Jacob is a troubling character in the Old Testament. He is conniving and he is spiritual too. He has moments of strong faith as well as of fear. His family is sometimes in disarray, and yet at the end he is the one who sets it straight.

Jacob, whose very name suggests "deceiver," is renamed by God as "Israel" -- "one who has struggled with God." And an entire nation is named after this patriarch -- the nation of Israel.

Jacob is a bit too much like us -- with very human strengths and weaknesses, but a man with a striving for spiritual things. From this imperfect man we learn important lessons of faith. Especially, we learn about God's grace.

The events described in Jacob's story comprise most of Genesis chapters 25-49. If you haven't read the Old Testament much, you'll be pleased to find that God can speak to you here -- loud and clear. The culture is vastly different, but you'll quickly learn that the people and their problems haven't changed much. The story of Jacob is a great opportunity to learn important lessons about ourselves and our God.

This is not the kind of Bible study for the faint of heart. We'll be looking at some issues that don't have nice, neat answers. But life is like that. My prayer is that you'll grow through this process. That you'll become closer to, more sensitive to, more obedient to God. And that you'll learn to study your Bible in a new way.