The circumstances of his birth were unusual, to say the least. He was the younger member of a pair of twins. His brother was born first, but he followed right after, and as soon as he left the womb, his hand reached out and grabbed his older brother’s heel with a firm grip. “Awwww,” sighed the nurse delivering the baby, “Look at how much he loves his older brother!” So the parents named him “Jacob,” which sounds a lot like the Hebrew word for “heel” (Gen. 25:26).
But this affection did not last into adulthood. Jacob schemed against his older brother and manipulated the birthright away from him, using Esau’s love of pleasure and instant gratification against him (Gen. 25:29-34). Then, when Isaac sinfully planned to pass on the blessing of Abraham to Esau instead of Jacob, Jacob (pressured by his mother, Rebekah) deceived his father into thinking he was Esau, and so he received the blessing. When Esau found out, he was furious. “What a perfect name Jacob has,” Esau fumed as he ground his teeth in anger – not because of Jacob’s affection but his heel-grabbing, tricksy, supplanting nature (Gen. 27:36). Turns out that the name “Jacob” also sounds like a Hebrew verb that means “to supplant” or “overreach.” Esau here realized Jacob’s “true nature,” reflected in his name. 1 His parents had been wiser than they knew when they named him!
So Jacob ran far away from Esau’s wrath, following his father’s instructions on finding a wife (Gen. 28:2). But one night he met with someone he wasn’t expecting: the God of the covenant Himself (Gen. 28:10-15). And Jacob’s life was changed; He became a worshipper of God (Gen. 28:18-22).
But God wasn’t finished with Jacob; he was a deceiver and manipulated by nature. But God had blessed him and made covenant promises to him; he would not leave him as he was. Jacob would experience a lot of pain and heartache before he returned to his homeland; the deceiver would be deceived and taste his own bitter medicine (Gen. 29-31). Through this he would be sanctified and become “Israel” (signifying one who “fought and prevailed” with God) instead of “Supplanter.” 2
And if you are God’s child, a member of His New Covenant people, whom God has blessed and to whom He has made many promises, He will not leave you as you are. He put His Spirit within you, and He has promised to cause you to walk in His commandments (Ezek. 36:26-27). Since He is your God, He will “save you from all your uncleannesses” (Ezek. 36:28-29), even if it takes pain and heartache and loss to do it.
So if you are resisting the Holy Spirit and trying to live your own way, beware. He will change you, no matter what it takes.
1 Allen P. Ross, Creation and Blessing: A Guide to the Study and Exposition of Genesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1998), 479.
2 Ibid., 556.