When I was a child, we used to have a Sunday night ‘song service’ in our tiny Baptist church. To this day, I know every word of every hymn we sang. “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms”—one of my favorites—is the subject of my thought today.
I can’t help but wonder if the writer of Hebrews was making such a point when he wrote: “when he was old, Jacob… bowed in worship as he LEANED ON HIS STAFF” (11:21). Unless we just dismiss the phrase as superfluous, we must consider its significance. A literal interpretation is easy: Jacob was old and weak. But I think there is more to the picture. Even as ‘mature’ people know they must depend on external supports [canes and walkers], so too ‘mature’ saints have learned not to depend on their own strength. Through years of walking with God, they have learned they cannot do it alone—they know they must “lean” on God. From the time Jacob wrestled with the angel of God and was left with a broken hip, Jacob was disabled—he could not walk without leaning on his staff. Is this not a picture of the way God intends for us to become increasingly dependent on Him?
But how sad that many don’t learn this at an earlier age! Young people depend on their own resources until they are broken. Only then do they discover their limitations. Remember the timeless proverb: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not LEAN on your own understanding” (3:5).