God chose Jacob, not because he deserved it, but because of His grace. And yet, Jacob worked hard to try to deserve grace, which itself is a contradiction. If he deserved it, then it wouldn’t be grace; it would be works (see Romans 4:1-5), which is contrary to the gospel.
Only later did Jacob start to understand the significance of God’s grace and what it meant to trust God, to live by faith, and to be completely dependent on the Lord. Jacob’s experience contains an important lesson for the ambitious person: do not strive to promote yourself at the expense of others.
“Jacob thought to gain a right to the birthright through deception, but he found himself disappointed. He thought he had lost everything, his connection with God, his home, and all, and there he was a disappointed fugitive. But what did God do? He looked upon him in his hopeless condition, He saw his disappointment, and He saw there was material there that would render back glory to God. No sooner does He see his condition than He presents the mystic ladder, which represents Jesus Christ. Here is man, who had lost all connection with God, and the God of heaven looks upon him and consents that Christ shall bridge the gulf which sin has made. We might have looked and said, I long for heaven but how can I reach it? I see no way. That is what Jacob thought, and so God shows him the vision of the ladder, and that ladder connects earth with heaven, with Jesus Christ. A man can climb it, for the base rests upon the earth and the top-most round reaches into heaven.” — Ellen G. White Comments, The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 1, p. 1095.