Hebrews 11 gives us this image of Jacob in his old age: “By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff” (Hebrews 11:21, NKJV). Why is Jacob portrayed in his dying days instead of when he was outsmarting his deceitful father-in-law or wrestling with an angel?
Jacob knew his life was about to end. What does Jacob do as he looks back on the events of his life? He is moved to worship. As he leaned on his staff, he marveled at the life God had given him. Jacob worshipped God in that moment because his soul was at rest. He had proven God faithful beyond any shadow of a doubt. Now the patriarch concluded, “It never mattered what battle I went through. God proved himself faithful to me. He has always been faithful. O Lord, almighty God, I worship you!”
That’s why we see him giving his blessing to his grandchildren. Jacob knew God would fulfill his covenant to the nation of Israel beyond even his own life. His blessing to his grandchildren, his actions, spoke to this faith. There was a reason God wanted this kind of faith for Jacob and his descendants. They would endure slavery, deprivation, danger and suffering. God said, “I want a people who aren’t afraid of death because they know I am trustworthy in all things.”
God wants the same faith in his promises from us. We are called to walk and act in faith that he will see every promise to completion.
This is why James wrote, “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:14-17).