THE PRESENT-DAY MEASURING STICK
Today we operate in a world that facilitates comparison like never before.
Each time you jump onto Instagram, for example, you are bombarded with images of people living their best life. They’re travelling the world, sharing their success, friendships, food, fashion, technology. The list goes on.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that social media is bad, I’m 28, not 82 😊
I actually love Instagram and I use it to share some of my life with friends and family. But I’m not oblivious to its built-in ability to provide a platform of comparison, if we allow it to.
I know that social media has had this kind of negative influence on my life in the past. There have been plenty of times when I’ve opened Instagram only to come across something that has made me feel like I don’t measure up.
I’ve seen people that I went to university with posting about a promotion and I’ve thought, “Wow, I wonder if that could have been me had I stayed in Sydney.”
I’ve seen friends post about engagements, weddings and baby announcements and I’ve thought, “Yep, there they go ticking all the ‘life’ boxes.”
I know, I know. I’m being brutally honest here. Bear with me. Because I don’t think I’m alone in this…
Consciously or subconsciously, many of us are using social media as a comparative tool that determines how our lives measure up.
If you’re like me and you’ve done this, you also know what it feels like when the social media world tells you that you are not as far along as you should be; you’re not measuring up.
GOD DOESN’T HAVE A MEASURING STICK
In the years of Joseph and his forefathers, while there was no social media, there was still opportunity for comparison. The feeling of not measuring up was as real and raw as it is today.
As we near the end of The Joseph Series, we’re going to shift our focus from Joseph to his Father, Jacob, for a moment.
Jacob knew better than many what it felt like to not measure up. Look at what he said to Pharaoh when he met him in Genesis 47:9:
“My days of the years of my life have been few and evil, and they have not attained to the days of the years of the lives of my fathers…”
Jacob knew what it was like to fall short according to the world’s measuring stick.
But the good news for Jacob (and us!) is this: God doesn’t have a measuring stick!
God’s love for us is not determined by what we have or haven’t achieved, where we are or aren’t in life, where we have or haven’t gone.
With God it is not about WHO we are, but rather WHOSE we are!
“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one IN Christ Jesus. If you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28-29 NIV)
What a comforting truth!
So, let’s rewind for a moment and take a look at what God thinks about our measuring stick…
JACOB: JOSEPH’S PATRIARCH
After Joseph makes himself known to his brothers, he instructs them to return to Canaan, collect their wives, children and their father Jacob, and bring everyone to Egypt.
Look at Jacob’s response when Joseph’s brothers returned to Canaan and tell him that Joseph is alive:
“…And Jacobs heart stood still because he could not believe them…when he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of their father revived. Then Israel (Jacob) said, “It is enough! Joseph my son is still alive. I will go and see him before I die.”” (Genesis 45:25-28 MEV)
As I studied Joseph’s story in Genesis chapters 37 to 50, there was always a very big question mark over Jacob’s head for me.
Jacob was one of the ‘greats’, one of the original three – Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They represent the first three generations of the Israelites! They were God’s chosen people.
God uses them 42 times throughout scripture to remind His people of who He is and whose they are:
“I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob.” (Acts 7:32)
And God loved these men fiercely; the same way He loves you and me today.
God gave Abraham a HUGE promise, and this promise is generational, which means it doesn’t end at Abraham. That promise carried through to Isaac and Jacob and all the generations that will follow (including you and me!).
“Now the Lord said to Abram [the original name of Abraham], “Go from your country, your family, and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless them who bless you and curse him who curses you, and in you all families of the earth will be blessed.”” (Genesis 12:1-3)
Jacob was the grandson of Abraham. A descendant of this very promise. A promise to become a great nation.
And yet, over the course of Joseph’s 22-years, from the time his brothers sell him into slavery to the time when he’s reunited with his family, we see Jacob largely inactive and ineffective. He was a recluse. In the grief of losing his favourite son [Joseph] he withdrew and mourned for years and years.
This hardly seems like the response of a man with such a great blessing and calling on his life! Of a man whose heritage is so rich and strong. Of a man to whom God himself appeared and spoke to numerous times in visions and dreams (Genesis 28:10-16 and Genesis 31:3) and even physically (32:22-32).
JACOB KNEW HIS LIFE DIDN’T MEASURE UP
By the world’s standards, Jacob wasn’t measuring up to the lives of his forefathers Abraham and Isaac. And Jacob knew it.
Remember what Jacob said to Pharaoh:
“My days of the years of my life have been few and evil, and they have not attained to the days of the years of the lives of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage.” (Genesis 47:8)
Here, we see Jacob acknowledge that, compared to his father Isaac and his grandfather Abraham, his life hasn’t really measured up.
Oh, how I can relate with Jacob’s downtrodden heart!
BY THE WORLDS STANDARDS, JACOB DIDN’T MEASURE UP!
Taking a speedy look over Jacob’s life to this point, I have to be honest, I can understand why the measuring stick of comparison isn’t his friend.
Jacob deceived his father and robbed his brother (Esau) of his inheritance (Genesis 27). He spent a portion of his life on the run, fearing people he’d deceived or cheated. And he spent 22-years idle and in mourning.
These hardly seem like the actions of one of the ‘greats’!
JACOB: A DEMONSTRATION OF GOD’S UNRELENTING LOVE
And yet, despite all this, God loved Jacob with a fierce kind of love!
God chased Jacob down and constantly reminded him of how much He loved him! That he was chosen.
Look at what God said to Jacob in a dream immediately after Jacob had fled from his home for fear of his brother whom he’d just robbed of his first-born rights.
“I am the lord God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac, the land on which you lie, to you I will give it and to your descendants. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and in your descendants all the families of the earth will be blessed. Remember, I am with you and I will protect you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I promised you.” (Genesis 28:13-15)
What a beautiful picture of God’s unrelenting love for his people!
Like Jacob, it doesn’t matter what we’ve done in the past, or what we will do (or won’t do) in the days to come. God loves us and he pursues us with an unrelenting love.
Thankfully for Jacob [and for us] God’s love is not contingent on our works!!
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not of yourselves. It is the gift of God, not of works so that no one should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
God takes our measuring stick and throws it out the window! He doesn’t compare us to others, so why should we?!
God constantly lavishes his love on us! He pursues us, meets us where we are at, and reminds us that He loves us, that we are blessed with the blessing of Abraham! [Ref: Galatians 3:28-29]
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1)
IT’S NOT WHO YOU ARE. IT’S WHOSE YOU ARE.
God’s love of Jacob wasn’t based on Jacob’s actions or the man he had become. It was based on the pure fact that Jacob was a child of God. Jacob was a descendant of Isaac and Abraham, making him one of God’s chosen.
God showed this when he changed Jacob’s name to Israel in Genesis 32:28:
“The man [God] said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob. You have wrestled with God and with men, and you have won. That’s why your name will be Israel.””
In Hebrew, the name Israel means: May God prevail. He struggles with God. God perseveres; contends.
In the bible, when Jacob was in his nineties, as a token of His blessing, God changed Jacob’s name to Israel.
What an appropriate and fitting name. This is exactly what God did for Jacob – he contended with Jacob’s shortcomings and He constantly reminded Jacob of His love for him and the blessing that was his inheritance as a child of God.
And I have good news for you: God does the same thing for us!!
We are the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and this blessing and love of God is our birthright too!
“If you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:29)
A REMINDER OF GOD’S LOVE
As we briefly shift our focus from Joseph to Jacob, we see a beautiful demonstration of how God loves us!
So, next time you begin to contemplate all the ways you don’t measure up, or begin to think you haven’t done enough compared to others, remember Jacob and the way that God loved him.
That’s exactly the way God loves you today, with a fierce, unrelenting love. And He’ll chase you down to tell you, and never let you go!