From Jacob to Israel
Jacob, son of Isaac, son of Abraham, was, a lot of the time, a lame person.
Now, if you need more context as to who this was and why I had that sentence as my intro (obviously meant for some kind of shock value), I’m happy to elaborate.
Jacob was the grandson of Abraham. He had an older twin brother, Esau. Jacob was also renamed Israel by God and had twelve sons. This may have jogged your memory somewhat, as there were twelve tribes in historical Israel.
So, basically, we could consider Jacob, called Israel by God, the forefather of Israel, the people.
And, yes, I am claiming that he was a lame person.
Now, before you click off the page because you fear I’m about to get sacrilegious or something, let me clarify.
Every person on the planet is lame in some capacity. We have all made mistakes. The thing is, that doesn’t matter one iota to God.
And that, my friends, is the very point of this post.
Let’s take a moment to examine Jacob’s life choices.
Firstly, as you may recall, he was a jerk person and managed to trick his father into giving him the firstborn’s blessing, instead of to his older twin.
After that great start to his life, he became a straight-up polygamist. Now, granted, polygamy was common at the time, so, er, I guess you want me to just excuse that one. Also, granted, you may be jumping up and down and saying: “NOW WAIT just a minute! He was tricked into marrying the first one! He didn’t know who she was!”
I’ll just sit here and wait for you to figure out a non-jerk reason as to why he didn’t know who he was marrying until the next morning.
And then I’ll let you ponder the question as to why, after he married a second time and got the wife he wanted, he took two more concubines for good measure.
So, following this exemplary display of domesticity, he went on to favor the firstborn son of his second wife above all his other children, to the point where it got so bad that a bunch of them tried to kill the kid. (In case you don’t know, this is my boy Joseph we are discussing here, so if you want to hear this all from his point of view, read my book when it comes out!)
Now, I will allow that none of Jacob’s choices really appear to be vicious. He does not seem to make these choices with the express purpose of harming anyone. But his choices are all patently selfish. They are all about his wants. And, in being selfish, he harms the lives of many.
Despite this, he ends up quite wealthy, with reams of sons and daughters and livestock and servants. Yet, check out this statement of his in his old age:
“Few and evil have been the days of the years of my life …” (Genesis 47:9)
Get a grip.
But here’s the thing.
I’ve spent all this time showing you how lame of a person Jacob could be.
God knew this. It was no surprise to Him.
Just as He knows everything about us.
God also knew something else about Jacob. Despite all his shortcomings, Jacob had faith in God. He trusted in Him and believed what God told him. When God gave him specific instructions, Jacob followed them.
And that, to God, was the key.
It is the key, even today.
No matter who we are, what struggles we face – our faults, our mistakes, our poor decisions, our habits – if we call out to God, if we put our faith in Him, He hears us. He has a plan for us that He wants to lead us on. He sent His very own Son to die so that every last one of our shortcomings could be fully overlooked.
That is how much He wants to hear us, if only we call out to Him and accept what His Son has done for us.
(And God, by the way, once we put our faith in Him, has an interesting habit of making us work through our shortcomings.)
This was God’s promise to Jacob, despite all the lame things he had done or God knew he would do:
“I am the Lord God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac;
the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants.
Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth;
you shall spread abroad to the west and the east,
to the north and the south;
and in you and your seed all the families of the Earth shall be blessed.
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 spoken to you.”
People are broken. It’s the way we are.
God knows this – and He is not broken. He is willing to create unbroken promises with us and create something beautiful from our ashes, if only we reach out to Him.
What future is God calling you to step towards? You do not have to be perfect, because God already has that part covered. He turned Jacob into Israel. Who is God calling you to become?
Just follow Him.