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2. Jacob

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.