Jacob simply wanted his father to affirm him…
I often wonder why Jacob asked for yet one more blessing. Remember the Jacob who spent the whole night wrestling with God (Genesis 32:22-32)? He struggled with such persistence that at dawn the Lord had to disable his hip to make him stop. But Jacob still insisted: “I will not let you go unless you bless me” (26).
So why ask for more blessing? After all, God had already lavished blessing on him far beyond the measure of most folks.
His mother Rebekah affirmed it:
“The Lord said to her, ‘Two nations are in your womb…and the elder shall serve the younger’ ” (25:23).
His father Isaac affirmed it:
“I have made him [Jacob] lord over you [Esau] and have made all his relatives your servants…(27:37)
His brother Esau affirmed it:
“He took my birthright, and now he’s taken my blessing!” (27:36)
HIs uncle Laban affirmed it:
“I have learned from divination that the Lord has blessed me because of you” (30:27).
Jacob himself admitted it:
“I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two camps…” (32:10).
If two wives, two concubines, twelve sons, a daughter, servants, flocks and wealth weren’t enough, God chose Jacob as the brother who would carry the blessing of Abraham’s seed (12:1-3). Remember Jacob’s ladder, the stairway to heaven?
“I will give you and your descendants…the land…. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth…. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go…. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised” (28:13-15).
Really? How much blessing can one man contain? Even after Jacob’s life proved the Lord’s lavish grace, why didn’t the privileged attention satisfy him? The Lord personally favored Jacob by meeting him face-to-face (32:31), but still Jacob tackled him, desperate for a blessing. I will not let go unless you bless me!
What did Jacob really want?
I think there’s one little verse that might open the window to Jacob’s hungry soul:
“Isaac…loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob” (25:28).
We have only a snapshot of these peoples’ lives, so we can’t assume too much. But human nature has changed little since then. If they were fallen human souls in typical human families like us, I think we can make some conjectures. His mother’s nurturing love certainly helped sustain Jacob. But from his childhood he watched his father favor the elder son. Jacob needed his father’s validation too. It seems that he kept trying to prove himself and manipulate his future, perhaps with the inner motive of trying to win his father’s approval. But it was never enough.
Sound familiar? How many among us have identity struggles that stem from the lack of parental affirmation?
Perhaps his father was blind to how much his lopsided favor affected Jacob. Perhaps Rebekah’s motherly heart tried to make up for Jacob’s emptiness by forcing the blessing through deception. But even after gaining the blessing that God himself ordained (25:23), we can be sure that Jacob heard his father’s remorse loud and clear—Isaac “trembled violently,” the Bible says (27:33), wishing he had blessed Esau instead. Blessing or not, Jacob still missed his father’s affirmation.
None of us were perfect parents, or have had perfect parents, and neither did Jacob. But we all have that place in our soul where we need affirmation from our parents—from both mothers and fathers of course. But we especially need the foundation of a father’s validation that reaches the depth of our souls and calls out our God-given identity and purpose. This gives us a healthy confidence, a solid place to set our feet.
Even Jesus received this validation from his Father:
“This is my Son, whom I love,” Father God affirmed Jesus’ identity. “Listen to him!” (Mark 9:7).
Father God validates Jacob
It’s true that Jacob didn’t have a perfect earthly father, but he did have the perfect heavenly Father. When he wrestled with God and pleaded for a blessing, his wholly good and faithful Father went straight to his heart and answered his cry for a father’s affirmation. God supplied the foundation he craved. The Lord changed his identity as “Jacob the deceiver” and gave him a new name that affirmed his identity and purpose as an overcomer:
“Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome” (32:28).
All the material blessings in the world had not satisfied Jacob’s hunger. What he really needed was the affirmation of a father, and Father God provided. As with all of us, it takes time for God’s love to penetrate our souls, so the Lord had to reiterate his affirmation at least once more (35:10).
What do you really want?
I won’t write a long paragraph to persuade anyone that we need the Father’s affirmation. We already know these cravings in our souls that only God’s presence can fill. And we already know that our Father beams with pleasure for us, sings over us with joy (Zephaniah 3:17), validates us with the stamp of his image and work in our lives, redeemed by the blood of his Son. And as validated children of Father God, we can extend his love to others, serving as fathers and mothers in His Family. So many people lack nurturing parents, whether in a natural or spiritual sense. We can be those parents that speak Father God’s blessing and affirmation into the souls of others, if we open ourselves to that.
So let’s open ourselves to that! Let’s meet with the Lord face-to-face as Jacob did. Let’s surrender in worship to his touch in the Spirit’s temple of our hearts. Let’s express our longings to Him, hear Him sing over us, affirming our purpose and identity in Him. And let’s commit to transparent fellowship with others, supporting each other, sharing the Father’s love.
I’d love to read your own stories of affirmation or comments below…
*All Scripture quotations taken from NIV translation.