The Old Testament tells us of Jacob, a deceiving, conniving, cheating man — whom God loved dearly! His life is filled with marvelous lessons for us about God’s dealings with human nature.
Let’s pick up Jacob’s story just as he is fleeing from his older twin brother, Esau. Jacob had tricked Esau out of his birthright and obtained the “double blessing” from his father Isaac that was due the firstborn male. This blessing included all the father’s possessions but, most importantly, it meant that Jacob was the progenitor of the patriarchal seed through which Christ would come: “In you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 28:14). He was a direct ancestor of the Messiah.
Obviously, this particular birthright was of very great spiritual significance and its importance exposes the awfulness of what Esau did in giving up the right of the firstborn for a mere pot of stew. When Esau learned that Jacob had stolen his blessing, he was determined to kill his brother (see Genesis 27:36, 41).
It was against this backdrop that Jacob set off and while he was on his way, God gave him an incredible vision of a ladder with angels on it going to and from the throne of God, doing his bidding (28:12). These same angels are still working and ministering on our behalf today. After God blessed Jacob (verse 14), he added these wonderful promises: “Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you” (28:15).
God was giving Jacob an oath, saying, “I’ll never leave you, Jacob. I’ll be with you every step of the way. My purpose will be accomplished in your life no matter what!” It is hard to find any faith, goodness or grace in Jacob and yet God saw something in his heart that brought forth his great love and a desire to bless him. God saw beyond his greed and manipulation and knew that something in Jacob’s heart was willing to be changed.
We know that humans consider the outward appearance but God always looks at the heart. And that is exactly what God is looking for in us — a broken, contrite heart he can work on.