Having sought the Lord over it for quite a time, I believe I've been guided to the character of Jacob. So I'm calling this series - however long it goes on for, I don't know, however long you'll tolerate me! But there is that much stuff here, it's incredible, as the revelation is coming before God - but we're going to look at 'The Jacob Enigma'. Let's pray before we turn to the Scripture, and it's really going to be a pretty intense Bible study in many respects, but I believe that the sword of the Word of God is going to do deep surgery in our lives here tonight, and there are going to be mighty things accomplished for the glory of the Lord. So let's pray - and do pray with me, will you do that now? Would you pray that God would speak to you? Sometimes - I think I've maybe said to you before - we usually let the fellow up at the front do all the praying, and I don't know what we think about: you know, what we're going to have for supper, or the roast tomorrow, or something like that, or Sunday School class we've to do and we haven't it sorted, I don't know. Forget about all that, and come to God now. Will you, in your spirit, approach the Lord and say: 'Lord, would You speak to me tonight?'. I don't know what your issues are, I don't know what your baggage is, but why not even bring that thing before the Lord and say: 'Lord, here I am, You know my need, would You please come and speak to me now?'. Would you do that? If you want to pray for me that's okay, because I need it! Alright, let's pray together.
Father, we just want to agree with everything that we have sung tonight. We want to declare that You are great, You are great, great is the Lord and greatly to be praised! There is no one like our God, there is no one beside You, there is nothing that we can compare You to. Lord, we say these things, and yet it feels redundant even saying them because we haven't the first notion of what You are really like in all Your glory, and splendour, and majesty. The heavens declare Your glory, and we look into space through the satellite pictures and all the rest, Lord, we are just awestruck by nature - and yet it declares Your glory, yet You're bigger than that, for in You we live, and move, and have our being. Lord, we come before You tonight acknowledging that You're so great, and so vast, and so big, and we are so small. Yet, Lord, You love us and You're interested in us - and that is just incredible to us. What is man that You're mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him? Lord, would You visit us tonight, would You visit us? We know You're not way out there at a distance watching us, You're here - but, Lord, may we know You're here; because for some people here tonight, I believe, You're the farthest consideration for them in their consciousness. They don't sense You, they don't feel You, they wonder are You even there. Lord, You have mercy upon us - I know that - and I pray that You will have mercy now, and that You will reach down and speak right into the heart of everybody gathered here tonight. Do business with people, Lord, change lives, transform, fix people as only You can do. We welcome You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in the mighty name of Jesus, Amen.
Now we're turning in our Bibles to Genesis chapter 25, and the whole series is going to be called 'The Jacob Enigma', and tonight's message is called 'God Loves WHO?'. Genesis 25:19, and we're going to read to the end of the chapter - we'll not be dealing with all of this subject matter tonight, but just to give us a bit of context. Genesis 25 verse 19, I'm reading from the New King James Version: "This is the genealogy of Isaac, Abraham's son. Abraham begot Isaac. Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah as wife, the daughter of Bethuel the Syrian of Padan Aram, the sister of Laban the Syrian. Now Isaac pleaded with the LORD for his wife, because she was barren; and the LORD granted his plea, and Rebekah his wife conceived. But the children struggled together within her; and she said, 'If all is well, why am I like this?'. So she went to inquire of the LORD. And the LORD said to her: 'Two nations are in your womb, two peoples shall be separated from your body; one people shall be stronger than the other, and the older shall serve the younger'. So when her days were fulfilled for her to give birth, indeed there were twins in her womb. And the first came out red. He was like a hairy garment all over; so they called his name Esau. Afterward his brother came out, and his hand took hold of Esau's heel; so his name was called Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them. So the boys grew. And Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field; but Jacob was a mild man, dwelling in tents. And Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob. Now Jacob cooked a stew; and Esau came in from the field, and he was weary. And Esau said to Jacob, 'Please feed me with that same red stew, for I am weary'. Therefore his name was called Edom. But Jacob said, 'Sell me your birthright as of this day'. And Esau said, 'Look, I am about to die; so what is this birthright to me?'. Then Jacob said, 'Swear to me as of this day'. So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. And Jacob gave Esau bread and stew of lentils; then he ate and drank, arose, and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright".
Now don't worry if you don't know what an 'enigma' is - who doesn't know what an enigma is? One honest person, two, any advance? Well 'enigma', the dictionary definition will come up on the screen here - thank you, Richard, for your help tonight - 'enigma' is a noun, and when it's attributed to a person it speaks of a person of puzzling or contradictory character. Now you know what an enigma is, maybe you even know who an enigma is - they might even be sitting beside you tonight! To give you an example of an enigma is, someone who says: 'Well, to me, he or she has always been an enigma. One minute they are completely insensitive, the next minute they are moved to tears' - an apparent contradiction in a personality. The word 'enigma' comes from the Latin and the Greek meaning 'to speak in riddles', so it literally means something or someone who is a puzzle or a mystery. On the next slide you will see a contraption called an 'Enigma Machine', and it was a German-built enciphering machine that converted messages into code, and it was used to great effect during World War II - and I think there have been films about it as well. It was actually puzzling up words, putting them into some kind of mystery to conceal information. Winston Churchill, whose burial has been celebrated this week, famously said of the nation of Russia: 'Russia is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma' - what a description! And if you know anything about Russia in recent weeks, you will know that that is very true - and it pans out, indeed, in biblical prophecy, which is not our subject tonight.
So that's what an 'enigma' is, if you didn't know before. I believe it's an apt description of Jacob, because as you read the story of Jacob - and we will find this out very quickly from tonight - but in subsequent weeks you will see that there are times that Jacob was good, I mean he was righteous and he did the right thing and had the right motives; but there were other times that he was downright mean, twisted, and utterly deceptive. I'm reminded of Longfellow's poem called 'The Little Girl' - anybody know this poem? I'm sure you know some little girls like this anyway: 'When she was good she was very, very good; but when she was bad, she was horrid' - that's a bit like Jacob. Yet, though he is an enigma - and I think he's one of the most neglected characters, I have to say, in the Bible - I agree with one Bible commentator who says: 'I do not believe there is any character in the Bible, other than the Lord Himself, from whom we can learn so many hard lessons'. Why is that? Because he's just like us. As we look at Jacob tonight and in subsequent evenings, we're going to - as it were - be looking into a mirror image, a mirror image of humanity; because the entire humankind, the race that we are a part of, is an enigma, it is a mystery. There is great confusion and contradiction about who we are.
I'm sure you most of you are aware of the three great questions of existence: 'Who am I?', 'How did I get here?', and 'Where am I going?'. When we look at Jacob, we see him asking the question: 'Who am I?' - the issue of identity, who you really are as a human being, forget about religion or Christianity or any faith at all just yet, the whole of the human race is wracked by that dilemma. Corporately and individually, people are asking: 'Who are we? Who am I?'. The next slide will show a quote from a philosopher, Theodore Zeldin, and this is what he said: 'Each person is an enigma. You're a puzzle not only to yourself but also to everyone else, and the great mystery of our time is how we penetrate this puzzle' - that's a profound statement. All of humanity is an enigma, and a great question that begs to be answered - and philosophers, theologians, all sorts of political minds, and the most intellectual aptitudes that there are have sought to penetrate this puzzle, to fix the code in the scramble.
You might say: 'Oh, no, that's not how I view humanity, and it's certainly not how I see myself'. Well, if you should be thinking that - and there are a certain section of our population, and it's the same all over the globe, who are self-deceived, and who don't realise the brokenness that is in their lives. The Bible warns about this, in Jeremiah 17:9 we read: 'The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it?' - who can know their own heart? So we can become self-deceived. In fact, that's an Old Testament scripture written in Hebrew, and the Hebrew root for 'the heart is deceitful', that word 'deceitful' actually could be rendered 'Jacob' - 'the heart is Jacobed and desperately sick'! Isn't that fascinating? The root word that is behind the name 'Jacob' is 'supplanter'. Now that's an old word that we maybe don't understand, but it speaks of one who seizes something. Rebekah and Isaac, as we read here tonight, named Jacob with this name 'supplanter' because, as he was coming out of the womb after his brother, Esau his twin brother came first, but as Jacob was coming out of the womb he thrust his arm out and grabbed his brother Esau by the heel, as if to pull him back into the womb so that he could get out first. So they called him by this name, 'heel-grabber', literally.
What a description of our hearts! The idea is of subtlety, shrewdness, stealth. By this, as we read his biography, he wants to displace his brother. We see him getting Esau to sell his birthright. Later on we will see him tricking his father Isaac into giving the blessing to him, rather than giving it to his elder brother Esau. So this is just the type of nature that this guy has. Look at chapter 27 for a moment and verse 36, running ahead of ourselves a bit, chapter 27:36, after the incident of losing the blessing of Isaac his father, Esau is incensed - as you can imagine - and he says in verse 36: 'Is he not rightly named Jacob? For he has supplanted me these two times. He took away my birthright, and now look, he has taken away my blessing!', and he asked his father, 'Have you not reserved a blessing for me?'.
Now we haven't got time to do this, but if you want to know where this nature comes from in Jacob, it goes all the way back to Adam, and it's in us all. Now before we go on any further, I want to say this, and this is a vital thing - I may have said it even in previous sessions with you - we listen to a plethora of voices in our world. We listen to what the media says; we listen to what the enemy says, Satan; we listen to what our own flesh says; we listen to what authority figures around us, parents, bosses, leaders, political and all the rest, religious leaders - we listen to what they say, and for us, as children of God, we need to block out all those other voices and we need to start hearing what God says. You will not be self-deceived if you listen to what God says, and God speaks in His word. But, you know, sometimes we're deceived by our own flesh, what we think about ourselves, how we really are.
I want to encourage you to do something here tonight, I want you to hear what God says about us - when I say 'us', I'm speaking generically of the human race. I want you, as we come to 'The Jacob Enigma', to pray a prayer. The prayer is found in Psalm 139 and verses 23 and 24 - I'll give you it, you don't need to turn to it because there might be different versions: 'Search me, O God, and know my heart' - what's that inferring? He didn't know his own heart, 'Lord, You search me and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting'. So what the psalmist is saying there is: 'I'm not going to listen to what my kingdom is saying about me; I'm not going to listen to what the politicians and the religious leaders are saying; I'm not going to listen to the voice of Satan; I'm not even going to listen to my own self-deceived heart - I'm going to listen to You, O God, and You alone; and You will tell me the truth about myself, the good and the bad, what I am and what I need to be'. Now would you do that for me tonight? You know, that would be a great step forward - if you don't listen to anything else I say, and I do hope you will - but if you don't take anything else in, that would be a huge step for some of you, because some of you are completely confused and disorientated, not just spiritually but just in your life. You lack direction and identity, because you're not listening to the right voice. Would you just pray from your heart now: 'Lord, as I look into the mirror that is Jacob, would You speak to me about myself? Whatever You show me, I'm prepared to look at it' - would you do that, just quietly just now? Do that, between you and the Lord.
Let's look first of all tonight at the enigma of Jacob's character. OK, we're looking in the mirror now, remember that. The Bible doesn't depict Jacob as a wicked, deceitful character that some have portrayed him to be. I have to be honest, I'm probably going to have to apologise to old Jacob when I get to heaven, because some people have really demeaned his character. He is not the mean swindler that often he is portrayed to be. Actually we make a grave mistake if we think that, because we miss what God is teaching through this character of Jacob. As we read his life story we find that he is a highly intelligent man, in fact he's got brilliant business acumen. He appears, ladies, to be a very appealing, attractive young fellow; and we see that Rachel and Leah were enchanted by him. In chapter 25 and verse 27, if you read it, you will see that it describes Jacob as a home-loving man - verse 27 of chapter 25: 'Esau was a man of the field', a farmer, if you like, 'Jacob was a mild man, dwelling in tents' - that literally means he was a home-maker and a home-lover. The Hebrew word can actually be translated 'perfect, complete, sound and wholesome', that's a description of Jacob! We know sometimes he is portrayed as this wee weakling, and Esau was the big burly guy that was out on the farm, but that couldn't be further from the truth. As we read his story, we find that Jacob must have been well physically conditioned, because on his own he removed the stone from the well where Rachel was watering her flocks in Genesis 29, and of course in Genesis 28 he wrestles with a heavenly visitor.
Now we agree that Esau love the outdoors - that was his domain - but Jacob was no wimp or weakling, he was an intelligent, good looking, confident, strong, and in many respects upstanding young man. I would go further, to say that though he has become known as a deceiver and his name means 'supplanter', he appears in his life to be uncomfortable with the deception. Let me show you this, turn to Genesis 27 verse 12 - you know Mummy, she's trying to get him, because she favours Jacob (that's a very dangerous thing, favouring one child over another), and she favours Jacob and Daddy favours Esau. Mummy wants Jacob to get the blessing, and in verse 12 she has hatched this plan to Jacob, and now he objects, he says in verse 12: 'Perhaps my father will feel me' - you remember she got him after this to put the fur on him, but he is objecting - 'Perhaps my father will feel me and I shall seem to be a deceiver to him; and I shall bring a curse on myself and not a blessing'. You'll not seem to be a deceiver, Jacob, you will be a deceiver for doing it! But his fear was that that should be what he would be known as - if you only knew now, Jacob!
Later on he seems appalled at how his uncle Laban deceives him into marrying Leah instead of Rachel - I think we would all have a bit of a shock on that score, if that happened any of us! But he was outraged over it, it was a sense of injustice. In chapter 31, if you want to go there just quickly, and verse 7, we see later on in his story that he is also scandalised over how Laban his uncle has dealt with him over his wages, chapter 31 and verse 7: 'Yet your father has deceived me and changed my wages ten times, but God did not allow him to hurt me'. So he cites the injustice, and he invokes the righteousness of God who had protected him. So here we see that Jacob is disapproving of deceit, and we might well say that he has got some morals about him. Is this the Jacob you recognise from the Bible stories as children, or what you've been taught?
Whatever faults Jacob had, another plus to his character was that he desired blessing from God. We don't think of him this way, but the fact of the matter is - as we read from the reading tonight - Esau despised his birthright. He had, in other words, no time for the things of God; but the birthright and the blessing were important to Jacob, he valued them. I think he must have known the prophecy that was given to his Mum. You remember his Mum wondered what the fight was that was going on in her womb, and she asked God, and God told her: 'There are two nations in your womb', and God told her, 'The older shall serve the younger'. In other words, Jacob would inherit the blessing. So Jacob, I think, knowing this from Mum - of whom he was the favourite - he wanted to live in the destiny and in the promises of God in his life. Here we are getting really down to the nub of the issue of why Jacob is such an enigma; because he had all this going for him, he had the prophetic promise of God, the blessing of God, the destiny of God as a trajectory in his life ordained by God - and yet we now know him as a twister, a supplanter, and a deceiver: why? What was Jacob's problem?
Well, here it is, and here's my message very simply to you tonight: Jacob couldn't leave the matter with the Lord. I just hope you're getting that, because that is profound. He had to make his destiny happen, do you understand? If you like, he helped the Lord out a wee bit in getting to where he knew the Lord wanted him to be, to achieve the success he so desperately yearned for. This is the main point: the Lord could have given him the fulfilment of all these promises, without Jacob's dubious efforts. Now I don't know how - I mean, I don't know how God would have done it, but I know He would have because He promised and prophesied. I know this much: the Lord didn't need Jacob to help Him out. Are you with me?
Now this, of course, is what Jacob represents. Sometimes we could just delve off the deep end, and say 'Jacob represents sin' - but, no, that's not specific enough: Jacob represents flesh. Do you understand? The fleshly nature within us - what I'm talking about is that old nature that we have inherited from our first father, Adam, that fell into sin, a nature of depravity, this Adamic nature in us. But what we often misunderstand, especially as Christians, is that the flesh in us - that 'old man' as we call it - has a good side as well as a bad side. Did you know that? Did you know that the old sinful nature in us has a good, moral, respectable side that wants to help God out and wants to do good things in its own steam - did you know that? We are familiar, I'm sure, with the works of the flesh listed for us in Galatians 5 - let me just remind you of them, this is the bad side of the flesh: 'The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery, idolatry and witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy, drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you', Paul says, 'as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the Kingdom of God'. You will not inherit the destiny and the promises of God if you live like that in the flesh, and all of us will say 'Amen' to that. But how many of us will say 'Amen' to the fact that if you know the blessing and the promises of God that are on your life as a Christian, you will not inherit them if you try to strive for them in the flesh - even though it's the good, moral, clean side of the flesh.
Now I know it's not clean, I know it's tainted, and our righteousnesses are all like filthy rags in the sight of God - I know all that, but what I'm talking about is that propensity within us to try to do good, to inherit blessing and get favour with God by our own efforts. Can I say something to you tonight - and I hope that you're getting this, because this is prophetic that is necessary into the life of individual Christians, but the church at large is absolutely wracked with fleshliness! Now there are a lot of the works of the flesh that we've just read in Galatians 5, there's a lot of immorality and there's a lot of sin, but the danger is that we substitute the bad flesh with the good flesh, and we are trying - 'trying' being the operative word - to live the Christian life in our own strength, or on some kind of moral code or denominational practice, and we're not getting there! That's not where God is, that's not where we inherit the promises, that's not where we get the blessing!
Oh, I hope you're hearing this. In fact, this is what the book of Galatians is all about - I'd say it's probably what the whole Bible is all about, mind you - but the book of Galatians, these were a group of Christians, and a group of false teachers (we call them Judaisers), were coming in and infiltrating, and were now teaching that these Gentile Christians had to obey the laws, the rules and the rites of the Torah (that's the first five books of the Bible, the law of Moses). In fact, 'You've got to become a Jew', that's what they were saying, 'Men need to be circumcised, and everybody has to keep the cleanliness laws, the dietary laws - you've got to become a Jew!'. It became Christ plus Judaism, Christ and His cross plus Moses - so whatever Christ began, Moses would perfect. I want to tell you something: these were Spirit-born, Spirit-filled Christians, but they started to swallow this lie of the devil. In fact in chapter 3 of Galatians, Paul says to them: 'Who has bewitched you?', and actually the words have the sense of 'Somebody has put a spell over you, because Christ was crucified in your midst' - not literally, but by the preaching of the cross they saw Jesus dying and bleeding for them, and being their substitute because they couldn't get there themselves. Miracles were being performed in their midst, this was a mighty church, and yet he says: 'You began in the Spirit, and you're now trying to be made perfect by the flesh' - and that could be a good summary of a lot of Christianity in Ireland, in the world, but particularly in Ireland. Whether it's Catholic, Protestant, evangelical, or whatever - many are trying to get to God in the flesh, but even those who are born again have begun in the Spirit but are trying to be made perfect by the flesh. Do you know something? Where did we read Galatians 5? In Galatians, no prizes for that one - Galatians, in the context. In other words, Paul was saying: 'If you're going to live by the flesh, even by the good side of the flesh, these are the type of things you're going to expect'. In fact, at one point he says: 'You're biting and devouring one another' - and, boy, what a word to the church in Ulster in particular, biting and devouring one another.
So these churches that are experiencing factions and schisms, and Christians in business meetings standing up and ripping the heads off one another either verbally or literally - this is the flesh at work, it is not of the Spirit of God, it cannot be! In fact, at one point Paul says to them - and there is a debate about whether Paul was bad with his eyesight, like me, so we had to get the pulpit raised! I don't know whether he was not, but in this Epistle of Galatians, he says: 'There was a time you guys would have plucked your eyes out and given them to me, but where has all your joy gone?'. That's what the flesh does, that's what legalism does: where has all your joy gone? How many pulpits or church doors could we write that over, or Christian lives and families? There is no joy! There is no joy, because they're trying to do something in the flesh that actually brings a curse - do you know that legalism and trying to live by law brings a curse? Galatians teaches that - and I'm not preaching on Galatians tonight, you would think I was - but the whole point is this, and Jesus said it: that which is of the flesh is, what? Come on! Waken up! That which is of the flesh is? Flesh! But that which is of the Spirit is spirit. In other words, flesh cannot produce spirit - it cannot ever!
So ultimately this was Jacob's problem, let's narrow it down even more - what was his problem? He had an unattractive side, maybe you have one too - a very unattractive side. The problem comes when circumstances - you've heard of a perfect storm, when certain factors all seem to coincide - well, Jacob wasn't a bad critter really, but when the circumstances were right that ugly side rose to the surface. Are you hearing anything tonight? The problem with Jacob, and the problem with all of us, is that when the perfect storm rises and the old nature rises, like Jacob we cannot control it - in fact, it controlled him. It's so powerful. This is what we see in Jacob: he couldn't control his own natural strengths, he couldn't control the energy of the flesh, and conversely he couldn't wait on God to fulfil His promises. He couldn't wait on God to provide what he needed when he needed it, and so he lived up to his name - he had to snatch and grab! That's Jacob, and he is a picture of us. I hope you're seeing that, whether you're a Christian or not - you mightn't even be a Christian, but he is a picture of all of us, humankind. What do I mean? Working for God, working toward God, rather than working with God in the power of the Spirit - and that is the difference between all established institutional religion and true Bible-believing Christianity.
Sadly today, it is a distinction that can even be made in the church. You know what I'm talking about - what? You come to Christ, and maybe it's a genuine conversion, and before you can think about anything or even enjoy your conversion experience, somebody puts their hand on you and says: 'Teach a Sunday School class', or 'Become an elder', or 'Go to be a missionary', right away 'Give your testimony' - right away! 'You're saved to serve'. Now you know that the enemy often doesn't just tell outright lies, you know that - he mingles a bit of truth with a lie, and that is an untruth of course. But it is right that we are meant to serve the Lord, that is right, but 'Saved to serve', that's too simplistic - we are saved to be worshippers; we are saved to become intimate; we are saved to know God our Father, through Jesus Christ His Son, through the power and person and instrumentality of the Holy Spirit. You see, the disciples were called to 'be with Jesus', Mark chapter 3; and then He sent them out - but you've got to 'be' before you can 'do'. This is the problem in the church, this is the problem with many Christians, that they are trying to do before they have any being, any sense of who they are in God, any security, any safety, any satisfaction deep within their spirit! So they are ministering out of flesh!
Then - and we're running way ahead, but we will get to it some night - what happens when you operate like this is what happened to Jacob. Jacob met his match - not in the wife now, neither of them, but in his uncle Laban. I don't know whether you've ever thought about this, but Laban was a match for this supplanter if ever there was one. Let me say this to you, and this is a warning: if you won't to do things God's way, and if you try to grab the blessing through deception or the flesh, you will meet your match, and it most likely will be someone as fleshly as you. Why does God do that? Because He does it to wear us down - He wants us to realise that this is not His way, this is not how He works, this is not how we inherit blessing.
Maybe there is somebody here - and I think there's more than one, if you're honest - and this is why you are such a spiritual enigma, there is such a puzzle about your life; because, as the Bible says, you're double minded. You're a mixture of flesh and spirit. Turn with me, keep your finger there in Genesis because we'll probably be going back, turn with me to James where he talks about double-mindedness. We're going to be looking at a number of scriptures as we proceed now, so you need to keep awake and look them up. James chapter 1, listen to this and apply it - I'm just realising now, I'm a bit slow on it, that James is 'Jacob', did you know that? You knew that? You see, I didn't know that until now - but James, I forgot James is Jacob, the name 'Jacob'. Verse 3: 'Knowing that the testing of your faith produces' - what? - 'patience'. Now we could just stop there and say: 'There is your lesson, Jacob. You know, you had faith to believe that you would inherit the prophetic destiny upon your life, but you hadn't the patience to inherit the promise'. You see, that's what the test is for. I'm the same as you, I want to get to the destination, OK? So if I get the train or get the bus, I don't want to admire the scenery, I want to get to where I'm going to. But, you see, our journey with God is not just about getting to where we are meant to be, it's about enjoying the journey - and so many of us don't have the patience to do that - but actually that is what teaches us the patience.
Jacob had to grab rather than wait, verse 4: 'But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect', 'mature' it means, 'and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom' - in other words, you don't know what to do, this is Jacob! He sees the blessing, as it were, like water flowing through his fingers, and he doesn't know what to do to hold it, so he grabs - but if you don't know what to do, don't grab, 'ask God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him'. I think if you analyse the life of Jacob, up to a point anyway, you will find that he gets the counsel of his Mummy, and he gets the counsel of his own acumen and all the rest, but he doesn't ask God how he's going to inherit these promises. But, if you ask God, He 'gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind'. So in other words, what that means is: you've got to believe the promise, and wait patiently upon the promise of God for your life, but not mingle it with doubt - to put it another way, not mingle it with flesh, and think 'Oh, is God going to come through for me, is God going to perform what He has pronounced on my life? Is that going to happen? Do I not have to quickly turbo the process?'.
Verse 7: 'For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double minded man, unstable in all his ways'. What a description! Unstable - that's a fleshly person, even the good flesh, unstable. This is what will happen, this is what James was saying, this is what Jacob shows us: that you will be advancing in the flesh for good motives, no doubt, and maybe even for the blessing of God, but you will meet your match along the way. You will be constantly frustrated, blocked, and checked! Now don't misunderstand what I'm saying: do I believe in passionately pursuing the blessing of God? Of course I do! The Bible says that you have to take the Kingdom of heaven by violence, it suffers violence as Christians take it by force - but don't you think for one moment that you can get it by flesh! It's by faith! Grace through faith is a process that is engendered by the Holy Spirit, not by the flesh. Yes, we've got to pursue, but we've got to pursue in the Spirit.
But listen, not only did Jacob meet his match in uncle Laban, but he met himself. Just as you have been looking in the mirror tonight, that's what happened when Jacob met Laban. He found that he was looking in the mirror at himself, and he didn't like what he was seeing. Further, he didn't recognise himself. Do you recognise yourself in Jacob? Be honest now. Let me help you out, turn with me to Romans 7 verse 22. Now Paul, you could think he was writing about Jacob - but, you see, he was, he was writing about the human nature in himself. Verse 21: 'I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good'. Now that's strange, is he schizophrenic? No, he just realises that there are different laws working in humanity. He was a religious Jew and he wanted to do good things with his will, but he knew that there was a law working against that, a law of sin. Verse 22: 'I delight in the law of God according to the inward man', there's part of me that rejoices and wants to live according to what God requires of me in his law, but, verse 23, an enigma, 'I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members', in my flesh - that just doesn't mean his body, but it's a nature that he has. This is his cry of desperation: 'O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?'. He says: 'This is like carrying a stinking corpse around on my back, this flesh of mine. My mind knows what's right to do, and I even desire to do what's right, but this thing on me just pulls me down to do sinful things'.
Is that not you and me in our humanity? When we are looking at Jacob, we are looking into the mirror. Do you know something? All of us, whether you realise it or want to admit it or not, all of us are Jacobs, and all of us are capable of depravity more than we could ever imagine or speak. If you don't believe that, I think you have a problem - not because you don't agree with me, but because you don't realise, really, the fallenness of humankind.
I remember being in an evangelical prayer meeting sometimes, and there was a gentleman - a good man, and I love him dearly - who used to get up to pray, and I always knew what he was praying about because he had watched the news before he came to the prayer meeting, like I watched the news. So when there was a heinous crime, or some form of abuse that had been uncovered, he would sometimes stand and pray, 'Lord, I just can't understand, we can't imagine how people could ever do such things'. I always used to think to myself: 'Well, I hope I would never do any of those things, and I couldn't imagine doing those things and I wouldn't want to, but I know that if the circumstances are right, and the way is given into my life for the enemy to empower, that I'm capable in my humanity of doing anything'. Some of you will have been watching - and I haven't had time this week, but I really would love to - some of the commemorative documentaries about the Holocaust, and the atrocities in World War II and other genocides around the world. You know, it beggars belief, doesn't it? I mean, it's like another planet, and we think in the 21st-century: 'How could that ever have happened? How?'. What? But it did happen. I remember very little from history at school, I have to say, but I remember hearing this much: that Hitler was a very personable, gentlemanly individual - one-to-one he was charming.
The enigma of Jacob's character is the enigma of human character, that means your character. I hope we've all come to terms with that at some stage in our lives, and if you haven't already you need to. But here's the greatest enigma of all, OK? The enigma of God's love for Jacob. This is just incredible, because God passionately loved Jacob. God loves who? Jacob! Turn with me to Romans 9, a couple of chapters, look at verse 11 halfway through it - and we are interjecting in a very deep discourse, but it's just these points I want to make through to verse 16 or so. Halfway through verse 11 of chapter 9: 'That the purpose of God according to election might stand', notice this, 'not of works but of Him who calls, it was said to her', that's Jacob's Mummy, ''The older shall serve the younger'. As it is written, 'Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated'. What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! For He says to Moses, 'I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion'. So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy'. Isn't that wonderful?
Look down at verses 23 and 24: 'And that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?'. That just blows my mind! God loved Jacob, and here's why: He loved him in order to show His mercy upon him, so that people might know that this thing, this thing called 'favour with God', doesn't come through flesh and works, but it comes freely by grace. It doesn't come to those who run, to those who strive, it comes to those who believe God - they are vessels of mercy.
Now there is a big question here: why did God love Jacob? I mean, isn't that a real issue? It is an enigma, it's a conundrum, a puzzle, a mystery. To put it another way: how could He love Jacob when we see what he gets up to? It is baffling! Turn with me to Malachi, that's where Paul is quoting from, Malachi chapter 1, where he is quoting from in Romans 9. It's the last book in the Old Testament, turn with me to Malachi chapter 1. God pronounces there to a people who think that God had forgotten them, when in fact they had forgotten God, verse 2 God says: ''I have loved you', says the LORD. 'Yet you say, 'In what way have You loved us?' Was not Esau Jacob's brother?', says the LORD. 'Yet Jacob I have loved; but Esau I have hated''. Look down further, because this is profound, chapter 3 and verse 6 He mentions Jacob again: 'For I am the LORD, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob'.
Now there is a big discussion goes on, you know: how could God hate Esau? Well, I'm not getting into that tonight - I have certain explanations of that, but I'm not entering into that, because that's not really the big question. The big issue is: how could God love Jacob? Not how could He hate Esau, how could He love Jacob? Not only that, He says in chapter 3 verse 6 that we have just read: 'I never change'. He is the immutable God, He is the same as always from everlasting to everlasting, the great 'I Am'. It is because of His unchangeableness, both in holiness, justice, truth and love, that you're not consumed 'O sons of Jacob'. It's because of His unchangeable character that Jacob is redeemed and not destroyed. So what's the answer? Well, it sounds a bit silly, but He loves us because He loves us. He loves us because He loves us, not because of anything that we are, or anything we have done.
Turn with me to Deuteronomy 7 please. Deuteronomy 7, you need to understand this and many, many don't: the unconditional favour of God. Deuteronomy 7:6, and He's explaining to Israel why He has chosen them, to put His favour and blessing upon them. Deuteronomy 7:6: 'For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth. The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because the LORD loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt'. That's simply saying what I've just said: He loves you because He loves you - that's what grace is. It's beyond reason, so stop trying to work it out - and that's what some of you're doing, that's why you are striving, that's why you're trying to earn it. Even if you know and understand the love of God towards you at Calvary, and you realise the passion of Jesus when He shed every precious drop of blood for you, you're trying to pay Him back some way - waken up! You can't pay Him back! It's beyond reason, He doesn't have a reason, it is irrational. He did not rationalise it and say: 'Why should I love that person? Oh, well, they've a wee bit more than the folk over here' - no!
Here is where the enemy comes to us, this is a major entry point. You know that his job is the accuser of the brethren, he is the one who wants to sling mud at us who are Christians, that it might stick. He will tell us: 'God doesn't love you, God is disappointed in you. You're not good enough God, you're not doing well enough, you have failed Him. How can you go back to God? How can you, with your tail between your legs, go and say sorry to God?'. That's what he just bombards us with, when the fact of the matter is: it is His gracious love that is our salvation. I could preach to you tonight, if I had time and had prepared for it, on that little word in the Old Testament 'hesed'. You've maybe never heard of that, but you've read it many, many times in your Old Testament - because every time you read the Psalms, in fact every time you read the words 'lovingkindness', 'tender mercies', 'faithful love', it is all speaking of one particular concept that is summed up in the Hebrew word 'hesed'. Do you know what it is? Covenant love, covenant love, God has promised by grace - and you don't work for it, you receive it by faith. His hesed is never-ending, and that covenant is cut - all covenants are cut - in the palms of Jesus' hands, that's why your names are written on those same palms. Isn't that a profound statement? God loves who? God loves who? 'Jacob have I loved'!
Some of you will know the story, and we will get to it, but you know that Jacob wrestled with God - and after that his name was changed from Jacob to 'Israel'. But it doesn't say 'Israel have I loved', does it? 'Jacob have I loved'. Do you know what that tells me? God takes a person at their worst - surely that's worthy of a 'hallelujah'? Are you all alive? God takes people at their worst. While we were still sinners, while we were Jacobs - not Israel - while we were Jacobs Christ died for us. He doesn't disown Jacob, and He's not ashamed of Jacob. This is so vast, it's incredible, 21 times in the Bible God calls Himself 'the God of Jacob', He weds His own name to the name of this supplanter, this twister and grabber! In fact, He's eternally linked with Jacob, the people of God are named after him, and even when he does get his name changed to 'Israel', the twelve tribes and the present-day nation of ethnic Israel come from this man, God is always going to be the God of Israel. In fact, the only person that God's people have been named after, other than Jacob, is Jesus Christ.
Why does He do this? So that He gets all the glory. He can't help but get it with a fellow like Jacob - and yet I can strut around in pride and self-righteousness, and think I'm better than Jacob, when really I'm no different. I need the Redeemer, and I need to realise that only God, by His grace, can bring me to glory; only God can change and transform me. Can I tell you: this is the Christian life, this is why Jacob is so important. We see him wrestling with God, wrestling with his flesh - and I wonder, and I'm not going to run too far ahead, but I wonder does he really completely learn this lesson in his life as we see him on his deathbed? But nevertheless, this is the lesson that all of humanity is striving to learn, and yet it cannot be learned, it cannot be striven or achieved for, it comes from dying, giving up, throwing in the towel, saying 'I don't have what it takes, I haven't got the goods and I can't produce them'! So what happens is - and this is the message of the cross that we as evangelicals so readily forget, we get people to the cross to get their wee sins forgiven, and then we tell them 'Right, go on, teach a Sunday School, give your testimony' - but we are to die on the cross, not just get our sins forgiven! We are to die! In fact, it's better than that, if we have believed in Jesus we have died - we have died! That old sinful nature has died, the old David Legge has died.
Well then, why does he raise his head when the circumstances are right? Because I often breathe life back into him. But if I reckon him to be dead, he is dead. The lie that you have believed from the devil is that the power source is still there, but if you could just wonderfully come to terms with the glorious message of the victory of the cross - not only over sin's penalty, not only over the debt of sin cancelled, bringing justification, but over the power of sin. The power source has been severed at the cross. The blood of Jesus gives us victory over sin presently, but we've got to believe it. Some of us are striving, we're trying to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps, we're trying to keep squeakyclean and walk on the clean side of the road with a clean nose and all the rest, and do all the right things, and keep away from all those bad things - that will not work, it never worked, it cannot work! That which is of the flesh is flesh - your flesh, good and bad, has to die at the cross, and the Spirit of God in Jesus has to live in you.
That's it. I don't know where it got buried over the years, but it's still in this book - right from back at Jacob: dying to self, and the saving grace of Christ in us by the power of His Holy Spirit. What an example Jacob is of this. But listen, there is another example, and that is Paul the Apostle. Listen to how he describes himself in 1 Timothy 1:15-16 - I'm reading it in the NIV, listen carefully: 'Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst. But, for that very reason I was shown mercy, so that in me', the worst of sinners, 'Christ Jesus might display His immense patience, as an example for those who would believe in Him and receive eternal life'. Now we often laud Paul for all the great things that he did, and the missionary journeys, and all the things that he suffered for Christ. There is no doubt about it, he is a mighty example, unsurpassed perhaps. But he was not an example because of the good in his life. He says from his own mouth that he was made an example because of how bad he was. In the preceding verses he talks about how he was a blasphemer, an insolent man, but he was chosen by God's grace that he might be a vessel of God's mercy, to bring glory to God, to be saved and transformed, to say to a world that is full of Jacobs and full of Sauls of Tarsus: 'If this is what God can do with a Jacob and a Saul, what can He not do with you?'.
Does that encourage you tonight? But it only works if there are two principles activated in your Christian life. True healing will only come from these two principles: one is honesty. 'Jacob, come on now, tell the truth, shame the devil. Jacob, now come on, be straight Jacob, stop twisting. Come on, stop grabbing, be honest here'. You see, this is one of the most difficult things in any human's life - because we're all Jacobs - is to get us to be honest, upfront, put everything on the table. Confession sticks in the throat an awful lot, I don't know whether you've found that or not, it's hard to get out. But if you're wanting to be free and transformed, you've got to be honest - and secondly: there has got to be humility. Honesty and humility. All self-righteousness, all dignity that does not come from God, needs to be completely renounced, and you need to take the low place before God. We need to humble ourselves, we need to agree with how God sees us. You see, that's what confession is - do you know that? It is agreeing with God, what God says, and you're just putting your hands up and saying 'Guilty as charged. This is how human flesh is, Lord, I haven't got what it takes. If I could get to You by the works of the law, as Galatians says, Christ died in vain - He wasted His time!'.
We need to confess how we have wrongly viewed ourselves, and maybe even wrongly viewed God and how to get to God. God will meet you in the place of honesty and truthfulness. Now listen, it says of Jesus that He was full of grace and truth. Here's a profound principle: if you want to encounter the grace of God, those to come together. If you want to experience the grace of God in your life, if you want to experience the healing and delivering power of Jesus in salvation, you need to come on the ground of truth, and God's grace will meet you - and that's when transformation happens.
What an enigma Jacob is. Ah, but what an enigma you are - I'm sorry to say it to you! What an enigma the love of God is. God loves who? God loves you - you are Jacob, remember! Had you forgotten there? But how do you see yourself - and I'm closing - how do you see yourself? When you look in the mirror, metaphorically speaking, do you see the old man? The old sinful nature, do you see Jacob? Maybe you say: 'I can't help but see anything else, because it's that nature that's rising in me, it's those traits that I know that are prevalent in my life'. Well, you see, that's part of the problem - because, though humankind is completely bankrupt in any shape or form to fix themselves and make themselves right before God, the fact of the matter is: if you come and die with Christ at the cross, and He makes you alive through His glorious resurrection, and you're not any more living by laws but you living by the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus which has set you free from the laws of sin and death, and when Paul cries 'O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from this body of death?', he finishes by saying that Christ gives victory in triumph. If you continue to see yourself as Jacob, what do you think you're going to live like? Jacob! I hope, tonight, there are people who will come to the cross of Calvary - you might well be saved, you might not be saved, but you can come too, and we would love you to come, please, and be set free - but what if everybody was to come to the cross afresh tonight, and say: 'Lord, I don't have what it takes in my humanity, but I know that my humanity can't be honed, and can't be cleaned up, and can't be given some kind of a boost or renovation; it has to die. I want to die now at the cross, so that Your life might flow through me'.
Then this is what will happen: you will look in the mirror, and you will not see Jacob any more, you will see Jesus. This is what Paul says in Corinthians: 'As we behold Christ', Christ crucified, Christ risen, Christ glorified, Christ in all that He has done and all that He has made us to be, 'As we behold that, as we look on that as we fix our eyes on that, we are changed from glory to glory, into the same image'. Do you know, that is the destiny that God has pronounced upon you - that you should be predestined to become like the image of His Son. Do you know the only thing that will get in the way of that? Jacob.
Let's pray. Well, let's just take a moment or two. Has God spoken to you? He's bound to have spoken to you if you prayed to Him and really meant it. Has He spoken to you tonight? Can I ask, just as everyone is quiet and prayerful before the Lord - I know you, I'm told anyway (I shouldn't label you Fermanagh folk), I've heard that you're a bit timid at times; but listen: forget about all that, that's a lot of nonsense, alright? You're in God's presence here tonight. You're not in church, and your woman is not glaring over the pew at you - you just realise you're in the presence of God, and it's you and God, forget about whoever is beside you, even if it's your husband, wife, boyfriend, or girlfriend, or whatever. Even if your woman is here and she is not glaring over the pews, but over the chairs, forget about her - and forget about every other voice that would speak to you. Ask yourself the question: do I reckon Jacob dead in my life, or am I breathing life into him? Am I trying to live the Christian life through the good side, the reputable side of Jacob? Ask those questions that we've been asking in our study tonight - but you've got to do something about it, OK? I can't force you to do anything, but you can go away tonight and you can keep going, beating a busted drum, and it's not going to work. Or you can come to the foot of the cross tonight and say: 'I've been a Christian for years, but I've never been able to get off the runway. I know I'm saved, and I know I'm forgiven, but I think I have been living this in my own steam and in the power of the flesh, and I've been ministering in that, I've been teaching in that, and that's why I'm getting burned out, that's why I'm not getting any joy, that's why I'm miserable as a Christian. I'm looking around at other people who seem to be going on well, and I'm thinking: have I got the real thing at all? Am I saved?'.
Is there any Christian here tonight, and whether it's the bad flesh or the good flesh that you are manifesting, but that which is flesh is flesh - would you be willing to acknowledge that, just where you are, heads are bowed, eyes are closed, please. Would you just raise your hand where you're sitting, to say 'God has spoken to me'? God bless you, God bless, praise the Lord, God bless, thank you Jesus. There are people putting their hands up all over the room, so you have an opportunity - God bless, God bless. I think it would be easier to count the people that haven't put their hands up, and that's no comment on you at all, that's a marvellous thing. God bless you, you can put your hand down when you've raised it. God bless, praise the Lord, thank you.
I can't do anything for you, only Jesus can do it - that's why He gets all the glory, because He's the only one who can do it for Jacob, for Paul, for you. So I want you to come to Him now, would you do that? Would you surrender to Him as Lord? Just say these words from your heart between you and the Lord: 'Lord, I come to You, and I confess You as Lord of my life. I surrender to You everything, all that I am and have. I humble myself before You, I renounce all pride and all flesh - bad and perceived good. I'm sorry for trying to earn what You have already given me. I'm sorry for grabbing like Jacob, I'm sorry for not waiting, sorry for not having patience and letting it have its perfect work. I come to the only place I can go, to the foot of Your cross, Lord Jesus, and I lay my burden down. I ask You to cleanse me afresh, and release me of this yoke that is not of You. I come to You with all my burdens, my heavy weights, and I come to You for rest. I now trust You, by faith, to produce Your life in me'. If you need to confess sins, do that, if you need to repent, if you need to renounce anything. If you have even spoken over your life things like, 'I'm never going to make anything out of this' - will you renounce that? Because that's a lie, and that's actually going directly against everything that God's word says. You have pronounced that over yourself, and that needs to be broken: 'I'm always going to be a failure, I'm always going to be a train wreck' - those are curses upon your own life, and you need to break them. You need to renounce that tonight in the presence of God, and He will break anything over you. People say: 'I'm stupid', and then they can't see spiritual truth, and they're blind - ask Jesus to break that over you. Come to the foot of His cross - and, wait till I tell you, you stay there as long as you can - but don't forget: He's not hanging there any more, He has risen from the dead, and He is exalted at the right hand of God. All power in heaven is behind what you're doing tonight, if you truly mean it with your heart, and you will have the very life of God - the resurrection life of Jesus - flowing through even your body tonight, if you can come to the foot of the cross and take this by faith, take God at His word. Just believe Him.
Now can I ask, before I close, while every head is bowed and eye closed: is there a person who is not a true Christian, you're not born again, you've never been converted. Maybe you're a wee bit religious, or maybe it's the works of the flesh, the dirty kind, that's manifesting - but you feel guilt because you know what you should be doing, you know the Commandments, and you maybe know enough to know that what you're doing is wrong. So the guilt is coming from knowing what's right, so you know right and wrong, and you're here tonight and you think: 'Oh, God couldn't have me, sure look at the shape of me, and look at what I've done and all'. Listen, you've learned tonight that that's not what it's about: it's for sinners that Jesus came. Doctors treat patients who are sick, Saviours come to rescue sinners - and He is your Saviour tonight and He is for you, He has had favour upon you by dying for you on the cross. He wants to start this wonderful adventure of conforming you to the image of Jesus, and He wants to start it right now. Is there anyone would raise their hand just where they are sitting to say: 'I want to be saved tonight, I want to be right with God, I want to start on this road, I want to travel'. I want to give the opportunity, just in case, and there may be no one here that is unconverted - but just in case there's one, I want to reach out the hand of grace to you and say: come to this wonderful Saviour tonight, come to Him and be saved. Maybe you're very religious, but you've no assurance, no security that you're right with God, and you don't know God like this. Is there anyone, just where you're sitting?
Now, before I close this meeting I want to just remind you that you need the Lord, OK? So, you're very welcome to sit where you are. There will be a cup of tea upstairs I think, but let's try, as far as possible - and I know people want to chat and all the rest - but as far as possible, to preserve the sense of God moving in this place tonight. Alright? Now I'm not trying to be a killjoy, but the Holy Spirit is like the dove-like image that came upon Jesus, He is very easily disturbed - noise, disruption, it disturbs His brooding presence. I would just encourage you to be aware of that, I'm not saying don't talk, but just be quiet enough to be aware that there are people here tonight and God is dealing with them. Please don't do anything to jeopardise that, and there are plenty of places you can talk.
I'm going to pray for you all, and then the meeting is over. Abba Father, I love You, and I love Jesus, and I love the Holy Spirit, because You first loved me. Why? I'm not going to waste any more time saying: 'Lord, why me? Why did You pick me?'. It's nothing to do with me, it's all to do with You - it's just because You are love, You are love. I worship You, O loving God, and I pray that Your love tonight will be shed abroad in the hearts of the people here this evening that have never truly know that. Many evangelical Christians that have been battered with Bibles from their youth, but they have never known the love of God - Lord, would you release them tonight? There are some who maybe have inner healing needs, and deliverance - but I think, Lord, if they had a baptism of the love of God, and the liquid love of God was poured into their spirits right now. I'm not telling You how to do your job, Lord, but if You were to give them a holy hug deep down in their heart right now, I think they would be set free from a whole lot of stuff. Would You do that, Lord, for Your love covers everything - love conquers all - true love that gives a sense of belonging, a sense of being, a sense of worth. Lord, some of these folk have never felt loved - why am I telling You this? Lord, You know, You have followed then the whole way, You know that they lack love, they lack meaning, they lack security, they lack identity. Lord, You know You're the answer, so be the answer tonight, right where they are before You now as they have humbled themselves. Pour Your love into those deep places, and redeem these Jacobs so that they will not recognise themselves any more, for the right reasons: because they see their identity in Christ. Pour Your Spirit upon us now - and this sense, this sweet sense, the radiance, the fragrance of the Spirit of Jesus with us; Lord, would You increase it. As we may go into ministry, would You be with us, stand with us, and You do the work, Lord, and let us watch. Glory be to the Father - say it with me - glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Stables in Enniskillen by David Legge. It was transcribed from the first recording in his 'The Jacob Enigma' series, entitled "God Loves WHO?" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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