Closer Look at Scripture

Jacob Have I Loved: God’s Choice and Ours

Jacob wrestles with an angel during his travels. This shows salvation is both God's choice and ours.

Jacob was chosen by God. Before he was even born, God told his mother Rebecca that He loved him. When we look at his life, we see a life marked by the blessings of God. He was the father of the twelve tribes of people God would call His own, and it was through his line that the Messiah would come. Jacob is Israel. We, as blood-bought Christians of today, are spiritual Israel, grafted into the olive tree and also chosen by God. In reading Genesis this week, I saw an amazing similarity between Jacob’s life and the lives of those of us who know Jesus as our Lord. Our salvation is both God’s choice and ours.

We Started As Sinners

When we first meet up with Jacob in Genesis 25, we see that he is the second born of a set of twins. He came out grabbing his brother Esau’s heel, so his mother named him Jacob, meaning heel-grabber or even supplanter. He lived up to his name when he convinced his brother to sell his birthright for a meal (Genesis 25:31) and later deceived his father into giving him his brother’s blessing (Genesis 27:19).

God didn’t pick Jacob because he was good. He chose him before he was born according to God’s sovereign purposes. Romans 9:11-13 “…(for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), it was said to her, ‘The older shall serve the younger.’ As it is written, ‘Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.’”

There isn’t a single one of us who names the name of Christ who was good enough to be chosen for salvation. There is no magic formula. No certain words we could say that could compel God to give us His Spirit outside of His sovereign choice. It is a supernatural work of God. Ephesians 1:4 says, “…just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love…” We were all sinners saved by God’s sovereign grace. We love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).

God Draws Us to Himself, Despite Us

When his brother Esau realizes that he has stolen his blessing, he vows to kill him for his treachery. For his own safety, his mother sends Jacob to her relative’s house to find a wife. On the trip, God comes to him in a dream. Jacob sees a ladder with angels ascending and descending. God speaks to him there. He introduces Himself as the God of his father and grandfather and lays out His plan for Jacob’s life, promising to give the land to him and his decedents. He also promises to keep him on his travels and bring him back to the land (Genesis 28:13-15).

As amazing as this promise from God is, Jacob’s reaction is far from gracious.

“Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If  God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God.”

Genesis 28:20-21

John 6:44 says that no one can come to God unless the Father draws him/her. God initiated contact with each one of us. His grace softened our hearts to show us our desperate need for a Savior. Some believers listened immediately, giving their lives to Christ. Others of us, like Jacob, seem to have set up conditions in our hearts, with some “ifs” and “thens,” giving God a “trial run” to see if He is really God. How many believers had parents and grandparents praying for them just like Jacob did? How many of us “heard” God calling us days, months, or even years before we submitted to His plan for our lives?

God Doesn’t Give Up On Us

God knows the end from the beginning, so even while Jacob still doesn’t seem convinced, God blesses him and even those around him. Jacob the deceiver is tricked by his uncle Laban into working double the years for the wife of his choice. When the years are completed, and his wives had borne him many children, he asks Laban to allow him to return to the land of his father. Laban begs him to stay because of the blessings he has received for Jacob’s sake. But Laban hasn’t been playing fair, altering his wages again and again. So Jacob changes breeding tactics in response. He continues to prosper so much that Laban’s sons start to get concerned about their own inheritance.

Tensions rise, and God tells him to go home to the land of his father. He tells him that He will be with Him and says, “Lift your eyes now and see, all the rams which leap on the flocks are streaked, speckled, and gray-spotted; for I have seen all that Laban is doing to you” (Genesis 31:12).

Like Jacob, God watches over us, His children, all of our days. He has a purpose and plan for each of us. And, even before we realized it in some cases, He was there, guiding us to make the choices that brought us the character, skills, and relationships that He would later use for Kingdom purposes. Everything we are is because He has made us. Everything we have, we have been given by Him.

God Protects Us Even When We Don’t Realize It

Afraid that Laban will try to take away his possessions and even his own wives and children, he escapes without telling anyone. He gets a three day head start before Laban heads out after him. While on the trip, Laban gets a visit from God Himself, warning him not to mess with Jacob. He realizes that he can’t hurt him, so he makes a covenant with him that Jacob may take no other wives or do anything to hurt his daughters. They depart in peace, and Jacob continues toward his father’s land and the angry brother that he is sure to find there. God sends His angels to guard him (Genesis 32:1-2).

While God doesn’t send warning messages to our enemies on the daily, every one of us can point to times in our lives when God has intervened on our behalf. Psalm 91:11-12 promises, “For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.” We are protected by God, and nothing happens to us unless He allows it.

We All Had to Make the Choice To Make Him Our God

About to meet his brother twenty years after taking his blessing, Jacob isn’t sure what to expect. He sends a messenger ahead to promise gifts to his brother, but he receives word that Esau is advancing with 400 men. Jacob is distressed. He splits his company in two to try to preserve at least some of his family and resources. He then prays to God in Genesis 32:9, saying, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac…” He reminds God of His promises and begs for His help. Jacob then sends three waves of servants with gifts to appease his brother. Then he sends his wives and children over the river and is alone with God.

“Then Jacob was left alone, and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him. And He said, ‘Let Me go, for the day breaks.’ But he said, ‘I will not let You go unless You bless me!’

Genesis 32:24-26

God’s response to Jacob’s request for help was a wrestling match. Jacob’s physical tussle is symbolic to believers. We all have the same internal struggle about who will rule our lives. Will we be our own masters, or will we submit to God? Jacob refuses to submit. In response, God humbles him with an injury to his thigh. God then renames him Israel, which means “God contends” or literally “one who struggles with God.” Jacob had a limp from that day forward.

Then Jacob realizes that his blessing is his very own life. “So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: ‘For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved’” (Genesis 32:30).

Did you catch that? In Genesis 32:9, he called Him the God of his father and grandfather. In Genesis 32:30, He is simply “God.” He had become his own. His fears that God would not live up to His promises are gone, and his conditions for “if” and “then” evaporated. His encounter with the living God had changed him forever.

Each one of us who has been converted, born again by God’s Holy Spirit, has had a personal experience with our Savior. We were engaged by God and felt the struggle between flesh and spirit. There was a moment when we realized that God is our God. He gave us His Spirit, changed us forever, and one day will even give us a new name. Revelation 2:17 says, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.”

Israel and Spiritual Israel

Israel’s life is a mirror to the lives of all who are grafted into the family tree of God’s people. We were chosen, called, blessed, guided, and protected. Every one of us who is walking with God had to come to a moment when we decided that God is our God. There are many believers out there who have mentally agreed that Jesus is the only way to God. They believe in Him and have even said the prayer of salvation once or twice in their lives. But they have never fully submitted to Him. They have never been changed into a new creation. If you have heard God calling, leading you to do something for Him, now is the time to submit. If you have been living for yourself, now is the time to make Him your God.

Interested in the topic of Jacob and Esau? Here is a super sermon by Charles Spurgeon called Jacob and Esau. In it, he delves into the tricky territory between predestination and free will.

If you to look closely at scripture, try Three Simple Instructions From God to Us. In it, we look at Hebrews 3-4. Or, try Twinkly Trash: A Closer Look at Job 28. Please do not forget to sign up to receive email notifications at the top right of this page. Or, check out my YouTube channel where I read my blogs to you so you can multitask. I also have a super playlist of hymns led by the talented, anointed 16-year old at my church called Hymns from Hannah.

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