Last night I preached Hebrews 11:21 in our evening series on faith from Hebrews 11. The specific individual highlighted in Hebrews 11:21 is a man known by two names. The writer of Hebrews referred to him as Jacob, although God had changed his name to Israel. What he is remembered for is quite interesting. He is remembered for blessing his son’s two boys (Ephraim and Manasseh) just before he died. According to the record of Hebrews 11:21, he did so in faith.
If you’re like me, I enjoy walking through cemeteries and reading about people from their gravestones. Have you ever stopped to consider how you will be remembered? I think about George Muller, a man who cared for orphans in Bristol, England. If you travel to Bristol and walk up the narrow dirt path through the old cemetery, you will find his gravesite. On his headstone, you will read these words:
He trusted in God with whom “nothing shall be impossible” And in his beloved Son Jesus Christ our Lord who said “I go unto my father, and whatever ye shall ask in my name that will I do that the father may be glorified in the son”. And in his inspired word which declares that all things are possible to him that believeth”. And God fulfilled these declarations in the experience of his servant by enabling him to provide and care for about ten thousand orphans.
In essence, what we have in Hebrews 11 is a listing of words reserved for their final memory, their lasting legacy, and if they were buried in modern times, perhaps these words would be etched on their headstone. But, Jacob was not always faithful to God. In fact, his life was full of wavering faith, shallow faith, and at times, flat out rebellion.
Consider the fact that Jacob’s name means supplanter, one who takes the place of another by force or one who trips up another. The name Jacob literally carries the meaning of a cheat!
- Jacob had wrestled with his brother (Gen. 25:22)
- Jacob was born clinching the heel of his brother Esau.
- Jacob had offended and deceived his father (Gen. 27).
- Jacob had offended and separated from his brother Esau.
- Jacob had wrestled with his father-in-law (Gen. 29–31).
- Jacob had also wrestled with God (Gen. 32).
If it were not for the testimony of Hebrews 11 and the record of Genesis 48, it would seem that Jacob had a false faith. Faith is not based merely on how a person talks, it’s verified by how a person walks. The life of a person must match the lips of a person. It’s one thing to sing amazing grace, but quite a different thing to live as if one has truly experienced God’s amazing transforming grace. For Jacob, his faith was ebbing and flowing, up and down, hot and cold, and lacking in consistency.
When it came to the end of his life, after his wrestling match with God left him with a crippling limp due to a dislocated hip – he likewise had a new name. During that wrestling match with God, he was brought under the crippling grace of God where he submitted to God. He received a new name – the name of a man that would become the name of an entire nation. The blessing of Abraham had been transferred to his son Isaac and now to his grandson Jacob. God would bless the entire world through him.
When it came to the end of his life, he sat upon his bed and leaned over his staff and worshipped God. He blessed his grandsons in an unconventional manner. Joseph anticipated Manasseh to receive the blessing of his right hand since he was the oldest son. However, Jacob with dim eyes due to old age, crossed his hands and placed his right hand upon the head of Ephraim – the younger. Joseph protested, but Jacob assured him that it was the will of God. Grace doesn’t always make sense. Jacob could testify of that reality from first hand experience.
As he came to the end of his life, he leaned forward over his staff and worshipped. Perhaps he went off into eternity with a smile as he gazed upon that staff and remembered the time when God had wrestled with him – bringing him to a point of submission and surrender. That event left him with a perpetual limp, but it was God’s crippling grace. Jacob died in faith.
What about you? How will you be remembered?