From Deceiver to Servant

Genesis 35:2, “So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, ‘Put away the foreign gods that are among you, and purify yourselves and change your garments.’”

What is the Lord doing in your life? Why does he bring this or that particular event or relationship about in your life? What is God’s purpose for his children? In Romans 8, the Apostle Paul gives us the ultimate answer to these questions: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” (8:28-29). The Lord is shaping, refining, and conforming his children more into the image of Christ. That is it! That is what the Lord is doing in the lives of his people. Through the ups and the downs, the hills and the valleys, the joys and the sorrows, the Lord is growing his children and is chiseling away anything and everything that obscures the glory of Christ. And while the New Testament letters declare this wonderful truth, it is often in the Old Testament where we are able to see this process in flesh and blood.

One excellent illustration of the Lord’s refining purpose in the lives of his children is his dealings with Jacob. In Genesis 25:29-34 and 27:1-45 we find Jacob the swindler, liar, and cheat. But in Genesis 33:1-19 and 35:1-4, however, we find Jacob the humble and devoted servant of the Lord. What of the change? In Genesis 28 Jacob is forced to flee from his homeland (he flees from Esau to Laban) … and he will not return to his home of Canaan until Genesis 33 some 20 years later (this time fleeing from Laban to Esau). So the question to consider is this? What ‘happened’ to Jacob during those years? Or a better way to phrase the question: “What was the Lord doing with his chosen servant during those years” (Gen 25:19-28; Rom 9:9-13). To put it simply, the Lord was humbling Jacob. Jacob was confronted with the glory and the promises of God (Gen 28:10-22); Jacob the deceiver was himself deceived (Gen 29:1-20); and Jacob wrestled with and was brought low by the Lord (Gen 32:22-32). Jacob needed to know that God was God and that he was not. He needed to be confronted by the holiness of God and the ugliness of sin. He needed to know the reality of what John the Baptist would say many centuries later, “[Christ] must increase, and I must decrease” (John 3:30). It was during this lengthy period of sojourning that the Lord was conforming Jacob – his chosen and called servant – more into the image of his Son. Jacob is a living and breathing illustration of God’s purposes in the lives of his sheep.

Dear friend, if you find yourself in a valley today; or if you are wondering about and questioning God’s ways in your life today. Ask yourself these questions:

“What would God have me learn about him in this situation?”
“Am I resting in God’s providence in this situation?”
“Is there unbelief in my heart that I need to reckon with and repent of?”
“Is there anything of this world that I am clinging to more than God’s promises?”

May we take to heart that what God did with Jacob he is doing to each and every one of his people. He is shaping them! He is growing them! He is refining them! So that the glory of Christ might shine clearer and brighter to a fallen world!