March 18, 2016 • Life for Leaders
[Jacob] blessed Joseph, and said, “The God before whom my ancestors Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day, the angel who has redeemed me from all harm, bless the boys; and in them let my name be perpetuated, and the name of my ancestors Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude on the earth.”
In the last two days, we have considered the first two elements of Jacob’s description of God in Genesis 48:15-16. God is the one before whom Jacob’s ancestors walked. God is the one who has been his shepherd all of his life. Today, we move to the third element in Jacob’s description: God is “the angel who has redeemed me from all harm” (48:16).
Jacob’s language reminds us of the greatest redemption of all, the redemption we have from sin and death through Jesus Christ.
This seems like a rather peculiar description of God. It lacks the theological precision that would come later in the Judeo-Christian tradition. But, for Jacob, it made sense to refer to God as an angel. At times during Jacob’s life, God appeared to him in angelic form. In Genesis 31, for example, the “angel of God” spoke to Jacob in a dream, identifying himself by saying, “I am the God of Bethel” (31:13). Not long thereafter, as Jacob journeyed to meet his estranged brother, Esau, “the angels of God met him” (32:1). Then, during the night before he met Esau, Jacob wrestled with a “man” all night (32:24). That “man” finally blessed Jacob, gave him the new name of Israel, and said that Jacob had “striven with God” (32:28). Jacob named the place of this divine encounter Peniel, which means “face of God,” saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved” (32:30).
In his description of God in Genesis 48, Jacob spoke of God as “the angel who has redeemed me from all harm.” It’s quite possible that he was remembering his angelic encounters in Genesis 31-32, perhaps connecting them to his reconciliation with Esau that came right after his experiences with angels. But Jacob may well have experienced God in angelic form at other times as well.
The main point for us is not to identify exactly what Jacob meant by “the angel who has redeemed me from all harm.” Rather, we are encouraged by this description to remember times in our life when God made himself known to us in a special way. Most Christians have stories of such times. Perhaps they were times of doubt or sorrow. Perhaps times of disappointment or uncertainty. Or perhaps they were times of deep worship or empowered ministry. No matter the exact context, we do well to remember with gratitude the times when we have known God’s presence in a particular immediate way.
Moreover, Jacob’s example also urges us to remember when God has redeemed us from harm. We may think of specific instances when God has delivered us from difficult situations. But, Jacob’s language reminds us of the greatest redemption of all, the redemption we have from sin and death through Jesus Christ.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Can you think of times in your life when God felt especially close to you?
Can you think of times in your life when God redeemed you from harm?
When you reflect upon the ultimate redemption you have in Christ, how does this affect you? What difference does this make in the way you will live today?
Gracious God, thank you for making yourself known to Jacob in a way that he could understand. Thank you for redeeming him from all harm. Thank you for urging us through Jacob’s words to remember how you have made yourself known to us and when you have redeemed us.
Thank you, most of all, for redeeming us from sin and death through Christ. You have indeed redeemed us from slavery to sin and death, leading us into new life. You have given us hope for the future and strength for the moment.
Help us, Lord, to live each day in light of your gracious revelation and redemption. May we live with gratitude and confidence in you. May we bear witness to your grace through all we do and say. To you be all the glory. Amen.
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.