We’ve often heard it said that God helps those who help themselves. There is nothing further from the truth. This is not found in the Bible. This is simply the typical way we humans try to justify our rude and vicious behavior by giving God at least part of the credit and somehow link up His plans with our selfish desires—to make our crusades a holy endeavor. The problem is the dots don’t connect.
Jacob is a perfect contradiction to this old expression. He tried to help himself and every time he did, Jacob got burnt badly by his shenanigans. As Richard Phillips writes: “Jacob’s grasping tendencies did not truly bless him, for with each self-reliant achievement he had to flee the anger of those whom he had wronged. Finally, this pattern brought him to the end of his [extraordinary] mental resources. Beside the Jabbok River, God wrestled Jacob into submission, and the grasper was made a man of faith (see Gen. 32). God changed his name from Jacob to Israel, and thereafter he was a model believer. Hebrews 11:21 tells us about the end of his life, saying, ‘By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff.’” (My emphasis added.)
Jacob, by God’s grace, learned that he couldn’t connive any more. His circumstances were so beyond any of his old tricks that Jacob finally was at the end of his rope. And this was a good thing. And for the rest of his life, Jacob, a.k.a. Israel, was a new man with a new way of operating.
The one who was given a permanent limp as a sign of his new identity in God was still leaning and worshipping at the time of his death. What a way to go!