Daily Devotion: How a Conniver and Schemer Found Grace

jacob and angel  

Hosea 12:2-6:  In the womb, that heel, Jacob, got the best of his brother. When he grew up, he tried to get the best of God. But God would not be bested. God bested him. Brought to his knees, Jacob wept and prayed. God found him at Bethel. That's where He spoke with him. God is God-of-the-Angel-Armies, God-Revealed, God-Known. What are you waiting for? Return to your God! Commit yourself in love, in justice! Wait for your God, and don't give up on Him - ever! (The Message)

Abraham may be the father of the Jewish nation, but Jacob, who became Israel, built the twelve tribes. And Jacob was a character.  His story tells how a very stubborn, self-reliant human being is transformed into the founder of a nation chosen by God.  His story is one of the most profound examples of unmerited grace in Scripture. Even Hosea felt compelled to refer to Jacob’s sins, and ultimate humility.

Jacob, that conniver, deceived his father and cheated his brother out of an inheritance.  In fear of his brother’s wrath, he fled his homeland.  God found him asleep, alone in open country.  Did he punish Jacob?  No, instead He gave him a vision for the future and blessed him.

“It gives me hope,” writes Kathleen Norris, “that when God gazed on the sleeping Jacob, He looked right through the tough little schemer and saw something good, if only the capacity for awe, for recognizing God, and for worshipping.  That Jacob will worship badly, trying to bargain with God, doesn’t seem to matter.  God promises to be with him always.”1

Later Jacob wrestled with an angel, until he was physically hurt.  When he could no longer defend himself, he let go and surrendered, crying out for a blessing.  In this moment of raw, emotional, painful honesty the Lord’s blessing was poured upon him.

There will always be emotional pain when we surrender our pride, self-reliance, plans, gifts, and resources to God.  It is hard for us to give it up!  But God is always in control – He’s just waiting for us to realize it and surrender to His blessings.

Jacob thought that it was his own planning, scheming, talent, and brilliance that made him succeed.  He learned, the moment he surrendered, that now it was amazing grace that guided and blessed his life.

“Return to your God,” Hosea implored, which is what Jacob did, over and over again.

  1. Norris, Kathleen,  “Amazing Grace,” (Riverhead Books, New York, 1998), p. 151