Far From Perfect
“So Israel took his journey with all that he had and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac” (Genesis 46:1).
A common name for God throughout the Old Testament is “the God of Jacob.” Jacob was the grandson of Abraham and Sarah, the younger son of Isaac, and the father of twelve sons. God changed Jacob’s name to Israel, and so his descendants became known as the twelve tribes of Israel, or the Israelites. We might expect such a famous patriarch to be the perfect role model, the prime example of what it is to follow God. After all, his name is immortalized on the world map as a country of its own. Surely such great blessings would only come to someone who followed God with his whole heart.
In reality, this is far from the truth. Throughout his life, Jacob shows a consistent pattern of really not caring much about what God has to say. His first encounter with God is while he’s running for his life after stealing his older brother’s blessing. The next time we read of Jacob speaking with God, it’s when God tells him to leave the place where he had fled for safety and return home. On the way, he has an unusual experience, wrestling with God for an entire night and thereby receiving his name change. Israel means “He strives with God,” a suitable name for this troublesome man. At some point, he returns to the place where he first met with God and offers sacrifices there, acknowledging that God has brought him safely through his trials. Finally, on his way to Egypt to meet his son Joseph—the son his other sons had sold into slavery years before—he meets with God once more. God again promises to make him into a great nation.
And… that’s it. If Jacob talks with God at other times, the Bible is silent about it. Jacob is never portrayed as a good man. He’s a liar, a schemer, and a cheater. He only talks to God when he’s in need or when he experiences some great emotion. He is certainly no role model. Yet this is the man God chose to name His people after. It was not based on anything Jacob had done; it was based solely on God’s perfect plan. He can use anyone to accomplish His purposes, even those who are far from perfect.