Jacob is a man like any of us. His life is a story of a transformed man, who, from a deceiver became a believer. Looking at his early life, it is very easy to hate him for being an opportunist, conspirator, manipulative, and liar. Jacob and Esau are twin brothers. Through deceit and trickery, Jacob acquired not only the birthright of Esau but also his blessing. So what’s there to learn from Jacob’s life?
Obviously, the answer is many. He is mentioned in Hebrews 11 for his strong and unshakeable faith to God. Jacob means supplanter and God changed his name to Israel, meaning, the prince that prevails with God. Today is the right time to learn the lessons from his life.
Lesson no. 1: The examples of parents make a great impact on their children
The story of Jacob shows us how children tend to repeat the errors of their parents. We have seen that Jacob’s parents, Isaac and Rebekah, had their own favorites. Isaac loved Esau while Rebekah loved Jacob. This fatal error has led to the growing rivalry between Esau and Jacob.
Now that Jacob is a father and has his own family, he failed to learn from the life of his parents. He had two wives, Leah and Rachel. However, he loved Rachel more than Leah. Because of this, Rachel and Leah, who are supposed to be sisters, are now in competition for the love of Jacob.
When Jacob had children, he favored Joseph more than his other sons. Because of this favoritism, the children of Jacob grew up to hate Joseph. The brothers of Joseph eventually sold him to the Midianite traders (Genesis 37:28). Even after this, Jacob did not learn the lesson and still chose his youngest son to Rachel, Benjamin, as his new favorite child.
For this reason, parents must recognize the importance of their good example. Whether they like it or not, their actions will speak louder than their words. They will serve as an example to their children and the future of these children greatly depends upon the effectiveness of their parents’ child-rearing abilities.
To become a good example, parents must first develop their own character. The godly character God wants us to build does not come naturally. Parents must constantly seek God’s wisdom, will, and purpose to really be a man and woman who are equipped with the right character to guide their children.
Lesson no. 2: Don’t underestimate the law of cause and effect
Galatians 6:7 tells us, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” This is applicable to everyone and Jacob is no exception.
We have seen in the life of Jacob how this law of operates. Jacob has planted the bad seed that will later yield a bitter and unpleasant crop.
God has already determined that Jacob will rise higher than his elder brother, Esau (Genesis 25:23). However, He did not wait upon the LORD to fulfill this prophecy, but he took it upon himself and dealt deceitfully. He made Esau sell his birthright to him and through a cunning acquisition, he also got Esau’s blessings.
As cunning as Jacob was, he met his match in the person of Laban, his mother’s brother. For about 20 years, Laban has outwitted Jacob and turned him into a servant. Just like Jacob who used deceit to take advantage of his father Isaac and Esau, Laban also used craftiness and trickery to take advantage of Jacob.
Remember that Isaac was “old and his eyes were so dim that he could not see” (Genesis 27:1). For this reason, Rebekah and Jacob were able to steal Esau’s blessing. We can see later that Jacob was also “blinded” by the darkness of his wedding night. Instead of Rachel, whom he loved, Laban gave him his older daughter, Leah, to Jacob. In addition to this, Jacob was also deceived by his own children when they faked the death of their brother, Joseph.
These are just some of the instances that Jacob’s earlier actions led to bitter consequences. This should serve as a lesson to all of us.
Christians are also subject to the law of cause and effect. Every action you take, be it good or bad, will eventually yield an effect. The effect would greatly depend on the actions you take.
We could see that Jacob later repented and had a converted heart. However, we must also realize that the consequences of our bad decisions would potentially remain in our lives even after we have remorsefully repented and regretted our actions.
God can forgive the spiritual effects of our bad decisions, but we may never be able to erase its physical effects. So the next time you do something, remember this one thing holds true: sow goodness and you will reap goodness. Sow evil, and you will reap evil.
Lesson no. 3: God has a plan for each of us
In Genesis 28:10-22, we have seen how God confirmed the Abrahamic covenant to Jacob. He said:
“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 in 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” (Genesis 28:13-14).
We can see from these verses that God has a plan for Jacob. He has a plan for Abraham and Isaac. And we can be certain that God has a plan for all of us as well.
The plan of God for Jacob spans for many generations. Today, the promise of God is fulfilled through the modern-day descendants of Jacob. They are the English-speaking nations and the Jewish state known as Israel. We have seen the descendants of Jacob as the recipient of abundant physical blessings this world has never seen before.
No matter who you are, God has a plan for you. This plan has already been laid out even before the foundation of the world. God created human beings because He is reproducing Himself!
That’s the plain truth: we will become future spiritual beings who will be part of the family of God.
God created human beings to expand His family and include many sons and daughters. I Corinthians 15:52-54 tells us that we will become immortal beings and we will be exactly like Jesus Christ when He returns here on earth (I John 3:2). We will eventually be “partakers of the divine nature” (II Peter 1:4).
This is the ultimate plan that God has for each of us. Therefore, it should behoove us to really do our best to be counted worthy to be part of God’s Kingdom.
Lesson no. 4: God will humble you
Jacob is a man who uses people to further his own ends. The bible described Jacob as a “mild man, dwelling in tents” (Genesis 25:27). This statement’s purpose is not to demean Jacob’s personality, but rather it shows us that Jacob was a more refined and civilized man compared to Esau who was a “skillful hunter, a man of the field” (same verse). Jacob is more interested in taking care of the family business.
Throughout the early life of Jacob, we have seen how Jacob relied on himself to obtain physical blessings. He bought his brother’s birthright for a bowl of soup and later deceived his father to acquire his brother’s blessings.
Jacob would even later make a vow to God. He said in Genesis 28:20-21:
“IF God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God.”
This vow is conditional. Jacob vowed that he will make God his God if God will keep him and give him bread and clothing. This shows the character of Jacob. He even sees God as someone whom he can use to become physically blessed.
Little Jacob did know that God is about to start a long process of humbling himself. Through Laban, a man who is more cunning and shrewd, Jacob has found his match.
At first, Laban tricked Jacob by giving Leah as his wife, instead of Rachel. This has forced Jacob to serve Laban for 14 years. Over the course of time, Laban has not fairly dealt with Jacob. In every turn of event, little by little, Jacob has eventually humbled himself down in the mighty hand of God. He had learned to rely on God instead of relying on his own abilities.
After another six years, Jacob finally decided to leave the house of Laban and he has this to say:
“Thus I have been in your house twenty years; I served you fourteen years for your two daughters, and six years for your flock, and you have changed my wages ten times. Unless the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had been with me, surely now you would have sent me away empty-handed. God has seen my affliction and the labor of my hands, and rebuked you last night” (Genesis 31:41-42).
This statement is evidence of Jacob’s dramatic character development. Jacob attributed the success of his life to God and he considers God as the judge between him and Laban. Later, we will also read the prayer of Jacob when he was about to meet his brother Esau:
“I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies and of all the truth which You have shown Your servant” (Genesis 32:10).
Jacob finally realizes that God’s goodness does not rely on his righteousness. He is not entitled to God’s mercy just because he has started in following Him. Jacob now saw himself as someone who is entirely dependent on God’s mercy and goodness.
Just like Jacob, God will humble us and make us realize that we are NOTHING apart from Him. God is the source of all the blessings we enjoy today. We must recognize that we are completely dependent on Him. Thus, it is imperative for us to become humble and see how insignificant we are without the grace and love of God.
Lesson no. 5: We must persevere until the very end
Jacob is the man popularly known as the man who wrestled with God. The Bible said that a “Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day” (Genesis 32:24). We know this Man will later be known as Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ could have easily won the match. However, the point of the whole wrestling match is not about who will win or not, but to test the faith of Jacob. At this point in time, Jacob now recognizes that he can’t continue on relying on his own ability and wit to acquire blessings. He knows that it is only God who will be able to give him genuine blessings.
God or Jesus Christ wanted to know how bad Jacob wants the blessing. They wanted to see how far the perseverance of Jacob will take him and see his limit. To further test Jacob, Jesus “touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him” (verse 26). So in pain and tear, Jacob wrestled with God (Hosea 12:3-4).
Finally, when the day was dawning, Jesus Christ said to Jacob to let Him go. Jacob responded, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!” This is where Jacob finally obtain God’s blessings. His “name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel”.
It is true that following God and keeping His commandments are never easy. As a matter of fact, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). However, this must not discourage us, but rather inspire us. We know that something is worth it when it is difficult.
The road to Eternal life is not an easy path to take. There are a lot of challenges and obstacles. But we can be assured that it will be all worth it when we have already finished our Christian race. For it is written;
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (I Corinthians 2:9).
These are some of the lessons we can derive from the life of Jacob. There is no doubt that his life can have many similarities in our modern Christian walk. Though he had lived for thousands of years ago, the lessons from Jacob’s life are as valid today as it was during his time.
Therefore, we need to realize that God is working with each of us today. He deals with us according to the areas in our lives that we still need to develop. May we have the courage, strength, and faith to persevere until the end!