I want to turn with me in your Bibles to Genesis chapter 32. Now if you have been with us since January, we've been doing a study on Jacob, we've called it 'The Jacob Enigma'. An enigma is a puzzle, and this man certainly has been an enigma to us as we have looked at his life story. This is probably going to be my last night looking at Jacob - and I know I have one more [meeting] before we break off for the summer, and I don't know what I'll be doing that night - but I think this is probably, this fourth study in Jacob, the last that we will do in this. But I really have felt led of God from the turn of the year, during a period of intense seeking God over several things, but also over what to bring to The Stables, I really felt that the Lord told me to speak on Jacob. Each night has been different, and particularly the last time we were here, there was huge revelation - I believe - in the message that came from the Lord as we studied Bethel in Genesis chapter 28. There was a lot of stuff came together for folk even who were here for the first time, and we give praise and glory to God for that. I believe that, to an extent, that's going to happen again tonight as we look at chapter 32, and this great story of Jacob wrestling with the Angel.
Now, I'm calling this message tonight 'Getting the Blessing'. I know that's a very generic concept - 'What is the blessing you're talking about?' - well, any blessing really! You can fit into that whatever you like, but there are principles that we're going to look at tonight that apply both personally to us in our individual Christian experience, and corporately as groups, churches, places like The Stables: how do we get the blessing of God? Let's pray before we come to the word of God, and would you do something for me? I know Sam has prayed, and I appreciate his prayers very much, but I want you now to pray for yourself - will you do that? Ask that God would speak to you right now personally. If you're needing the blessing - and who of us aren't - would you say: 'Lord, please, would You show me tonight not only how to get the blessing, but may tonight be the night when I will break through into blessing' - Amen? That has been happening, and we give glory to God. So let's come and ask Him for that, and you ask individually as you deal with the Lord.
Father, we come to You in the mighty name of our Saviour, the blessed Lord Jesus Christ. We uplift His name, we extol and glorify His name. We want to join the whole angelic host around the glassy sea in heaven now, and we want to unite our spirits with them, and the spirits of just men made perfect, and we want to say: 'Worthy is the Lamb that was slain!'. Lord, we pray that not just our lips, but our lives will glorify Him - for He is worthy of all that we are. Lord, we just ask now that You will come and help us, and Lord, tonight, we will encounter You - that we will not be talking about You, we will not be reading about You, we will not be reminiscing or thinking about You; but Lord that we will meet with the Living God in this place tonight, and that there will be people who will have actual face-to-face encounters with the living Christ by the Holy Spirit. So we just cry to You, Lord: speak to us, come and meet with us, touch us, change our lives, do something radical tonight, Lord - just turn everything around even in the atmosphere, may we be completely arrested by a sense of the presence of God. May there be no one here who is blind or insensitive to the fact that God is here, that God has come among us, and that God is doing wonders in our presence. So, come Lord Jesus, come Heavenly Father, come Holy Spirit. Amen.
Let's begin reading at verse 22 of Genesis 32, and we're reading to the end of the chapter: "And he arose", that is, Jacob, "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, '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 Penuel 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".
Now if you have been with us in these studies, you will know already that Jacob - this Old Testament Patriarch - is, for us, a picture of the flesh. Now if you can get the previous recordings, that will fill in the gaps for you tonight - but even his name, the root meaning in the Hebrew of 'Jacob', means 'supplanter' or 'one who seizes', Ya'aqov is the Hebrew, and it's actually a play on words, the word 'heel', and the word 'to twist'. Of course, when Jacob was coming out of the womb, he was a twin and he actually reached out his hand from his mother and sought to pull back his brother Esau. He grabbed him by the heel and sought to pull him back into the womb, so that Jacob could be born first - so right away he is known as 'a heel-grabber'. He is an opportunist, the idea is that through subtlety, shrewdness, and stealth, Jacob would displace his brother and seek to get blessing in his life. You've got to understand this: we have been down on Jacob, I believe, throughout spiritual history - and we forget that Jacob covets the blessing of God in his life. He wants to be blessed as a first son would be blessed, he wants to be in the covenant - which doesn't just involve material wealth and land and so on in this day and culture, but it actually means you're spiritually in God's covenant blessings. But the problem that old Jacob has is that he tries to get that blessing through fleshly means, he grasps for significance, he wants to be satisfied but he does it the wrong way. He looks for meaning in all the wrong places, apart from God's ways.
You see, this is the message really that Jacob shows us: God's blessings must be gained God's ways, do you understand? We cannot get God's favour through the flesh. We have learned these nights that there has to come this experience of dying to self, that when we come to the cross of Jesus at conversion - and I do trust that you've experienced that, where you've repented of your sins (that means turned from them, realised that your sin is what is damning you before God, what is coming between you and ever having a relationship with God, and you realise that you have nothing in you that is worthy of God's favour, so you turn, you repent, change your mind, do an about circle and come to Christ by faith); believing alone that He can save you - but, you know, you've got to, in your Christian life, stay at the cross. A lot of us move on from that moment. I'm not saying we ought not to grow from conversion, we of course must, and getting converted, being saved or born again, is the threshold experience, it's just entering into the door of the house called 'Salvation' - we've got to explore all the rooms, and the adventure that our Heavenly Father has for us - but that does not mean ever getting off our knees from before the cross. We've got to take up our cross daily and follow Christ, and that means a diet of daily repentance, constantly changing your mind, renewing the mind, constantly - according to obedience to the word of God - changing our lifestyle to come into line with a plumbline of God's truth. So we've got to die to ourselves, we've got to die to that fleshly Jacob nature that is within us.
But as we saw last time we were here, if you can remember: that is not enough. That might shock some people, because there are those who - they know the born-again stuff and 'be converted' stuff, they are good evangelicals, and they have also moved on to the 'Spirit-filled life', and you've got to die to yourself and be consecrated - but that is not enough! Some people are consecrated and not Spirit-filled. You've actually got to have a revelation of God to your heart, an actual experience of not only dying to self, but actually God communicating Himself to you. Now that's what we had in Genesis chapter 28, you remember the Bethel experience, where Jacob falls asleep, his pillow is a stone, and God appears to him. He sees this ladder coming down - well, it actually comes up from the earth to heaven, if you look at the text - and the angels of God are ascending and descending, and it's an 'open heaven' experience that he has. God gives him a revelation, that's what he needed - but then, right away, as always with Jacob, the flesh took over.
If you want to turn back with me quickly to Genesis 28 I'll remind you of this, it's an incredible experience for Jacob, but look at how he responds in verse 20: 'Jacob made a vow, saying, 'If God will be with me'' - now, by the way, that's after a load of promises where God says 'I will, I will, I am, I shall', so God is giving absolute guarantee, emphatically, 'I'm going to do all that I've said' - but then in verse 20 Jacob says, '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'. Do you know what he was doing? He was dealing, dealing with God! Trying to bargain with the Lord! He was trying to set the terms upon which he would give something to God. God is so gracious that He doesn't call everything off - it's just as well, isn't it?
So this revelation, genuine as it was, wasn't enough to get Jacob where he needed to be, into a place where he could actually receive God's blessing. So how does he get the blessing? Well, the truth is, if you remember some of our studies previously, he already had the blessing! Do you remember this? In chapter 25 we are told there, his mother was told that 'the elder will serve the younger'. So Jacob didn't have to scheme, he didn't have to plan through stealth and subtlety to grasp the blessing, God had promised that he would have it! But he wasn't prepared to wait on it. So he had the blessing, and in fact over and over again God tells him: 'I am with you, I will not leave you, I will do everything that I have said to you' - but Jacob's flesh kept getting in the way. That's why the Lord has to keep interrupting him; in Genesis chapter 28 at Bethel, and now we see He again interrupts this fleshly cycle. In Genesis 28 He has to get Jacob unconscious in order to speak to him, and again in chapter 32 the Lord interrupts to give him another chance.
Here we have another encounter and revelation with the Lord, and I think some of you are going to experience that tonight. I believe chapter 32 is the nearest that Jacob comes to to getting it - not just the blessing, but getting it, in as far as the economy of God is concerned: how blessing comes and how it can never be achieved. Now please don't misunderstand Jacob. It's not that his fleshly nature goes after this - if you know anything about the rest of the story, you will find out that that's not true - but I believe here in chapter 32 at Peniel, we have the greatest breakthrough, certainly hitherto, in Jacob's life: how he gets the blessing. So I want us to consider two questions really tonight: how to get it - do you want it? Who wants the blessing? Who wants blessing from God? How to get it, and then secondly: what it looks like. So come with me, and you might want to use pen and paper to note some of these things down. I know it's being recorded, but it mightn't do any harm to jot some of these principles down that will help you get through to true blessing with God.
How do you get the blessing, whatever that is? Well, first of all, from Jacob we see that you need to come to an end of yourself. Do you understand? Jacob learns the hard way, why? Because he won't face his own flesh. Now we're skipping out a lot from our last study - we were in chapter 28 and now we're over in chapter 32 - but in the interim in between a few things happened to Jacob. He meets Laban, who becomes his father-in-law. Really, effectively, when he comes face-to-face with Laban, he comes face-to-face with himself - because Laban was a schemer in the flesh. It was like looking in the mirror, the only problem was that when Jacob saw the mirror reflection, he didn't like what he saw - but it was really himself. If you know anything about the story - forgive me if you don't, you can catch up in your own time - but Laban tracks Jacob into marrying Leah first, when he had promised that he would marry Rachel. He said: "If you work for me seven years I will give you Rachel' - and on their wedding night, (imagine what that would be like!), he discovers it's not Rachel at all but Leah. Then Laban requires Jacob to labour for another seven years in order to marry Rachel - so he's working 14 years for these two wives. Laban has tricked him!
Over and over again we see that he is hard done by by Laban, his father-in-law. But then, tit-for-tat, Jacob returns the favour, and Jacob tricks Laban out of cattle. Now I can't even go into it, it confuses me no end, it's a real operation in cunning and ingenuity - and what's even more intriguing is that the Lord seems to help Jacob in it in a dream. You can work that one out! But Laban begins to then realise that Jacob is as clever as he is, and his attitude begins to change to his son-in-law, and he becomes sinister toward him. Then Jacob fears this, and he takes his wives and his possession and he flees Laban. Now we talked several studies ago about how dysfunctional this family was, and it doesn't stop here whatsoever. We continue to see jealousy, bribery, manipulation of the highest order, and even sexual bargaining in the mix! Eventually, and I'm fast forwarding here, Laban catches up with Jacob and they do smooth things over with a covenant - but you can't help seeing in this whole story that Jacob is being worn down, he's being pursued because he avoids dealing with his own flesh. It's so clear.
Now there are some glimmers of hope, because in these middle chapters Jacob contacts Esau, his brother who he so wronged. He took his birthright off him for a mess of pottage, and you know the story - but he communicates to him in order to find favour with Esau, and it might indicate a bit of a change of heart, although that's up for debate. But Esau replies to Jacob saying that he's going to pay a visit, and all of a sudden Jacob fears meeting Esau face-to-face. Alright? So he's been face-to-face with Laban and he doesn't like what he sees, and it has caused him all sorts of problems. Now he tries to do something right for once, and he fears now coming face-to-face with Esau his brother, lest he kill him. He splits his whole camp into two, just in case Esau goes after one, at least one camp will survive. It's anticipating the face-to-face encounter with the Esau that Jacob actually comes to have a face-to-face encounter with the Living God - and he ends up wrestling God. Do you see the flesh here in Jacob, do you? You can't miss it.
Now I know this passage of Scripture has been preached on many many times, and I've even preached on it myself, I suppose, with another slant. But I do have many questions about this wrestling with the Lord. We so often hear Jacob commended about wrestling with the Lord, and wrestling through, as we should wrestle in prayer and persistence: 'I will not let You go until You bless me' - but I really wonder is his wrestling with God here to be commended at all? Oh yes his persistence is to be commended, and his desperation at the end of the story - but please note this: all the way through this whole narrative we are being told over and over again that God's blessings didn't have to be wrestled from the hands of God. He had already given it to Jacob! He had already assured him of His presence all along! I have got a theory here, and you can disagree with me and talk to me on some future date about it, but I believe Jacob was wrestling with himself. You don't have to wrestle blessings from God. I'm not saying you don't have to persevere in prayer, or break through as it were - but Jacob actually gets to a place where he no longer asserts his strength, and he finds brokenness before the face of God, and that's when the blessing comes through. I'll leave you to think about that one.
Really the principle is: you must come to an end of yourself. Maybe you're wrestling even in your 'spiritual experience', because you're operating like Jacob in the flesh. You're trying to get spiritual blessings through the energy of the flesh, rather than the power of the Holy Spirit - and that's why you keep facing the flesh over and over again, and again, and again. Even when you meet with God you're wrestling.
Here's a second principle of how to get the blessing: you need to come to an end of yourself, but secondly you need to confess what you have been like. You need to be honest. Look at verse 27, chapter 32 verse 27, this supposed Angel asks: 'What is your name?', and he said, 'Jacob'. You might say: 'Well, what's the news there? He just asked his name, and he's telling you what his name is!' - but you know what 'Jacob' means, don't you? 'Twisted', 'the supplanter', and he's not just confessing his name, he's confessing his character, he's actually levelling with God, he's admitting that he is 'Jacobed'. You remember that Jeremiah passage that I've been quoting to you: 'The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked, who can know it?', and the word there for 'deceitful' is the root word in Hebrew for 'Ya'aqov', Jacob. He is admitting what he is. Now listen: it is only when you admit what you are that you can be given a new name, and you can get the blessing. There's got to be honesty, grace and truth always come together. If you will not be transparent and you will not admit what you really are in and of yourself, you can not break through into blessing with God. You cannot obfuscate, you cannot hide, you cannot live in the darkness and expect the blessing of God. Yes, it is by grace, but you cannot expect to live a fleshly existence and move under the anointing of the Holy Spirit in blessing - it is impossible!
How do you get the blessing? One: you need to come to an end of yourself. Two: you need to confess what you have been like. And three: you need to let some good things pass you by. I think this is very instructive, and we could easily rush over verses 22 and 23 at the beginning of this story, but let's look at it. It says: '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'. Verse 24 says: 'Then Jacob was left alone'. This reminds me of Saul. I remember years ago this passage really impressed me, the anointing of Saul as King. You remember Samuel had identified Saul as being God's chosen, and he takes him to anoint him with that vial of oil to be King. We read in 1 Samuel 9 and verse 27, listen to this: 'As they were going down to the outskirts of the city, Samuel said to Saul, 'Tell the servant to go on ahead of us'. And he went on'. Then Samuel says to Saul: 'But you stand here awhile, that I may announce to you the word of God'. In other words, let everybody else just pass you by, just go on through, get rid of all distractions so that you might be still, so that you can be alone and you can hear the word of God.
Now listen: if you want the blessing of God in your life, whatever that might mean for you at this particular juncture, you will have to let some good things pass you by. It even says of the Lord Jesus in Gethsemane, you remember He had the twelve, and then He had the three - Peter, James, and John - and He tells them to pray and wait for Him. Then these very insightful words are recorded: 'He went a little farther', He went a little farther, and He fell on the ground and prayed. So this principle that you need to let some good things pass you by, really means you've got to forego the good at times in order to gain the best. Now, that confuses a lot of people, because there is this concept that in the Christian life I should have everything, and I should enjoy everything. Now don't misunderstand me: I do believe in prosperity in the sense that God always has His best for you, but that doesn't mean that that equates to the world's best, or to the American dream, or what you might think. His thoughts are not your thoughts, and His ways are not your ways. Sometimes we have got legalism in our churches or in our particular Christian ethic, whatever we have inherited, and they say: 'You mustn't do this, you mustn't do that, you mustn't do the other. You mustn't go here, you mustn't possess this, you mustn't watch that' - don't misunderstand me, some of that might be true because they might be very clear moral choices, but in a lot of those cases they aren't absolute moral standards. You cannot do a broad-brush for everyone - here's why: because there will be something that is legitimate for you to do and you to be involved in, that will not be legitimate for me. Not because it's morally wrong, but because it's not God's best for me - do you understand? This is why we're in so much danger of churning out - particularly in our churches, and through denominationalism for years - cloned Christians. At times we feel ourselves in a straitjacket, and we do not have - because Scripture is clear, where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty - we don't have that freedom of walking in the Spirit, because we have taken on yokes that are not from the Lord Jesus Christ.
So there are aspects in your life where it has to be said, 'Others may, but you cannot'. Do you understand? That's not for you to legislate for others, and say: 'Well, I don't do that, so you can't do that' - no, no, no. But there are aspects were there will be legitimate practices and ways of life for others, but God will say to you: 'No, that's not My best for you - and you've got to let some good things pass you by, so that you will know My dream and My destiny for you'. There are legitimate things, good things even, even in the spiritual realm, that we must surrender in order to pursue God. It's not for someone else to tell you what to give up, what to do, what not to do - that is control and manipulation of the highest order - it is of the Holy Spirit to guide and direct and lead you in that regard.
So I wonder tonight: are you at an end of yourself? Have you truly confessed what you have been like in regards to the flesh? Not just sinful flesh, the works of the flesh, Galatians 5; but trying to grasp for blessing in the flesh, trying to achieve God's favour in the flesh. Are you prepared tonight to let good things, good opportunities, good possessions, good prospects pass you by in order to get God's best?
Fourthly, a principle of how to get the blessing is: you need to get alone with God. As Jacob sent all his possessions, all the good things over the Jabbok, it says in verse 24: 'Then Jacob was left alone, and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day'. Now, many of us are terrified of aloneness - and that's completely understandable, because we fear loneliness. But listen: we're not talking about loneliness, you cannot have loneliness when you are alone with God, because you're alone with Someone! Loneliness is when you're on your own. I don't underestimate what it is like to be on your own for whatever reason - through bereavement, through divorce, or being single, or whatever - but you know, one of the major reasons why we fear aloneness and fear stillness is this: because when we get quiet, and when we become isolated, the core issues of our life, the brokenness, the baggage, the bondage, they start to come to the surface and we find them uncomfortable. I say to you: that's one of the reasons why we find quietness difficult even in church. Now don't get me wrong: I really love lively praise, and I think it should be an awful lot livelier - shouting and praising God, and really taking off - but that is abused if that is to the exception of silence, and stillness, and tranquillity, and waiting upon God. One of the reasons why we don't like that, even to the point where we have to have the radio on all the time in the car - and I think it's good too to put praise music in the atmosphere even in your home, it's good - but there need to be times of silence. There need to be times - even if it's not Coronation Street you have on in the background, but it's the God Channel or whatever - there need to be times when it's switched off, and when there is quietness and stillness, where there is solitude for you to hear the voice of God; as Samuel said to Saul, so that you can be still to hear what the word of God would say to you. Maybe you don't like stillness because all those ugly things, whether they are sins, or bondages, or scars, start to come up to the surface.
Now this will revolutionise some of your experience of stillness if you can really get this. You run from that, especially if it's of a sinful nature, but you've got understand: it's not necessarily the devil who is bringing those things up, because when you get into the presence of God, God's Holy Spirit brings those things up - not to distress you, but so that you can deliver them up to Him. You know, sometimes what we do is, when we are in the presence of God - even in church this can happen - have you noticed, or is it just me, is there something really bad about me? Have you noticed that in the holiest moments, sometimes the vilest thoughts can come? Now obviously, often that comes straight from the devil himself, but sometimes there is stuff comes right up from our hearts - for Jesus says 'Out of the heart proceeds all these things'. What do we do? We panic and think: 'Oh, that's awful, I'm in church here this morning and I shouldn't be thinking that, I'm a terrible, terrible sinner', we think, 'Oh, the devil is at me again, and its old Jacob'. Yes it might be the devil, or it might be old Jacob, but here's the point: the Lord would have you actually deal with that in His presence, and not suppress it - because when you suppress it, you're pushing it down to a place where it's going to pop up again. Wouldn't it be wonderful as we are in the presence of God, and we are so comfortable with Him and know His heart toward us, that we can actually say: 'Lord, it's so silly isn't it? You already know that's there' - as if He didn't! You know, as if you pushing it down is going to mean, 'Oh, He's all right, He'll turn a blind eye to it'! 'Lord, You already know it's there, would You please take that, would You cleanse my heart, would You purify my imagination? Would You take that broken place in me that has just come to the surface - because all the things clamouring for my attention, all that noise pollution around me is now away, and this is coming now to the forefront of my consciousness - Lord, would You take that now, release me of it, and would You heal the depths of my heart?'.
You see, this is how, in the presence of God, He heals us. So, do you get alone with God privately? I'm not talking about just doing your wee Bible reading, and going down your prayer shopping list; I'm talking about having stillness before God where you're actually allowing His presence to touch your heart, and you're doing business with God. It was alone with God that Jacob, the Twister, the Supplanter, became a Prince with God. The greatest miracles Elijah and Elisha performed took place when they were alone with God, the preparation for them did at least. Joshua was alone when the Lord came to him and revealed Himself to him as the Captain of the Army of the Lord of Hosts. Gideon and Jephthah were by themselves when they were commissioned by the Lord to save Israel. Moses was by himself when he encountered this burning bush that was aflame but not consumed. Cornelius was praying and he was fasting when an angel came and appeared to him; and Peter, wasn't he on his own on the housetop when the Lord said: 'Go to Joppa and speak to Cornelius' household with words whereby they may be saved'. John the Baptist, he's in the wilderness on his own when he's commissioned to be the forerunner of the Lord Jesus. John the Apostle is on the Isle of Patmos, and he's given one of the greatest revelations that mankind has ever had, the book of Revelation at the end of our Bibles. Our Lord Jesus, who is our ultimate example, how many times do we see Him going into a solitary place, going into the wilderness, going into the mountain tops, going at the dead of night to quiet places and seeking His Heavenly Father - and He is the One who taught us: 'When you pray, enter your closet, and when you have shut your door, pray'.
'If chosen men had never been alone,
In deepest silence open-doored to God,
No greatness ever had been dreamed or done'.
It costs to get the blessing of God. It costs. You need to come to an end of yourself. You need to confess what you've been like. You need to let some good things pass you by, and you need to get alone with God. It costs. Now this often confuses me: how does it cost me when Jesus paid it all? Did you ever think about that? Or, if it's all of grace - which it has got to be, for if it's any little fraction of works then it's none of grace and all of works - so how does it cost, if it's through repentant faith alone, it's gratuitous, a gift of Heavenly Father through what Jesus did on the cross applied by the Holy Spirit? How does it cost? Well here, I believe, is the answer - and it's only the one I believe the Lord has given me, so I hope it right! It's not that the blessing costs, the blessing has been paid for. The cost is the price to be paid to get the flesh out of the way - that's where the cost comes in! - to deal with the flesh so that the blessing that has been paid for by the blood of Jesus can come to me.
That was Jacob's wrestling match, and it's yours and it's mine - it's for all of us. The question is: will you engage these principles in your life, to just give up, throw the towel in and say, 'I haven't got what it takes, and this is the way I really am, and I'm going to have to let all these good opportunities, and all these things that are a semblance of godliness and achievement in my life, all this grasping after favour through works of the flesh, I'm going to have to let it all pass me by, and I'm going to have to get alone with God until I truly finally have wrestled the flesh to get through to Him'.
The second question we want to answer is: what does it look like? What does the blessing of God look like? Here's the first thing: it looks like overcoming through weakness, not strength - that's what the blessing of God looks like. Overcoming through weakness, not strength. Look at verse 28, the Angel said: 'Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed'. Now, as I've said already, I think it's wrong to interpret that as Jacob overcoming God through wrestling - that's not what is taught here. Jacob actually couldn't overcome the Lord - now the Lord was having a struggle with Jacob, but that shows you that the Lord was, you understand, proportionate in His response to the flesh that was in Jacob. He wanted Jacob to feel the strength of his own flesh - don't be daft and think that the Lord couldn't wrestle Jacob down! Of course He could! So Jacob didn't overcome the Lord through wrestling, He overcame into blessing through submission. When he wrestled and wrestled, and wrestled and wrestled, and the Lord knew: 'This guy's flesh is so strong I'm going to have to touch his hip, I'm going to have to do something so that he becomes broken'. So Jacob submits to the Lord, and he surrenders and says: 'I'm not going to let You go until You bless me'. That's where Jacob came through to the blessing, when he realised: 'This fleshly stuff isn't going to work' - do you see it? Look at it in verse 25: 'When He saw', the Lord saw, the Angel, 'that He did not prevail against him, the Lord 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, 'I will not let You go unless You bless me!''.
His overcoming came through his weakness, not his strength. The consequence of this encounter was brokenness before the face of God, and this was a brokenness that would follow Jacob about his whole life. If you look at verses 31 and 32: 'As he crossed over Penuel the sun rose on him, and he limped on his hip' - and for this reason the Jews don't eat the sinew in the animal that was touched in Jacob's thigh. He was marked with brokenness. Now, again, here is where confusion comes in - because we can hear preaching like this about brokenness, and we can misunderstand. We're not talking here about brokenness through sin. If you've got the CDs or been at the meetings where we talked about 'Sins, Wounds, and Demons', barriers to blessing, we have seen that there are a lot of consequences of our sins that bring woundedness into our lives. We're not talking about that when we're talking about brokenness. We're not talking about the things that are done to us by others that bring brokenness into our lives, what we're talking about neither is the human condition of fallenness, and the total chaos that has come, and the pain and distress through sin in general. What we're talking about is the brokenness of our flesh - do you understand? Where that part of us that wants to achieve, that wants to gain God's favour, that wants to buy the blessing - where we finally surrender that and allow ourselves to be broken in that strong part of us. Yes, all those other broken things, through sin, through hurts, through abuse, we bring those things and cease to allow them to be used by the devil to be a wedge between us and God, and actually offer them up to God for healing so that that brokenness can become a stepping stone to blessing, the blessing.
He overcame, this is what the blessing looks like, it's overcoming through weakness not strength. This is a wounding as we become broken before God's holiness, in order that God might heal us. I think one of the best illustrations of this is found in the Gospels, where Mary comes with that alabaster box. You know, we haven't got a clue about how priceless this ointment was. I don't know what it's like in your house, maybe there are no females in your house, but if there are one or two sprays of perfume that go puff puff upstairs, it lingers - it would make you nauseous at times, it's like being in Boots the chemist - it's very strong, and the more expensive the perfume the longer the fragrance lingers. This was the most expensive perfume that you could imagine, and Mary smashed that alabaster encasement - can you imagine the fragrance that came forth? Jesus says that not only did that perfume fill the house, but it filled the world because everywhere the Gospel would be preached, that woman's sacrifice would be mentioned. But what I want you to understand is that there was a hard exterior, and it was an expensive exterior too, what was inside was much more expensive but in order for that to break forth there had to be brokenness.
You can't get round this: the blessing of God comes through weakness, not through strength. I want to ask you here tonight: what do you need to bring to the feet of Jesus to be smashed once and for all, so that the priceless thing might ascend to Him as a sweet smelling savour of worship, and your life may be a sacrifice that might even touch the world? This is what the blessing looks like - this is not what you often hear in popular preaching, but this is what the blessing looks like.
Secondly: his receiving a God-given identity. If you look at verses 27 and 28, the Lord asks him: 'What is your name?', and he says, 'Jacob'. Then the reply is: 'Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed'. 'Israel' means 'Prince with God', and there is a bit of a debate what the name means, but essentially that's what it means: a Prince with God. I said earlier that to get the blessing with God you need to confess what you've really been like, and so when Jacob says: 'My name is Jacob', he's saying 'I've been twisted, I've used the flesh. Yes, I've been coveting Your blessing, I've wanted godly things in my life, but I've gone about it all the wrong way'. It's not until that happens that you'll be given a new name, but this is what the blessing looks like: it is receiving a God-given identity.
Can I ask you tonight: what identity are you striving for, even subconsciously? Is it some kind of caricature, a cardboard cut-out of what an ideal Christian should be that you have inherited from your denomination or your particular religious tradition? Is it some kind of hero in Christian biography that you aspire to be like? Don't misunderstand me, that's not a bad thing - but you need to come to God in your own brokenness, and you need to start seeing yourself as God sees you. That will require the prerequisite of letting good things pass by you, and getting alone with God to allow Him to tell you that, to allow this great exchange to take place: where you give your broken identity, maybe a false identity, a contrived identity, to the Lord and say, 'Lord, who am I, and what am I meant to look like, and what is my destiny meant to be?'.
Now we've all got the same destiny, we've all to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, be changed from glory to glory to be like Him - but you know, the Body of Christ is multifaceted in the members, and so we're all becoming more like Christ, but what part of Christ are you becoming like? What part are you in the Body? It's Him who tells us that! So often there is so much manipulation in the church, and somebody sees that you can play the guitar and so you can be the worship leader; and 'Oh, you're an accountant, so you can be the treasurer' - you know what I'm saying - or 'You can string two words together, so you can be the Pastor!'. This is the concept that people have, and it's not coming from God, and we're not getting our true identity from the Lord.
I love the story of Gideon for so many reasons - in particular because I in the past had a real problem with fear, and Gideon, that was his issue. He is threshing the wheat behind the winepress for fear of the Midianites. If it wasn't so sacred, it's hilarious: the Angel of the Lord appears to Gideon and says, 'Mighty man of valour'. So if you can translate this into our idiom today, it's like standing there biting your nails and your knees knocking, and God stands and says: 'Alright, mighty man of courage and strength and boldness, fearlessness' - are you having a laugh? That's what we would think! You see, we might interpret that as saying 'God doesn't see what you are, He sees what you will be' - but I don't think that's right. It's not a case of what you will be, as far as God is concerned it's what you are - do you understand? That might not be your reality at this moment, but, you see, that's the problem: you've got to allow your reality to catch up with God's reality. So often our perceived reality is judged by external factors and circumstantial issues. So if we have a fearful scenario round about us, that will cause emotional reaction in us that is derived from our thought patterns and strongholds of the mind that have been fermented over many many years, and we just see reality in the external. We are so trained to the physical sphere, the material realm, that we are out of tune to the spiritual dimension. We need to start hearing not what the devil says about you, not what your old cranky schoolteacher said about you, and not what your mother or your father said about you, and not about their expectations of you - we need to start listening to Heavenly Father. What does He say about you? Even what you have been in the flesh - and Jacob was Jacob, but he had to be honest with the problems that he had, but it wasn't meant to stay there; that's where some of us have got stuck. We've got stuck with the issues and the problems that we have, and we haven't moved on to revelation. You see it's alright coming to the cross and dying to the old self, but we've got to receive the revelation of God. Many Christians are stuck and they are miserable - they believe in holiness, they believe in consecration, they believe in surrender; but they have never actually moved from the cross to Pentecost.
Now I've said that you haven't to get up from the cross - that's right - but what I mean is that every day is meant to be the full orbed, fully faceted Gospel experience of death, resurrection, and Pentecost - every day! That's Christianity! As He is, so are we in this world. So, have you received a new identity from God? I quoted this is the last time I was here, and I felt led to quote it again - Isaiah 62, I love this passage, verse 4, speaking of the city of Jerusalem: 'You shall no longer be termed Forsaken, nor shall your land any more be termed Desolate; but you shall be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah; for the LORD delights in you, and your land shall be married' - that's what 'Hephzibah' and 'Beulah' mean, 'Delight' and 'Married'.
Now I want to encourage you to do this, and I will probably be preaching on identity some time in the next season - but why not do this, and I have done this, in fact it's over there in my journal, but you're not going to get it! I have ruled two columns in a page, and I've put down the side things that I would struggle with, or ways that I would have seen myself - now this is done in a prayerful disposition, alone with God, letting everything else bypass you. Then I have listened for Heavenly Abba Father, what He says about me - and I have exchanged those names that the enemy has given to me, or that I have given to myself, or circumstances; I have exchanged those names for what God has given me. Boy, that changes, doesn't it? In Scripture in particular you will know that names have a significance in Scripture, and the names that God gives us are very significant. In fact, in the book of Revelation, to the church at Pergamum, the Lord Jesus says: 'Those who overcome in that church' - that's what we want, the folk that get the blessing - 'if you overcome' - how do we overcome? Through weakness, not our strengths: 'Those who overcome I will give hidden manna, food that you don't know, from heaven to feed inside', and then He says, 'and I will give you a white stone, and I will put a new name for you on that stone' - wouldn't you love to know what that is? Well, I think you can know what it is if you overcome, if you enter into the blessing of the Lord.
So what does it look like? You overcome through weakness, not strength. You receive a God-given identity. Thirdly: you see God face-to-face. The blessing is seeing God face-to-face, look at verse 30: 'So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: 'For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved''. Now can I say to you, seeing God face-to-face is not what we necessarily understand it to be. When we talk about being 'face-to-face' with somebody, we mean to eyeball them, to actually look at their countenance. I don't think that's what it means in Scripture, essentially face-to-face encounters with God are God-encounters - when you actually experience something of a personal meeting with the Lord. Jacob is the first that this is recorded of the Bible, a man seeing God face-to-face.
Now we haven't got time to go into this in-depth, but this Angel was probably the Angel of the Lord, who is the Lord Jesus Christ, in a preincarnate form, the Word of God, the Son of God before He became flesh. But there is an apparent anomaly here, we might say what seems to be a contradiction. Does anybody know the verse that says no man has seen God at any time? No? And verses that insinuate that you can't see God - and yet here we have Jacob, right in the book of Genesis, seeing God face-to-face. Do you remember Exodus chapter 33 and verse 20? Moses said: 'Lord, let me see Your glory' - I love that passage of Scripture - 'Let me see Your glory', is that not your prayer? This is wonderful as well, I'm digressing: 'Then the Lord caused all His goodness to pass before him', isn't that wonderful? He wanted to see God's glory, and what did God show him? His goodness - He's a good, good God, all the time, and His glory is His goodness. But the Lord said to him, when he said 'Let me see Your glory': 'You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live'.
You ought to be scratching your head at that point! Because Jacob saw the face of God, and in fact the Lord who said this, God who declared that Moses would die if he saw the face of God, speaks later - this is God now I'm quoting - He speaks of having been 'the friend of Moses, and having spoken to him face-to-face'. Now, how do we explain this? Well, I think God is up to something here - do you know what it is? God wants people who are willing to risk to encounter Him. Moses was willing to risk this - now yes, I believe, and this might be one way to explain it, you cannot see the fullness of God and live. We are not wired for that, we would be completely incinerated. But there are many others in Scripture, and I could recite some of them to you tonight, who expected - thinking they saw God in some way - they expected they were immediately going to die. Gideon was one of them, and the Lord has to say: 'Don't worry, Gideon, you're not going to die, you're not going to die'. Manoah, I was reading about him yesterday, Manoah, that's the father of Samson, panics when he realises it's not just an angel but it's the Lord he has seen, and he thinks he's going to die. I think this is a test. I mean, you think of the Israelites that are all around Mount Sinai - remember this was a mountain that was smoking, and there was thunder and lightning and all sorts of fearful things, and God said 'If you come near this mountain and touch it you will die' - and what does Moses do? He goes up the mountain! He has forty days with God, and then he comes down, and then he goes up and has another forty days with God. He supernaturally fasted, and he didn't drink for 80 days in the presence of God. Then other elders of Israel, was it 70, they all go up and they have a feast in the presence of God. They didn't die! What's going on here?
Well, do you know what I think is going on here? The Lord is wanting to test our hearts to see who of us are going to relate to Him on a rules-religious-legalistic basis in fear, and who will really go after His heart. The ones who will go after His heart will be rewarded, and they shall see His face. Do you know something? Not one of them that saw His face died, not one! Now what we do read is - we read it of John on the Isle of Patmos, we read it of Daniel, we read it of Ezekiel - that when they saw the Lord they fell as dead men. So there is a sense in which, when we do face the Lord - and that means an encounter with God - and we risk it, we do die. We die to Jacob, we die to self, we die of even the good that is within us, we die before the face of God - and this is categorically the case: that no one who ever saw His face remained the same thereafter, they became a new man or woman.
Do you need this? I need this. I want more of this. Essentially, seeing the face of God, I believe, is a God-encounter, an experience of God. Listen, I have been at meetings where I have preached, and I've preached about experiencing God, and I've been criticised, I've been lambasted - I'm not saying these things out of pity, but it's just the fact that some people, particularly in Ulster, are uncomfortable with the concept of experiences, and that is tragic. Now I do think we need to be careful that we don't become spiritually sensual junkies who are just looking buzzes, but I'll tell you this: you cannot have a relationship with anyone or anything without an experience. Is salvation an experience? Yes, it is, isn't it? It's an experience - but many will say, 'Ah, but don't be searching after experiences!'. I have preached, and I've actually have people come up after me and warn people not to seek experiences! Can you imagine a clergyman counselling an engaged couple for the wedding day, and putting them over the vows. Then he performs the ceremony, and he presents them with a marriage certificate, and he says: 'Now, that'll do you, don't be seeking any experiences'. Isn't it ridiculous? No experiences with one another, no romance, no photographs, no memories, no experience! Experience is the fruit of relationship, isn't it? Whether it's the parent-child relationship, or siblings, or in the marriage relationship - experiences! If you get to know God, you will have experiences, and it is during those experiences that there will be a deepening of the relationship with the Lord - and you will come out of those experiences with a new name, and with a change that will be irrevocable, you will not be the same person.
So what does it look like? Overcoming through weakness, not strength. Receiving a God-given identity. Seeing God face-to-face. Finally: being a memorial of brokenness, so that God gets the glory. This is what Jacob became: a memorial of brokenness. I think these are two of the most beautiful pictorial graphic descriptions in the Bible. Look at verse 31, just read this slowly and picture it in your mind - maybe you don't want to read it, just listen in your imagination: 'Just as he crossed over Penuel the sun rose on him, and he limped on his hip'. Do you see that? 'Therefore to this day the children of Israel do not eat the muscle that shrank, which is on the hip socket, because He touched', God touched, 'the socket of Jacob's hip in the muscle that shrank'.
Hebrews 11:21 says that at the end of Jacob's life, when he was dying, he blessed each of his sons, and the sons of Joseph, and he worshipped leaning on the top of his staff. To the day he died, he had the limp - it was a memorial to the brokenness that was in his life. He didn't get healed of that. We believe in healing, but this was a brokenness that was necessary in order that the blessing of God would outflow to him, in order that that fleshly propensity within him should forever be dead, and he should always have a reminder of where true power lies, where power with God and power with men lies. It is not in the flesh, but it is in the Spirit.
This is New Testament doctrine. Quickly turn with me - and we're coming to a close soon - to 2 Corinthians chapter 4. It would be good if you could turn and look at these verses, 2 Corinthians chapter 4 - there is so much truth in this passage, but we can't look at it all. Verse 6, this is you if you're a believer tonight, 2 Corinthians 4:6, think of the similarities here: 'For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ'. There is the face, that light that we want, isn't it? But look: 'But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us'. What's that a picture of? An old clay pot, that's what it is, and a lit candle in the depths of that clay pot. In order to let the light of the glory of the face of Jesus, your God-encounters, in order for that to benefit others and glorify God, people don't want to see the pot - they want to see the light coming through your crevices, coming through the cracks of your brokenness! Do you understand?
Do you know what we do? We want to show the strength of our clay. What is clay? Dust of the ground, flesh. Who wants to be broken? Not me, thank you very much, I'll take the blessing but not the brokenness - there is no blessing without brokenness. I don't like saying that, because I don't want it - and that's why I wrestle with brokenness. I think there are some brokennesses we have to tell to go, because it's not God's intention. Watchman Nee wrote a fantastic little book, 'Release of the Spirit' it's called, and it's all about how so often we wrestle with brokenness in our lives, rather than realising that God is allowing certain things in order that the fragrance of His presence may come forth through our brokenness.
Well, do you want the blessing? You need to come to an end of yourself. You need to confess what you've been like. You need to let some good things pass you by. You need to get alone with God. It will be overcoming through weakness, not strength; receiving an identity from God that is entirely new; seeing God face-to-face with fresh God-encounters; and becoming a memorial to brokenness that gives the glory all to God, and you get none. Will you go after a Jacob experience like this? Jason Upton, I quoted his wonderful song on Jacob last time, and another verse goes like this - this is so insightful of the whole story:
'Jacob really longed to be a hero' - and then God speaks,
'All I really wanted was a friend
I'm the way, the life, the truth
So tell Me Jacob when will the lying end?
And does the striving make you strong?
Because when I came to love on you
You fought me till the dawn'.
You want blessing, but some of you are struggling against God because you're struggling with your own flesh. I have one more thing to share with you tonight that is, in a sense, unrelated to everything that I have said - and yet it is intrinsically related, and I believe there is a prophetic element to it. At the beginning of this story, if you look at chapter 32 of Genesis, there is something I want to highlight. Now listen, God, I believe, spoke very definitely through the last message about Bethel; not just in many aspects, personally and so on, and to you in your small corner and me and mine, but to The Stables here - I believe there was a prophetic word, and that is that God wants to create (and this is the case anywhere and everywhere God's people are) He wants to create a Bethel, which means 'the house of God'. He wants to create an open heaven whereby He can bless this earth, and the people on this earth through the community of His people. That's what Jacob experienced in this revelation, you remember he said: 'I didn't realise, the Lord is in this place and I knew it not! This is none other than the house of God, and a gate of heaven'. So I said last time that you can be sitting here, soaked in the presence of God, and not even know it - but through this revelation that Jacob had, his eyes were opened, he realised God was here.
Now this didn't happen to me until the last couple of days, as I've been reading Scripture and daily readings, and I have definitely felt this message burning in my heart. There was something that intrigued me about this Scripture, but I just couldn't fit in, this chapter 32 at the beginning of the chapter, I just couldn't fit it in with anything I was going to say so I left it out. Over the last couple of days I've been reading constantly about angels, constantly. I know some of you have been too, because I know some of you do the same daily readings as I do. Yesterday I even texted some folk John chapter 1, Nathaniel's experience, where the Lord said to him - and this is the New Testament equivalent to Bethel - the Lord said to him: 'You will see greater things than these. You will see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man'. Now, I believe that that was referring to the day of Pentecost when heaven would open, I believe that that is the present-day living in the power of the Spirit. So that was yesterday, what else was there? There was loads of other stuff. Today I was reading from Psalm 103, 'The LORD has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all. Bless the LORD, you His angels, who excel in strength, who do His word, heeding the voice of His word. Bless the LORD, all you His hosts, you ministers of His, who do His pleasure. Bless the LORD, all His works, in all places of His dominion. Bless the LORD, O my soul!'. Jacob experienced angelic ministries in chapter 28. We have seen him wrestling with the Angel here in chapter 32 and getting his blessing. There have been other people who have been talking to me about almost visions that they have had of angels ministering in significant ways - OK? You think, 'Where are you going with all this?'. In the last couple of days people have been telling me - this is all disjointed, I know, because it was with me until this - people have been telling me how they come to the corner of the bottom of the lane where it comes onto the ground here at 'The Stables', and they sense a different atmosphere as they come round. Now I don't know whether you concur with this, but there is something special about here, there is something significant, there is a sense of the presence of God about the place. OK, that's all a bit unrelated, until I got reminded this morning very forcefully of the beginning of chapter 32 of Genesis: 'Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him' - Jacob has a lot of angelic experiences - 'When Jacob saw them, he said, 'This is God's camp'. And he called the name of that place Mahanaim'. If you have a marginal reference Bible, that means, 'Mahanaim' means 'double camp'. What Jacob was saying was: 'There is my camp here, but there is an angelic camp here'. I'm going to tell you what I think, take it or leave it: I believe, and I declare tonight, that there is an angelic encampment here. I believe that. I believe, even by declaring that, that there will be an intensification of those angelic ministries, who do God's bidding. Our focus isn't on angels, it's on Jesus Christ, the Lord of Hosts, the Lord of Angels. It wouldn't surprise me, it really wouldn't, if somebody sees one or two tonight - and I have never seen one, but I'm up for it, and I'll be a wee bit jealous if you see one before me!
Some of you think I've now lost my marbles, I know - but you either believe in angels or you don't, you either believe they are real or you don't. You either see in your spirit the truth of what God says - that's not the same as actually seeing, we need to start seeing by faith - but sometimes, sometimes the dimension will be broken so that we will see, and that's what happens in Scripture, Old and New Testament. I believe we're going to see, but I believe - I mean, I've been looking out the windows here since I've come tonight, and it looks like an encampment - there's that much flat ground it's unbelievable, all around here. Oh that it would happen to us, that we would see that this can be, and I believe is, a Bethel - it is a meeting place between God and men, it is a place where the ladder can come down here to up there, and we can know angelic ministrations of blessing as they do God's business and bidding, as the kingdom comes on earth as it is in heaven. Oh that our eyes would be opened, as Elisha said for Gehazi: 'Lord, open his eyes'. These angelic hosts can bring you God-encounters tonight, as they did to Jacob. Do you want one? Are you ready for one?
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This sermon was delivered at The Stables in Enniskillen by David Legge. It was transcribed from the fourth recording in his 'The Jacob Enigma' series, entitled "Getting The Blessing" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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