I have two brothers, and I am the Jacob of the three of us. If any of us has struggled with dishonesty and thievery, it was me. At least, I think that I failed most in the struggle. I can recall story after story—from swiping plastic blocks out of my kindergarten classroom, to stealing my neighbor’s toys, to some very shady dealings with G.I Joe’s— that were reminiscent of Jacob’s trickery with the lentil stew (Genesis 25: 29-34). And this is just the beginning.
The story of Jacob is a reminder that God’s promises and blessings are visited upon the unlikeliest and the unworthiest, not upon the best and the brightest. What marvelous grace!
Jacob’s family was rife with troubles: blatant parental favoritism, a marriage plagued by mistrust, eavesdropping, cheating, disregard for binding promises, costumed deceit, habitual thievery, fraternal rivalry, death threats, and rebellious marriages. This is not what we would expect of the line of promise, the family of the covenant.
No one does what they are supposed to do, and Jacob, the heir of Abraham, is one of the chief offenders. Yet, in the wake of all this mess, God declares to Jacob: “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” (Genesis 28:15).
God’s declaration of covenant faithfulness seems an odd response to so much human unfaithfulness and trickery. But God’s promises and His grace are not built upon our works. They rest solely upon the surety of His own promise.
We all have Jacob hearts. I am the master of my fate, we tell ourselves. I am the captain of my soul. We like to take our fate into our own hands and shout things like “Carpe diem!” and “Just do it.” But God is good, and again and again He shakes us out of our self-deceit.
When we convince ourselves that we’ve got the system figured out, and expect God to bow to our judgment, He graciously reminds us, “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?” (Matthew 20:15).
When we wake up in the wilderness, fleeing the aftermath of our reckless do-it-yourself living, God is still gracious. He offers His unmerited grace, piercing through our thick-headedness and spiritual blindness, until we confess, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it” (Genesis 28:16)!
How foolish we are! May God be gracious to us, as He was to Jacob. May He wake us from our slumber and rescue us from our own foolish and deceitful hearts! Though we are faithless, God remains faithful, “for He cannot deny Himself” (2 Timothy 2:13). Thanks be to God!
Written by Caleb Faires