Man is created restricted by time and by physical dimensions.
But Almighty God has no such restrictions.
This, and his plan of salvation, is clearly demonstrated in the life of Jacob.
Afer much prayer, Isaac’s wife Rebekah conceived.
Her twins struggled together within her ... So she went to inquire of the LORD.
“Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided;
the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger.” Gen 2521-23
In this fallen world there is a constant battle between good and evil.
Even before they say the light of day, these two babies fought.
When we become a Christian this battle does not cease, it intensifies!
In the life of Jacob we are shown how this battle was won by the Lord Almighty.
Jacob would be reconciled with God, but never with Esau.
The two boys grew up in an atmosphere of division.
When the boys grew up, Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, dwelling in tents. Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob. 2527,28
The plan of God is revealed in this simple event.
Once when Jacob was cooking stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was exhausted. And Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stew, for I am exhausted!” (Therefore his name was called Edom.) Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright now.” Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” Jacob said, “Swear to me now.” So he swore to him and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright. 2529-34
God reveals their widely different heart longings. Macho Esau wanted to satisfy the temporary hunger of his tummy. Jacob yearned for the birthright - to inherit the covenant of God with his grandfather Abraham. But he was mistaken in that life with God can ever be bought or sold. And neither can it be earned by good works. This was one of the many lessons God would graciously teach him in the trials of life. This event shows us one of the reasons why it was later revealed:
“Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” Mal 12,3 Ro 913
In due time Esau inherited all Isaac’s considerable wealth, and became the father of the Edomites.
They would always be an enemy of Israel, and of God. See Obadiah.
Esau married a Hittite and they made life bitter for Isaac and Rebekah. 2635
Jacob’s life was filled with trials, yet he was also significantly blessed by God, (359) and most importantly he learned to walk with God.
The next major incident in Jacob’s life was when his father Isaac was old and wanted to give his blessing to his eldest son after a good meal.. Rebekah knew about how Esau had sold his birthright years before, but Jacob hadn’t told Isaac. And obviously Esau wouldn’t have told him either. Rebekah organised the lying and scheming to dupe old Isaac into unwittingly blessing Jacob. The result of this sorry saga was that it inflamed so much hatred that Jacob had to flee. Although he had the verbal blessing of Isaac, everyone knew it was meaningless because the greedy Esau could easily just take all Isaac’s possessions (not just 2/3). The lessons are that first ‘crime does not pay’ and more important that God did not have to revert to plan B, he just continued with his plan to change Jacob’s life.
Isaac instructed Jacob, “You must not take a wife from the Canaanite women” and you must marry one of the daughters of uncle Laban. 281 So Jacob left home. He was very much alone for the first time. That night God used this opportunity to give him a dream. He saw a ladder set on earth that reached heaven and angels were ascending and descending. Then he told him: “I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. ... Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” 2813,15 Although alone, God promised ‘I am with you’ and ‘I will not leave you’. Some have incorrectly used this ladder dream to suggest that it was Jacob, (and us), who have to climb up to heaven. Not so. But it was to reveal that God in heaven is both interested and active in the affairs of men he had created and who now lived so wickedly.
What was Jacob’s response? If God keeps his word, then I will give 1/10 of all my gains to God! But God, who knew his heart, was not offended by this. His promise of his presence and the land belonging to the Jews has stood firm, unbroken for the last 4,000 years! (Even during the two exiles 586-537 BC and 70-1948 AD some Jews remained in this little bit of ‘real-estate’.)
Jacob named the place Beth-El (= House of God). It should be remembered that God does not live in bricks and mortar (or stones) but in the hearts of men. Such is his amazing grace.
Jacob served Laban for over 20 years. He married Leah and Rachel and worked as a shepherd. Sounds simple; but the scriptures reveal much wheeling and dealing, and also the gift of 11 children by his two wives and their maids. This led to various rivalries and jealousy. Rachel was pregnant with the last child when Jacob fled from Laban when the angel of God instructed him to return to Bethel. 3111-13 This This didn’t please Laban, who chased after him. God did not allow this trifling problem to divert his plan. Neither did the thought of Esau, who in all probability still had high hopes of revenge against Jacob.
Jacob wisely sent a huge present on ahead to try to mollify Esau. It did. He then sent wives and all his possessions across the ford of Jabbok. Once more he was alone and hungry for God. That night a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob's hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 3224-26
Who said making friends with God is easy?
It was a pivotal moment in his life with God. For some Christians this a moment in time, for others it is spread out over weeks. But either way we can say, ‘Once I was lost, but now I am saved’; ‘once I was dead, but now I am alive with God’.
Up until this moment Jacob lived by his own initiative, his own wit. Now he was pleased to rest upon his staff as he walked. His ‘Staff’ was none other than Christ! O how foolish it is for any man to think he can walk alone in his own wisdom and resources.
And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” 3227,28
This does not mean that Jacob fought his way into heaven. But it does mean that Jacob was whole-heartedly determined and honest in his longing for God. It was an admission of his utter poverty and expression of need before God, who delighted to allow him to prevail. This was no longer Jacob saying ‘I will give you 1/10, but Jacob saying ‘Nothing in my hand I bring’. All Christians become aware of how undeserving we are and how much Christ has done for us on the Cross. We too have been given a name change ‘Lost’ has become ‘Found’! We are glad to walk limping, resting upon our ‘Staff’ until we are given a new heavenly body.
So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying,
“For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” 3230
A debtor to mercy alone,
of covenant mercy I sing;
Nor fear, with thy righteousness on,
my person and offering to bring.
The terrors of law and of God
with me can have nothing to do;
My Saviour’s obedience and blood
Hide all my transgressions from view.
My name from the palms of His hands
eternity will not erase;
Impressed on His heart it remains,
in marks of indelible grace.
Yes, I to the end shall endure,
as sure as the earnest is given;
More happy, but not more secure,
the glorified spirits in Heaven.
The remaining 17 chapters of Genesis reveal part 2 of Jacob’s life.
What would you have done if you had seen God face to face?
The story of God and Jacob is unlike any other. We have so much to learn.
Having seen God, Jacob limped for the rest of his life on earth !! 3231
Peniel wasn’t what he asked for in his prayers or hoped for in his dreams.
But it was the precious gift of the most wise and gracious God.
All through his remaining years he walked in the remembrance of Peniel.
What was the covenant that he knew he had inherited and would pass on?
I will make you a great nation. In you all nations will be blessed. 121,2
Number the stars ... so shall your offspring be. 155,6
To your offspring I will give this land. 1518
My covenant with you and your offspring is an everlasting covenant. 177
All this God entrusted to Jacob, now renamed Israel.
The first hurdle was Esau. But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him. 334
So Esau’s threatened violence was not a problem; but his friendship was!
Jacob had to excuse himself and go and live separately from Esau.
He knew that light and darkness could not live well together. (3312-17)
Shechem defiled Dinah, daughter of Leah. Jacob’s sons took revenge.
Jacob told them, “You have brought trouble on me.” 331-31
God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there.”
Jacob first insisted that they surrender all their foreign gods. He buried them.
This was a vital and significant act. (500 years before Commandments)
God appeared to Jacob again, when he came from Paddan-aram, and blessed him.
God also reminded him of his name change and the covenant. 359-13
The examination of the rest of Jacob’s life will reveal that God loves us enough to discipline us through trials as well as joys and hope. See Heb 125,6
Let this be an encouragement to us. God’s love is secure and strong.
He will not test us beyond what he knows we can bear. (Also 1 Co 1013)
Jacob journeyed from Bethel down towards Hebron.
When at Bethlehem, his beloved wife Rachel died giving birth to Benjamin. 3519
Although he still had Leah and 12 children, it was a deep tragedy for Jacob.
Also his father Isaac dies.
Joseph (11th son) was Rachel’s first child, and was thus very special to Jacob.
His brothers were jealous. His dreams made family relations even worse.
Brothers sold him as a slave and pretended a wild beast had killed him. 3712-36
Jacob was naturally devastated.
At the time God’s plans are often surprising.
He knew that Jacob would go down to Egypt and the Jews would be enslaved there. He had even told Abraham: “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions.” Gen 1513
In the sale of Joseph to the Ishmaelites, God was preparing the way for the Jews to be welcomed in Egypt! Although they would later be enslaved, Egypt would also learn about the judgement of God upon the gods of Egypt during the 10 plagues and at the Red Sea. Israel would celebrate the first of 3,500 years of Passovers! Each of which points to the Passover Lamb of God, who alone is able to take away sin.
At the time Jacob would not have known significance of any of this, but God did.
Another surprise awaited Jacob after he had returned to the ‘promised land’. He would naturally have expected God’s gift of land to bear good fruit. But it didn’t. There was a famine over all that part of the ME. But strangely there was grain for sale in Egypt. So he sent all his sons (except Benjamin) to go and buy some.
Again Jacob didn’t know that Joseph was not only alive but having interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams correctly, he was now Prime Minister! But God knew and had ‘stage-managed’ the whole story! (Gen 41, 42)
And of course Jacob eventually had to be told that Joseph was alive and his sons had lied to him. Another devastating truth for Jacob, the patriarch in the hand of the Lord.
So all the family went down to Egypt and Pharaoh gave them the land to Goshen.
There Jacob died. But not before By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff. Heb 1121
There was much that Jacob did not know; but he did have faith in God. He believed that God was faithful and would fulfill his covenant. He was pleased to leave the details to be revealed to others. His staff was proof that Almighty God had changed his name from Jacob to Israel, and that he was part of the everlasting covenant. The last we hear of Jacob was that Joseph had him embalmed and his sons took his body up to Hebron, to the promised land where Abraham and Sarah were buried. Then they returned to Egypt. Gen 5012-14
Centuries later God sent his Son, born as promised to the descendants of Jacob. He was crucified so that man’s sin could be forgiven and the promised blessing could be extended to all the Gentile nations. May the same hand of God that was upon Jacob enable us also to have faith and trust in the covenant and all that God has promised.
Come, O thou Traveller unknown,
Whom still I hold, but cannot see.
My company before is gone,
And I am left alone with thee;
With thee all night I mean to stay,
And wrestle till the break of day.
I need not tell thee who I am,
My misery and sin declare;
Thyself hast called me by my name,
Look on my hands, and read it there;
But who, I ask thee, who art thou?
Tell me thy name, and tell me now.
In vain thou strugglest to get free,
I never will unloose my hold.
Art thou the man that died for me?
The secret of thy love unfold;
Wrestling, I will not let thee go,
Till I thy name, thy nature know.
Yield to me now; for I am weak,
But confident in self-despair;
Speak to my heart, in blessings speak,
Be conquered by my instant prayer;
Speak, or thou never hence shall move,
And tell me if thy name is Love.
T'is Love, t'is Love! Thou diedst for me!
I hear the whisper in my heart;
The morning breaks, the shadows flee,
Pure, universal Love thou art;
To me, to all, thy mercies move:
Thy nature and thy name is Love.
My prayer hath power with God; the grace
Unspeakable I now receive,
Through faith I see thee face to face;
I see thee face to face and live;
In vain I have not wept and strove;
Thy nature and thy name is Love.
I know thee, Saviour, who thou art,
Jesus, the feeble sinner's friend;
Nor wilt thou with the night depart,
But stay and love me to the end;
Thy mercies never shall remove;
Thy nature and thy name is Love.
Contented now upon my thigh
I halt, till life's short journey end;
All helplessness, all weakness, I
On thee alone for strength depend;
Nor have I power from thee to move:
Thy nature and thy name is Love.
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