The Faith of Jacob

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Sunday, November 12, 2017 1 comments

by Logan Ames

Have you ever taken on something in your life that you knew right away you had absolutely no clue how to manage? For my wife Clara and I, that thought describes just about everything in our lives right now. After leaving friends, jobs, and comfort in Ohio and moving to Pennsylvania, we have since purchased a house for the first time in our lives, and then just recently discovered that we are going to be parents! While the general response we have gotten from all of our friends and family has been congratulatory and celebratory - and rightfully so since all of these things are blessings from the Lord - we’d be lying if we denied that there is at least some angst as we approach each of these undertakings. I’ve never been a full-time pastor until now, she’s never been an executive director of a faith-based agency that relies heavily on donations as she is now, and neither of us has ever owned a home or been a parent. But whether we are ready or not, all of those things will be simultaneous realities in 2018.

Obviously, we have had at least some control and choice in each of these things. Not a single one of them has “happened” to us. They are things we want and things for which we believe God has been preparing us. But the simple fact that we have so many unknowns and the pressure to “not mess it up” causes us to have some fear. Now, there are probably more times that we feel confident and have hope. So, I got to wondering about the difference between the two feelings for us - fear versus hope. What I realized is that the times we start worrying about things and losing sight of the true blessings we are receiving are when we are too focused on US, and the times we feel content, secure, confident, and hopeful are when we accept and even laugh about the fact that we have no clue about most of this stuff and are fully dependent on GOD working his good plans in and through us.

What I have described here for all of us is the universal battle of our flesh versus God’s will. The man we’ll look at today certainly had his struggles between his carnal view and seeing things through God’s eyes. But like most of the other heroes of the faith, his struggles were merely speed bumps on his road to confident faith. Hebrews 11:21 tells us about Jacob’s faith that guided him to the very end: “By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff." Jacob is discussed in basically half of the chapters in the Book of Genesis, so it’s interesting that the writer of Hebrews only mentions his faith at the very end as the example to us. So, let’s go back and check a little bit of Jacob’s history.

As we saw in last Sunday’s post, Bible readers first meet Jacob in Genesis 25 when the story of the births of him and his twin Esau are detailed. Because of how he is grabbing Esau’s heel when he is born, he is named “Jacob” by his mother, which means “he grasps the heel” and is a Hebrew idiom for “one who deceives” (verse 26). This tells us right away that Jacob will be one who manipulates and deceives in order to get what he wants or feels he deserves. Jacob eventually cons his brother Esau into giving up his birthright (which Esau would’ve been due since he was technically the older brother), and this causes Esau to want revenge, so he plans to eventually kill Jacob (Genesis 27:41). Jacob knows this and fears his brother’s revenge, so he runs away and ends up basically building a life somewhere else. As he goes on his journey, God appears to him in the story where we read about his dream of a stairway to heaven (Genesis 28:10-22). If you read those verses, you see that Jacob completely understands that he is not God. He trusts God’s promises, sets up a pillar to worship and remember that everything belongs to God, and makes a vow to obey him with a tithe for as long as God continues to bless him and keep his promises.

If you’ve read previous posts about Abraham and Isaac, you know that there is a pattern with these guys. They start out as faithful, then circumstances, fears, or temptations cause them to act based on their flesh, then they return to their faith in the end. This should be a comfort to us no matter what part of that story we are currently experiencing. Like Abraham did at the beginning of his story, Jacob settles somewhere that is not ultimately God’s plan for him. He ends up marrying two different women (the first time that we know of that someone included in the heroes of our faith committed the sin of polygamy) and sleeps with two other women in addition to his wives. All four of the women bear him children, but the issues of jealousy, insecurity, and family dysfunction reveal that this was NOT God’s plan and everyone involved is suffering the consequences of not walking with him. Yet, after all that, God tells him yet again that he will be with Jacob if he obeys and goes back to where God wants him (Genesis 31:3). Jacob begins to see the truth and refers to God as “the Fear of his father Isaac” (Genesis 31:53). He’s starting to see that doing things God’s way and focusing on God’s command rather than his own view works out best!

After Jacob physically struggles between his flesh and God in Genesis 32 (a physical picture of the spiritual struggle we all have), Jacob’s name is changed to “Israel," which means “struggles with God." Of course, God could choose to overpower Jacob’s flesh easily, but that’s not who God is. Our flesh has to be surrendered, not taken by force. Jacob then reconciles with Esau in the next few chapters, then goes through some awful stuff after that, including dealing with the rape of his daughter and two of his sons then killing the rapist and many others with him out of revenge. While his sons view the situation out of their own flesh, Jacob begins to see things God’s way and does not condone the revenge killings. Later, his firstborn son, Reuben, sleeps with Jacob’s concubine (Genesis 35:22), and Jacob hears about it. Then, his favorite son, Joseph, is taken away by his jealous brothers and is sold into slavery (Genesis 37). Jacob is told Joseph is dead and believes it, so he mourns a death that isn’t even true for the next 20 years!

When Jacob learns that Joseph is still alive in Egypt many years later, he travels there to see him and trusts God after God tells him to go and not be afraid. While there, he reveals to Joseph that God had promised to make him into a great nation and makes Joseph swear an oath to him that he will carry Jacob’s body back to the Promised Land and bury him next to his father and grandfather. As Joseph swears the oath, Genesis 47:31 tells us that Jacob leans on the top of his staff. This may seem insignificant, but it’s a great example of faith just like the others in Hebrews 11. I remember hearing once that the staff had the carvings of reminders of the great works God had done so far in Israel’s history. Jacob was old, weak, and physically handicapped from the dislocation of his hip during his physical struggle with God. Thus, his decision to lean on the staff was an admission that, though he was weak and broken, his dependence would be on God’s promises and not his own physical flesh. The same is true in Genesis 48, when Jacob reckons Joseph’s sons Ephraim and Manasseh as his own and blesses them along with his other ten sons (minus Reuben and Simeon who lost their blessings because of their sins). Even when Joseph is still acting in the flesh and tries to force Jacob to bless his sons as tradition says rather than as God says, Jacob simply does God’s will and ignores any tradition that would set itself up against God’s plan.

Friends, you may be weak, you may be broken, you may even be physically handicapped. You may have spent many years away from God or simply went back and forth from following him to disobeying him. You may still be wrestling with God and trying to depend on your flesh more than him even now. Regardless of what place you are in your journey, you can learn from Jacob’s example that it’s not too late to surrender to the Lord and depend on his will for the things in life that bring you angst, rather than trying to keep control in your own hands. You’ll never be more free and at peace than when you accept that you need God to save you from yourself!

This forum is meant to foster discussion and allow for differing viewpoints to be explored with equal and respectful consideration.  All comments are moderated and any foul language or threatening/abusive comments will not be approved.  Users who engage in threatening or abusive comments which are physically harmful in nature will be reported to the authorities.


Charlie said...


Congratulations on the upcoming baby. That one I had not heard yet.

A little fun note on this post. It hit me about a week and a half ago that when Jacob wrestled with God all night, he was at least 91 years old at the time. I worked backwards using Jacob's arrival at Egypt at 130, knowing Joseph was 39 at that moment, and realized Joseph had been born BEFORE going to see Esau. The fact that Jacob was 91 before he finally yielded to God's way gives us all hope, but let's not wait until we are 91 to do that.