Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To reflect on Jacob’s journey from family difficulties to becoming his true self.
Preparation and materials
- Note that, if there are good actors among the students, this material could be reworked to create a more dramatic presentation. Your actors could start by briefly role-playing a family disagreement, ending with one boy leaving the house in a fury. You could then make the link between this and the universal and ageless problems of family jealousies and disagreements, illustrated by Jacob, and how they send us on unexpected journeys in life.
- Familiarize yourself with the passage Genesis 28.10–22 and have a copy of it to read out during the assembly in Step 5.
- Choose some gentle music and have the means to play it in the background during the ‘Time for reflection’ part of the assembly.
- Jacob is one of the key personalities in the Old Testament. His story takes up half the book of Genesis, which is the first book in the Old Testament.
He was the son of Isaac and Rebekah, the younger twin brother of Esau, husband of Leah and Rachel and father of the ancestors of the twelve tribes of Israel. One of his sons was Joseph, of ‘technicolor dreamcoat’ fame. So, it was quite a family.
- Jacob's life was far from straightforward. To begin with, there was his name – it comes from the Hebrew word for 'heel', or, 'he cheats, supplants'. Not very auspicious, you might say. He didn’t get on well with his twin brother either, because he was his mother's favourite, while his father favoured Esau.
This situation was further complicated by the fact of birthright – the special privileges that traditionally came with being the eldest male child in the family. It could make quite a difference. For example, if there were two sons in a family, the inheritance was divided into three and the elder son got two thirds. Considering Esau was Jacob's twin brother, this must have been quite hard to swallow.
Then there was the question of the very special, unchangeable blessing that a father gave the eldest son as part of these birthright privileges. One way and another it just didn't seem fair to Jacob.
- Eventually, the resentment came to a head and Jacob, with the help of his mother, tricked his father Isaac into giving him the blessing instead of Esau.
You can guess what happened when they were found out. Jacob was desperate to escape the fury and so ran away from home.
- Just about all of us can recognize Jacob's situation. Bad mistakes are made, people important to us become really angry and upset. There are times when the best way out does seem to be to run away.
Sometimes we're gone for an hour or two – or a day – before returning home. Some people leave altogether and their lives fall apart. They're on the streets, exploited, ill, friendless . . . It wasn't how they planned it at all.
- Jacob, too, was at risk when he left home, but, shortly after setting out, he had a different experience. He learnt something that was to be important to him for the rest of his life.
Read Genesis 28.10–22.
This vision had a great effect on Jacob – even if he hadn't been what you might call angelic himself. It wasn't easy, he had a great mental struggle and made plenty of mistakes in the years that followed, but it was worth it. He recognized his own responsibilities to God and somehow that was all part of recognizing God was interested in him and cared for him. It was all part of his journey towards being his true self.
Time for reflection
Play chosen music quietly in the background.
Invite everyone to think about their reactions when they make mistakes.
Do you blame someone else?
Do you deny your responsibility?
In some ways this is 'running away'.
Whose opinions do you value?
How do the opinions of that person help shape you for good?
We pray for those who have lost a sense of meaning in their lives . . .
For those who have no sense of value . . .
For people who have no home . . .
And for all those who care and work for the loveless and the lost as they journey through life.
Gentle background music