Then Jacob made a vow, saying, "If God will be with me and will keep me on this journey that I take, and will give me food to eat and garments to wear,Genesis 28:20(NASB)
Jacob was chosen by the Lord to be one of the great patriarchs of Israel but throughout his life, God had to teach Jacob many lessons before he could be changed from being a carnal man into the spiritual 'prince with God' that he became. Jacob had to learn to trust God in every eventuality of life. He needed to believe that God was his Provider, and that He was well able to fulfil His Word.
From the beginning, Jacob proved himself to be a schemer, a deceiver, and a cheat, and although he knew everything God had promised to do for him, he also engaged in many schemes to ensure that God's Word would be fulfilled - through his own, fleshly manipulations! From birth, he was known as a 'supplanter' and throughout his life, we see examples of Jacob using cunning schemes to get want he wanted out of life.
He tricked his older twin-brother, Esau, into selling his birthright in exchange for a bowl of pottage, after Esau returned from an exhausting hunting trip. To further his nefarious plan, Jacob blatantly lied to his father and plotted with his mother to steal the blessing that Isaac was preparing to bestow upon Esau, his firstborn son.
YET - before he was born, Jacob - not Esau, had been chosen by God to lead His people, Israel. A nation that was to be set apart unto God was to come through Jacob's own sons - the twelve tribes of Israel. His mother, Rebekah, had been told by God: "The older will serve the younger." Jacob had been taught that God's promise to Abraham would be carried out through him, and yet Jacob spent much of his life scheming to fulfil God's Word through his own cunning and skill. Indeed, it took Jacob many decades to come to a firm trust that the LORD, Himself, would accomplish His Word without any assistance or manipulations from Jacob!
According to the foreknowledge of God, Jacob was chosen before the foundation of the earth, but to transform him from being a manipulative man into spiritual Israel, Jacob had to be broken before the Lord. He had to learn that God's Word is true and cannot be broken, and the Lord used every cunning plan that Jacob formed to teach him a lesson which would transform him into the prince of God he finally became.
Having stolen Esau's blessing, Jacob had to escape from his angry brother and fled to his uncle Laban in Mesopotamia, where the Lord used this unscrupulous relative and his envious cousins to teach Jacob the importance of trusting the Lord with all his heart and not leaning on his own understanding, skill, manipulation, or deceit to receive the blessings that God had already promised.
It was on his journey from Canaan to Haran that Jacob had a life-changing experience. He had a dream and behold a ladder, set on the earth with its top reaching to heaven, and Jacob saw the angels of God ascending and descending on it, and the Lord stood at the top of the ladder and said, "Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you."
When Jacob awoke, he realised that God was in that place and he made a vow to the Lord saying, "If God will be with me and will keep me on this journey that I take, and will give me food to eat and garments to wear - then He will be my God." The Lord did, indeed, protect and provide for Jacob during his extended sojourn in Mesopotamia and caused him to prosper, despite the jealousy and unscrupulous dealings of his kinsfolk toward him. However, Jacob believed that his prosperity resulted from his own cleverness and skill, but he needed to learn that the LORD was his Provider, in accordance with God's mighty promise.
God provided for Jacob in a foreign land and blessed him with many sons and much livestock, but God wanted Jacob to return to the land He had promised to Abraham, Isaac, and their offspring. And so He began to turn the hearts of Jacob's kinsmen against His servant... and in chapter 31 we read: "Now Jacob heard the words of Laban's sons, saying, 'Jacob has taken away all that was our father's, and from what belonged to our father he has made all this wealth.'"
Jacob had not defrauded his uncle. He had been blessed by God, as the Lord had promised, and this was an important lesson for Jacob to learn as he left his pagan kinsmen behind and purposed to return to his homeland, as God was directing Him. Jacob had to learn many lessons from the Lord before his name was changed from Jacob to Israel and every twist and turn of life, whether good or ill, was used by the Lord to hone Jacob into the man God knew he would one day become.
The unfolding history of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Israel is thrilling, indeed, and familiar to those that love and trust the Lord. But throughout the dramatic adventures of these patriarchs, there are many lessons that we all need to learn and take to heart, and perhaps one of the most important is to know that God, in His grace, has scheduled every day of our lives and so engineers the lives of His people so that they are increasingly being transformed into the people He wants us to be.
May we be ready and willing to learn the lessons the Lord desires to teach us. May we develop a teachable spirit and be ready to allow the indwelling Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth. May we have an understanding heart and a listening ear to hear all that the Spirit says to us through the Word of truth, and may we rejoice that no matter what difficulties we may encounter in life or what problems may come our way, God has scheduled every day of our lives for His greater glory and our eternal benefit - and is transforming us, day by day, into the image and likeness of Jesus.
Heavenly Father, there are so many lessons for me to learn through the life of Jacob. I pray that I would not become so familiar with Bible stories, that I fail to learn the deeper lessons they teach and apply them to my life. Teach me Your will, I pray, and I ask that You would align my will to Your will so that I only say and do those things that are pleasing in Your sight. Keep me also from expressing unbelief in Your Word by trying to sort out my own problems in my way, rather than trusting You to fulfil all that You have purposed. Thank You, Father, that You work all things together for good, even when we stray from the path of righteousness. Keep the eyes of my heart looking to Jesus. This I ask for His name's sake, AMEN.