By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff. Hebrews 11, verse 21.
Jacob: he is revered yet he is reviled. I’ve heard Biblical critics savage the Scriptures because of Jacob. He was a liar, a cheat, a scoundrel. He was the radically imperfect vessel through whom God chose to display His grace. Later there was Moses, and Ruth, and David, and the prophets, and Paul. Much later came you and me. Like it or not, got skin, got sin. You, Jacob, and I are cut from the same cloth.
Yet you and I aren’t going to be remembered in the Bible whereas those other people are. Jacob was an old man by the time the story of Joseph fully played out. He had known the consequences of the sins of his youth as well as those perpetrated against him. He married two sisters who quarreled. Said two sisters hated their father, and this animosity carried over into the next two generations. His wife had played favorites with their children, just as Jacob’s had; just as Jacob did himself. Those children, twelve sons from multiple women, quarreled again and sold their youngest brother into slavery. When Jacob was praying like this, he was in danger of losing both his life and his family. Indeed, at the time Jacob praying while leaning on his staff, he and everyone around him was still in real danger of starving to death.
Through all of it, two things remained. One, Jacob remained a cheeky fellow, and two, Jacob came to rely more and more on God. God had sustained him when he journeyed in the desert to his uncle’s land. The pillow, the ladder, the visions, the miracle food: all God’s provision. In return, Jacob worshipped and prayed, built altars, dug wells, and dedicated his life to God. Through God’s woven plan, Jacob regained the son whom he thought had died. When his life was nearly over, he blessed his sons and their future in the name of the God he had come to know well, the God who had sustained him physically and spiritually against long odds.
Do you know any Jacobs in the world today? Better yet, do you know of any in your own life? Are you one of them?
I’ll admit: I have a soft spot for Jacob. When I was a boy, I was quiet like he was; I would have rather stayed around the house than go out hunting in the open country. I’m still that way. I’ve done my share of deceiving to get what I wanted, and I’ve come to own the consequences of sins I wish I had never done. Yet I also know God. I rely on Him more and more, even as so many times I still rail against Him. I’m not wealthy like Jacob, and I haven’t yet known real famine. Yet I have been in real danger of destitution and death many times, many of them times of my own making. In all of them, I grew closer to my Maker because He sustains me in the bad times and provides for me in everything. Anything good I have known is from God and nobody else.
Sometimes I see Jacob in the mirror. God hasn’t made me into an Israel yet, but there’s still time. What He has done is bring me from long ago days that seem fearfully ancient into today, where I am unafraid to talk of God and talk about Him in this life. Where there have been mixed blessings, the ‘mixed’ part has always been because of something I or someone else did. The blessings overwhelmingly come from God. There are people who revere and revile me equally; it’s all fair. Put it on my tombstone that I wish for them to revere God instead and revile the bad choices they, too, have made. I’m Jacob. How about you?
For further reading: Genesis 48-49.
My Lord, You and only You sustain me, just as You did Your servant, Jacob. Thank You for this.