A Conniver, Cheater, and Schemer

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…What are you waiting for? Return to your God! — Hosea 12:2-6 (The Message) Jacob’s 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.

Abraham may be the father of the Jewish nation, but Jacob, who was renamed Israel, built the twelve tribes. Jacob's story is about how a very stubborn, self-reliant human being is transformed into the founder of a nation chosen by God.

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! 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 with him always.”1

Later Jacob wrestled with an angel until he was physically hurt. When he couldn’t defend himself any longer, he finally 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 of course, the truth is, God is always in control—He’s just waiting for us to realize it.

Jacob thought that it was his own planning, talent, and brilliance that made him succeed. But he learned, the moment he gave up control and surrendered to God’s blessing, that 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