Was Jacob a good person? The name Jacob means “deceiver”. The Bible shows us that Jacob was someone who was constantly looking out for his own interests. He was a “sly one”, sneaky, and always searching for his own gain. Jacob wasn’t really evil, but we see that he wasn’t really good either. But then why did God love him and even choose him to become Israel? Because it was God’s purpose to transform him. We are all fallen human beings. But God sees that He can invest something in us – and by transforming us, both He and we profit. Our whole lives are lives of purification. We need to be transformed. Unfortunately, there are many Christians who have not changed for a long time. Yes, we were terrible in the beginning, but praise the Lord, God is transforming us. Are you ready to be transformed? God loves us and wants to transform us into the image of Christ. If you have been a Christian for many years, but you are still living out your old habits, self, and character – that is, if you remain just the same Jacob – this is not good.
The good thing about Jacob is that he was someone who sought God. He was a strong personality. He wrestled and bargained with God, and God responded. He almost haggled: “If you do this for me, I will do that for you”. This attitude pleased God. However, Jacob needed to be transformed. So God used a great many situations in order to do just that. Jacob thought he was very smart, but God brought him together with an even smarter uncle who often deceived him so that Jacob would be changed. Do not think that you are so smart. God will put you together with people who are smarter than you. God has many ways to transform us. He can use anything – let us not complain, but learn from every situation. Let us not become upset. Let us not grumble against others. Paul said in Philippians 2:14, “Do all things without complaining and without disputing.” If we haven’t learned the lessons, we have to repeat them until we pass the test – just like in school. This is God’s way. Therefore, God loved Jacob because he was willing and able to be changed.
Through the process of transformation, Jacob became Israel. We see this in Genesis 32 when Jacob wrestled with the angel of the Lord – God Himself. After wrestling until dawn, God touched Jacob’s hip joint and dislocated it, which must have been very painful. Then God said to Jacob, “… Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!” (Gen. 32:27a). But Jacob said, “I will not let you unless you bless me!” (Gen. 32:27b). That is a very good attitude and teaches us not to let God go so quickly! In response, God said, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel” (v. 29a), which means “prince of God.” God changed his name. In the Bible, changing the name indicates transformation. This also happened to Peter after he received the revelation of Jesus as the Christ. The Lord told him that he should no longer be called Simon: “And I also say to you, you are Peter…” a stone for the house of God (Mt. 16:18a). It is wonderful when our name is changed by God.
The whole process of transformation is proof that God loved Jacob, “… Jacob I have loved” (cf. Malachi 1:2). But this does not mean that God gave him everything freely and Jacob had no more problems. Right after Jacob obtained the birthright, he had to flee from home because his brother Esau wanted to kill him for stealing his birthright and blessing. Actually, it was not Jacob’s fault at all, because Jacob had bought the birthright from Esau. This goes to show that once we have the blessing, it does not mean that we will have no more trouble. In my Christian life, I have gone through many difficulties. I used to hope that it would stop one day, but there new difficulties always came. Now I say to the Lord “The situation is in Your hands – Lord, let Your will be done.” Jacob had many problems. In addition to his uncle Laban, his twelve sons and daughter later caused him a lot of trouble! His sons even sold his favorite son into Egypt and then lied to Jacob, claiming that he had been killed! But at the very end of his life, Jacob found words of blessing for all his children, from whom came the 12 tribes of Israel (cf. Gen. 49:1-28). In this way, God won his people. It is through this wonderful transformation work that we can truly see the love of God.