Jacob began his conversation by recalling his first encounter with God at Luz/Bethel (48:3-4; 28:10-22). Prior to this meeting, Jacob had lived up to his name. He had tricked his brother out of his birthright and lied to his father to get Esau’s blessing. His actions led to his need to flee from his brother who wanted to kill him. So, after arriving at Bethel, something unexpected happened. During the night, God appeared to Jacob in a dream and promised (a) give him the land of Canaan, (b) to multiply his descendants, (c) to bless the nations of the earth through him, and (d) protect him wherever he went.
These were amazing promises offered to Jacob that night. Jacob certainly did not deserve the promises given to him that night. But this first encounter made an impact on Jacob’s life. After the dream, he promised to serve God if he would bring him safely back to Canaan. Although “making a deal” with God doesn’t sound very spiritual, this was a new beginning for Jacob. A comparison of his life before and after this event reveals the difference God made.
This event in Jacob’s life is a good reminder of the change God has made in our own lives. In Christ, we have been born again (John 3:16) and transformed (2 Cor. 5:17). Because of what Jesus accomplished through his death and his resurrection, we have been made into a new creation. How good it is to remember what our Savior did for us. And it is also amazing to see the change he has made in our lives. As you recall what God has done, be especially mindful that it was all because of him (Titus 3:5-6).
When a new believer first comes to Christ, he is filled with great joy. Through the Lord Jesus Christ, his life has been changed. He wants to tell everyone what happened. And it’s hard for the fellow to keep still because of all his excitement. But then it happens. God allows him to experience something which tests his faith. Perhaps a loved one dies or a good friend rejects him because of Christ. Such trials can be very difficult for a new believer.
Although there was a noticeable difference after his conversion, Jacob’s life was full of many difficulties. Consider that (a) Jacob had four wives; (b) his daughter was raped; (c) his sons murdered an entire village in revenge; (d) one son committed incest with his wife; (e) his sons sold Joseph into slavery; and (f) his favorite wife died during child birth. And even if we didn’t know all of those things, he himself admitted to Pharaoh that his life had been full of evil (Gen. 47:9). These negative experiences would have crushed most men, but something held Jacob together during those times.
Despite all these dark experiences, Jacob was able to recount the works of God during his life. During his blessing of Joseph’s children, Jacob divides God’s blessings into three categories (48:15-16). First, he recalls God’s perpetual work which blessed the lives of his father and grandfather. No doubt his father and grandfather had told him the accounts of God’s miraculous working in their lives. (Note that there is great blessing in hearing what God had done in other people’s lives.) Second, he recalls how God had fed him throughout his life. “The word ‘fed me’ is equivalent to ‘shepherded me’ (Hebrew raah). … This is the first of many references in the Bible to God as our Shepherd” (Henry M. Morris, The Genesis Record, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1991), 648). See also Psalm 23 and John 10:1-16. Through good times and bad, God had led him in the right direction. Thirdly, he recalls God’s care for him. “In the expression the angel he calls to mind God’s visible encounters with him at turning points of his life, above all at Peniel; and the word redeemed expresses the protection and reclamation which a man’s go’el or kinsman provided in times of trouble (Derek Kidner, Genesis, (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1967), 214). It is difficult not to think of Boaz’s care of Ruth at this point. God kept all of his promises to Jacob and appeared to him at pivotal points in the journey to help him.
To summarize Jacob’s invocation, Yahweh was not only the God of his parents, He was also his loving Shepherd, and his Protecter-Redeemer. Now think about those in the room as he recounted the Works of God. What a blessing it must have been for Joseph to hear these words and also to realize that he was the fourth generation to have known the one, true God. Not all of us cannot claim the privilege of coming from a long line of godly believers. However, each of us who has received Jesus as Savior and Lord, can look back over our lives and see the many works God has done. Why not take a few moments to review what God has done in your life? Doing so will encourage your heart and build your faith as you remember the amazing “works of God.” But don’t stop there, take time during each day, to share with others what God had done. Those who know the Lord will be encouraged. And for those who do not know him, God will be glorified by your words.