And he said, thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel; for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed …’ Genesis 32:28
“God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time”
(1 Pet. 5:5,6)
In our last lesson, we read about the twins which Isaac and Rebecca had, that is, Esau and Jacob. Esau despised the promises which God made to his grandfather, Abraham, and exchanged his firstborn inheritance for a bowl of food! As for Jacob,
he valued God’s promises.
However, this does not mean that Jacob was without faults! Jacob’s very name means
In this lesson then, we plan to continue in Genesis and see how God changed Jacob–the deceiver, into Jacob–
the man of God.
Jacob was a real deceiver. The Scriptures, which do not hide the failures of the prophets, record for us how Jacob deceived his older brother Esau twice in order to take his birthright from him. It was for this reason that Esau, in his anger, purposed to kill his younger brother. So, their mother,
called Jacob in secret, advised him to flee to his (maternal) uncle Laban, who lived in Haran, and to stay there until his brother’s anger subsided.
Now, let us read in the book of Genesis, chapter twenty-eight, to see what happened after Jacob left his father Isaac’s house and headed for his uncle Laban’s house. The Scriptures say: (Gen. 28:10-11)
(Haran was the country where Abraham’s father died after he had left Ur of the Chaldeas.) And he [Jacob] came to a certain place, and tarried there all night,
because the sun was set;
and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep.”
28:12-19 “And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set upon the earth, and
the top of it reached to heaven:
and behold, the angels of God ascending and descending on it. And behold, the Lord stood above it, and said,
I am the Lord God of Abraham, thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest,
to thee will I give it,
and to thy seed; and they shall be as dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. And, behold,
I am with thee,
and will keep thee in all places to which thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of. And Jacob awakened out of his sleep, and he said, surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not. And he was afraid, and said, how awesome is this place! This is none other but the house of God, and
this is the gate of heaven.
And Jacob arose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it. And he called the name of that place
but the name of that place was called Luz at the first”.
Thus, God appeared to Jacob in a dream and promised the same thing He had promised his grandfather Abraham and his father Isaac–that is, to make of his offspring
a great nation.
Therefore, we see that the firstborn inheritance which Jacob stole from his older brother was given to him by God in the end. Jacob did not deserve to become the father of the new nation which would bring the Redeemer into the world. However,
who gives good things to those who do not deserve them.
What did Jacob see in his dream?
The Scriptures say he saw “a ladder set upon the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold, the angels of God ascending and descending on it.” In his dream,
Jacob saw a ladder.
The ladder which Jacob saw was an unusual one, a very tall ladder, reaching from earth to heaven and entering the presence of God!
Through the dream of the tall ladder, God was showing Jacob that He wanted to have a wonderful and close relationship with him. God also wanted to show him that
who was to come into the world would be like that ladder which went between earth and heaven—the Mediator between man and God.
To this day, many think that a person can climb up and enter heaven based on his own good works. However, God’s Word tells us that there is
only one “ladder”
between God and man and that “ladder” does not come from man but from God.
We, the children of Adam, in our own strength, have no means to climb up and enter the presence of God. The reason for this is our sin and our total lack of strength to please God the Holy One. But God, who is full of mercy, because of His great love for people, has opened a way of salvation for Adam’s descendants.
Therefore, the ladder which Jacob saw in his dream, was a picture of the Mediator whom God had promised to send into the world to save sinners. The Mediator is like
the ladder which Jacob saw between heaven and earth.
That is what the Scriptures teach when they say:
“For there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the man, Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all … that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (1 Tim. 2:5,6; John 3:16)
God’s Word is clear on this matter: No one comes to God, except
through the holy Mediator that God sent.
Now, let us see what happened after Jacob arrived at his uncle’s house. God’s word says that “a man reaps what he sows.” (Gal. 6:7) We have already heard how Jacob deceived his older brother. Now we will see how Jacob’s uncle deceives him. His uncle’s name was
and he was a crafty man. We are reading in Gen. 29:14-30. The Scriptures say: “[Jacob] abode with [Laban] for a space of a month. And Laban said unto Jacob, Because thou art my brother, shouldest thou therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall thy wages be? And Laban had two daughters: the name of the elder was
and the name of the younger was
Leah was tender-eyed; but Rachel was beautiful and well favoured. And Jacob loved Rachel; and said, I will serve thee seven years for Rachel, thy younger daughter.
And Laban said, It is better that I give her to thee, than that I should give her to another man: abide with me. And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days,
for the love he had for her.
And Jacob said unto Laban, give me my wife, for my days are fulfilled, that I may go in unto her. And Laban gathered together all the men of the place, and made a feast. And it came to pass in the evening, that he took Leah, his daughter, and brought her to him; and he went in unto her. And Laban gave unto his daughter Lea, Zilpah, his maid, for an handmaid. And it came to pass that, in the morning, behold, it was Leah: and he said to Laban,
what is this thou has done unto me?
Did I not serve thee for Rachel? Wherefore then hast thou beguiled me? And Laban said, It must not be so done in our country, to give the younger before the first-born. Fulfil her week, and we will give thee this also for the service which thou shalt serve with me yet seven other years. And Jacob did so, and fulfilled her week; and he gave Rachel, his daughter, Bilhah, his handmaid, to be her maid. And he went in also unto Rachel, and
he loved Rachel more than Leah,
and served with him yet seven other years.
Thus we see how Laban deceived his nephew Jacob. What happened was not a good thing, but you can be sure that God had His hand upon the things happening in the life of Jacob and would make them turn out for Jacob’s good. Eventually,
Jacob lived in his uncle’s house for twenty years. During those twenty years, God, in His love, allowed Jacob to pass through some very painful trials, so that He might discipline him and purify his faith, just as fire purifies gold.
However, there came a day when
God appeared to Jacob
and said, “Return unto the land of thy fathers, and to thy kindred; and I will be with thee” (Gen. 31:3). Thus Jacob arose, packed up and moved out,
both he and his family.
They headed in the direction of the land of Canaan–the land which God had promised to give to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their descendants.
As Jacob and his family were on the way to Canaan,
God appeared to Jacob
in a very special way and changed Jacob’s name. Listen to what the Scriptures say in Gen. 32:24-30 “And Jacob was left alone; and
there wrestled a man with him
until the breaking of the day. And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him. And he said, let me go; for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. And he said unto him, what is thy name? And he said,
And he said, thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but
for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed. And Jacob asked him, and said, tell me, I pray thee, thy name. And he said, Wherefore is it that thou dost ask my name? And he blessed him there. And Jacob called the name of the place
[which means “face of God”]; for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved”.
This is an amazing story full of important lessons. We see God appearing to Jacob as a man and wrestling with him.
Because God wanted Jacob to realise his weakness before Him. God wanted Jacob to know that all true strength and wisdom comes from God alone! God had wonderful plans for Jacob, but God’s best blessings can only come to those who know that
they cannot please God in their own strength.
Jacob was beginning to realise just how weak he was before God. On that night, God gave Jacob a new name, that is, Israel. Jacob means
one who deceives.
But Israel means
one who reigns with God.
Israel would be the name of the new nation God promised to bring forth from the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. As you know, it is from the twelve sons of Jacob that the nation of Israel arose. And it is through the people of Israel that
the Redeemer came into the world.
Someone might ask: Why did God choose a deceiver like Jacob and make him the father of the nation which would bring the Redeemer into the world? Listen to the answer of the Holy Scriptures:
“God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nothing things that are, that no flesh should glory in his presence.” (1 Cor. 1:27-29)
In his own strength, there was no way that he could please God. There was nothing good in him, except for one thing:
Jacob believed the Word of God.
Jacob treasured God’s promises. Receiving God’s blessings was more important to Jacob than anything else in the world. That is why God made Himself known to Jacob and blessed him. That is also why God changed the heart of Jacob, the deceiver, into Israel, the man of God.
How about you?
Like Jacob, have you recognised your inability to please God? Listen to what the Word of God says about this. It says: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 5:3)
“God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time” (1 Pet. 5:5,6)
In our next study, God willing, we will begin to look at the amazing story of Joseph, one of Jacob’s sons.
God bless you. We end with this verse from the Word of God:
“And therefore will the Lord wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you; for the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all they that wait for him” (Isa. 30:18)
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