The “Portion of Jacob”

The "Portion of Jacob" (CaD Jer 10) Wayfarer

He who is the Portion of Jacob is not like these,
    for he is the Maker of all things,
including Israel, the people of his inheritance—
    the Lord Almighty is his name
Jeremiah 10:16 (NIV)

Wendy and I have really enjoyed the first three seasons of The Chosen. We have found this cinematic retelling of the Jesus story as amazing as the story of its crowd-funded making. We both honestly felt like it took about three episodes of Season 1 for the writing and story to catch its stride, but from that point on we’ve been enthralled.

One of the things that we both love about this production is the way that it is telling the story. Many of the well-known cinematic retellings of the past have confined themselves to only those episodes and words which are recorded in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The Chosen, on the other hand, has remained true to these episodes while imagining the storylines of the characters around Jesus. In doing so, it places the episodes into the context of real, ordinary, daily lives of those involved – lives that are just like mine or yours. In the most recent third season, Peter and his wife are having marriage problems and a personal crisis that Jesus seems to completely ignore, James (who walks with a permanent limp) struggles with Jesus sending him out on a mission to heal others when Jesus has never once addressed James’ obvious handicap, and Matthew returns to Capernaum to face his estranged parents whose lives have been ruined because of his collaboration with the Romans as the local tax collector.

One of the other subtle things that I have loved about The Chosen is that the writers observe that Jesus loved nicknames. In the show, within The Twelve, He refers to “Big James” and “Little James.” Then there’s Simon the Zealot who is given the moniker “Zee” while the other Simon has yet to be given his nickname “Rocky” (the literal translation of “Peter”). I can’t wait to see how and when they work that one into the story.

I have observed many times along this chapter-a-day journey that God has always loved names and nicknames. As I’ve always said, God’s base language is metaphor. The nicknames that Jesus gave to His followers and that God gave to characters throughout the Great Story usually had a metaphorical meaning pointing to their character or transformation. The myriad of names of God used throughout the Great Story are a testimony to the power of metaphor to give us an increased understanding and appreciation for God, who cannot be truly understood within the limits of my finite mind.

In today’s chapter, I was intrigued by a moniker of God that I never remember noticing before. Jeremiah refers to God as “the Portion of Jacob.” There is only one other time in the entire Great Story in which this name of God is used when Jeremiah uses it again in chapter 51.

And so, in the quiet this morning I sat with and meditated on this nickname, “Portion of Jacob.” Of all the great ancestral heroes of Jeremiah and the Hebrews, Jacob is among the most intriguing. Jacob (which means “deceiver”) was a liar and a deceiver. His is a story of lowly person struggling against his place in life and one who wrestled with God. And yet, God shows Jacob unmerited favor and grace. God uses Jacob despite his flaws. God does not abandon Jacob, but continually humbles and hones Jacob throughout his story.

What a great metaphor for the very people, Jacob’s people, whom Jeremiah describes in today’s chapter. Jeremiah has six times (FYI: in numerology, six is the number of sinful man) described his people as deceitful to this point in the anthology of his messages. Jerry could have chosen to identify God as the God of Abraham, Isaac, Moses, or David. He chooses instead a moniker for God that he alone uses in all of the Great Story. God is the “Portion of Jacob,” the God of the deceitful, rebellious, hard-hearted people who descended from Jacob the deceiver who wrestled with God.

As I pondered this, I was reminded of many of the characters in the Great Story whose earthly lives and paths wound through rebellion, sin, and scandal. I thought of people in my own circles of influence who could be tagged as the spiritual descendants of Jacob the deceiver based on their own scandalous and tragic actions. I couldn’t help but think about my own stretches on this life journey, like those I’ve recently referenced, in which my own actions warranted being identified as a spiritual child of Jacob.

But, that’s the subtle beauty and the meaning of Jeremiah’s nickname for God, which is likely lost on most readers as it’s been lost on me until this morning. God graciously loved and used Jacob despite his very obvious human flaws. Jeremiah is pleading with his flawed and rebellious people to spiritually return to the God who will graciously welcome a repentant prodigal. God graciously loved me despite my own years of wrestling. God calls me to be gracious with those who are in their own stretch of life walking in the shoes as spiritual children of Jacob.

Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Today’s featured image is The Vision after the Sermon (Jacob wrestling with the Angel) by Paul Gaugin. Public domain. Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh, UK.

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