God’s Use of Jacob

There are sometimes that I get comments that I think deserve addressing in another blog and such is the one in this case in asking about God’s use of Jacob. Was it really fair? Why did God use someone like Jacob?

I think for many of us Christians, we have two parts to us. Part of us does think that God shouldn’t use people like that. He should use the best of the best. On the other hand though, we look at that and think, “He used Jacob with all of the wrongdoing that he did in his life? Maybe he can use me as well.”

The Romans 9 passage also tells us that Jacob was chosen before he had done any thing. Only one of these two could carry the line of Messiah. I’d also add that I’m one who believes that Jacob was chosen for service and not necessarily for salvation, although I do believe he is among the saved.

Now our questioner is fair in admitting that Esau was hardly a saint either. Esau was easily taken advantage of for his own sinful tendencies. The Hebrews writer tells us that he despised his birthright and warns us to not be like him. (Is it really likely that he was dying when he spoke to Jacob and wanted something to eat?)

It cannot be denied though that Jacob is hardly a saint. However, as always, the covenant rests not on the faithfulness of the followers of God, but on the faithfulness of God. None of us can condone the lying and cheating of Jacob. It was wrong and the Bible never condones it either. It paints the pictures of the heroes of the faith with all their faults and failures.

However, Jacob does get back some of what he dished out.

We all know the story of how he worked to marry Rachel and then lo and behold, this time Jacob had the wool pulled over his eyes and there was Leah. After another 7 years of work, Jacob is given Rachel to marry.

It’s doubtful this was a happy home either. We see a rivalry building up between Leah and Rachel as they each try to have kids and Rachel blames Jacob for what happened. (Ironically, being the wife he wanted, Rachel was the one that got Jacob into the most trouble.)

Meanwhile, his own father-in-law tries to cheat him again out of the sheep. Jacob implements a plan that only works by the grace of God. When Jacob finally gets away, his father-in-law chases him down trying to get the family idols back. Rachel seems to have inherited some duplicitous nature though and lies to her own father-in-law. (Imagine what would have happened had the idols of the family been found?) 

What else happens? Well his oldest son decides that Dad’s concubine is the key to a good time, and probably at the same time making a statement about how he views his Dad. By trying to claim his Dad’s concubine, he’s in essence saying that he considers his father non-existant. 

When his daughter gets raped, his two oldest boys decide a good plan of revenge would be to trick the town into getting circumcised and then killing everyone. One can imagine the neighboring towns were pleased to hear that. I wonder where Jacob thought they got that duplicitous nature from…..

Then later, his favored son Joseph is out trying to find his brothers and they decide to sell him into slavery and convince their father that he’s dead, which brings about Jacob’s great sorrow over the death of his son. How many years did he lose over that?

Something else to note though. By the time he died, Jacob had definitely become a worshipper of God and was committed to following him. God was with Jacob not because of what he did but in spite of what he did.

That’s good news for all of us. 

I was asked if how Jacob was treated was fair.

I say “Thank God he doesn’t give us what we deserve.”

After all, if God is seeking to use only perfect people, none of us have a shot. Seeing the heroes of faith though always reminds me that just as much as I have failures and limitations and my own sins of the past, so did they.

Now do I fully understand why God does the things he does? Of course not. Nor do I expect to.

I just look and see his grace and realize that if he had some for Jacob, there’s hope for sinners like me.

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3 Responses to “God’s Use of Jacob”

  1. Mikael Says:

    Hi again!

    That’s a good point you’re making, Nick; God is faithful to sinners, despite their failures. And that’s something that every Christian should learn from a young age, so that even when/if they despair over shortcomings, they can always turn back to God – despite what their feelings may be telling them.

    That’s something I can learn, for one…

  2. ConfesSword Says:

    It’s important also to note that just because we have a portrayal of all this lousy behavior by those who are later honored by the people of God in no way implies that their lousy behavior is endorsed by God.

  3. Leonhard Says:

    I think I owe up a reply, after having been kindly instructed by a fair lady who had listened to my pondering. I must stand corrected on a few points, and the picture doesn’t seem as bad as it was. Its testament to the faulty memory that I have, that I had forgotten what happened later between Esau and Jacob.

    Let’s put aside the fact that Jacob never actually received his fathers inheritance that he had stolen from Esau, since he had to flee from the angered Esau. Let’s even look aside from the poetic justice that Jacob got deceived by Laban, as he had deceived Esau.

    I had forgotten about the reconsilliation between Esau and Jacob.

    Jacob of course seems to repent of his folly. I had forgotten so much, that it seemed that this was all that had happened. He had admitted to God that he had done something wrong, and then went on to become one of the patriarchal icons of Jewish history. I think a repentance which is only in words is rather vain. It never changed that he had stolen a lot from his brother, even if it did make him right with God.

    While Jacob might never have actually admitted in public his deceit, he did make up for what he had taken from Esau. Letting Esau keep his fathers possessions and adding onto them. He lets himself be greatly humiliated by letting his servants refer him as Esau’s servant. It seems his intentions are not pure, in that he’s mostly doing this because he’s afraid of Esau, but effectively I can’t argue that this isn’t a good payback. Esau acted every bit as the proper brother, forgiving him and letting him enter his land as a fellow again. Forgiving him.

    Whatever hardship Jacob’s wives, and children were to him is not important. They might have been that either way, whether Jacob had decieved Esau or not. However, I stand corrected that he didn’t get his do goods for what he had done.

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