I want you to turn with me in your Bibles to Genesis chapter 32, Genesis 32 for our reading. Genesis 32, and we are beginning to read at verse 22: "And he", that is, Jacob, "arose that night and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven sons, and crossed over the ford of Jabbok. He took them, sent them over the brook, and sent over what he had. Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob's hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him. And He said, 'Let Me go, for the day breaks'. But he said", that's Jacob said to the man, "'I will not let You go unless You bless me!'. So He said to him, 'What is your name?'. He said, 'Jacob'. And He said, 'Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed'. Then Jacob asked, saying, 'Tell me Your name, I pray'. And He said, 'Why is it that you ask about 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'. Just as he crossed over Peniel the sun rose on him, and he limped on his hip. Therefore to this day the children of Israel do not eat the muscle that shrank, which is on the hip socket, because He touched the socket of Jacob's hip in the muscle that shrank".
Let's pray together, and just as we come in an attitude of prayer, I would ask you to pray for yourself now that God would speak to you. Father, we come to You in the mighty, all-victorious name of the Lord Jesus. We've been singing already tonight of what a beautiful, wonderful, powerful name the name of Jesus is. We lift that name up, and we declare that that name is high over all. Lord, we just pray tonight, that the Lord Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, the Rose of Sharon, the Son of Man, the Son of God, the Good Shepherd, the Great Shepherd, the Chief Shepherd, the Gift of God, the Door to the Sheep, the Bread of Life, the Way and the Truth, that He might come His very self by the Spirit of God and minister to us, Father. We long to encounter You, so would You come tonight, Lord, and meet with us. In the mighty name of the Lord Jesus we ask it, Amen.
If you weren't with us last month, we commenced a series these - I nearly said Tuesday nights, I hardly know what day it is - Friday nights, the second Friday of the month here at Oasis in Loughbrickland, on 'Divine Encounters' - what can happen in a moment with God. We looked in our introductory night at 'Moses at the Burning Bush'. I'm not going to repeat that, I think the CDs are available there tonight if you want them. We're looking at close encounters of the divine kind, and as we look at some very well-known stories in the Bible, we're looking at them specifically from the perspective of personal encounters that men and women have had with the Almighty; where there has been a moment where they have been surprised by God Himself in person, where they have had a brush with the Lord, or they have come - and this is particular to tonight - face-to-face with God. These encounters where men and women actually experienced God - and we did highlight in introduction last time that, if we believe in a personal God, we therefore must expect personal encounters. If we confess that we are all about relationship rather than religion - isn't that what we say? - well, then we need to welcome personal encounters with God. We illustrated this by saying that a life, a human life bereft of personal experiences is less than half a human life, yes? A Christian life bereft of God encounters, God experience, is less than half a Christian life.
Life would be very boring if we didn't have personal encounters with other people; and the Christian life becomes boring when we don't have encounters with God. I quoted an author last time who says that the need to have a personal encounter with God, this is what builds our personal history: 'We must encounter One who is bigger than we are in every possible way until He leaves a mark. It is wonderful, glorious, and scary'. That's what we're going to see tonight, Jacob is a man with whom God leaves a mark. After he has his divine encounter, he is never the same again - that's always the way. For the rest of his life, he was marked due to his personal encounter with God.
So we're looking at 'Jacob at Jabbok', as he wrestles with God. I don't have time to go into the whole story of Jacob, as you can appreciate - but Jacob, as a biblical figure, essentially represents the flesh, the sinful human nature that is fallen, the old nature of the flesh. Now the root meaning for his name actually has a sense of 'a supplanter', or literally 'one who seizes'. In Hebrew it's 'Ya'qob', and it's a word play on the word in Hebrew for 'heel', 'to twist the heel'. It actually goes right back to his birth experience, you remember he and his twin brother Esau were coming out of the womb of their mother, and it was Jacob who reached his hand out and pulled back the heel of his brother Esau in order that Jacob would be born first. So literally he was a 'heel grabber' from the beginning, but the idea in his name 'Ya'qob', it's with subtlety, and shrewdness, and stealth he would displace his brother. It's a picture of the flesh.
As we look through his biography, we find that he often covets the blessing - isn't that right? You remember he, at the behest of his mother, he dresses up hairy like his twin Esau, he dresses up like his brother, he prepares a meal just like his brother would - and it's all to get the blessing from his father. You remember, he also buys his brother's birthright with a mess of pottage, because he covets the blessing. Let me just say, it's not bad to covet the blessing, that's good; but he is motivated by the flesh, and he executes his plans to get the blessing by the flesh. He's trying to get God's blessing by fleshly means. He's grasping for significance in his life. He's longing for satisfaction, but he goes all the wrong ways to get it. He wants meaning apart from God's ways and God's plans. So here is a principle immediately, before we go on any further: God's blessings must be gained God's way. It's one thing to want God's blessing on your life - and who wouldn't - but we've got to get God's blessing God's ways.
The way we find in Jacob's life is the same in every pilgrim of God who pursues this blessing. We have to die to ourselves, we have to come to the cross where Jesus died, and realise that we die there with Him in order to experience this resurrection life, and we receive that revelation. Jacob had his revelation in chapter 28 of Genesis at Bethel. You remember what happens, he goes to sleep, and he puts his head on a stone for a pillow - and there at Bethel God meets him, and God reveals His plans for his life and indeed the nation's. He sees this ladder going from heaven right down to earth, and the angels of God ascending and descending - and he realises: 'God is in this place, and I didn't realise it!'. Isn't that interesting? God can be somewhere and you don't perceive it, you don't recognise it. We all think: 'Oh, if God came down, boy would we know it!' - that's not what happened at Bethel. God was in this place, and he didn't realise it. He says: 'Is this not the house of God?' - that's what 'Bethel' means - 'Is this not the gate of heaven?'.
So he has this God encounter, this divine experience, and we can't go into that in too much detail either - but what I do want you to notice is: it still doesn't put his flesh to death. I don't know whether you've ever noticed that or not. If you look at chapter 28 of Genesis and look at verse 20, after this wonderful experience, chapter 28 verse 20 it says: 'Then Jacob made a vow, saying, 'If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, so that I come back to my father's house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God. And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God's house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You''. But look at the beginning of verse 20, there is a condition upon which Jacob commits to the Lord here: 'If God will be with me, and keep me in this way, and give me bread etc, and give me peace'. He's even trying to set terms with God when he's had a divine encounter. He's actually dealing with God here, just the way Jacob has done all his life. He's looking the blessing, he covets the blessing, but he's going about it in a fleshly manner. Isn't it remarkable how gracious God is? He doesn't call the whole thing off, and say: 'Look, I've had enough of this guy, I'm going to start with somebody else'.
So how does Jacob get the blessing in the end? That's where we come to our passage tonight, chapter 32. Again, I have a four part series on Jacob on my website if you want to go and look at it, and we look at these things in more detail - but the truth actually, when you look at Jacob's life, is that he had God's blessing! He actually already had God's blessing, if you look at his story from the very beginning! So often we're actually seeking what we already have, and going about it in fleshly means. God was with Jacob, but he's saying: 'God, if You will be with me, and give me this and that' - he has God's blessing, God already is with him, but it was actually his flesh that was getting in the way of him enjoying all of these blessings; and that's why the Lord has to keep interrupting the fleshly cycle of his grasping after the heel of blessing.
It's interesting, in chapter 28, when he has the Bethel experience, God has to get him unconscious - He has to get him shut up, asleep, in order to reach into his life and deal with him. Verse 11 of our chapter, if you look at it, just before he is due to encounter his brother Esau again (he is afraid he's going to kill him), Jacob prays: 'Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, lest he come and attack me and the mother with the children'. He prayed to be delivered from Esau, but his greatest need was to be delivered from Jacob, to be delivered from himself. Again the Lord interrupts him and gives him another chance, again another divine encounter, a revelation of Himself - and this is the nearest that Jacob comes to, to getting God's blessing. It's not that his flesh is completely gone after this moment, but it's the biggest breakthrough in Jacob's life.
So how did it come? Let's learn tonight, I have about six points for you this evening that you can apply to your own life from this God encounter of Jacob. The first thing Jacob did was, he got alone. You will, in this series, from week to week, see crossover between these characters and similarity between each of them and how they came into their encounter with God. Moses was alone in the desert, you remember that? Here it says, if you actually look at the verse, verse 24, it says: 'Then Jacob was left alone'. Now, sometimes, for us to encounter God, God has to strip us - anybody ever had that experience? He strips us of people, He actually takes people out of our lives that are detrimental to us. We mightn't even realise it at that moment, blessed subtractions - yes? He also strips us of influences that we might have thought were always going to be there. He can even strip us of worldviews, theological outlooks, doctrinal persuasion, religious practices - but sometimes God has to actually interject and strip us of those things without our say so.
But there are other times that we have to take the initiative, that God actually waits and expects us to deal with the blockages to blessing in our own lives - and Jacob is one of those occasions. If you look at verses 22 and 23, you see that 'he arose that night and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven sons, and crossed over the ford of Jabbok. He took them, sent them over the brook, and sent over what he had. Then Jacob was left alone'. So he let everything that he possessed, anybody that meant anything to him, pass by him, literally, in order that he could be alone. Now, he didn't know what was going to happen, but this was the precursor to his divine encounter - he got alone, but he was instrumental in taking the initiative.
So I want to ask you tonight: what do you need to do to get alone? Yes, God might be doing stuff, yes that's great - that's wonderful, in fact, because it's a sign that God is drawing you into a special place with Himself. But is there something He expects you to do, or are you just going to wait until it happens? Well, I would suggest to you, like most things, if you just wait until it happens, it ain't going to happen, it will never happen. So, I suppose I'm exhorting you to be proactive in this, rather than passive: 'Oh, if God wants to come and encounter me, well, He knows my address'. But it's the pursuit of God, God is the rewarder of those who - what? - diligently seek Him! A. W. Tozer said: 'Most of the world's great souls have been lonely'. Jacob had to get alone with God - now, that's not to diminish the importance of community, please don't misunderstand what I'm saying here tonight. God's word is very clear: God blesses communities, He works through communities, He deals with communities, and we need to rediscover the importance of fellowship within the community of God's people. I'm not exalting individualism - and there are some people who think they are really spiritual, and they've got no friends, and they think they can go it alone. God is not into Lone Rangers, that's not what we're saying - but there is a place with God that we can only get if we go alone. I hope you're understanding me.
When you climb a mountain, if you've ever done so, there are not many people at the top of it. As you go on with God, there are times you have to let people bypass you, you have to forego certain things in order to climb that Mount of His holiness and communion. Jacob got alone, and if you want God encounters you need to get alone. Ron Boyd-MacMillan, some of you may have heard me share this story before, met Wang Mingdao, who was a father-figure in the persecuted church in China. He spent years in solitary confinement. This is what Ron Boyd-MacMillan says: 'The first time I met him, he asked me suddenly: 'Young man, how do you walk with God?''. He says, 'I listed to him a set of disciplines, such as Bible study and prayer, to which he mischievously retorted, 'Wrong answer! To walk with God, you must go at walking pace''. 'Frankly', he said, 'I had no idea what he was talking about, and I let it go as the ramblings of a slightly senile old man in his late eighties. The next time I visited, I said: 'I will never be put in jail like you, so how can your faith have any impact on mine?'. He seemed nonplussed, and then started asking me a series of questions'. Listen to this: ''When you go back home, how many books do you have to read this coming month? How many letters do you have to write? How many people do you have to see? How many articles do you have to produce? How many sermons must you preach?'. He kept up the questions, and I answered each time, and after about 15 of these questions I was beginning to feel panicked at the amount of work that was ahead of me. He seemed to sense this, and we sat in silence. Suddenly an insight burst into my consciousness with scalding ferocity: I need to build myself a cell'. Ron Boyd-MacMillan says, 'I shared this with Wang Mingdao, and he grew very excited. He explained: 'When I was put in jail I was devastated. I was 60 years old, at the peak of my powers. I was a well-known evangelist and wished to hold crusades all over China. I was an author, I wanted to write more books. I was a preacher, I wanted to study my Bible and write more sermons. But instead of serving God in all these ways, I found myself sitting alone in a dark cell. I could not use the time to write more books - they deprived me of pen and paper. I could not study my Bible and produce more sermons, they had taken it away. I had no one even to witness to as the jailer, for years, just pushed my meals through a hatch. Everything that had given me meaning as a Christian worker had been taken away from me, and I had nothing to do'. He stopped, and his eyes moistened again: 'Nothing to do, except get to know God. For 20 years that was the greatest relationship I have ever known - but the cell was the means''.
His parting advice to Ron Boyd-MacMillan was this: 'I was pushed into a cell, but you will have to push yourself into one. You have no time to know God, you need to build yourself a cell so that you can do for yourself what persecution did for me - simplify your life to know God!'. It's profound, isn't it? For some people in the world, like Wang Mingdao, God strips him of those things, like Moses was stripped of them and had to flee into the desert; but for others like Jacob, there's a decision has to be made, initiative has to be taken, you've got to be proactive and say: 'These things must go, or be laid aside for me to get alone with God. I must build myself a cell, simplify my life to get to know God!'. Now, I'm not going to lay down what that means for you, it's not for me to legislate. God the Holy Spirit can tell you very well. It's not law anyway, it's love, it's whether you want to do it or not, how much you want to encounter Him.
So the first thing is, he got alone; the second thing is, he failed to recognise that his encounter was in the wrestling. Let me repeat that: he failed to recognise that his encounter was actually in the wrestling. Let me explain that. First of all: not everybody encounters God the same, you do know that, don't you? So it's great - and I love reading testimonies of different people's encounters with God - but there is a danger that we then think ours should be identical to that. God is a God of infinite variety, and when we looked at Moses last time, it was obvious how Moses encountered God - in a burning bush. It was so obvious to him and glorious that it says: 'Moses turned aside, and said 'I will turn aside to see this great sight, the bush burns but is not consumed''. So, many people's encounters with God are obvious and glorious, but Jacob was stubborn, uncomfortable, and to an extent was oblivious to the fact that it was God he was wrestling with. He didn't realise that initially. You can have a divine encounter and not even know it.
Some people encounter the Lord in the storm, like the disciples did, but because we aren't expecting Him to approach us in that way, walking on water, He almost walks right by us - that's exactly what it says in the Gospels. He was going to walk by them, because they were so afraid. They were, in fact, so terrified that they actually thought He was a ghost. There are times that we encounter the Lord in the midst of our storms and our wrestling, and actually can think it's the devil, that we are under attack. Maybe we start spiritual warfare, and the Lord is breaking down our flesh, and we resist Him.
What accounts for these different approaches of God to people in their encounters? Moses gets a burning bush, Jacob gets a wrestling match - well, God alone knows, but I think it may have something to do with the subject matter that God is working with. Let me explain: when Moses had his encounter at the burning bush, he was already a broken man and he was humbled. The Bible says he was the meekest man in all the earth; whereas Jacob had a lot of breaking still to come. I think that's the answer, perhaps - but isn't it wonderful that, no matter where we are on the journey, God can still encounter you. Whether you are a humble Moses, or a proud, supplanting, conniving Jacob, is anything too hard for the Lord, or is anyone too hard for the Lord? Not even Jacob. For some of us, the breaking comes before the encounter, like Moses; but for others, the breaking is the encounter. You need to hear that: for some of us, the breaking is the encounter, and we don't realise it until after the event.
That's what happened here in verse 30, it was with hindsight that Jacob realised: 'Here! I've been wrestling, and I've got broken, but it was God!'. Verse 30: 'Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: 'For I have seen the face of God, and my life is preserved''. He realised, after the event, that 'My divine encounter was in the wrestling'. What are you wrestling tonight? Now don't misunderstand me, please: discernment is necessary, because there are certain things that we ought to wrestle with in a warfare manner. Ephesians 6, 'We wrestle not the flesh and blood etc, but principalities and powers' - but we need to know, from the Holy Spirit, what we should be wrestling with that is coming from the enemy's source, and what we should be submitting to that is actually coming from the Lord and a divine encounter in which He wants to break down our flesh. Now that's huge, and I can't give you an A-B-C of a litmus test to know which is which, you've got to go to God and ask Him: 'Lord, is this something I've to fight, or is this something I've to surrender to?'. If you want to read a little bit more about that, Watchman Nee has a little book called 'Release of the Spirit', which talks about how, so often, we resist and fight the breaking process that God allows to come into our lives. When it is God that we are wrestling against, or our flesh is wrestling against in the midst of a storm, the answer is: die out. Just die, let Him have His way.
So Jacob's divine encounter came when he got alone, it also came in a way that he didn't recognise - his encounter was in the wrestling, and maybe yours is as well. His answer was: he surrendered. Look at this, verse 26 he says: 'I will not let You go unless You bless me!'. In verse 28 the Man he was wrestling with says: 'Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed'. Now, here's the question: is Jacob's wrestling with God to be commended? You know it was God he was wrestling, don't you? It was a pre-incarnate form of Jesus, probably, the Word of God here, it's God. Is this to be commended? Many a sermon has been preached on this, about wrestling with God, and it looks like he's being commended 'because you've struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed'. Yes, his persistence and his desperation to get the blessing is correct, but here you need to see this in the context of the whole story of Jacob: God's blessings didn't have to be wrestled from God, but all along Jacob didn't realise that he was wrestling himself. In fact, if you want to look at the story, you know where he meets Laban - he meets himself when he meets Laban! A mirror image! God allowed him to encounter this man who was so like him, and he gets to a place where he no longer asserts his strength but finds brokenness before the face of God.
This is the key to this passage of Scripture, in verse 28: you would be wrong to think that Jacob overcame through wrestling. Jacob did not overcome through wrestling, Jacob overcame through submission and surrender. You look at verses 25 and 26. When the Divine Being 'saw that He did not prevail against him' - now that doesn't mean that Jacob was stronger than God here, what it means is Jacob wouldn't give in! His flesh wouldn't break, he was determined to keep on supplanting, to keep on grasping, to keep on struggling for God's blessing - he wouldn't surrender! He was an Ulster Protestant! No surrender! He wouldn't give in! Sometimes that's not good.
So, look at the end of verse 25: 'He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob's hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him'. God broke him. God broke him. I want you to see, he's not big macho man now saying: 'I will not let You go until You bless me', he's down like this with his hip socket out of joint, he's broken. It is in that state that he prevailed - do you see it? The consequence was, he surrendered and God now marks him with brokenness. Look at verses 31 and 32: 'Just as he crossed over Peniel the sun rose on him, and he limped on his hip. Therefore to this day the children of Israel do not eat the muscle that shrank, which is on the hip socket, because He touched the socket of Jacob's hip in the muscle that shrank'. God marked him with brokenness because of his surrender. In fact, Hebrews 11:21 says: 'By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff'. To his very dying day he was marked by this weakness, this brokenness - but it was the mark of the divine encounter upon him.
Now listen, again, don't misunderstand me: just the way there are times you do wrestle against things, there are other times you submit. There are certain types of brokenness that we don't want about us, OK? We don't want the brokenness of sin about us, yes? We don't want the brokenness of the human condition that Jesus has come to heal. We're not talking about broken spirits or broken souls in a wrong sense, that Jesus can heal and wants to release us from, crushed and bruised spirits - it's not that brokenness. What we see here is the brokenness of the flesh, the brokenness of the old nature, in order that God might bless Jacob and us. This is a wounding that God brings to our old sinful selves, in order that He might heal us with His own life. Do you understand the distinction? His victory was through his surrender.
Are you still with me? He got alone, his encounter was in the wrestling, he surrendered, and then we see he was marked for life forever by this encounter. Intellect, success, ability, talent, etc never marks a person out truly - those are superficial things, so often, that the church gets obsessed with. Encounters with God mark a person for life. This man limped until his dying day. His God encounter distinguished him in an unmistakable way. Like Jacob, people maybe don't know why you limp. Not everybody would have known about this divine encounter at Jabbok where he wrestled with God, but they saw him limp. They didn't know why he limped, but they saw him limp. People may not know why you are different, why you're marked, but there is something that distinguishes you. It's like the early apostles in Acts 4:13: 'Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus'. The divine encounter marked this man for life and forever, because that's how we remember him - how will people remember you? Me?
The memorial of Jacob's brokenness meant that God got all the glory, that's always the way it works. Second Corinthians 4 verse 7: 'We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us'. The idea is an old pitcher that is broken and cracked, a clay pot, and the candle, the light is in it, and the light shines through the cracks - that's why God takes broken things and uses them to confound the mighty, that He gets the glory. That's what Gideon's 300 is all about. The army is whittled down so that man could not glory in gaining the victory, but everybody would know it is of God. That's why God picks people like me, because when anything happens of any significance people look at you and know: 'Well, that couldn't be you, that has to be God!'. Not many mighty are called, not many noble; but He takes the weak, the despised to confound; the things that are not to confound the things that are.
He was marked for life and forever. See something else: he died to self, but found himself. In verses 25 and 26 he's broken, in verse 27 the Lord says: 'What is your name?', and he says, 'Jacob' - that's him facing his old self, the thing he had been wrestling with his whole life. He didn't know why he couldn't get the blessing, he already had it, but he was getting in the way. Now the Lord is calling him to face his self: 'What's your name?', 'Jacob, Supplanter, Thief, Heel Grabber'. The Lord faces this man who is struggling to be someone, to find identity, but all in the flesh; and then the Lord identifies him. He says: 'Your name', verse 28, 'shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel', that means 'A Prince with God', 'for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed'. You haven't prevailed in the flesh, but you've prevailed in the Spirit through surrender. Listen, when God identifies you, no one will miss you. Here's this fellow who is trying to gain significance, but when he dies out before God, God marks him with brokenness and his significance is unmissable.
There is this principle in Scripture, you get it with Peter, you get it with Saul, you get it with Gideon: 'You are... but you shall be...'. 'You are Simon Bar-Jonah, but you shall be called Peter'. Saul became Paul. Gideon, in fear, threshing out wheat behind the winepress, his knees knocking because of the Midianites, 'Mighty man of valour, go in this your strength!'. How ridiculous! 'You are... but you shall be...'. Jacob would be called 'Israel', 'A Prince with God'. The overcomer in the flesh now is overcome, he is conquered by the Lord. So he died to self, but then he found himself, his true self.
Can I tell you - and I'm digressing now, but there are a lot of people, Christian folk, and they are 'spiritual', pseudo-spiritual in the flesh. To put it in our terms 'they shove it on', and they have shoved it on that long they don't even realise they are doing it, it's second nature, it's in the flesh. You know, people who are just too spiritual - do you know what I'm talking about? Over the top, you need to die to self so that the Lord can give you your true self.
Then finally, he received his Peniel moment in verse 30. He got alone, he recognised eventually that his encounter was in the wrestling, he surrendered, he was marked for life and for ever, he died to self and found himself, and then he received his Peniel moment. Verse 30: 'Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: 'For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved''. By the way, in essence, that's essentially what a God encounter is: face-to-face with God. Jacob is the first recorded person that this happened with, to meet God face-to-face. As I said earlier, this probably was a pre-incarnate appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, the Word of God - but there is an apparent anomaly here, a seeming contradiction. In Exodus 33, we find out in verse 20 that God said to Moses, when Moses said 'Let me see Your glory', God said 'You cannot see My face, for no one can see Me and live'. Yet here we find that Jacob saw God face-to-face, and Moses was told 'You can't see Me face-to-face'. But isn't it interesting that Moses was willing - and this is the difference between Jacob and Moses - Jacob didn't find out until after the event that he had seen God face-to-face, and then he was amazed that he was still alive; but Moses actually knew what the stakes were to see God face-to-face, and he was willing to risk this. Now obviously he couldn't see Him in His fullness, because that would have killed him, and would kill any of us, however the God who declared that Moses would die if he saw Him, actually said Himself that He spoke to Moses face-to-face. Do you see this anomaly? God says 'You can't see Me and live', but then God says He spoke face-to-face with Moses.
Now, how do you work that out? You look at other people, and they expected to die when they had a theophany, when they had a divine encounter - Gideon is another one we spoke of. This is what I wonder: is this a test? Is it? God shows up in His Shekinah Glory, in some kind of strobe lighting effects, fire and smoke and all the rest,, thunder and lightning, and He says: 'You can't see Me and live'. Like most of Israel we go: 'Oh, I want to live!', and we run in the opposite direction, 'Give me a prophet! Give us some laws! That will do us!'. But people like Moses say: 'If I perish, I perish, I want to see You'. Is it a test? I think it is. What other explanation is there for the fact that Moses did see Him face-to-face, that Jacob did see Him face-to-face? Who wants the Lord enough to risk enough? But there's also another sense, you could read it another way, that all these people did die - not physically, but spiritually. When they saw the Lord face-to-face they were never the same again. You see it in other occasions of these divine encounters. How many times do we read 'So-and-so fell down as dead'?
Is this not what all of us need? So will you pursue a divine encounter by getting alone; by surrendering, stopping wrestling with God breaking your flesh; allow Him in that intimate, secret, dark place to mark you forever as you die to yourself to find yourself, and meet the Lord face-to-face. Let us pray. Jacob's some fellow, isn't he? Yet God chooses to call Himself 'The God of Jacob'. He does, on occasion, call Himself 'The God of Israel', but He calls Himself 'The God of Jacob'. You could nearly say that He takes Jacob as a surname in that respect, the God of the supplanter, the heel grabber, the twister - isn't it wonderful that we can say 'This God is our God'? If He can be Jacob's God and Jacob's Saviour, He can be yours. It says in the book of Hebrews that God is not ashamed to be called our God. It says of our Lord Jesus that He is not ashamed to call us His brothers. What is it that you need to strip away from your life, send on forward, pass by you? Is it the simple thing of spending some time with God every day, which very few Christians actually do of any significant amount - is that what it is? Or is it more than that? Is it certain company that you need to move away from? Is it a belief, or a practice, or - I don't know, may the Holy Spirit show you. What about the situation that you're in now? Do you need to have different perspective? You've been doing spiritual warfare against the Lord. You need to know, you need to know what it is that is to be opposed, what's not of God - I get very disturbed at people submitting to things that are definitely not from God. But ask yourself this: is this breaking down my flesh, is it the flesh that is kicking against this? My pride? My reputation? My comfort and ease?
Why not, even as we are here tonight in the presence of God, say: 'Lord, I surrender. I'm not going to wrestle You any longer, and I'm not going to wrestle my own flesh any longer. I surrender. Mark me, Lord, make me a memorial, so that others will see me and glorify You. Let me see You face-to-face, let my life be an existence of divine encounter - that as I behold the glory of the Lord, I will be changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord'.
Father, we thank You for Your presence here tonight. Indeed, this night has been a divine encounter, You have drawn near to us and we thank You for that. We do not take that for granted. Lord, let us not know Your presence near us and not within us; but come and take up Your rightful place in all our lives, Lord Jesus Christ. Ascend the throne of our hearts, and like the colt of the ass that You rode into Jerusalem on, Lord Jesus, may we be broken, bowed and tamed before You. Have Your way, Lord, You are the Potter, we are the clay, mould us and make us after Your will, till we are yielded, waiting, and still. Have Your own way, Lord. We pray, Lord, that whatever You do in our lives, whatever experiences we have, whatever others see that marks us out as distinguished, that we will always be ready to return all the glory and praise to You - for what have we that we have not received, it's all from You. Lord, we pray that You will remain with us the rest of this evening, whatever happens; in our time of fellowship and refreshment, that You will bless. May we never be the same again, in Jesus' name, Amen.
Don't miss Part 3 of 'Divine Encounters': "Gideon At The Winepress"...
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This sermon was delivered at Loughbrickland Mission Hall in Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the second recording in his Divine Encounters series, titled "Jacob at Jabbok" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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