In this series, we’re looking at the heroes of the faith found in Hebrews 11. Jacob is the next on our list. He was a patriarch (one of the founding fathers of the nation of Israel). The promise, or blessing, that God gave to Abraham was passed down to his son, Isaac, and then to his grandson, Jacob. His mention in Hebrews takes us to when he, in turn, passed that promise on to his descendants.
Jacob (also called Israel) is coming to the end of his life, and it’s time for him to pass down the blessing that God has promised his family. The blessing said that his family would be a great nation, they would be God’s chosen people, and they would possess the promised land, and they would bless other nations. In that culture, it was customary to give the largest blessing to the oldest son. Jacob had 12 sons, the oldest of which were Reuben and Simeon. But when it came time to give out the blessing, Jacob turns to his youngest two children, Joseph and Benjamin. He takes Joseph’s first two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, and makes them his own. He essentially adopts them and brings them into the level of blessing God promised to Abraham, and then Isaac, and then Jacob.
Question: What do you know about Jacob’s life? What was remarkable about his own story of blessing? For further study, spend some time in Genesis 25.19–34, 27.1–29.30 and 32.22–32.
Jacob gave the most undeserving of his 12 sons the greatest blessing. Joseph and Benjamin were the youngest. Even more undeserving were Manasseh and Ephraim—they weren’t even Jacob’s sons! As another surprise, when he gave the blessing, he put his right hand—representing the greater blessing—on the younger of Joseph’s sons, Ephraim. He and his brother didn’t deserve to have the promise of being part of the great nation God promised. Yet they were invited into it. Jacob just gave them the blessing and they received it. They became part of the tribes of Israel.
This story, like many in the Old Testament, points beyond itself. It points to the New Testament and more specifically, to Jesus.
By faith, Jacob’s sons stepped into a blessing they didn’t deserve. They didn’t have to work for it or compete for it, they only had to receive it. This is the same way God’s grace works with us. We don’t deserve the grace God grants us through Jesus. We should be separated from God, but instead, Jesus’ death and resurrection on our behalf give us a connection, communication, and community with God. We didn’t do anything to deserve it because we really would never be able to do enough to earn something like that. Instead of being asked to earn our salvation, we are invited and adopted into God’s kingdom, just like Manasseh and Ephraim were.
Read Ephesians 2.8–10.
Question: What is challenging about fully accepting the nature of God’s grace? In what ways do you find yourself trying to earn His favor?
When we finally understand that we’ve done nothing to deserve the favor of God, it changes our life. We live differently. If we don’t fully understand the favor and grace of God, it will show up in three distinct ways in our lives.
The first sign is pride. When we have pride, we believe that God has given us favor because of how great we are, how well we have our life together or how good of a person we are. Why wouldn’t God bless us?
The second sign is entitlement. When we have an entitled attitude, we feel a right to the blessing and favor of God because of what we’ve done. We look at our volunteer time at church, our missions work, how frequently we read our Bible or how much we tithe and determine that we deserve God’s favor as payment for our good deeds.
The final sign is insecurity. If we are always worried and wondering if we have done enough to earn God’s favor, or if He is happy with us, then we do not fully grasp His grace.
Question: Which of these three areas have you struggled with? How can you take steps to more fully embrace God’s favor and grace?
The problem with all three of these things rely on who we are or who we think we need to be instead of relying on who God is and what He says He will do. We first have to know who we are in Christ to step into who we are made to be. If we understand who we are in Christ and the grace He extends to us, the results are amazing.
For one, our lives will be marked by humility. We will fully understand that we don’t deserve God’s favor and we will understand the cost Jesus paid on our behalf. It is truly humbling when we step back and realize what Jesus did for each and everyone one of us. Apart from Him, we can do nothing (John 15.5).
Hospitality will also mark our lives. When unbelievable grace and favor has been extended to us, it is hard not to extend it to others. We see a picture of this with the greeter team at Engedi. No matter who the person is, what they look like or what job they have, they are greeted and loved in the same way every other person is. No one has to earn their respect or compete against others to win a handshake. The greeters put into action the grace and favor that God extends to us.
Question: What are other examples of how we can extend hospitality well to others? How can you show hospitality this week?
That is also why one of Engedi’s core values is Bless. God invites us to an awesome party and tells us we can invite anyone and everyone to the party. We were once invited and now we get to be inviters. It can completely change how we relate to people. When we see friends, family members or coworkers struggling in their life because they don’t know about the God who loves them, how can we not invite them into what God has in store for them?
Jacob invited two people that weren’t supposed to receive the blessing of the covenant into his family. He had faith that they would be recipients of God’s favor and blessing. Jacob himself would never see the completion of the blessing—he would never see his family occupy the promised land. Yet he had faith that God would carry through on his blessing. He believed God for what looked impossible to human eyes.
God makes the impossible possible every single day. We can believe Him to change hearts, mend relationships or overcome addictions. Like the hero Jacob we can have faith in God to honor His promises and see us through, even if it seems like we’re years away from seeing it happen.