Study 7 THE WORSHIP OF FAITH – JACOB
Studies in Hebrews Eleven
by Francis Dixon
(Scripture Portions: Hebrews 11:21; Genesis 47: 27-31; 48: 1-22)
Although Jacob was in many ways the most illustrious of the Patriarchs, and the one who gave his name to Israel, it cannot be denied that in some respects he was the least attractive of them all. The mention of his name reminds us of his meanness and selfishness and of the complexity of his personality. It is the extremes in this man’s character which startle us; and it is the inconsistencies in the lives of God’s people which paralyse the Church and hinder the work of God today. How tragic to go to God’s House on Sunday and to Satan’s on Monday; to sing His praises on Sunday and to be mean and selfish in the home, the office or the shop on Monday! The self-life in Jacob was to be deplored, even as it is to be condemned, crucified and reckoned dead in us - look up Romans 6:11; but in spite of all Jacob’s failings, the principle of faith was constantly at work in his life. He was a man of far-seeing faith, for ‘by faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons; and worshipped as he leaned on the top of his staff.’
In mentioning Jacob in Hebrews Eleven, the Holy Spirit selects a minute fragment of this man’s life with which to illustrate his faith in God. No mention is made of all the amazing events which took place in his earlier life - the stealing of his birthright - look up Genesis 25:30-34; the dream and the vision of the ladder at Bethel - look up Genesis 28:10-19; the years in Haran - look up Genesis 29:15-30; the wrestling at Jabbok’s ford - look up Genesis 32:24-32; the severe discipline of trial and testing - look up Genesis 34:1-2; 35:18-19,27-29, 37:32-34; 42:36. The one point upon which our attention is focused is that of Jacob dying, blessing, worshipping, leaning! What a wonderful picture it is! - compare Hebrews 11:21 with Genesis 47:28. What does it mean when it says, ‘By faith Jacob, when he was dying…worshipped’? It means that in his dying hour, when his poor body was tired and enfeebled, Jacob adored and praised God for all that He had been to him and had done for him (unworthy though he had been), and for the blessed prospect which the future held for him as a believer. Notice five things about the worship of faith, as it appears in this closing scene of Jacob’s life.
1. THE WORSHIP OF FAITH IS THE SUPREME ACTIVITY OF FAITH.
Worship is ever the highest function of the human soul; even the angelic beings who dwell in the presence of the Lord can do nothing greater than worship Him - look up Isaiah 6:2-3; and redeemed sinners in Heaven thrill with delight as they worship Him who alone is worthy to receive the adoration of His people - look up Revelation 5:11-12. The one thing which counts most with the Lord is not our service or our ceaseless activity, but the love, adoration and worship of our hearts. In this connection it may be good to ask ourselves: Why do we go to church? Is it to meet our friends? - to enjoy the service? - to listen to the sermon? - or is it primarily and supremely to worship God? - look up John 4:23-24, and compare Mark 14:3-9.
2. THE WORSHIP OF FAITH IS PRECIOUS WHEN IT IS PRESENT IN THE DYING HOUR.
Jacob was 147 years old, weak, weary and ready to leave this earthly scene for his ‘mansion in the skies’. How was he spending his last moments on earth? Worshipping! Many times during his life he deliberately bowed before the Lord to worship Him, notably at Bethel and at Peniel; but now, at the end of his earthly pilgrimage, he bowed before Him in whose presence he was shortly to pass, and worshipped Him. This is how a believer, a man or woman of faith, should die. How? - ‘lost in wonder, love and praise!’ How beautiful to die while enjoying perfect communion with the Lord! How great to die like Moody and to be able to say in the full confidence of faith:‘Earth recedes, Heaven opens before me. If this is death it is sweet. There is no valley here. God is calling me, and I must go. This is my triumph day, my coronation day!’
On the other hand, how solemn to die an unbeliever, to come to that dread hour and to have no worship for Him who alone is worthy! - look up Revelation 4:11. If you are an unbeliever you may trust in Him now, and revel in His love and mercy which is extended towards you – look up Matthew 11:28. The words of the well-known hymn are very apt here:
Abide with me when night is nigh,
For without Thee I dare not die.
3. THE WORSHIP OF FAITH IS DEEPENED BY THE REMEMBRANCE OF GOD’S PAST MERCIES.
In Hebrews 11:21, there is a very significant phrase. We read that as Jacob worshipped he was ‘leaning on the top of his staff.’ He did this because he was frail and weak and needed support, but there is more in it than that - look up Genesis 32:10. Surely, as Jacob worshipped he was praising God for all the wonderful way in which He had led him. Jacob remembered his sins, his follies and his mistakes, his testings, his fears and his doubts, but all the way through God had loved him and had been most gracious to him - look up Psalm 103:10, and compare Luke 7:47. Jacob’s staff was a symbol of the Lord’s unfailing mercy and tender care.
4. THE WORSHIP OF FAITH IS MOVING TO BEHOLD AND IS ELOQUENT IN ITS APPEAL.
Picture the scene again. Jacob is dying and his loved ones are gathered round him. Were there tears? Of course there were, for they would be moved, as we have been moved in the presence of some loved one who has bowed before the Lord and worshipped Him. Surely the faith of a dying loved one or friend appeals to the unsaved sinner to be reconciled to God and to be ready to go to the eternal city - look up 2 Corinthians 5:20.
5. THE WORSHIP OF FAITH WILL SOON BE SUPERSEDED BY THE WORSHIP OF SIGHT.
Faith will be lost in sight when from earth we arise to be forever with the Lord! What do they do who are already in His presence? - look up Revelation 4:9-11; 5:9-14. If we would be among that great company who see Him face to face and worship Him in Heaven, we must worship Him by faith in the dying hour; and if we would be ready for that time, we must learn to worship Him right here and now - look up Luke 2:28-30, and compare John 20:28.