October 2023: Outrageous Grace in the Life of Jacob - Genesis 25-35
This year I have read two different books focused on the life of Jacob from Genesis chapters 25 – 35. Both of which I would highly recommend. The first is ‘God’s Rascal’ by Dale Ralph Davis and the second is ‘Limping With God’ by Chad Bird. I have a physical copy of God’s Rascal if you would like to borrow it but I’m afraid ‘Limping with God’ is on kindle (it was very cheap!).
Both books contain lots of helpful wisdom and insight but as is often the case there is one thought that sticks out to me the most from both. I think it was John Piper, who I once heard say that when he reads books he sometimes only remembers one thing, but often that one thing has deeply affected his life and ministry.
The thought that has stuck with me personally is God’s amazing, seemingly outrageous grace towards Jacob. Specifically, around his dream in chapter 28. Both authors point this out. Not the dream itself as much as the context into which that dream is given. Jacob is given this remarkable encounter with God in a dream which we now think of as ‘Jacob’s Ladder’. So sure, was Jacob of the Lord’s presence that he even renamed the place Bethel, which means ‘house of God’. In this dream the Lord stood either at the top of the ladder or beside him and reiterated the promise made to both Abraham his grandfather and Isaac his Father. He promises the land to Jacob and his offspring who will be many and will bless the Earth. He also promises him his presence wherever he would go. How amazing! It is all the more amazing and shocking when we consider the actions of Jacob in the preceding chapters.
At the end of chapter 25 Jacob tricks his brother Esau out of his birthright (not that Esau comes off well in that scenario, he despised his birthright!). we then have chapter 26 focused on Isaac who actually sought to live a life for God. His story is short because he lived a godly and, in some ways, ordinary life and doesn’t get enough credit (This also stuck out to me in both books!). Then in chapter 27, Jacob with the help of his mum Rebekah, tricks Esau out of the blessing from Isaac. Neither of these episodes makes us think that Jacob would be a great candidate for the promises and blessing of God. Nor would the rest of his life be perfect to say the least! Yet in chapter 28 the Lord comes to him and gives him these glorious promises and shows him his grace.
Doesn’t this remind us of his grace towards us in Christ Jesus? Yes, Jacob was certainly a rascal but we too have sinned and are not deserving of his grace. Were it not for God coming to us we would still be ‘dead in trespasses and sins’ as Paul puts it in Ephesians 2. Yet we have been made alive in in Christ because of his death and resurrection for our sins. Paul in the same section reminds us,
‘For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works so that no one may boast.’
We have sin in our past of which we are ashamed and our future’s ain’t gonna be perfect either yet God has shown us his amazing, outrageous grace. So now that we are in him, we aim to obey and please him. Jacob vowed his vow after this dream and we too remember that we are ‘God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works which he prepared beforehand that we should walk in them (Eph 2 v 10.)
Let’s rejoice again in his amazing, outrageous grace towards us and seek to serve him the rest of our days.