When God condescends to put a man’s name in such close association with Himself that He describes Himself as the God of that man, we may be sure that there is some good reason for it which deserves to be searched out. We are not without some guidance concerning some of the significances of such a combination.

Four hundred years after God had called Abram out of Ur, and about two hundred years after the death of Jacob, God sent Moses to Egypt to lead out the Israelites. It might seem to be merely a natural association of ideas that God should say that He was the God of the fathers of the nation. “Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel,” said God to Moses, “The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you.” The God who had covenanted with these men that their descendants should become a mighty nation had now sent Moses to fulfil that promise. That is an obvious reason for such a name of God.

The New Testament, however, finds added meanings. God would not describe Himself as the God of men who were not well pleasing to Him. It is therefore an honour to the men named; or, as Paul put it, when discussing the faith of these fathers, “God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.” Not ashamed – how much of shame might be felt for the waywardness of even those who seek after God: but such were these men’s lives that God is pleased to link their name with His. Such men, so commended, are heirs of a future, in which they will have a part in a permanent state to be established, in a city founded and builded by God. Thus God has provided that in due time these men shall have unending fellowship with Him.

This future for them involves a restoration to life. Such a conclusion is so obvious that Jesus refuted the contention of the Sadducees that there was no resurrection of the dead by quoting the words of God spoken at the bush. “God is not the God of the dead,” said Jesus, “but of the living.” Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were then dead, but since after their death God described Himself as their God, they must yet live. And, indeed, to God, Who knows the end from the beginning, those men live; “they all live unto him”.

When Jesus thus rebuked the Sadducean error, he said, “Have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God ” (Matt 22:31). The words spoken to Moses were an announcement to all who read the record. The record was authoritative, having all the weight that would be attached to such words spoken to them as directly as they were to Moses. It is an important lesson concerning the value of the Word of God – a lesson repeatedly emphasised by prophet and apostle, as well as by Jesus.

In the Psalms, and in Isaiah and Micah (once each) we meet with the expression, “the God of Jacob”. What lesson is intended by this? Why not the God of Abraham, or God the Creator? Is it not because there was in Jacob’s life some striking lesson which the use of this title would recall? Such a conclusion receives strong support from the fact that Jacob vowed that by the fulfilment of certain promises God should become his God. It seems a little audacious – but God was gracious, and when the conditions were fulfilled God reminded Jacob of the vow, and also that He had not failed in anything that had been promised.

After obtaining the blessing Jacob had to go into exile. At Bethel God appeared to him, and confirmed to him the blessing of the promises which had been made to Abraham. God added: “And behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of” ( Gen. 28:15 ). Then Jacob made his vow, “If God will be so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then shall the Lord be my God” (verse 21).

This is the first time this promise to be with and not leave a man was made. It was repeated to Joshua and to Solomon in significant circumstances; but only its first occurrence now concerns us.

When the time came, at the end of twenty years, for Jacob to return, God appeared to him, reminded him of the vow, and called upon him to go back to the land of promise. Returning, there was a meeting with angels (32:1), and then the wrestling for the blessing when Jacob’s name was changed. Jacob called the place of the meeting Peniel – that is, the Face of God – for “I have seen God face to face and my life is preserved.”

We may trace the parallel, that all who are heirs, spending their days in lands of sojourning, will yet meet the angels at the time to return; will receive a change of name, see God face to face, and have their lives preserved.

Can the promise that God will be with them, and not leave them, be appropriated by them? Paul says it should be; “Be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that with good courage we may say , The Lord is my helper.”

The God of Jacob, then, is One who has promised to be with His people in all their sojourn, never to leave them in all the days of trial during which they may be the victims of the evil thoughts of their fellows as Jacob was of Laban’s. The God of Jacob is One Who, fulfilling His word, will bring the heirs of the promise to the land covenanted, with life preserved through unending days.

The Psalms when read with this background, are found to have a fuller meaning. David says (Psa 20:1):

“The Lord hear thee in the day of trouble ;

The name of the God of Jacob defend thee.”

In the troubled days of Hezekiah, when the Assyrian cloud covered the land, but when men of faith believed the message that God would deliver them, one could say (46:7):

“The Lord of hosts is with us;

The God of Jacob is our refuge.”

There were faithless men at the time, as Shebna; but in the assurance of the victory of the righteous, Asaph sang (75:9,10):

“I will declare for ever;

I will sing praises to the God of Jacob.

All the horns of the wicked also will I cut off;

But the horns of the righteous shall be exalted.”

The same writer uses the title when he bemoans Israel’s failure to secure the blessing because they would not hearken to His voice (81:1). There was no failure with the God of Jacob.

Human promises with the best of efforts are bounded by the limits of frail human life. What a magnificent contrast is that of Psalm 146 , where the Lord’s irrestible might to accomplish is put over against human weakness!

“Put not your trust in princes,—

Nor in the son of man,

In whom there is no help.

His breath goeth forth,

He returneth to his earth;

In that very day his thoughts perish.”

We quote these verses, and rightly quote them, to prove the mortality of man; but we miss the writer’s object if we thus limit our meaning. We are not to put our trust in men: they are of small power and soon are dead. God knows no end to His years or failing of His powers. Therefore the Psalmist continues:

“Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help,

Whose hope is in the Lord his God:

Which made heaven and earth,

The sea and all that therein is;

Which keepeth truth for ever.”

The Creator is not a God afar off; He has come into close association with men; has revealed His truth which will not fail; and He has been proved in the experience of Jacob as a God Who neither leaves not forsakes. If ours is the God of Jacob, the Beatitude of this Psalm is written of us.