This sermon is number 2 in a series of 12
As Sparks Flying Upwards - Part 2
"The Life Journey Of Jacob"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2002 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
Now we're turning to the book of Genesis, Genesis chapter 32. Now the whole life story of Jacob really straddles over the majority of the book, at least half of the book of Genesis - from chapter 25 through to chapter 50. We haven't got time, and I don't think you have the energy, to sit and listen to all that tonight. Let me just say also: this is a series on 'Sparks Flying Upward', what we're doing is not specifically character studies of these Bible individuals, but we're wanting to home in specifically on the problems and the trials that these men and even women faced. So we're not doing a categorical biography of these people, but we're wanting to home in on specific events in their life that teach us how to survive ourselves, as the saints of God, as we go through trouble.
Last week we looked at Abraham, and we saw that the greatest test of all was in Genesis chapter 22, when he was asked by God to sacrifice his son, his one and only son, Isaac. If you like, this is the greatest test of all in Jacob's life, and we're homing in on that this evening in chapter 32 this time, and verse 25. We'll start at verse 24: "And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob's thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him. And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed. And Jacob asked him, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, thy name. And he said, Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name? And he blessed him there. And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved. And as he passed over Penuel the sun rose upon him, and he halted upon his thigh. Therefore the children of Israel eat not of the sinew which shrank, which is upon the hollow of the thigh, unto this day: because he touched the hollow of Jacob's thigh in the sinew that shrank".
As we go through this great book of beginnings, the book of Genesis, we find that Jacob became the father of the Jews, that great ethnic people, that great religious movement in our world even today that has never been quenched or destroyed, even by all the tyrants of the world trying and baying for their blood to wipe them out and exterminate them. Jacob is their father, the father of the Jews, but as we look at the Jews and we look at Jacob tonight we see that there are a great deal of parallels with the Jew and with their father Jacob. The extremes in the life of the Israelites that we find in the Old Testament Scriptures that startle us and offend us and make us balk at this people, can also be seen in life of their father Jacob. Yet to the other extreme, not only do we see the failure of the Jewish people in life of Jacob, but we also see their spirituality. We can see the richness in their faith, the deepness in their devotion toward God - both extremes in the Jewish people are mirrored in their father Jacob.
Like the Jew, Jacob spends a great deal of his life in exile, having no home, wandering around the desert. He experiences trying conditions; his life is full of toils, sorrows, tribulation and trial. But we also see in the Jew and in Jacob the discipline of God, how - although they are going through turmoil and trial, and sorrow and testing and tribulation - God's hand is behind it all. We have seen that very vividly in the studies of the book of Ezekiel recently, how - even though at times it seems that God has cast His ancient people, Israel, off - He has not, because He is bound in covenant with them. What He is doing is not seeking to destroy them, but disciplining His own people. God is bringing them through trial and tribulation for the sole purpose to purify them as a holy and sanctified and zealous people unto His own testimony and glory.
We can see all those things in the life of this father of the Jews, Jacob. But there are not just parallels with Jacob's physical ancestors, Jacob's physical offspring, but we can see also parallels in Jacob's spiritual offspring. What I'm talking about is the whole household of faith, those who believe in God today - if you like, the church of Jesus Christ - there are many parallels that we even can take out of Jacob's life and apply them to our own life tonight. We're looking at the life journey of Jacob, but we equally can be looking at our own life journey, for what Jacob faced every day of his life we, as the children of God today, also face. I think this cannot be put better than the words of F. B. Meyer, listen to what he says about the parallels between Jacob and ourselves as we begin this study tonight: 'Jacob's failings speak to us. He takes advantage of his brother when hard-pressed with hunger. He deceives his father. He meets Laban's guile with guile. He thinks to buy himself out of his troubles with Esau. He is mean, crafty and weak. At times we can apply all these terms to him, but who is there among us who does not feel the germs of this harvest to be within our own breast? Who of us cannot say, when we look at Jacob, there but for the grace of God go I?'. His failings, then there are his aspirations, they speak to us. F. B. Meyer says: 'We too have our angel-haunted dreams. We make our vows when we leave home. We too cling in a paradox to the yearning of departing angels, that they should come and stay with us and bless us before they go. We too get back to our own Bethels and bury our idols. We too confess ourselves pilgrims and strangers on the earth. We too recognise the shepherd care of Almighty God. We too wait for God's salvation'.
My friends, I hope we can see already that in many ways Jacob's life journey is not only the journey of the Jews, but it's the journey of every child of God and is our journey tonight. Let's look at it. The first thing that we see is a twisted youth. If you turn with me to chapter 25 of the book of Genesis, the first part of the twisted youth of Jacob is the devising brother that we find in chapter 25. From the birth of Jacob and Esau you could see this obvious rivalry among these two twin brothers. In fact, the very reason that Jacob is called Jacob - and Jacob simply means 'grabber' - is the fact that as these two boys were coming out of the womb, Jacob was born with his hand on Esau's heel, and so he was called 'Grabber'. Right from the very beginning these two children were fighting in their mother's womb, and as they're coming out of that womb, there is Jacob holding onto the heel of Esau. But we see this rivalry coming to fruition here in chapter 25 of Genesis, where we see Jacob as a devising brother.
You know the story I hope, we'll not take time to read it, about how Esau gives up his birthright for a pot of porridge, or a pot of stew, or lentil soup if you like. He gives up his birthright. Now don't misunderstand what this means, for Esau to give up his birthright. We think of this birthright in terms of earthly prosperity, worldly goods and wealth of his father - and to a large extent that's what it was, because the son who was blessed, and Esau was to be blessed, that son would be blessed with a double portion of his father's goods. But the inheritance and the birthright is much more than earthly possessions and worldly wealth, but it is spiritual prosperity. It was speaking of the spiritual blessing of being the next patriarch in line; the one who would be the head spiritually of the tribe, the family and the clan; the one who would be the priest and come before God for his family and for his tribe. Ultimately in the Old Testament, especially in the book of Genesis, to be the one who received the birthright and the spiritual blessing and inheritance, was to ultimately be a link in the chain that would bring Messiah! You see the importance of that, all the earthly and worldly wealth pales into insignificance.
Now if you can imagine this scene in chapter 25 for one moment. One day Jacob is standing over a cauldron of stew made with red lentils, that you can still get in Syria or Egypt today. There he is making this stew, and who should tumble into the tent but Esau from the fields after a hard day's work. He's faint and he's hungry, and he cries out in impatience and desperation: 'Give me some of that!'. Jacob, at that moment, realises his opportunity. He realises, 'This man really needs something to eat, but there's something that I really need, something that is not coming to me, something that I am not going to receive unless I do something about it'. So he decides to blackmail Esau to become the spiritual leader of his tribe, his family and his clan. Now obviously Jacob only did this because he knew it would work with Esau, he wouldn't have tried it if he thought he wouldn't get away with it, but obviously Jacob realised from growing up with this young man that Esau had no wealth and value and respect in his birthright. He couldn't have respected it enough to give it away for a mere bowl of lentil soup!
That begs the question to us tonight - and we must look into ourselves this evening before we condemn this man Esau - because there are spiritual privileges and honours and talents that we have as the children of God today, and some of us are willing to exchange them for a brief sensual experience that fills the animal appetite in our heart for just one moment. Is that not what the writer to the Hebrews says in chapter 12? 'Look diligently...lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright'. One thing that we learn from Esau is that he despised his birthright. So Jacob's desire, if you like, was a good desire, it was a right desire - but the point that you need to see in chapter 25 of Genesis is that, although Jacob's desire was right, the way he went about it was wrong. The means did not justify the end. Yes, Esau was not interested in a double portion of his father's estate; yes, Esau was not interested in the spiritual birthright, the spiritual heritage, being patriarch and priest before God; yes, he wasn't even interested in providing for his mother, which fell to the one whom the blessing of inheritance fell to. Perhaps it was because he could see through to the fact that Jacob was his mother's favourite, and he didn't honour his mother - but whatever it was, Esau despised his birthright, Jacob wanted the birthright, but you've got to see this tonight: Jacob went about a right thing a wrong way.
He had a twisted youth, and the first occasion is devising to take the birthright away from his brother. What Jacob was going to have to learn in the days that would lie ahead in his life was that there are no shortcuts to God's blessing. His twisted youth is marked as a devising brother, and the second thing is in chapter 27 if you turn over to it. This twisted youth can be seen as he forms into a deceitful son - chapter 27 and verses 6 through to 29. Now you know, and I know, that youth is a time of grave temptation. But the strange thing about Jacob's temptation in chapter 27 is that it comes from his mother. He was Mummy's favourite, and one day she overheard Isaac, the old man, the father of Jacob and Esau, planning to bestow his blessing, his spiritual inheritance, his double portion on Esau and not Jacob. Because Jacob was her favourite she plotted that she would make sure that Jacob would receive the blessing, and so she called to Jacob - now note in the passage, verse 13, she had to call twice. My friends, when you're in youth, there are times that temptation can come the first time, and then temptation can come the second time - you're maybe able to resist it the first time, but the second time the call comes you fall, and the amazing thing about this is: the call came from his own mother!
'Go out and fetch two kids, bring them in. We'll sacrifice them, we'll feed them to your father, and with the skins from the kids you can wear them and you can pretend that you're Esau'. Because Jacob had a weak and a twisted nature within himself he responded, and he dressed up himself as his own brother, and he even imitated Esau's smell of the fields. He went into his old father's tent, who was blind by now, and he said to Isaac: 'I am Esau thy firstborn', verse 32. The tragic thing about it all is this: he even used the name of the Lord in vain. Isaac didn't recognise his voice, he probably thought: 'That sounds more like Jacob than Esau'. He said to him: 'How is it that you found the venison, the food, so quickly?'. And here he takes the Lord's name in vain, he says: 'The Lord thy God brought it to me'! Do you see how twisted he's getting? It was getting dangerous, so Isaac had to feel him to see if he was hairy like Esau was, he had to smell him to see if he smelt of the fields like Esau did, and when he was content then Jacob got the blessing. He got what he wanted - OK, Esau didn't want it, Jacob wanted it, maybe Jacob was seeking after God, but he went about it the wrong way!
My friends, this has thrilled me today. This young man had a twisted youth, he was a devising brother, he was a deceitful son, and what a thrill for us tonight to look at this man's life and to think that it was this same young man that grew up to be what the Spirit of God calls 'A prince with God' and the father of the nation of Israel! It's hard to imagine when we read this about him in his early days. It's hard to understand how God could bless such jiggery-pokery in this young man's life. You might think to yourself: 'Well, if it was God's will that Jacob should have the blessing and not Esau, surely the only way that that could come about - if Isaac was going to give Esau the blessing - is that it would happen dishonestly, that it would happen the way it's written here?'. My friend, I can't explain it all, but what I can say is this: Jacob was to get the blessing in God's eyes, but Jacob didn't go about it the way that God would have wanted him to. But I'll tell you something that can categorise and summarise the whole thing: God, in His sovereignty and His almighty nature, can make even the wrath of man to praise Him. Isn't that wonderful? What Jacob meant for evil, God meant for good.
Further, what came to me today as I was studying this, and what a blessing it was to my own heart when I thought back to the sins of my own youth! You've got them, haven't you? The things that jump out of the cupboard of your mind, those skeletons, those ghosts that haunt you at times when you're not expecting it. You're having holy thoughts and holy exercises, and all of a sudden you're reminded about something that you did in your youth, when you were foolish, when you were twisting, when you were devising and deceitful. But what a thought tonight: old Job, he thought God was cursing him for the sins of his youth, did you know that? In chapter 13 of the book, verse 26, he says: 'God, thou writest bitter things against me, and makest me to possess the iniquities of my youth' - 'You're punishing me for what I've done in the past'. How refreshing it is, even though it's only Eliphaz that says it in chapter 33 of the book, to read these words of the man who repents of his sin: 'His flesh shall be fresher than a child's: he shall return to the days of his youth'. What hope there is in our God! No matter how twisted your youth was, deceitful and devising, what a joy to know that our God is the God who can restore not only the years that the locusts have eaten, but the youth that the locusts have eaten!
It's wonderful, I would encourage you tonight young people: don't squander your youth because you know that God can forgive you. Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Of course we shall not. Solomon says in his wise words in Ecclesiastes 12: 'Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth' - but what a joy if you're looking back tonight, and there's no hope because you've squandered your youth, you've messed it up in sin and temptation, you've drowned it in the iniquity of a twisted childhood, what a joy that you can say like the Psalmist in Psalm 25: 'Lord, remember not the sins of my youth' - and the answer comes back from the excellent glory: 'Thy sins and thy iniquities I will remember no more'. Don't let the devil drag them up to you ever again! They're under the blood, they're gone, they're finished, they're dead with Christ, buried with Christ, and your new life has risen with Christ! What a joy that is to all of us who did things in our youth that we wish we had never done.
You folk here tonight, and your children are breaking your hearts, your children are drowning themselves in the sin of their own twisted youth, can I encourage you tonight? Have faith in God, for some of the greatest giants of the Bible did exactly the same as your wee boy or your wee girl is doing tonight - and look where they are today! Some of them are in Hebrews 11 in the hall of faith, God's hall of fame. Have faith in God.
As you can imagine Esau didn't like this. Jacob had tricked him and done him out of his inheritance, and he vowed revenge - to kill his brother, to hunt him down like a dog. Rebecca, in her tent, overhears what Esau is saying in revenge, and she fears for her only beloved son Jacob. So she tells Jacob: 'You're going to have to go to my brother Laban in Haran. Go away, pack your bags tonight and escape'. What was happening here was Jacob was beginning to enter into God's school of learning, Jacob was beginning to realise how you can't have blessing by being a twister, by being a grabber and a supplanter and a thief. You're going to have to learn it God's way if you're going to be truly blessed.
We find as we go through the life of this man that Jacob, if anybody in the Bible, Jacob learns through suffering. Can you see him packing his bags, kissing his mother goodbye? Can you see him scuttering into his father's tent to get his blessing and his goodbye? Can you see him going out in the night, going across the desert? I'm sure at first it was exciting for him, there was a buzz of adventure, it was the first time he had ever been away from home - but I'm also sure that as he went mile upon mile on his own, he started to get lonely, his time away from home wasn't as good as what he thought it would be. He began to feel melancholy and depression - now the dark clouds had drawn across his blue sky. He had got the blessing, but there he was in loneliness. He was running away in fear, perhaps all the thoughts were going through his mind: 'What has Esau thought up for me? Is he going to send the dogs out after me? Is he going to send an army of his workmen out to hunt me down?'. He had no roof over his head, he had no bed, he had no pillow. Tired and dejected he reaches Bethel, and he gets an old rock and puts his head upon it. He looks into the stars and he falls asleep, and I want you to see this tonight: the very place that Jacob was in, the place where God had led him, was the only place that God could bless him.
When he went unconscious to the world around him and to all of his troubles, God gave him a dream and God gave him a vision. He saw a ladder coming down from God from heaven, and the angels ascending and descending on it. Child of God, this was the only place that God could speak to Jacob. When God leads men and women He leads us to certain places that are not comfortable, that do not feel good, that even do not feel right, but there are times in our lives when that is the only place that God will speak and that is where God has chosen to speak. 'The Lord is my helper', that's what matters. Everyone was against him, his own family was against him and he was out as a stranger going to his kith and kin - Laban in Haran - but, my friend, I want you to see what God was showing this young man has he had his head upon the pillow: He was showing him that God was there, and that in his turmoil he had a link with God. It might have been a ladder that he couldn't climb, or he wasn't near even the top, but God was showing him: 'Look, I'm there, I'm there for you! In this wilderness of your experience, you are connected to Me by covenant and by grace'.
The word of God tells us that God's angels are ministering spirits, they carry out His will. We read in the book of Daniel that, as Daniel was praying for 21 days, it was the archangel Michael who was coming to answer Daniel's prayers. I firmly believe upon the authority of those Scriptures that sometimes angels carry out God's will in answer to our prayers. I believe what God was showing Jacob was this: 'If you'll let the prayers go up, I'll let the blessings come down!'. If that wasn't enough for him to hear, he heard God's word, he heard the voice of God say - and this is what God said to him in that dream: 'I will be with thee, I will keep thee, I will do that which I have spoken to thee of'. What a God of grace He is, eh! This old twister, bathing his youth in sin, devising against his brother, deceiving his own father, out in a wilderness of sin - yet the God of grace appears unto him! We've all had our Bethel, haven't we? Praise God, we've had our Bethel!
He eventually reaches a well, and he meets a girl he likes. He sees Rachel, they introduce one another, they find out that they're related, they're cousins - in fact this is the daughter of Laban who he's trying to get to and stay with. He falls in love with this girl Rachel, and as he reaches Laban's house Laban agrees that he'll give Rachel to Jacob after seven years working for him in his business. It's very interesting that what goes around comes around. That's not a Biblical quotation, but it's very true. Crafty old Laban deceived Jacob as he had been deceiving others all down the years. Just on the day of the marriage between Rachel and Jacob, Laban substitutes Rachel with Leah, and old twisted Jacob finds out after the marriage vows that he's married the wrong girl! Now the deceiver is deceived! He's furious, he goes to Laban, Laban says: 'Well, if you work another seven years for me then I'll give you Rachel to marry'.
There are many lessons that we can learn from this. Young people, one of the lessons that we can learn is: when you're looking for a partner in life, a husband or a wife, it's got to be true love. I know there were some arranged marriages in the Bible, but the best ones that I can see were true love. The first thing that we read is that as Jacob was going out to Laban, leaving his father Isaac when he was blessing him in chapter 28 verse 1, he blessed him it says: 'And charged him, and said unto him, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan'. Now listen, young person, you're not to go to the world for a wife, you're not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers. There you have it in black-and-white in the Old Testament, and you have it again in the New Testament, the best person to love is a child of God for they love Christ.
The second thing we learn is that it helps when both homes are happy with the partner that you choose. Now that doesn't always happen, but I can tell you this it was good in this instance. In verse 20 we find that Jacob served seven years for Rachel, chapter 29 I beg your pardon, chapter 29 and verse 20: 'Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her'. That's one of the most beautiful verses in the whole of the Bible, they seemed but a few days for the love that he had for her. One writer said: 'Love has the power of making a rough road easy and a long wait short'. Young people, you've got to love one another, and you've got to love the Lord to be married - but look at this: he worked seven years for Leah! He was deceived, and he worked as asked to work another seven years for Rachel - the point is this: he was willing to do it! You can fall in love and have the greatest romance, love at first sight if that even exists, you can have all that, you can have both families enjoying the partner that you have chosen, but whether you like it or not it's got to be worked at! It's got to be worked at. If you're not prepared to work at it, don't enter into it! If you truly love your partner you'll stick with them.
Now we know all too well, to our own detriment, that it doesn't always work out for some. It takes two to tango, it takes two to work at it, doesn't it? Maybe one partner doesn't want to work at it, and some people like Jacob have been gravely deceived, and if you can put it like this: the person that they thought they were marrying turned out to be different from the person they actually married! He thought he was marrying Rachel, it turned out to be Leah, and he was disappointed - there are so many people that are disappointed, so many people suffering, and what a test it is for a child of God to be married to a monster. Do you know something? No matter what end some marriages come to, I'm no judge and jury but I'll tell you this: for many a man or a woman, they are in God's school of suffering even in their marriage! Many a Christian quietly goes through a turbulent time in a testing marriage.
Then we move on and we find that God leads him through that hardship of working at love, and he comes thirdly again to chapter 32 that we read together at the beginning of our meeting. I think that this is the pinnacle of Jacob's life of faith, because he comes to the point where he becomes a triumphant wrestler. Up to now he had got most things in his life by stealing them or supplanting them, just as his name means. He has deceived people into taking their birthright, he has deceived people into taking inheritance, he has been clutching and supplanting and twisting to get the blessing of God, but God was going to tell him in chapter 32: 'It is impossible to get my true blessing by wriggling into it, it's not taken by guile but it's taken by grace'. Jacob becomes, in chapter 32, the man who God had to break in order to bless.
This is the turning point in his life, and I want you to see five things under this heading. First: his position in verse 24, his position. It says that Jacob was left alone. Now, my friends tonight, the way of blessing is often a hard road, it's often a lonely road. Great men of God and women of God have had to walk a lonely path of pain at times, lonely early in the morning in prayer, alone in their zeal when the children of God around them had no concern and only indifference, the lonely doctrinal stand for the truth. Whatever it may be, it might be a lonely suffering on your own with no-one to cry upon, but it is only those who God can seek to detach from the world that are detached enough for them to lay hold upon God and for God to lay hold upon them. My friends tonight, I say to you if you're suffering: let us go therefore unto him who is without the camp, bearing his reproach. Let us follow John the Baptist, let us follow Elijah, let us follow our Lord Jesus Christ who suffered lonely there on lonely Golgotha's Hill, but He was there!
His position was alone. Secondly we see his prayer. There are three things about his prayer, first his posture in verse 24: he wrestled. The Lord Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount: 'Strive to enter into the kingdom, strive to go through the narrow door'. We read of the Lord in Luke 22, being in agony in Gethsemane, He prayed in agony. Ephesians 6, Paul says: 'We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers'. Hebrews 5 talks about the Lord praying in Gethsemane: 'Who with prayers, with strong crying and tears, cried unto God who was able to save him from death'. I don't know what you're going through tonight, but if you're going through pain I'm sure there are times that you've cried unto God, you've wrestled in God's presence in prayer. But see how his prayer turned out in verse 25, it came to the breaking of the day, he wrestled all night, his prayer was prevailing. I want you to see tonight that in our wrestling with pain and trial and tribulation, God is putting us through these things so that He can see whether we are trusting Him, whether we are hoping in Him alone.
It's very interesting that we see in verse 25, I believe that this was Christophany, an appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ before He was manifest in flesh at Bethlehem, I believe it was Him who was wrestling with Jacob. As He was wrestling, it says in verse 25, when He saw that He prevailed not against him - now that doesn't mean that He couldn't beat him, but when He saw that Jacob was so intense and that he was determined to prevail with God as he wrestled Him, it was then that He touched his leg. Child of God going through pain tonight, listen: pain persevered will always bring forth blessing, always. You can see it in the natural realm, in childbirth and the travail of it, and then a beautiful baby is born. You can see it with the painstaking efforts of an artist, and the picture is painted. You can see it in the farmer toiling and sowing in the field week after week, month after month, but eventually there's a great harvest reaped. You can see it with the composer with all the little notes, and scrapes and thoughts that he has to conjure up, but at the end there's a great symphony of beautiful music that comes into fruition from his hard work. God says to you, child going through turmoil tonight, 'The Lord is good unto them that wait for Him, to the soul that seeketh Him. Let us not be weary in well doing, for in due season we shall reap if we faint not. Why art thou downcast, O my soul? Hope thou in God, for thou shall yet praise Him'.
He was prevailing and he was persistent, for in verse 26 he said: 'I'm not going to let you go until you bless me'. Oh, there's so much negativism about in Christianity today! Can I encourage you: in your pain and in your trials, in your torment - be positive, hang in there! Have faith in God and be a prevailer and not a pessimist, and trust Him!
There was his position: alone; his prayer; and then there was his pain, for the Lord Jesus touched his thigh and it went out of joint. I believe that speaks to us of brokenness, I believe the Lord is saying: 'If I've got to bless you, Jacob, I've got to break you'. The path to blessing is brokenness, and how you get through your pain, and how you get through your trial and your sickness and your sorrow, is determined and depends upon how you look at it! That's the bottom line. If you say: 'My life's out of control, this shouldn't have happened to me. Why is God allowing this to happen? God mustn't love me at all if He's allowing this to come into my life!'. If you look at it like that, you'll never prevail and you'll never have blessings out of your sorrow, but if you look at the thing and say: 'This is the hand of God, I don't understand it but I know that God's hand has planned it and I will trust His hand! He's allowing this for my good, He will turn what seeks to harm me into my everlasting joy!'.
You know, the things that we often resist coming into our life - in fact, I would say everything that comes into our life - is allowed by God. It mightn't be God's hand doing it, it might be like Job, it's Satan but it is allowed by the sovereign councils and will of God. My friend, look at it like that! Jacob was never the same again after he was broken, after he was touched and became out of joint. Look at verse 31, it says from that day on he halted upon his thigh, he had a limp and men could see that the self in Jacob had been broken and weakened. Others could see that he had a touch from God, and we read in the book of Hebrews that at the end of his days he was leaning upon his staff worshipping God - broken, but God broke him to bless him! God put His signature on him by breaking him. One writer says: 'The sinew of self must shrink'. I'm led to believe that two horses pulling together cannot pull a sinew apart, and sometimes there are things in our lives that cannot be broken by any other measure than by pain and suffering. Let me tell you that meeting with God on this level, like Jacob, it doesn't just affect your opinions and your doctrines, it changes who you are - and God said: 'You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel', and he was changed!
In verse 32 we see that the change not only affected him personally and his name, but it affected the whole nation, for from that day on until this book of Genesis was written they never ate of the sinew of an animal. It affected a whole generation for God, one man's brokenness and the testimony of God through it! I'll tell you this: old Jacob was sensitive to the touch of God every day after that day. Then there's his power in verse 28, God told him: 'You've power with God and with men'. He knew his God, he had got to know his God, like David who was a man after God's own heart, like Abraham last week who was called the friend of God, and listen tonight - you who are going through trial - they got to know their God in the crucible of pain! That is what Paul meant when he said: 'That I might know Him, and the power of His resurrection', don't stop there, 'and the fellowship of His sufferings' - and if you don't have the fellowship of suffering you'll not be made conformable to His image!
Then there was his prize: Peniel, in verse 29 - 'For I have seen God face to face'. Do you know what the plan of God is in your pain tonight? That you might see Him face-to-face! That you might be brought nearer! Oh, I've so much to say to you. You know, his troubles didn't stop there, if anything they maybe got greater because he became a troubled parent in chapter 34, 35 and 38. Dinah was defiled by Shechem, and you remember Levi and Simeon, Jacob's sons, went out and tricked him - they said: 'You can marry our daughters if you get circumcised', and the day after they got circumcised they knew they weren't capable fighting, so they all went together and murdered the whole lot of them! Two of his sons became murderers, Reuben committed an incestuous act of adultery with Bilhah, Jacob's concubine. Then we find Judah committed adultery with Tamar who was disguised as a prostitute - boy, his problems were only starting, the pain caused by his children. We find then that his loved ones began to die, he was a tragic mourner, he lost his wife Rachel, his beloved, in childbirth. He buries his father in chapter 37, Isaac. Later on we find that he's parted from his only beloved son, the one he loved the most, Joseph. He is told by the rest of the brothers that he was killed, and they bring his coat of many colours back covered in blood. Can you see the pain that this man went through in his life?
Give me a minute or two, please. This man, he knew no sun without rain, he knew no joy without sorrow, no peace without pain. Do you remember when Joseph was in Egypt, and he asked for Benjamin to come? Do you remember that? You remember Joseph was testing his brothers, and trying to bring them to a knowledge of what they had done to him. In Genesis 42 and verse 36 it says this: 'Jacob their father said unto them, Me have ye bereaved of my children: Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and ye will take Benjamin away: all these things are against me'. All these things are against me! Do you feel like that? I'll tell you this, he didn't know the end of the story! He didn't know that the one who was taking away his children was the one in Egypt who would feed his children in the famine, because it was his own son! He didn't know, but as far as he was concerned all these things were against him. My friend, he was judging these outward things but he didn't realise that God was for him, for He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob! And the miracle of it all is: He's our God tonight! The miracle is: He is for us! All things work together for good because He is for us!
Now come with me as we close, for in Genesis 49 - don't turn to it - I can see this old man's pale, ashen, wax face, I can see the furrows of worry on his brow from the life of pain and trial and turmoil and torment that he has been caused. It has been a rough road, it's been a road of failure, a road of sin. In Genesis 49 it says that he's about to take his last breath, and he plumps down on the bed, his head bangs against the headboard and he swings his feet into the bed, and he sighs for the last, and the word of God says this: 'When Jacob had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and yielded up the ghost, and was gathered unto his people'. A life of pain, trial, turmoil, tragedy, but like Abraham he died in the faith. Hallelujah! Whatever you're going through, child tonight, you'll die in the faith! Oh, no wonder we can sing:
'Oh, that will be
Glory for me,
When by His grace
I shall look on His face'.
That will be glory for me. If you didn't believe in grace, I'll bet you believe in it now, eh? When you look at a man like Jacob, he sighs his last and he's absent from the body, present with the Lord.
Father, we can say with an old slave trader: 'Tis grace hath led me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home'. Father, we take great courage and strength from the fact that Thou art willing and able and glad to call Thyself the God of Jacob, and we thank Thee that Thou too are the God of our salvation. Father, we pray for those going through turmoil and trial, that they may see the hand of God in it all, and that they may allow God to bless them in it, and that they may see the face of Christ in it all - for one day we will see Him face-to-face, and oh that will be glory, be glory for me. Amen.
Preach The Word
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the second tape in his 'As Sparks Flying Upwards' series, titled "The Life Journey Of Jacob" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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