Jacob, the father of the children of Israel, was born into a family God was working with. Through the descendants of Abraham and Sarah God manifested His greatness and power to the rest of the world.
Jacob's father, Isaac, was the son of Abraham and a righteous man. As a result Jacob's life was blessed and prosperous, but it seems from the biblical account that in his younger years Jacob was not especially interested in the family religion.
Also Jacob and his brother Esau did not get on well. There were jealousies and favouritism within the family, with Isaac spending a lot of time with Esau and favouring his elder son, while Jacob felt closer to his mother, Rebekah.
Esau, being the firstborn, was in line to receive the best of the family inheritance and this did not sit well with Jacob. One day when Esau came to Jacob and asked him for something to eat, Jacob saw a chance to barter with him for the birthright to the family inheritance. Esau's response was to trade away his inheritance, thinking he was about to starve (Genesis 25:27-34).
As a result Jacob's mother, Rebekah, contrived to ensure Jacob received the firstborn blessing by instructing Jacob to lie to his aged father and ask for this blessing while disguised and pretending to be his brother Esau. This understandably caused Esau to bitterly resent Jacob and he swore to kill him, causing Jacob to flee from his family to save his life!
Within a short time Jacob went from being a young man with all his needs taken care of, to wandering in a barren wilderness with an uncertain future. This set of circumstances caused him to quickly change his perspective!
As Jacob lay sleeping with a rock for his pillow, God introduced Himself in a dream, telling Jacob He was the God of his father and grandfather (Genesis 28:12-15). God promised Jacob blessings, to provide for him and bring him back home safely someday, but He did not say He would be Jacob's God. That was a choice Jacob would have to make himself.
When Jacob awoke from his dream after God's promise of "I will be with you" (Genesis 28:15), Jacob responded by making a vow to God: "...'If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, so that I come back to my father's house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God...and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You' " (verses 20-22).
Notice from this account that, as Jacob’s relationship with God begins, he is concerned with something to eat and wear and a desire to someday return home safely. Later his focus would shift to far more important matters.
Jacob eventually became the father of 12 sons. His son, Joseph, was betrayed by his brothers and taken, as a young teenager, to Egypt as a slave. But God was with him as He had been with his father Jacob. "The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man... And his master saw...that the Lord made all he did to prosper…. So Joseph found favour in his sight, and served him. Then he made him overseer of his house, and all that he had he put under his authority" (Genesis 39:2-4).
Even when Joseph was later falsely accused, arrested and thrown into prison, God intervened on his behalf: "But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favour...The keeper of the prison did not look into anything that was under Joseph's authority, because ... whatever he did, the Lord made it prosper" (verses 21-23). God continued to bless Joseph and he was eventually appointed second in command over the powerful nation of Egypt, directly under the Pharaoh himself.
Many generations later, Moses, another descendant of Jacob, learned the significance of God's protection so that when God told the Israelites He might not continue with them on their journey to the Promised Land because of their sinful behaviour, Moses pleaded: "If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here. For how then will it be known that Your people and I have found grace in Your sight, except You go with us?..." (Exodus 33:15-16).
Moses said, in essence, "If You don't go with us, I don't want to go!" God responded to Moses' attitude of humility, respect and love: "I will also do this thing that you have spoken; for you have found grace in My sight, and I know you by name" (verses 17).
God wants us to learn from the experiences of these men and realise the importance of God being with us. If we walk with Him, He will walk with us and guide and bless us. Proverbs 3:6 tells us, "In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths."
The Good News Magazine