Sir Walter Scott, a celebrated novelist and poet, once said, "Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive." And it's true; deception will get us into a lot of trouble.
A story unfolds in the book of Genesis that shows us the problems that can arise from deceit, cover-up, and manipulation.
It all began with Abraham's family. Lying appeared to be an ongoing temptation for this group. We know that Abraham lied twice, claiming that his wife Sarah was his sister. His son Isaac followed suit and lied about his wife Rebekah in the same manner. Then Rebekah deceived Isaac and had Jacob pose as Esau. And so the pattern continued.
When we are introduced to the twin sons of Isaac and Rebekah, we learn that Isaac favored Esau, while Rebekah favored Jacob. This created a friction between these two boys that lasted well into their adulthood.
In addition, God had declared that the older would serve the younger in this family. Traditionally, the firstborn, Esau, would receive the birthright and all the privileges that went along with it. But God made an exception in this case.
Jacob was to become one of the most significant individuals in the Bible. He is mentioned in the often-used phrase, "The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." His name appears over and over again throughout Scripture.
Although God used Jacob in a mighty way, his life was a great paradox. On one hand, Jacob was clever and humble and had a deep reverence and love for God. On the other hand, he could be conniving, dishonest, and downright deceitful.
We see these traits at work when he was cooking up some stew one day and Esau came in from the field. Exhausted from a day of hunting, Esau asked Jacob for some dinner. Jacob was quick to seize the opportunity: sure, Esau could have some stew, if he gave Jacob his birthright.
The birthright guaranteed its owner a double portion of the inheritance. It would give him the right to be the head of the family, and — more specifically — the spiritual leader. It also meant that he would be included in the Messianic line, though neither of them knew that at the time.
Esau seemed to have cared less about all that. He wanted instant gratification, so he flippantly traded away his birthright. And Jacob, instead of waiting on God for what He had promised, resorted to manipulation. He wanted the right thing, but he went about it in the wrong way.
To make matters worse, Jacob then deceived his father into giving him Esau's blessing. When Esau found out what happened, he vowed to kill Jacob. Rebekah heard about Esau's plan and sent Jacob away to her brother Laban.
What Jacob didn't realize was that he was about to get a taste of his own medicine. If Jacob was a deceiver, then his uncle was the deceiver extraordinaire. Laban was the Duke of Deceit, the Lord of Lying. The same things Jacob had done to others were about to be done to him. In time, Jacob learned the truth of the biblical principle that says, "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap" (Galatians 6:7 NKJV).
Sometimes we rationalize our sin, because we expect God to forgive us. He will, but it doesn't mean there won't be repercussions. We must realize there are consequences to our actions. We can't plant weeds and expect to reap flowers. In the same way, we can't sin and expect righteousness as the outcome.
Maybe you recently have come face-to-face with the repercussions of a bad decision. Maybe you fear what will happen now. Know this: regardless of what you have done, God will help you.
I am not saying there won't be repercussions, but I am saying you won't face them alone. If it is possible to make restitution, you need to do it. If you need to ask forgiveness, do it. Do the right thing in the right way before God. He will help you.
Ultimately, Jacob got what he wanted, but he went about it in the wrong way and reaped the consequences for years to come. Jacob was always going about things in the wrong way.
What a mess we can make of our lives when we disregard the will of God. God wants us to seek His will in His way in His timing.
The story of Johnny Cash’s life and spiritual struggles offers hope to anyone who has had trouble staying on the straight and narrow path—and reminds us that God redeems broken lives and makes them whole again. My new book, Johnny Cash: The Redemption of an American Icon is a fascinating look at a unique and talented musician and follower of Christ!