Have you every found yourself questioning if God’s promises are trustworthy? Jacob faced the same doubts when he journeyed home to face his brother. In a desperate need to know if God will come through on His word, Jacob cries out to God and reminds Him of His promises.
I often find comfort in reading other people’s stories. They remind me that I’m not the first one to struggle or doubt or question God. I’m not the first person to wonder if God is really going to come through on what He has promised.
Jacob’s Story about Grace
Jacob is one such character whose story has encouraged me greatly over the last year.
I haven’t always liked him, though. Growing up in Sunday school and hearing how he tricked his brother out of his birthright and convinced his blind father that Jacob was Esau so that Jacob could steal the blessing of the first born, I was convinced Jacob was just a bad dude. His story was more of a cautionary tale of what not to do.
As I’ve dug deeper into Jacob’s story, though, I’m finding, like so many other stories in Scripture, that his is about grace and redemption.
God’s Promise to Jacob
After all of that trickery at home, Jacob flees for his life, encounters God, and receives a promise. He would be the one to carry on the promise God first made to Jacob’s grandfather Abraham. Through Jacob God would raise up a nation through whom all the nations would be blessed. God also promises to be with Jacob and to protect him and to bring Jacob back to the land he’s fleeing (Genesis 28:13-15).
Twenty years, four wives, and twelve children later, Jacob is on his way back to his homeland, just like God said. In those years away Jacob prospered and became quite wealthy. He was also humbled by the trickery of his uncle Laban. (It seems scheming runs in the family.) But on his way home, just outside of the land, Jacob gets scared because he knows he’s going to have to confront his twin brother whom he wronged more than once. When Jacob left home, Esau was ready to kill him, and now returning, Jacob fears again for his life.
It’s at this point in Jacob’s story where we reach today’s passage. Tucked between the dramatic stories of leaving his uncle and wrestling with God, Jacob cries out to the Lord. He is afraid. His words are desperate, and he’s wondering if God is going to come through:
Then Jacob said, “God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, the Lord who said to me, ‘Go back to your land and to your family, and I will cause you to prosper,’ I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. Indeed, I crossed over the Jordan with my staff, and now I have become two camps. Please rescue me from my brother Esau, for I am afraid of him; otherwise, he may come and attack me, the mothers, and their children. You have said, ‘I will cause you to prosper, and I will make your offspring like the sand of the sea, too numerous to be counted.’” (Genesis 32:9-12, CSB)
Recalling God’s Promises
In this moment as night settles and his family camps a little ways ahead of him, Jacob is recalling God’s promises and reminding God of what He said. God doesn’t need a reminder, but Jacob does. Jacob needs to know that he’s not headed into a death trap. He needs to know that God’s going to come through exactly as He promised.
I need those reminders too. When things change, when I face unexpected transitions, when God calls me to something new, I need to know I’m not stepping into this alone. I need to know that God has a tight hold on me, that He will be with me in this new thing just as He has been with me in the old thing. I need to know that His promise to stay and take care of me hasn’t expired.
Jacob’s story assures me that God’s promises are trustworthy
That same night Jacob whispers that prayer and asks for assurance, God comes in the form of a man and wrestles with Jacob until daybreak. Jacob leaves that match with a limp and a new name, both of them constant reminders that God is the one he is to lean on, not his own ability to make things happen. His limp reminds Jacob to lean into grace and trust God’s promises, and his new name, Israel, is a declaration of victory. Jacob is not the man he was when he left home, afraid for his life. He is new. He is the bearer of God’s covenant promise. His life is a testimony that God keeps His promises.
If you’re struggling to trust God’s promises today, can I encourage you to lean into God a little more. Get honest with Him. Pray like Jacob did and remind God of His promises. Repeat Scripture back to God, not for His sake, but for yours. Remind yourself what God has promised you through His Word, and in the process may you come to trust Him all the more.