Jacob: A Case Study in Transformation

Our Old Testament text for today contains several stories from the life of Jacob. As his story unfolds in the Bible, we see the transforming work of God in his life. We have already learned that Jacob was to be the son of promise (Genesis 25:23). Even though Jacob is the younger son, he will be the one who shepherds the promise of God through Abraham’s family.

Jacob (literally “the deceiver”) appears in the narrative at his birth. He is holding the heel of his older brother in birth. He will be a thorn in Esau’s side for much of Esau’s life! The first act recorded from Jacob’s life is his ploy to steal Esau’s birthright (Genesis 25:29-34). Now this episode does reveal the weakness in Esau’s character, but it certainly demonstrates the crafty side of the younger Jacob as he lives into his name!

Genesis 27 opens with Isaac’s desire to give his final blessing to Esau, his oldest son. However, Rebekah was certain that she needed to intervene because she knew Jacob was the real son of promise. Her intentions may have been somewhat noble, but she had to deceive her husband to accomplish her goal of preserving the promise through Jacob. Jacob consented and worked with his mother to steal Esau’s blessing.

This section of material ends in Genesis 28:9. Jacob stole the blessing and Esau was furious. He was not committed to kill his brother (27:41) and rebel against his parents (27:8-9). The family is fractured and separated as Jacob has set out for Harran to save his life.

Genesis 28:10-22 records Jacob’s dream at Bethel. Here in this episode, the grace of God is demonstrated in that God gives Jacob the assurance that he is indeed the son of promise. He will shepherd the promise given to Abraham back in Genesis 12. God’s words to Jacob sound very familiar to us (28:13-15). Jacob’s family will be a blessing to the world and God will be with him.

This is a powerful demonstration of God’s grace. Jacob had to know his behavior had not been pleasing to God. God did not orchestrate the stealing of the blessing. Rebekah had done that. However, in the face of such behavior, God offered grace to Jacob and promised him that He would be with him and provide for his family. This was a signal event in Jacob’s life and a process of transformation begins. The grace of God will shape Jacob and soften his heart.

He responds to God’s grace with the resolve to serve God and honor Him with his life (Genesis 28:20-22). His journey of change is on. He will continue to develop and respond to God’s provision in his life. He will become known as “Israel” – one who strives with God. He will be the father of a great nation. He will be a man of blessing who will actually bless Pharaoh before his life ends (Genesis 47:10).

God’s grace is transforming grace. It shapes our lives. Jacob moves from being a deceiver to a deeply devoted follower of Yahweh. He makes amends with Esau (Genesis 33) and he leads his family to fulfill God’s plan. He shepherds the promises of God faithfully.

In short – the Bible reveals the process of transformation of Jacob.