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Taking Shortcuts

Taking Shortcuts

Editor's note: Join us for the God Never Gives Up on You Online Bible Study starting 10/23!


The revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay. Habakkuk 2:3

Welcome | read on your own

No family is perfect. Even the best ones have branches of the family tree that go rogue. When you consider your own family, you can surely think of an aunt or great-grandfather that was a black sheep or left a less-than-perfect legacy. We find families like this in the Bible as well. Yes, even biblical families had their problems and their problem-causing characters! Humans are all broken, and these ancient families were no exception.

Jacob is a perfect example of a member of a great family who left a less-than-perfect legacy. He had a reputation for taking shortcuts. Before he was born, God promised that he would be a leader of a great nation (see Genesis 25:23). But instead of waiting for God to fulfill the promise, Jacob (with the help of his mother, Rebekah) took matters into his own hands. He strategized to secure his brother’s birthright and then outright stole his brother’s blessing. Rather than waiting, he took. Rather than asking God to make a way, he made a way for himself. The story didn’t end well.

Shortcuts are tempting. God does not operate on our preferred timelines, so when we see an opportunity to take matters into our hands, we often do. But there is a reason why God calls us to wait—and there are consequences for not waiting. In particular, as we will see in this first session, when we fail to trust in God’s promises and try to rush his timeline, we typically only end up bringing misery on ourselves and on the people we love.

Connect | 15 minutes

If you or any of your group members don’t know each other, take a few minutes to introduce yourselves. Then, to get things started, discuss one of the following questions:

  • Why did you decide to join this study? What do you hope to learn?

— or —

  • When you think about your family’s legacy, who or what sticks out to you?

Watch | 20 minutes

Now watch the video for this session. Below is an outline of the key points covered during the teaching. Record any thoughts or concepts that stand out to you.


I. Sturdy oaks and crooked trees

A. Some family members are remembered like the sturdy oaks and majestic sequoias. They leave behind a powerful legacy with their words, works, and actions.

B. Others leave behind a legacy that is a bit more crooked. The events they encounter in life cause them to cave and compromise. We see this in the family tree of Abraham.

C. Abraham was wealthy in herds, flocks, silver, and gold. He was also affluent in faith. His son Isaac was born to him and his wife, Sarah, in their old age. Isaac married Rebekah, and their sons were Esau and Jacob.

II. The birthright and the blessing

A. Esau means “hairy” in Hebrew. He was manly, ruddy... and hairy. Jacob means “he grasps the heel,” so named because he grasped Esau’s heel during birth. He would grow into a real heel.

B. Jacob liked shortcuts. One day when Esau came home from hunting without any snacks, Jacob convinced his elder brother to trade his birthright for a bowl of stew.

C. Jacob even stepped into Esau’s name and hobby. He dressed up like Esau, cooked his elderly father a meal, and duped Isaac into giving him the blessing that belonged to Esau.

D. When Esau found out about Jacob’s duplicity, the hunter decided it was time for a new type of prey. He said in his heart, “I will kill my brother Jacob” (Genesis 27:41 NKJV). Jacob fled.

III. The cost of a burgled blessing

A. Jacob’s family was splintered and he was now living a life on the run. He had betrayed his father’s trust and, as far as we know, he never saw his mother again.

B. Jacob’s life became a mare’s nest of misery. The day after running away from home, he was sleeping on the ground with a rock for a pillow. All because he took a shortcut.

C. Jacob was a liar, a cheat, a thief, and a deceiver. He was a crooked tree in the family line. But he was also beloved of God. He was precious in God’s sight.

IV. A vision and a promise

A. Jacob had a dream in the wilderness of a ladder that “reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it” (Genesis 28:12 NKJV).

B. Jacob’s vision didn’t end with the ladder. The Lord of heaven said, “I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land” (Genesis 28:15 NKJV)

C. At Jacob’s lowest moment — alone, abandoned, and afraid — God chose to cover him with grace. The Lord loved Jacob in spite of all his faults.

V. God’s stubborn refusal to give up on you

A. God is present with you. He is speaking to you. He is inviting you to look up and lean into Him.

B. Your ladder into Heaven is not a vision. Yours is a person. Jesus is your stairway.

C. Jesus is at both ends of the ladder. He is the conduit through which blessings come and prayers ascend. He is the intermediary between you and God.

D. The promise in Jacob’s story is that God is in the wilderness, in the despair, in the misery, in the mess and mayhem, and in the broken hearts.

Discuss | 35 minutes

Discuss what you just watched by answering the following questions. There are some sug- gested questions below to help you begin your discussion, but feel free to pick any of the additional questions as time allows.

Suggested Questions

  1. At one point during Rebekah’s pregnancy, she asked the Lord about why the two babies “jostled each other within her” (Genesis 25:22). Read God’s reply in Genesis 25:23. How might this prophecy have affected Rebekah and Jacob’s future actions?
  2. The Bible reveals that Jacob was impatient and often took shortcuts. How did he scheme with his mother, Rebekah, to deceive his father, Isaac? What did Jacob receive from Isaac as a result? What were the consequences of their actions?
  3. It’s easy to fault Jacob for his foolishness. But what about you? When have you taken a shortcut because you grew impatient with waiting on God? What happened in that situation as a result of your impatience?
  4. Read Genesis 28:10–15. At Jacob’s lowest moment, God chose to appear to him and cover him with his grace. What does this say about how God felt toward Jacob? What does this say about how God feels about us, even when we take shortcuts?

Additional Questions

  1. Read Genesis 28:16–17. How did Jacob’s dream change the way he viewed God? When is a time that you suddenly became aware of God’s presence in your life like this?
  2. The apostle Paul writes, “There is one God and one mediator between God and man- kind, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). How is Jesus our “ladder” to God?
  3. If God were to call down to you from the ladder just as he did with Jacob, what would you want to hear him say to you?
  4. What is the promise for each of us in Jacob’s story? How could you find strength in that promise today?

Respond | 10 minutes

Sketch out your perception of your family tree. Draw sturdy branches, crooked branches, small branches — whatever represents your family. For your branch, draw the type of legacy that you hope to leave. When you are finished, share your sketch with the group.

Pray | 10 minutes

Praying for one another is one of the most important things you can do as a community. So use this time wisely and make it more than just a “closing prayer” to end your group experience. Be intentional about sharing your prayers, reviewing how God is answering them, and actually praying as a group. Use the space below to write down any requests so that you and your group members can continue to pray about them in the week ahead.

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Your Turn

Come share your thoughts to session one of God Never Gives Up on You. Also, you're invited to join us for the God Never Gives Up on You OBS starting 10/23!