Grace to You; John MacArthur – From Jacob to Israel

“By faith Jacob, as he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped” (Heb. 11:21).

Jacob’s life typifies the spiritual pilgrimage from selfishness to submission.

Jacob’s life can be outlined in three phases: A stolen blessing, a conditional commitment, and a sincere supplication.

From the very beginning it was God’s intention to bless Jacob in a special way. But Jacob, whose name means “trickster,” “supplanter,” or “usurper,” tricked his father into blessing him instead of his older brother, Esau (Gen. 27:1-29). As a result, Jacob had to flee from Esau and spend fourteen years herding flocks for his Uncle Laban.

As Jacob traveled toward Laban’s house, God appeared to him in a dream (Gen. 28:10-22) and made him the recipient of the covenant promises first made to his grandfather, Abraham, then to his father, Isaac.

Jacob’s response is revealing, for he “made a vow, saying, ‘If God will be with me and will keep me on this journey that I take, and will give me food to eat and garments to wear, and I return to my father’s house in safety, then the Lord will be my God'” (vv. 20-21, emphasis added). Jacob’s conditional vow said in effect, “God, if you’ll give me what I want, I’ll be your man.”

Despite Jacob’s selfish motives, God did bless him, but He humbled him too. By the time he left Laban’s house, Jacob was ready to yield to God’s will unreservedly. Note his change of heart in Genesis 32:10: “I am unworthy of all the lovingkindness and of all the faithfulness which Thou hast shown to [me].”

Then the Lord appeared in the form of a man and wrestled with Jacob all night (v. 24). Jacob refused to let Him go until he received a blessing. That wasn’t a selfish request, but one that came from a heart devoted to being all God wanted him to be. That’s when the Lord changed Jacob’s name to “Israel,” which means “he fights or persists with God.”

Like Abraham and Isaac before him, Jacob never saw the fulfillment of God’s covenant promises. Yet on his spiritual journey from Jacob to Israel, from selfishness to submission, he learned to trust God and await His perfect timing.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray for grace to consistently pursue God’s will, and patience to wait on His perfect timing.

For Further Study

Read Jacob’s story in Genesis 27-35.

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