From the Lives of Two Patriarchs
Perhaps no other characters in the Bible give more hope to the repentant sinner than do Jacob and David. Jacob is referred to by name 377 times in the King James Bible and by inference many more times. Likewise, David over one thousand times.
The name Jacob means “heel catcher” or “supplanter,” that is, one who displaces or usurps the position of someone else. Note that this is exactly what Satan desired to do in heaven—usurp the position that Christ held—and as a result, he was cast out.
“Opposition to the law of God had its beginning in the courts of heaven, with Lucifer, the covering cherub. Satan determined to be first in the councils of heaven, and equal with God. … When Satan had succeeded in winning many angels to his side, he took his cause to God, representing that it was the desire of the angels that he occupy the position that Christ held.” Selected Messages, Book 1, 222.
“And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him” (Revelation 12:7–9).
The similarities between Satan’s act of deception and that of Jacob are interesting to study.
“Now Isaac pleaded with the Lord for his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord granted his plea, and Rebekah his wife conceived. … So when her days were fulfilled for her to give birth, indeed there were twins in her womb. And the first came out red. He was like a hairy garment all over; so they called his name Esau. Afterward his brother came out, and his hand took hold of Esau’s heel; so his name was called Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them” (Genesis 25:21, 24–26).
The story of Jacob’s usurpation of Esau’s birthright is told in Genesis 25 and 27. He colluded with his mother to deceive his father and obtain the birthright that, according to custom, belonged to Esau.
This is the point at which the similarities between Jacob’s and Satan’s stories diverge. Satan has continued his relentless assault on Christ and His followers for millennia, while Jacob made a full surrender of heart and soul to Jesus and is regarded as a patriarch of the Christian faith.
In fact, when David was uttering his last words, Scripture refers to him as “The anointed of the God of Jacob”: “Now these are the last words of David. Thus says David the son of Jesse; thus says the man raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel” (2 Samuel 23:1).
Although the text is specifically a reference to David’s position with God, note that the verse also acknowledges that Jacob was considered a subject of high esteem who was under the domain of the God of the universe.
Considering that David was guilty of the death of Uriah, a violation of the sixth commandment, and Jacob was guilty of theft by deception, a violation of the eighth and ninth commandments, this one text shows that when one confesses and repents, acceptance into the kingdom of glory is assured.
This is not the only text that provides the assurance of salvation to David as a result of his confession and repentance. In 1 Kings 14:8, God’s amazing grace is clearly revealed when He refers to David as, “My servant David, who kept My commandments and who followed Me with all his heart, to do only what was right in My eyes.” This commendation occurs long after David’s devising of the death of Uriah and shows how forgiving and forgetting God is when the sinner pleads for and complies with the conditions necessary for forgiveness.
Jacob, too, is reckoned in Scripture as being highly favored of God. On his initial flight from home, he had the well-known dream of the Ladder that extended from earth to heaven and received this wonderful promise: “I am the Lord God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants. Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed. 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” (Genesis 28:13–15).
After his decades of perhaps unwilling albeit faithful service to Laban, Jacob’s faith in this promise was severely tested as he returned to the land that God had promised to him. Jacob received word that Esau was on his way to meet him with 400 men, with the apparent intent of fulfilling the vow he had made when he learned of Jacob’s theft of his birthright: “So Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father blessed him, and Esau said in his heart, ‘The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then I will kill my brother Jacob’ ” (Genesis 27:41).
Familiar is the story of Jacob’s wrestle with the Lord the night before his reunion with Esau, recorded in Genesis 32: “Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him. And He said, ‘Let Me go, for the day breaks.’ But he said, ‘I will not let You go unless You bless me!’ So He said to him, ‘What is your name?’ He said, ‘Jacob.’ And He said, ‘Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed’ ” (Genesis 32:24–28).
What wonderful and amazing reassurance the story of these two patriarchs provides the striving pilgrim today. Both Jacob and David are mentioned in Hebrews 11, the faith chapter, as being of the household of faith, in spite of their unrighteous acts. Their lives exemplify the fulfillment of God’s promise, written by David in Psalm 103:
“Bless the Lord, O my soul;
And all that is within me, bless His holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits:
Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,
Who satisfies your mouth with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
The Lord executes righteousness
And justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known His ways to Moses,
His acts to the children of Israel.
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.
He will not always strive with us,
Nor will He keep His anger forever.
He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor punished us according to our iniquities.
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;
As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us”
David wrote this uplifting psalm after his prayer that God create in him a clean heart and renew a right spirit within him, having been made to realize his sin by Nathan (see Psalm 51:10). It is undeniable evidence of the assurance that the repentant sinner has of God’s forgiveness.
Inspiration also acknowledges the assurance of salvation the lives of these patriarchs offer the repentant soul.
“Jacob’s history is also an assurance that God will not cast off those who have been deceived and tempted and betrayed into sin, but who have returned unto Him with true repentance. While Satan seeks to destroy this class, God will send His angels to comfort and protect them in the time of peril. The assaults of Satan are fierce and determined, his delusions are terrible; but the Lord’s eye is upon His people, and His ear listens to their cries. Their affliction is great, the flames of the furnace seem about to consume them; but the Refiner will bring them forth as gold tried in the fire. God’s love for His children during the period of their severest trial is as strong and tender as in the days of their sunniest prosperity; but it is needful for them to be placed in the furnace of fire; their earthliness must be consumed, that the image of Christ may be perfectly reflected.” The Great Controversy, 621.
“Though David had fallen, the Lord lifted him up. He was now more fully in harmony with God and in sympathy with his fellow men than before he fell. In the joy of his release he sang:
‘I acknowledged my sin unto Thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid.
I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord;
And Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. …
Thou art my hiding place; Thou shalt preserve me from trouble;
Thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance’
(Psalm 32:5–7 KJV).
“Many have murmured at what they called God’s injustice in sparing David, whose guilt was so great, after having rejected Saul for what appear to them to be far less flagrant sins. But David humbled himself and confessed his sin, while Saul despised reproof and hardened his heart in impenitence.
“This passage in David’s history is full of significance to the repenting sinner. It is one of the most forcible illustrations given us of the struggles and temptations of humanity, and of genuine repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Through all the ages it has proved a source of encouragement to souls that, having fallen into sin, were struggling under the burden of their guilt. Thousands of the children of God, who have been betrayed into sin, when ready to give up to despair have remembered how David’s sincere repentance and confession were accepted by God, notwithstanding he suffered for his transgression; and they also have taken courage to repent and try again to walk in the way of God’s commandments.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 726.
How blessed we are as modern Israelites to have such an indisputable record of our loving Father’s forgiveness!
All Bible quotes NKJV unless otherwise noted.
John R. Pearson is the office manager and a board member of Steps to Life. He may be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.