“All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.
I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go”
Jacob’s life began with a prophetic revelation to his mother – but neither he nor Rebekah appeared willing to leave the matter in God’s hands. They schemed to get the blessings for Jacob – with a sad affect upon family relationships. Jacob comes through the story of his life as one who was naturally crafty and deceitful, was in turn deceived by his uncle and father-in-law, finally learned to trust God and became the father of the twelve sons who became the foundation of a nation. God changed Jacob’s name to Israel and the Hebrew nation became known as both the ‘sons of Jacob’ and ‘the children of Israel.’
Jacob’s character begins to be revealed when he refused to give his famished brother some of the food he was preparing unless his brother first relinquished his birth-right in Jacob’s favour. Then at his mother’s instigation and scheming he deceived his blind father into thinking he was Esau and so received the elder son’s blessing. Fleeing from Esau’s wrath he went to his mother’s family where he worked for her brother. Falling in love with Laban’s daughter Rachel he agreed to work for him for seven years in return for her hand in marriage. However, he was deceived by Laban and found that he had married Leah, the older sister, instead. He then had to commit himself to a further period of service to be able to marry Rachel.
Jacob had two remarkable experiences of God. One was the dream after he had fled from home, where God re-affirmed His promise to Abraham and promised to be with Jacob and to look after him. The second was on his way back home with his wives, children, servants and flocks. The day before he was to meet Esau, of whom he was desperately afraid, he wrestled with God all night. At day-break God changed his name to Israel and caused him to have a limp. God blessed him there, and Jacob called the place Peniel, saying,
“It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”
There is a telling similarity between the call of Abraham (and by implication, the call of Isaac and Jacob) and the call by Jesus of His disciples. In both instances the call includes the words “I will make you.’ There is no suggestion in either case that the people called are already those of high faith, wisdom and integrity – nor that they will be the ones who will work well for God. The focus is entirely on God’s majesty and grace. He calls who He will call and, by His grace, will transform their lives and work His will through and around them. And so down the years He became known as ‘the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’ because of what He had achieved in and through them and not through what they themselves had done. That truth is hugely significant in our lives today. It is also worth noting that the three wives who were to bear the sons through whom God would fulfil His promises were each barren until God intervened.
Each patriarch had his shortcomings – some more than others. But God, who had called them – with full knowledge of who they were and what they would be like – was faithful and true. His love, grace and power prevailed – as it will with us if we too step out on the Way with Him. We do not have to scheme or manipulate things for God’s will to be achieved – only to be available and obedient. He will bring about His own will.
Father, Yours is the kingdom the power and the glory – please work Your will in, through and around me, and help me to trust and be available to You and Your direction. Amen.