Very few leaders have a country named after them. Jacob is one of those rare individuals. He is more popularly known by his other name, Israel. He fathered the twelve patriarchs that eventually blossomed to become the twelve tribes of the Jewish nation.

But before God shaped this leader, Jacob was a scheming and self-centered person. He famously hoodwinked his older twin brother Esau and his dying father Isaac to gain what were not rightly his. In the first instance, Jacob deceived Esau of his birthright as the older brother (see Genesis 25:29-34). In their culture, the firstborn son was the privileged child. He gets twice the inheritance as his other siblings. One day, Esau came from the field exhausted and hungry. Instead of sharing his stew to his brother, Jacob somehow convinced Esau to give up his birthright in exchange for a bowl of stew (yes, Esau was equally at fault here).

In the second incident, Jacob connived with his mother Rebecca to gain the blessings of Isaac intended for his brother (see Genesis 27:1-29). In an elaborate charade, Jacob pretended to be his brother (with fake body hair and the smell of a hunter), by bringing the favorite meal of his nearly-blind father. Convinced that it was Esau before him, Isaac blessed Jacob.

We do not want to serve under a cunning, selfish leader. And as Christians, we do not want to be that kind of leader. But because of our sinful nature, we may be tempted to scheme our ways to success. It is worth remembering that success comes from the Lord. As the ruler of all creation, He brings to pass all things according to His will.

But back to Jacob. God took this lump of clay and turned him to Israel, the father of a nation. His life reminds us that because of His grace, sinners like us can serve as leaders in His kingdom, both in the ministry and in the workplace.

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