And Jacob said, "O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O LORD who said to me, 'Return to your country and to your kindred, that I may do you good,' I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds of steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant, for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps. Please deliver me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I fear him, that he may come and attack me, the mothers with the children. But you said, 'I will surely do you good, and make your offspring as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.'" (Genesis 32:9-12 ESV)
Jacob was a conniving man, a man full of schemes and deceit. God called him in sheer undeserved grace and spared his life from a murderous brother whom he had cheated.
Ironically (and lovingly), the Lord placed him in another family where he himself became the target of hostile schemes. He's even the unsuspecting mark in a bait-and-switch wedding. He gets a taste of his own deception, though he seems slow to stop dishing it back.
And yet, the Lord keeps blessing Jacob in spite of himself.
When Jacob must return home (read: get out of town fast), he must face the unresolved problem he had to flee in the first place: namely, his angry brother Esau, who is now coming his way with a number of men, all probably armed.
Then this amazing thing comes out of Jacob's mouth. He admits his unworthiness: "I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds of steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant...". He sees that he did not deserve even the least of the good things God had brought into his life.
I don't sense that this is posturing on Jacob's part. I think he knows, maybe for the first time, how really vulnerable and weak and dependent and foolish he is. To underscore this fact he will soon-- because of a divine encounter -- be walking with a limp for the rest of his life. He will be blessed, but broken. He sees that his schemes were not the source of blessing in his life, God was. God alone had done good for him.
The Puritan pastor, John Flavel, once wrote, "When God intends to fill a soul, he first makes it empty. When he intends to enrich a soul, he first makes it poor. When he intends to exalt a soul, he first makes it sensible to its own miseries, needs, and nothingness."
I think this is right. This seems to be God's normal way of dealing with us. When we think we are good, or have it all together, or that we somehow deserves God's blessing, he makes it all come apart. And then we see in a flash how paltry our best efforts are and how surprisingly marvelous his grace is. He breaks the illusion of our self-sufficiency and cleverness.
It is his mercy that brings all our scheming to an end.