Paul was asking Pastor Philemon to play out the story of the prodigal son on the platform of his church, with Philemon himself in the role of the father. The script said to throw his arms around the wastrel and to summon everyone to celebrate “this son of mine who was dead and is now alive.” God does that to pastors sometimes. Our stories won’t mirror this one exactly but they’re similar enough for us to nod in recognition.
Jacob is the Bible’s “Everyman.” He is the first Israel. And he is us. One thing this failure-prone figure proves is that God plays favorites. When God plays favorites we call it grace.
A young fellow came to our door the other day selling security systems, including a little camera allowing us to see who is at the door. No matter how good it is, there’s a threat that camera would miss. “Sin is crouching at your door,” God told Cain, with a warning that echoes down to us.
Lead your brothers and sisters to this homeland they have never seen. When they feel like they live in dangerous dark alleys, we take them again to Mt. Stronghold, to the heavenly Jerusalem—their “foundation of peace.”