I am not talking about the guy on lost. I am talking about the guy in Genesis who was one of the patriarchs and who got the name Israel after wrestling and angel. I have had a hard time understanding Jacob over the last few years. First there is the Jacob side of the equation:
- His name means deceiver.
- He trips up his brother even at birth.
- He gets his brother’s birthright by near extortion.
- Jacob tricks his father into giving him the patriarchal blessing.
- Then his father gives him the covenant blessing.
- He wrestles an angel and demands another blessing!
- To top things off, Jacob swears an oath to God that if God will do everything God said he would do Jacob would give him a tenth in return.
Then there is the God side of the equation:
- God appears to him in a way that we hadn’t seen since Abraham.
- God blesses him
- God give him a covenant blessing.
- God makes his lineage the lineage of the covenant when by right it would have been Esau.
The apparent discrepancy between those two lists is what has thrown me in my study of Jacob. I can’t get over the fact that he seems like such a scoundrel. I have asked myself on several occasions why would God use such a deceiver and trickster in His master plan? A couple of things hit me this time around that may help answer that question that I would like to share.
First, the reason God did use such a trickster in his master plan may be the same reason Rahab and Tamar share with him the lineage of Christ. God uses the foolish to shame the wise and shows that the good He is able to do in our lives in not dependent upon our getting it right every time.
Second, Jacob didn’t have 2000 pages of scripture and the end of the story detailed out in front of him to put his faith in. He just had the promises and those promises had been on the table for some time but they still didn’t possess the land (Gen 28:4).So this is a story about faith and God is able to work with him to build his faith even though he doesn’t perfectly understand all God is up to.
Third, the New Testament also makes it clear that Jacob is the exemplar of God’s sovereign choice,
“10 Not only that, but Rebekah’s children had one and the same father, our father Isaac. 11 Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: 12 not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
14 What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15 For he says to Moses,
“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”
16 It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.”
– Romans 9:10-16
These three things help me to see there is more to Jacob’s story than meets the eye. It reminds me that God can and will work through my imperfections to bring Him glory, build my faith, and pass on the faith lineage to others. This story now makes me more and more thankful for God’s grace and sovereignty.