Janie’s husband had been slipping in and out of a
coma for several months. Things looked grim, but
she was by his bedside every single day. One day
as he slipped back into consciousness, he motioned
for her to come close to him. She pulled the chair
close to the bed and leaned her ear close to be able
to hear him.
“You know” he whispered, his eyes filling with
tears, “you have been with me through all the bad
times. When I got fired, you stuck right beside me.
When my business went under, there you were.
When we lost the house, you were there.
When I got shot, you stuck with me.
When my health started failing, you were still by
“And you know what?” “What, dear?” she asked gently,
smiling to herself. “I think you’re bad luck.”
Can anyone tell me the key verses for our series?
“Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the
conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of
old gained approval.
And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for
he who comes to God must believe that He is and
that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”
We have seen the faith of Noah, Abraham, and Isaac.
And while none of them were perfect by any means, God
used their faith as an example for us to follow.
Today we turn our attention to Jacob.
Hebrews 11 mentions only his faith at the end of his life.
So, I went back and read the story of Jacob’s life again.
What I saw was God forging Jacob’s faith into what God
wanted it to be. The assurance of things hoped for, the
conviction of things not seen.
Let’s begin in Genesis 28:10-22
Jacob’s Dream (Fledgling Faith)
The first time I read that this week I actually thought to
myself, okay Jacob is ready to worship like his grandfather
did when he met God. But then I re-read it.
It sounds like he gets it when you read verse 17.
He comments on how awesome the place is.
He definitely knows he has heard from the Lord in his
He even calls the place the house of God
He sets a stone up as a pillar and pours oil on it, but he
doesn’t worship. What does he do?
He makes a vow.
But let’s back up just a bit.
In the dream Jacob saw the angels going up and down on
the ladder that spanned from earth to heaven.
And he heard God make a promise to him.
I am the Lord,
I will give you the land you lie on
Your descendants will be as numerous as dust and spread
out in every direction.
I am with you.
I will not leave you until I have done what I promised
We know that when God makes a promise…He keeps it.
Jacob didn’t exactly know that yet.
Back to Jacob’s vow.
He vowed that IF God did these things;
Be with him on his journey.
Provide him with food and clothes.
Bring him safely back to his father’s house.
Then Jacob would;
Let God be his God.
Give him a tenth of everything he received from God.
Jacob’s vow is a telltale sign of a fledgling faith.
He bargains with God.
Early on in my faith I recall doing the exact same thing.
God, if you will just help me pass this test or help me get
home on time, or help me not get in trouble for
something I’ve done I’ll (fill in the blank).
Never miss church again.
Love you forever.
Tell everyone I know about you.
But God knows our heart when we bargain with Him.
Jacob bargained with God for far less than God had
already promised him.
Isn’t that how it goes when we are thinking in our flesh?
Jacob wasn’t living by faith when God came to him in a
dream. He was living by sight.
Let’s check out the next passage of Scripture
Jacob Wrestles with God (Growing Faith)
The Bible tells us that Jacob crossed the river Jabbok.
That word means “he will empty”
Jacob is about to be emptied of his natural strength so
that God can use him.
Two things stand out to me in this story.
First, Jacob wouldn’t let go until he was blessed by God
The blessing he received from God was a limp. God gave
him a permanent reminder that God is always in
Second, God made Jacob tell Him his name. God knows
everything. He didn’t need to be reminded of who He was
wrestling with. He wanted Jacob to say his own name to
be reminded of his past. His name means supplanter, one
who grabs the heel. This was his past. God then told him
He was giving him a new name;, Israel – which means
strives with God.
What a perfect name for the nation that would eventually
come from this man Jacob.
God’s point by making Jacob say his name out loud was
to help him realize that the problem wasn’t with Esau or
his father in law or anyone else.
It was him…Jacob had to come to the realization that he
wasn’t right with God. He was trying to do things his way
when God had already made a promise to his dad and his
granddad to make them into a great nation.
God’s promises will always be kept.
Jacob’s Faith Tested (Fullness of Faith)
Before we read this text, we need to get caught up on
There was a famine in the land of Canaan and Jacob sent
his sons to Egypt to go buy some food.
Joseph has already been sold into slavery and he is in
fact the one the brothers meet when they go to Pharoah
to buy food.
Jacob made his youngest son Benjamin, who was the
only other son born to Rachel. Joseph and Benjamin were
He thinks Joseph is dead and doesn’t want to lose
They go and come back but when they return they are
without Simeon because the man kept him in prison until
they returned with the youngest son Benjamin.
Jacob isn’t too happy that they spilled the beans about
the other brother. He admonishes them for speaking up.
Reuben tried to bargain with Jacob, offering to kill his two
sons if they didn’t bring back Benjamin.
Judah also spoke up to his father Jacob saying that he
would be personally responsible if they didn’t bring the
whole family back.
Israel finally agrees but makes sure that they fill their
sacks with the best products in the land, fruit, honey,
myrrh, pistachios and almonds.
He also made sure they brought all the money back from
their sacks from the previous trip plus more to pay for the next purchase of grain and he sent Benjamin with them.
It was faith lived out.
He couldn’t see what was going to happen, but God was
God had been at work in Joseph’s life from the very
beginning, working evil for good. Preparing for this very
day. God was about to do something spectacular.
The point here though is the faith that God had been
shaping in Jacob. He could finally walk by faith, not by
That brings us to the verse in Hebrews 11:21 “By faith
Jacob, as he was dying, blessed each of the sons of
Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his
Jacob’s life definitely wasn’t perfect. He had a lot of
bumps along the way, but the Bible highlights his faith at
the end of his life. His grandfather had faith throughout
his life. God was hard at work in the life of Jacob using
experience after experience to help develop his faith.
Remember earlier when we talked about Jacob not
worshiping when he encountered God?
Well here in Hebrews it says he worshiped God!
Better late than never, right?
And he leaned on his staff. We could easily pass by this
simple statement. He was old so he leaned on his staff.
Yes, that is true, but he had that staff because of his
limp. God touched his hip and put it out of socket. It was
never right from then on. It was a constant reminder of
his meeting with God. As he leaned on his staff he was
reminded of God’s blessing.
Let’s remember the words from our key verse from this
series. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the
conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old
Lean on the Lord
Jacob leaned on his staff.
We need to lean on the Lord.
Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your
heart and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will
make your paths straight.”
We must walk by faith, not by sight.
We have to understand that God is in control and is
working all things for the good of those who love Him and
are called according to His purpose.
He wants us to trust Him in the good times and trust Him
in the bad times.
God’s ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts
are higher than our thoughts.
When we try to go through life leaning on our own
understanding we come up short. We don’t have all the
answers, but we know the one who does.