Bible Readings for February 3rd
In everything we have read so far, Jacob has been in perpetual distress. From the beginning of his life, when he deceived his brother, Esau, and tricked his father, Isaac, Jacob has been on the run, the subject of mistreatment by his uncle, and living under the hanging cloud of uncertainty because of the Hivites. It seems like a long time ago that God had blessed Jacob in Genesis 32, changing his name to Israel. Indeed, we do not find Jacob being called Israel in Genesis 33 or 34.
But in Genesis 35, we see God renewing and re-establishing his covenant promises to Jacob. God comes to Jacob, commanding him to go to Bethel and to make an altar—just as Jacob had done while he was fleeing from Esau. Jacob tells his household to put away the foreign gods—perhaps the foreign gods that Rachel had stolen from Laban in Genesis 31—and to purify themselves.
And once again, God, out of his pure grace, protects and preserves Jacob along the way: “as they journeyed, a terror from God fell upon the cities that were around them, so that they did not pursue the sons of Jacob” (Gen. 35:5). This would have perhaps been an opportunity to destroy Jacob’s family for what Simeon and Levi had done to the Hivites in Genesis 34, but God keeps Jacob and his household from any harm.
Still, God renews his covenant with Jacob at Bethel. He re-renames Jacob, so that “no longer shall your name be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name” (Gen. 35:10). God promises that Jacob would be the ancestor of a great nation, but also a company of nations (including many kings), in addition to reaffirming his promise to give the land of Canaan to Jacob’s offspring after him.
It is difficult to read the story of Jacob without confusion about God’s purposes toward him. Why Jacob? What makes him so special that God has chosen this lying, scheming scoundrel to be the namesake of Israel, God’s special people whom he chose out of all the peoples of the earth? In spite of Jacob’s repeated failures, why does God renew his covenant with Jacob rather than canceling it?
But in fact, God delights in demonstrating his grace toward great sinners. He loves to save people out of brokenness and chaos so that he gets all the glory, so there can be no mistake in thinking that God accomplished what he did through putting together a dream team of human beings. God didn’t pick the most exemplary people to bring the promised offspring into the world—God chose people like Jacob.
And God still chooses people like Jacob—God chooses you and me so that he will gain all the glory in Jesus Christ. Like Jacob, we cannot boast anything in the presence of our gracious, sovereign God.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.