•  6 min. read  •  grade level: 7
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Jacob’s history is full of deeply instructive lessons. From beginning to end we seem to see written across it, “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” He had deceived his father and cheated his brother. In turn he was deceived and cheated by his father-in-law, and later by his own sons. But all this only makes God’s grace to him, shine the brighter.
You will have noticed how much space in the book of Genesis the Spirit of God gives to the history of Jacob. And I think that our spirits intuitively rejoices that it is so. Jacob is so much like ourselves that our hearts continually echo, “This might be myself!” The failures, the willfulness, the planning, the lack of faith, the turning to the world, are, alas, paths only too well known to some of us. And it is for this reason we rejoice that our God so constantly speaks of Himself as “The God of Jacob”, and so very rarely as “The God of Abraham”. See, for example Psa. 20:1; 46:7, 11; 75:9; 76:6; 81:1, 4; 84:8; 94:7; 114:7; 132:2, 5; 146:51<<To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David.>> The Lord hear thee in the day of trouble; the name of the God of Jacob defend thee; (Psalm 20:1)
7The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah. (Psalm 46:7)
11The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah. (Psalm 46:11)
9But I will declare for ever; I will sing praises to the God of Jacob. (Psalm 75:9)
6At thy rebuke, O God of Jacob, both the chariot and horse are cast into a dead sleep. (Psalm 76:6)
1<<To the chief Musician upon Gittith, A Psalm of Asaph.>> Sing aloud unto God our strength: make a joyful noise unto the God of Jacob. (Psalm 81:1)
4For this was a statute for Israel, and a law of the God of Jacob. (Psalm 81:4)
8O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer: give ear, O God of Jacob. Selah. (Psalm 84:8)
7Yet they say, The Lord shall not see, neither shall the God of Jacob regard it. (Psalm 94:7)
7Tremble, thou earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob; (Psalm 114:7)
2How he sware unto the Lord, and vowed unto the mighty God of Jacob; (Psalm 132:2)
5Until I find out a place for the Lord, an habitation for the mighty God of Jacob. (Psalm 132:5)
5Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God: (Psalm 146:5)
. Compare Psa. 47:99The princes of the people are gathered together, even the people of the God of Abraham: for the shields of the earth belong unto God: he is greatly exalted. (Psalm 47:9); Note 13 times in the Psalms we find “The God of Jacob”, for once “The God of Abraham.” And let us remember that “Jacob” means “Cheater”, “Deceiver”, while “Abraham” means “The Father of Many Nations.”
I must not take the time to follow Jacob through all his most interesting history. The stony pillow where the sun set, with more than twenty years of hard labor before we read of daybreak once again, and all the sufferings in Haran, are clearly fruit of his sin against his father and brother. Nor may we forget that Jacob has two wives, and two concubines, a very different condition to either his father or his grandfather. While yet in Haran we see Reuben his firstborn, still a child, being made a party to merchandise, where love alone should enter. Little wonder that this same son in later life manifests his lack of respect for these holy matters by lying with Bilhah, his father’s concubine. That single act cost Reuben his birthright, but more, it cost Jacob the most bitter grief. In Genesis 49:45 near the end of his life, the horror of this wicked and unclean act seems to be more real and terrible to him than in those earlier days, when Jacob followed afar off, instead of walking with God, as he seems to have done during the closing years of his life. And in one sense this is as it should be. True, the sins are forgiven, they are all covered, we are justified: and when it is God that justifieth, who is he that condemneth? “The Accuser of the brethren” is only too eager to cast up these old sins against us, and to remind us of them: but thank God, we have One for us, Who is ever ready to say: “The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan, even the Lord... rebuke thee; is not this a brand plucked from the fire?” (Zech. 3:22And the Lord said unto Satan, The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan; even the Lord that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire? (Zechariah 3:2)). And yet, for all that, the horror of those old sins should become greater, as we better know what they cost our Redeemer.
Abraham and Isaac were pilgrims. They had their tent and their altar. The only land in Canaan owned by either of these patriarchs was a grave; and Jacob should have followed in their footsteps, but in Gen. 33:17, 1917And Jacob journeyed to Succoth, and built him an house, and made booths for his cattle: therefore the name of the place is called Succoth. (Genesis 33:17)
19And he bought a parcel of a field, where he had spread his tent, at the hand of the children of Hamor, Shechem's father, for an hundred pieces of money. (Genesis 33:19)
we find him building a house and buying land. This shows a very different mind to either his father or grandfather. It is not always either easy or pleasant to walk the pilgrim’s path. The One Who said, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head,” (Matt. 8:2020And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. (Matthew 8:20) & Luke 9:5858And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. (Luke 9:58)), never found a place in this world to lay that holy head, until on the cross He said, “It is finished,” and laid down His head. (It is the same word in the Greek Testament and these are the only times it is used in this way in the New Testament). Was there ever any who trod this earth, in whom the Pilgrim’s Path shone so brightly! Every man might go to his own home, but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives; for Jesus had no home down here to which to go.
Jacob seems to have grown weary of the Pilgrim Path, and yielded to the temptation to settle down and build a home. And what was the fruit of this action? His daughter Dinah goes out to see the daughters of the land. Her father having settled down in the world, instead of being a heavenly pilgrim passing through it: what more natural than that his daughter should wish to be friends of the world? The sad, shameful result we all know. Who would have guessed that the exchange of a tent for a house could have yielded such bitter fruit? Yet so it is, and in our day, the friendship of the world is still enmity with God, and if we settle down in this world, and lose the spirit of a pilgrim, we can hardly blame our children if they seek the friendship of those amongst whom we have made our home.
The dishonor to the name of God, the horror and shame of the whole thing, even years later, in the forty-ninth of Genesis, come over Jacob’s soul far more forcibly than they appear to have done at the moment of the sin, and he cries: “Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce: and their wrath for it was cruel. I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel.” (Gen. 49:77Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel: I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel. (Genesis 49:7)). Levi was scattered in Israel as a punishment for that terrible sin, committed centuries before at Shechem. But now, for our encouragement, see the grace of God. The very punishment, the scattering in Israel, becomes an unspeakable blessing. This tribe is chosen to approach unto God, and they are scattered in Israel with the result that the knowledge of God and His Word through them may also be equally scattered in Israel. Once more He made the wrath of man to praise Him; and once more, out of the eater came forth meat. How encouraging!
We must not leave the consideration of Jacob and his sons without noticing the grace that gave to poor failing Jacob such a son as Joseph! I do not recall any failure recorded against Joseph. How we can thank God and take courage, as we see, again and again, His grace overleaping our sins. It is just this grace that we parents must count on today. And the story of Jacob, is the story of that grace from beginning to end.
“Lo, I am ever with thee!”
With me, whose name is “Cheater”?
O Lord, That could not be!
With Isaac, Yes, my Father!
But never, Lord, with me!
Yes, “I am ever with thee!”
“I’ll always guard thee safely!”
Guard me, Who robbed my brother?
Who now for life doth flee!
Guard me, they call “Deceiver”?
Thou’lt never, Lord, guard me!
Yes, “I will guard thee safely!”
“And to thy home I’ll bring thee!”
Bring me, ‘the worm called Jacob’!
O Lord, That this might be!
“And give thee food and raiment,”
Then GOD Thou’lt be to me!
Yes, “To thy Home I’ll bring thee!”
“For let thee down” I’ll never!
Nor never thee forsake
I’m Jacob’s God forever
These blessings each may take,
I say to each believer —
“No, Let thee down, I’ll never.”1