2-3-4 The Love Of God For Jacob
" One shall say, I am Yahweh's; and another
shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe
with his hand unto Yahweh, and surname himself by the name of Israel"
(Is. 44:5). The Name of Jacob / Israel is paralleled with Yahweh.
Remember how Jacob in his doubt promised God: " If God will
be with me...then shall Yahweh be my God" (Gen. 28:20,21);
and we have shown how that at the end, Yahweh was Jacob's God. God
seems to recognize this by describing Himself as the God of Jacob
/ Israel so very often. His joy, His sheer delight at Jacob's spiritual
achievement is recorded throughout the Bible. The way God describes
Himself as " the God of Israel" (201 times) or "
the God of Jacob" (25 times) infinitely more times than anyone
else's God is proof enough that God saw His relationship with Jacob
as very special. " God of Abraham" occurs 17 times; "
God of Isaac" 8 times; " God of David" 4 times. Remember
that whenever we read " Israel" , we are reading of the
man Jacob and his children. That God was the God of mixed-up, struggling
Jacob is a sure comfort to every one of us. God is not ashamed to
be surnamed the God of Jacob (Heb. 11:16 Gk.). The clear parallel
between the historical man Jacob and the people of Israel is brought
out in Mal. 1:2: “I loved you… I loved Jacob”. Had Israel appreciated
God’s love for the man Jacob, and perceived that he was typical
of them, then they would never have doubted God’s love for them.
And the same is true of us, whom Jacob likewise represents.
Every reference to " the God of Jacob / Israel"
is effectively saying: 'I'm the God that stuck with mixed up, struggling
Jacob. And I'll stick with you too, through spiritual thick and
thin, and bring you through in the end'. This is the love of God
for Jacob. So close is the association between God and Jacob that
there are times when the name 'Jacob' becomes a synonym for 'the
God of Jacob'. Ps. 24:6 is an example: " The generation of
them that seek him, that seek thy face, O Jacob" (cp. other
examples in Is. 44:5; Jer. 10:16; 51:19). The name of Israel therefore
was paralleled with the name of God- Joshua feared that the name
of Israel would be cut off, “and what wilt thou do unto thy great
name?” (Josh. 2:9). Thus God identified Himself with Jacob-
such was the love of God for Jacob. It’s rather like when He says
that in Egypt, He heard “a language that I understood not”. He understood
Egyptian, but He so identified Himself with His people that He can
speak like this. This leads on to a point which can be no more than
reflected upon: It seems that the sons of Rachael, Jacob’s favourite
wife, were favoured by Jacob. Ephraim and Manasseh [the sons of
Joseph, counted as Jacob’s personal sons] and Benjamin marched in
front of the ark (hence Ps. 80:2), and these three tribes were represented
in the 2nd row of the breastplate by the three most precious
stones. Could it be that God so identified with Jacob even in his
weakness, that He too reflected this perspective of Jacob’s, in
treating these three sons as somehow especially favoured? Such was
and is the extent of God’s identity with His wayward children.
There are at least two caveats to be extracted
from all this:
- Jacob hid behind the idea of God manifestation
too long. This is not to say that there is no such thing; but
we can take it to such a point where we lose sight of the glorious
reality of the one true, real God, who is our God, and who is
ultimately there, at the back of all the things and ways
in which He may be manifested. Jacob saw God manifest in Angels
to the point where he failed to see the God who was behind them.
Building the altar 'El-elohe-Israel' was his first step towards
rectifying this. As time went on, he saw God as one, not as multitudes
of Angels, even though he knew from the vision of Bethel that
they were all active for him; he saw the El behind the Elohe,
and realized that this was Yahweh, his very own God.
- Notice that as in the pattern of Job's spiritual
growth, there was no marked growth in Jacob's physical use of
the name 'Yahweh'; rather was there a growth in appreciation of
who God actually is- the real meaning of 'Yahweh'. I
mention this not to discourage the use of 'Yahweh' in our talking
about God, but rather as a caveat against the implication by some
that those who pronounce the word 'Yahweh' are somehow more mature
than other believers. It is true that as time went on, Jacob articulated
his spiritual growth in terms of using different names of God,
each expressing different and deeper inflections of his understanding
of God's character. This should be reflected in our increasing
appreciation of God's personality, not in a playing around with
the Hebrew names in themselves, the semantics of which we as non-Hebraists
have no real grasp of anyway.