Jacob – A Classic Example of God’s Sovereignty!
God shows his sovereignty in Jacob’s life? Interesting!
I am sure you all know Jacob’s story. As I studied part of his life in Genesis, I found that he is quite an interesting character to learn from, as God’s sovereignty shows up all through his life! First, what was his story like?
Before Jacob was born, his mom Rebekah was told that the two babies struggling in her womb would both be great nations, but one would be stronger than the other. Genesis 25: 23 says,
‘The LORD said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.”‘ (NIV)
Once the boys were grown men, Jacob (whose name means deceiver) got his brother Esau to trade his birthright for a bowl of yummy stew! After this, when Isaac their father was ready to bless his sons, Rebekah schemed to make sure Jacob got the blessing of the first-born. Fearing his brother’s wrath, Jacob fled to Haran to live with his uncle Laban, where he lived for several years before returning home. His time in Haran was eventful, from his marrying of Laban’s two daughters to increasing his flocks through ingenious means. In summary, Jacob was quite the opportunist!
How, then, is God’s sovereignty seen in Jacob’s life?
- God’s purpose for Jacob prevailed
Remember what God said the Rebekah before the babies were born? He said that the older child would serve the younger one. When Jacob finally returned home, his brother Esau welcomed him with open arms, and they lived together for a short while before Esau moved his family and possessions to a different location. In other words, he left Jacob to dwell in their homeland. I find this interesting because that is what God had intended from the very beginning.
A thought here for all of us – God’s purpose for our lives always prevails. What he has planned for us will always come to pass. Our job is to trust him!
- God revealed himself when Jacob needed him most
It must be quite scary to be sent off to a foreign land, away from your family, because your brother has threatened to take your life. Well, that is the situation Jacob was in when he was sent off to Haran. Weary after a whole day’s walk, Jacob found a place to settle for the night. As he slept with his head on a stone (imagine that!), he had a dream. In this dream, Jacob saw a stairway to heaven and heard the voice of the Lord at the top of the stairs, speaking words of encouragement and comfort to him. The following words stand out for me:
Genesis 28:15 “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” (NIV)
When I read this verse, I went back to earlier chapters to see if there was any record of Jacob communing with God. To my surprise, there was none! God, in his sovereignty, chose to reveal himself when he knew that Jacob needed him! I can imagine that Jacob felt so encouraged when he heard these words.
In trying moments when we need to hear from God and feel his comfort, he is always there. He is more sensitive to our needs than we can imagine. If you are in such a situation, take heart.
- God brought Jacob to a place of surrender
Let us hypothetically view this situation from God’s point of view. Jacob has to leave Haran in a hurry and go back to his home where he has no idea how Esau will welcome him. In addition, Jacob is yet to grasp the magnitude of what God has called him to do – lead the nation of Israel. So what does God do? Reveal himself to Jacob one more time, and break him in the process! God engages Jacob in a nightlong struggle (Jacob put up a spirited fight) after which he touches the socket of Jacob’s hip, causing him to have a permanent limp. Until he felt his hip move out of position, Jacob had no idea who he was wrestling with. God’s sovereignty is revealed here in the way he wrestles with Jacob, permanently damages his leg, and gives him a new name (Israel). After this experience, Jacob was in awe of God, as he understood that though he saw God face-to-face, his life was mercifully spared.
Where am I going with this? Simple. God did not have to show himself to Jacob. He did not even need to use him to lead Israel. As a master deceiver, Jacob was hardly the best choice for a leader. Despite all of this man’s obvious faults, God stuck to his choice, and when the time was right, brought Jacob to a place where he understood God’s calling and purpose for his life.
The place of surrender is not an easy one to be, but once you let God take control of every aspect of your life, he can use you for his glory. When God starts to work on you, don’t resist him; instead, ask him what he wants from you, and what his purpose for you is.
Jacob’s life teaches us lots about God’s sovereignty. This young man, previously known as a deceiver, and full of all kinds of faults, becomes a leader of a great nation, all because God chose him. An excellent lesson for all of us here – God can use you to accomplish great things for his glory if you let him take control of your life. Lastly, don’t struggle to the point where your hip socket is wrenched. Let God do what he does best, and be his willing vessel.