Those who know the Lord God as Savior are aware that He is a God of grace, even when we experience some of the less desirable truths of Scripture. Events in Jacob’s life in Genesis 31-32 illustrate that, even though we reap unpleasant fruit from sinful seed, God’s grace sustains His own.
Jacob, of course, is the supplanter, the deceiver. Years before the events of Genesis 31, he had deceived his father out of the blessing that rightly belonged to his brother Esau. Of course, his father Isaac was humiliated, but it was Esau who was cheated. Understandably, he vowed revenge.
Fast forward twenty years. Jacob is now married with two wives, daughters of Laban—a long story…I hope you read it in Genesis 29-30—and several children. He has also become quite prosperous tending his father-in-law’s livestock. But relations have soured, and Jacob no longer feels welcome. The fruit is ripening, but God is gracious. In the midst of the strained relations, the Lord speaks to Jacob, telling him to return home and promising His presence (31:3). The Lord didn’t have to do that. He could’ve let Jacob just try to cope with his well-deserved problems, but He didn’t. That’s grace.
True to his character, Jacob leaves under the cloak of secrecy, once again tricking his father-in-law (31:20). When Laban discovers the ploy, he’s furious! Hard telling what he would’ve done, had not the Lord intervened and told him to do nothing (31:24). That’s grace. And in the departure, we learn that Jacob’s preferred wife, Rachel, has learned well from her husband’s deceptive nature. She stole her father’s idols, but successfully hid them even from Jacob’s knowledge. When her father came looking for them, she pretended she couldn’t get up from where she was sitting because it was her time of the month!
After getting free from Laban, Jacob again experiences God’s gracious presence (32:1), but it’s not long before his fears only deepen. He tried to send an advance party to Esau, seeking his favor. It was a form of humbly asking to let bygones be bygones. Next thing you know, though, Esau’s coming to meet him—with 400 men! Surely, this isn’t a good sign!
Did Jacob deserve Esau’s apparent response? Didn’t he deserve to have his brother come and plunder his goods? After all, his prosperity was gained illegitimately by stealing Isaac’s blessing. This all should be Esau’s, right? Humanly speaking, yes. And from a spiritual standpoint, yes. Jacob sinned against his father and his brother, and he deserved to lose everything. But God is gracious. Jacob does all he can to appease his brother and find favor in his sight, but the real reason he doesn’t get what he deserves is that God is gracious (see 32:28-30).
Hymn for Reflection: Grace Greater Than Our Sin
Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!
Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured,
There where the blood of the Lamb was spilled.
Grace, grace, God’s grace
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God’s grace
Grace that is greater than all my sin.
Sin and despair, like the sea waves cold,
Threaten the soul with infinite loss;
Grace that is greater, yes, grace untold,
Points to the refuge, the mighty cross.
Dark is the stain that we cannot hide.
What can we do to wash it away?
Look! There is flowing a crimson tide,
Brighter than snow you may be today.
Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,
Freely bestowed on all who believe!
You that are longing to see His face,
Will you this moment His grace receive?