant just then,
When, helpless to defend,
My children, wives and properties,
And quite without a friend,
I find within no words to say,
And only offer praise,
I, who his presence doubted so,
Throughout my youthful days.
But once again I heard those words,
His promise to be near,
No need I had to doubt him, then,
Nor other words to hear.
And by dawn's light one morning crisp,
With all my family there,
We took our leave for Canaan and,
Left Laban unaware.
But shortly he was told of us,
And with an army came,
Of relatives determined well,
My scornful life to claim.
Yet God once more proved faithful in,
What he had vowed to be,
Forbidding that my uncle say,
Of good or ill to me.
And thus a covenant we made,
When Laban, pacified,
Kissed daughters and their children as,
They held him close and cried.
A monument we built to stand,
As witness to that day,
That neither would the other harm,
Nor 'cross the pillar stray.
And then the God of Abraham,
And Nahor's God as well,
We did invoke in solemn oath,
To ever with us dwell.
A feast we held that very night,
In celebration of,
The pact that stood between us all,
And parted, then, in love.
Our journey led through Edom which,
Was called the land of Seir,
I'd little cause for confidence,
And everything to fear.
For Esau long had settled there,
And when he heard I came,
He rose and with four hundred men,
Set out, then, to reclaim,
The blessing of our father which,
He still, I thought, bemoaned,
And that inheritance which he,
As elder brother owned.
I prayed to God. Oh, how I prayed!
Reminding him of all,
His promises to guide my ways,
If I obeyed his call,
Returning home to father where,
He said, prosperity,
Would be my lot and offspring like,
The sand beside the sea.
And then in preparation for,
A meeting I did dread,
I set apart the flock in groups,
And to my servants said,
"With every kindness and respect,
Bow low before this man,
Assuring him that what he saw,
And all his eyes did scan,
"Was but a gift from Jacob who,
Implored his mercy now,
Who not as brother but himself,
As servant did avow."
But every thought of Esau ceased,
As I lay down that night,
Alone beside a quiet stream,
And thought upon my plight,
For when a movement I perceived,
I quickly turned and saw,
A figure something like a man,
That I beheld in awe,
And strange it seemed the two of us,
Should wrestle through the night,
This grim, celestial visitor,
And I of human might.
But stranger yet the outcome for,
As light the dawn did hail,
O'er his defeated, prostrate form,
At last, I did prevail.
I held him fast while he implored,
I send him on his way,
But I refused demanding he,
A blessing o'er me say.
He blessed me there but when I asked,
His name he quite declined,
And left me with these words that I,
Therein might solace find,
"As Israel will you now be known,
In this land and abroad,
For striving you have triumphed well,
With man and with your God."
And then came Esau and his men!
Would triumph here be mine?
Or would my brother vengeance take,
Fulfilling his design?
But soon to great surprise I was,
Relieved of all my fears,
He greeted me with open arms,
With kindness and with tears.
I then presented one by one,
My family as they bowed,
With Rachel and young Joseph last,
Of whom I was most proud.
And Esau then refused my gifts,
Of which he had no need,
But kindly changed his mind when I,
Most earnestly did plead.
He wished to journey by my side,
As I to Shechem trekked,
In truth he had an army that,
My family would protect.
But when I told him greater need,
I had to travel slow,
He took his men and said goodbye,
And on his way did go.
And once again the ways of God,
Seemed vast, beyond my ken,
Delivering me from Esau and,
His stout four hundred men.
For truly I by then did know,
The wrong to him I'd done,
Through sheer deception taking all,
His rights as first-born son.
And yet he met me, merciful,
Embraced me, shed his tears,
He'd not been planning vengeance while,
Apart for all those years!
I saw him next in Mamre when,
Our father Isaac died,
Together there we buried him,
Together there we cried.
A man of honor he had been,
Who lived to ample age,
And in his chosen pagan ways,
Was faithful and was sage.
And still no sign of anger nor,
The slightest vengeful thought,
Did Esau harbor toward me then,
For all that I had wrought.
And what have I across the years,
So late but surely learned?
God's sovereign mercy gives to men,
Beyond what each has earned.
And now on Joseph do I wait,
Returning he shall tell,
Just how he found his brothers and,
If all with them goes well.
(end of part 3)
from the March 2003 Edition of the Jewish Magazine