Chapter 2: JACOB
2.1 Jacob: Really Our Example
The fact that " the God of Jacob" became " the God
of Israel" means that for natural Israel, the life of Jacob
is their supreme prototype in their relationship with God. When
we read of " Jacob / Israel" in the prophets, there is
usually a connection with one or more of the following:
- " The Lord of Hosts" / Angels, i.e. Angelic work,
which was such a feature of Jacob's life
- The language of " return" , as if Jacob's return
to his father (31:3,13; 32:9) was a type of Israel's future return,
physically and spiritually, to their fathers and their God- and
will involve a like humiliation at the hands of their Arab brethren
to achieve this
- The language of 'redemption', which is appropriate to the fact
that the first reference to the idea of redemption was in Jacob's
- The idea of God being " with you" , as He promised
- The need not to fear, to renounce the fear which was such a
characteristic of the faithless natural Jacob
- There is often an association between Jacob / Israel being
rebuked and idolatry, as if this was a besetting sin of the early
These connections all emphasize the need to see the turning point
in Jacob's life as the wrestling with the Angel, and to realize
that this, in essence, must be the experience of all the true Israel
of God. Rom. 9:10-13 reasons that the grace of God shown to
Jacob is exactly representative of our experience; chosen as opposed
to the man next to us (cp. Esau), not due to our own righteousness,
but as a manifestation of pure grace. The way the prophecies of
their latter day struggles are recorded with the specter of the
man Jacob hanging over them would suggest that they will be especially
aware of this in the last days, until they like him come to make
Yahweh their very own God, in the person of His Son. Hos. 12:2-13,
the most explicit reference in the prophets to Jacob's struggle
with the Angel, appears in a prophecy which has ample reference
to Israel's latter day repentance. And Jacob is our example, as
Jacob was and is Israel's example. Jacob's flight into Syria is
set up as typical of Israel going into dispersion as a punishment
for their idolatry. But they will return, as Jacob did. Then
Israel will not wear a rough garment to deceive any more as Jacob
did, then they will have renounced the human side of Jacob
and captured his final spirituality for their own (Zech. 13:4).
Then, in that glorious day, unGodliness will be turned
away from (the people of) Jacob, as it was from Jacob himself (Rom.
11:26). We must remember that all the criticisms and denunciations
of 'Israel' are denunciations of Jacob, who primarily was
the man Jacob, whose children shared his characteristics. Therefore
in some ways we can feed back from the failures of Israel as a people
and see the weakness of Jacob as a man. Thus the way Israel were
made to " serve with rigour" in Egypt reflected the way
Jacob served in the same way with Laban (Ex. 1:13,14), and thereby
implies that Jacob was suffering for his sins and was also idolatrous
as they were at that time (Ez. 20:8), while he served Laban.
Particularly in that watershed night of wrestling, Jacob was our
example. The Lord taught that we must all first be reconciled with
our brother before we meet with God (Mt. 5:24)- an obvious allusion
to Jacob's reconciliation with Esau in his heart, and then meeting
with God. We really must all go through that process, whether
in one night or a longer period. The commentary on that night in
Hos. 12 makes this point: " In his (spiritual) manhood (RVmg.)
he had power with God...he wept, and made supplication unto him:
he (God) found him (Jacob) in Bethel, and there He spake with
us, even the (same) Lord God of Hosts...therefore turn thou
to thy God" as Jacob made Yahweh his God
and turned to Him (vv. 3-6). Jacob is our example. Jacob
only truly turned to God that night of wrestling, at the age of
97, despite having been brought up in the ways of the true Gospel,
and after having lived almost a century of half commitment to God.
We can so easily slip into the same life of half-commitment and
never, even for a century, turn to our God with all our heart. Ps.
34:3 promises that the Angel of the Lord will encamp /Mahanaim around
all His servants, just as the Angel did at Mahanaim for
Jacob. Jacobís struggle at [or with] Penuel strikes a chord with
each of us. Frank Lake has pointed out that each person struggles
to find peace in their relationships with others and also with their
God- whether or not they are conscious of those struggles(2).
Jacobís experience is clearly set up as representative of our own.
Jacob Our Example
Yet if Jacob really is our example, we are faced with implications
we'd perhaps rather not face. He suffered, really suffered, during
those 20 years when he kept Laban's sheep; strife between his wives,
driven to having relationships with Laban's ex-women, his cast offs,
to try to appease his bitching wives; sleep departing from his eyes,
consumed by the drought; wages changed ten times, pining ("
sore longing" , 31:30) for the family home where he'd lived
at peace for 77 years. When we see our brethren, or ourselves, in
these situations, we cry out for the pain to end, for the wayward
wife to return, for the redundancy to be cancelled, for the cancer
to clear. And so it is God's will that we as His children should
cry to Him in these things. But yet ultimately, so often the answer
we seek is not the way to that final, desperate turning to our God
which Jacob experienced. What really do we expect? Problems to come
and then be taken away immediately? All Biblical examples,
not least of the Man we fain would follow to the end, are to the
contrary. Long term experience of impossible situations, pain at
the most vulnerable point...and then the deeper realization of the
Kingdom and the grace of the Lord Jesus and the real implications
of the covenant of our God with which we are blessed. Yet to achieve
this, God will often ask us the very hardest things. The way He
asked Jacob to return to " thy kindred" , which meant
Esau (cp. 31:13 with 32:9); the very hardest thing for
Jacob at that time. And yet this is the spirit of the cross; we
are invited to take the hardest road, not just the difficult one.
If we don't see this, we simply haven't opened our eyes to God working
in our lives; we haven't woken up to what He is really
asking us to do (apart from turn up at Christian meetings now and
Jacob And The Last Days
In the same way as natural Israel will be driven towards an increasing
identification with Jacob in their final holocaust, so at the same
time it seems that spiritual Israel will be also (1).
" Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed" (32:7) is the
basis of " the time of Jacob's trouble" (Jer. 30:7), the
" time of trouble" from which Israel will be Angelically
" delivered" (Dan. 12:1) after the pattern of Jacob. Yet
this " time of trouble" is picked up by the Lord in Mt.
24:21 and applied to the time of great tribulation " such as
was not" which will encompass all God's people, natural and
spiritual. What this means is that the Jacob experience must be
gone through by all of us, natural and spiritual Israel; and this
will entail a desperate praying to God (3) and an earnest
repentance, recognizing that we have lived out our parental expectations
for too long; and above all, a realization that " this God
is our God" , a personalizing of God, a grasping of
the wondrous reality of those things which we have previously seen
as only so much correct theology and logical theory. But let's not
in any way minimize the spiritual struggle and suffering of Jacob.
After the pattern of Moses, it seems that the Angel who came to
wrestle with Jacob was out to kill him, and it was only his desperate,
desperate repentance and pleading to receive the true blessing,
the forgiveness of sins, which brought him through to salvation.
Let's not see the similarities between ourselves and Jacob and therefore
conclude that it will all turn out all right in the end, as it did
for him. It's rather like saying 'David sinned with Bathsheba and
repented, so I too can repent and all will be OK'; but the depth
and intensity of his pleading and self-abasement are hard to plumb.
Likewise " We must pray like Moses did" rolls off the
tongue far, far too easily, almost doing despite to the spirit of
Christ which he reached in those supreme pleadings for God's people.
And above all, let's shy away from saying, or at least say far more
soberly, things like: " We must carry the cross (brethren!),
like Christ did! Think of him in Gethsemane, that's
our example!'. All of which is true; but do we realize the
depth and height of what we are connecting ourselves with?
Rom. 9:10-13 speaks of Jacobís experience of grace as if it is
ours. But the grace Jacob will receive in the last days is really
wondrous- and he is our pattern in this. Hosea 12 speaks of Jacobís
running to Laban as a type of Israelís dispersion. Then when Jacob
returns he wonít deceive as his father did (Zech. 13:4); ungodliness
will be turned away from Jacob (Rom. 11:26). The Ďreturní of Jacob
in the prophets usually applies to the time of Israelís repentance.
As Jacob reached spiritual ďmanhoodĒ at age 97, so will Israel finally,
in their very old age as a nation (Hos. 12:3-6 RVmg.). So now Jacob
is still in Syria, eyes consumed by drought, the family riven by
internal strife- but they are being prepared, as are we all, for
the final revelation of grace.
David And Jacob
Jacob clearly was seen by David as his pattern; Psalm 23 can be read as an extended reflection upon Jacob's account of the promises made to him in Gen. 28:20,21:
|Gen. 28:20,21 re. Jacob
||Psalm 23 re. David
|He is with me
||For You art with me (i.e. just as You were with Jacob)
|He will keep me
||He makes me lie down, he leads me, he restores my life
|He will give me bread to eat
||He prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies
|I come again to my father's house in peace
||I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever
David was a man who saw the height of Jacob, perceiving Jacob as
our example, and the deep significance of his spiritual growth as
our pattern. His almost fanatic devotion to " the Law"
would have included the record of Jacob- around a fifth of "
the Law" which he studied all the day (and deep into the night
watches). Consider how he made Jacob's example his own, and how
he was able to see himself living out, in principle, Jacob's spiritual
growth pattern; and consider how Jacob is set up in Scripture as
our example; the God of Jacob / Israel is our God too:
- " In mine adversity (Heb. tsela, limping) they
rejoiced" (Ps. 35:15), " I am ready to halt (tsela)
and my sorrow (repentance) is continually before me" (Ps.
38:17) uses a word which occurs elsewhere mainly in the context
of Jacob limping after the night of wrestling (32:31).
- " I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies and
of all the truth which thou hast shewed unto thy servant"
(32:10) was spoken by Jacob on that night of destiny, in recognition
of how he was morally unworthy to receive the promises which God
had given him (see context). David picked this up in 2 Sam. 7:18,
where he comments on his unworthiness to receive the promises
to him, which were an extension of those Jacob received.
- " I cried to thee, O Lord, and unto the Lord I made supplication"
(Ps. 30:8) uses the same word as Hos. 12:4 concerning Jacob's
supplication to God in earnest repentance and physical request
- Psalm 32 describes David's feelings during the nine months
during which he refused to come to real self-knowledge and serious
repentance. Appropriately enough, it is shot through with reference
to Jacob, especially on the wrestling night. Ps. 38:17 was also
penned (or first spoken) against the background of the Bathsheba
affair: " I am ready to halt and my sorrow (for
sin) is continually before me" . And the word for "
halt" is usually used in the context of Jacob halting (limping)
after his wrestling.
- " Let people serve thee" was the blessing promised
to Jacob in his moment of weakness, as he crouched before his
father in fawning deception (27:29). And yet David applies this
promised blessing to himself (2 Sam. 22:44).
- Jacob's comment at the end of the wrestling experience was
that " my life is preserved" (32:30); and that Hebrew
phrase is so often used by David (Ps. 7:2; 22:20; 25:20; 33:19;
56:13; 86:13; 97:10; 120:2). Likewise Jacob commented that the
experience had shown him that God had been gracious unto him (33:11);
and that Hebrew phrase too is a catch phrase of David's
(Ps. 4:1; 6:2; 9:13; 25:16; 26:11; 27:11; 30:8; 31:9 and many
- Compare Gen. 48:16 with 2 Sam. 4:9. What Jacob only learnt
at the end of his life, David learnt and applied during
his life. And we should likewise not be experiential learners,
but learn instead from Jacob.
All these are allusions to that night which was the watershed in
Jacob's life, the night when he quit the life of half-commitment,
and gave himself completely to God and His Truth, with all this
entailed for him. Evidently that night of wrestling had a big impact
on David; he saw that it epitomized the spiritual struggle which
all God's true children must, must pass through on the
way to making Yahweh their God. David exactly associates himself
with Jacob in this sense of making God his very own God: "
Thou art my king, O God; command deliverances for Jacob"
, i.e. David (Ps. 44:4). He too vowed to walk before God in the
land (Ps. 116:9), just as Jacob and his fathers had done (Gen. 48:15).
It has to be said, really it has to be, that the sense of spiritual
struggle and effort in these men doesn't seem very apparent in our
community- at least, on the surface.
(1) My 90% certainty that spiritual Israel will
pass through a time of latter day persecution at the same time as
natural Israel is detailed at length in The Last Days (London:
(2) Frank Lake, Clinical Theology (London:
Darton, Longman and Todd, 1966).
(3) The connection between fervent prayer and the
faithful in the last days is developed many times in The Last