Jacob’s Triumph Of Faith.
Hebrews 11: 21; Genesis 48 – 50: 1 – 14.
In the catalogue of exemplary Biblical men of faith In the Hebrew Letter, their specific recognized exploits were also mentioned. Jacob was listed as one of them: By faith Jacob, as he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshipped, leaning on the top of his staff (Heb 11:21). Contrary to expectations, it was not his wrestling with God, neither his visionary ladder or perhaps his perseverance with Laban, that would be chosen as an expression of monumental faith, instead, it was blessing Joseph’s two sons! What particular significance did the Hebrew writer saw in that event?
The background to the whole incident was rather comical with the sight-impaired Jacob, but he knew exactly what he was doing in expressing the prophetic will of God. Despite Joseph’s insistence that his father should principally bless Manasseh over his younger brother, Jacob crossed his hands and blessed Ephraim with his right hand; thereby breaking convention, as the more honourable right-handed benediction was traditionally reserved for the oldest child (Gen 48:10-20). Joseph’s customary designs for his two sons belied his father’s choice, as the latter pronounced on God’s behalf the blessings over his children. Joseph’s initial reticence in submitting to God’s will his sons’ lives is not unlike our own hesitant desire to relinquish absolute control over our own lives. If we had had it our way, the loss would be ours in our growth into Christlikeness, as our life becomes our ‘idol’ contrary to the gospel’s claim (c.f., 1 Cor 6:19-20; Rom 11:33-36; Gal 5:1).
This was no longer the same wily shortsighted Jacob that earlier stole his older brother’s birthright. Through his tortuous interactions with nearly everyone who was important in his life, including God, he seemed to have come a long way to recognise that his Creator’s choices in the specific lineage of his ancestors to fulfill the same promise He had made to Abraham was extant (Gen 28: 13-14; c.f., Gen 12:1-3): through the barren Sarah instead of the fertile Hagar, came Jacob, and through the unwanted Leah instead of the beautiful Rachel, came Judah (c.f., 1 Cor 1:26-31). In fact, right through Biblical history, God repeated His distinctive preferences in ways that went against the world’s predilections. For example, David was the youngest in his family chosen as king over all his older and physically well-endowed brothers; in the Judges – Ehud was a handicap, Deborah was a woman, Gideon was the youngest and a reluctant warrior, Jephthah was the son of a harlot and leader of a criminal gang, and Samson was a totally immoral character. The singular divine emphasis that Jacob discerned was the irrefutable evidence of the availability of the unremitting grace of God towards sinful man, like himself (c.f., Eph 1:7-8; Eph 2:4-6; Titus 2:11-14). At the end of his life, Jacob became the epitome of Yahweh’s infinite grace, a grace that expressed a triumph of his faith in his God.
Growing up in a dysfunctional family, with a vengeful brother, and betrayed by his father-in-law and subsequently his sons when they sold Joseph off to a slave trader, and losing a young wife in Rachel, it was ironic that he used the ‘shepherd’ metaphor to claim that Yahweh had been his shepherd all his life (Gen 48:15; ‘shepherd’ was a term used commonly in ancient Israel for a ruler or leader who led the nation faithfully according to God’s laws. God also used the term regularly of Himself to describe His care over Israel). Jacob, not unlike many of us, did not recognize God’s plans for him for years and kept up a rebellious attitude against Yahweh until he was made a cripple (Gen 32:24-31). But from that point on, he discovered that like his own sheep, God knew what was best for him (c.f., John 10:14-15; John 10:27-30). Jacob finally embraced the will of God, commencing his intimate journey with his Shepherd. We are reminded of another struggle in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will” (Mark 14:36). In Jesus Christ, who understood full well the tensions of surrendering to the will of His Father in obedience, we have a resource that Jacob did not possess (Eph 1:18-21; 2 Peter 1:2-4). Jacob’s comprehension of the depth of God’s work of grace in his life elicited an explicit capitulation of his personal choices in life to embrace what God had planned specifically for him (c.f., Matt 6:31-33; Eph 1:16-18; Phil 1:6; Heb 13:20-21), that was his triumph of faith. May it be ours too as we continue our walk with our Lord!