Understanding His story helps us to understand that His-Story is our Story!
Understanding His story helps us to understand that His-Story is our Story!
Adam and Eve wrestled with temptation and lost the battle in the Garden of Eden. Cain wrestled with pride and became so angry that he murdered his brother. Abraham wrestled with fear and lied to protect himself. Isaac wrestled with priorities and ignored the worship of God.
Many times when we read the scriptures, we’re very sure we know what we believe and we know we’re always right! But sometimes God throws us a curve in His Scriptures. That's exactly what God does in Genesis 32! In this lesson, we may find ourselves questioning how in the world verse 28 could be true? It must be true; it’s in God’s Word! But how can it be? How can anyone wrestle with God, Himself, and live? And, Genesis 32 doesn't just say that Jacob wrestled with God, but it also says that he won! That's what we're going to look at in this lesson. Jacob wrestled with God and won.
At the conclusion of this lesson, students will see that we need to empty ourselves before the Lord of all the things which hinder us and keep us from seeing God face to face as we walk through this life with Christ.
Deception and manipulation are not what God wants or expects from His children!
When we finally come to the place where we have emptied ourselves of all of the things that stand between us and the Lord, it is then that He gives the victory.
When Jacob meets the Lord, everything changes and that is still true today for us!
Favoritism in the family causes dysfunctional families and hinders spiritual growth.
1. A Life of Deception
Jacob, the Deceiver! Jacob, the con-man! Jacob, the manipulator! Those names pretty much described Jacob for much of his life The name Jacob means supplanter. Supplanter means, to take the place of (another), as through force, scheming, strategy, or the like. When he was born, he was holding on to his brother’s heel. He is Jacob the grabber! And that's what he does for most of his life, grabbing onto everything that he can get. The name Jacob in Hebrew is Ya`aqob - From the Hebrew word “aqob” - to supplant, circumvent, take by the heel, follow at the heel, assail insidiously, overreach… Before they were born, Jacob and his brother were fighting each other in the womb. They did not get along much better while they were growing up. It must have been hard for their mother and father. An intense rivalry develops and even mom and dad pick sides. Each child trying desperately to win the love and affection pf the parents. Then, finally Jacob receives the blessing Esau should have received according to birthright through trickery, lying and manipulation. He lived up to his name. This drove a wedge between the brothers and Jacob had to leave home. “A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city, And contentions are like the bars of a citadel.” (Proverbs 18:19)
There are so many good lessons to learn from the life of Jacob. Jacob spends many years working for his future father-in-law in order to marry his two wives. During this time, the deceiver is deceived and Jacob gets a little taste of his own medicine. But, yet again for the sake of Abraham and for the future of Israel, God blesses and protects Jacob.
The rest of the story is that he does not remain “Jacob the deceiver”. God tells him it is time to go back to the land of his fathers (Abraham and Isaac). “Then the Lord said to Jacob, ‘Return to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.’” (Genesis 31:3). He finally comes to the point where he must return home after 20 years. Perhaps it was now that God decides Jacob is finally ready to go back and raise the 12 sons that God is giving him. Jacob himself, also realizes it means that it's time to go back and face his brother who wants to kill him.
2. Emptying Himself
While Jacob was growing up, “things” were important to him. We are told, “When the boys grew up, Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the field, but Jacob was a peaceful man, living in tents.” (Genesis 25:27) Esau was an outdoorsman. Probably just as comfortable sleeping under the stars as he was anywhere else. But this seemingly odd statement about Jacob “living in tents” indicates something important. Jacob was about material belongings. He was about comfort. He was a “peaceful” man? Peaceful is translated from the Hebrew word Tam. It is another one of those words with multiple meanings. It can mean - an ordinary, quiet sort of person. That is how the New Living Translation translates it. It can also mean - one who lacks nothing in physical strength, beauty, etc. We know that Jacob was strong because of what the scriptures say about him moving the stone from the well in Genesis 29:7-11. The lid to the well where Laban's daughters, Rachel and Leah, would water the sheep, was a heavy stone that could only be moved when all of the shepherds got there and moved it together. But when Rachel arrives, Jacob walks over to the well and removes the stone by himself. So he is strong! He is probably around 70 years old at the time. For him that would have been in the middle of his life. And we probably can assume he was pretty good looking. But the translation that he was a peaceful, ordinary quiet sort of a person is probably the correct one. Jacob may have been the embodiment of the old saying “work smarter not harder!”
Jacob almost had a one-track mind (other than gaining his wives) and that was gaining more wealth. And that's what happened during the 20 years he was with Laban. He gained a lot of wealth. So when he is approaching closer to his brother, he begins to send on ahead, some of that wealth to his brother. It is then that he finds out that Esau is on his way with 400 men. This can only mean one thing in Jacob's mind, Esau is coming to kill him and possibly his whole family. He's probably right.But this time instead of running, Jacob empties himself before the Lord. Jacob sends on ahead, flocks, herds and riches to his brother Esau. Jacob is giving up many of the things that have meant so much to him for so much of his life. Last, he has only his two wives, is 11 sons and two servants. It appears that Jacob is seeking God's guidance as he has been praying about this meeting with Esau. So Jacob gets up during the night and sends his wives, his children and his servants across the river Jabbok and out toward Esau.
“He took them and sent them across the stream. And he sent across whatever he had.” (Genesis 32:23) I read these verses and thought there must be something significant right here. There has to be something right here that the Lord wants us to understand? Jabbok – what is the Jabbok? So, now I decide I am going to look that word up in the Hebrew dictionary. I was amazed. The word Jabbok in Hebrew literally means “emptying.” Wow! Jacob took everything he had and sent it over the emptying stream. Jacob began with what was most precious – his wives – then his maids which were secondary wives – then his children – then his belongings! He emptied himself at the Jabbok (the emptying river). Jacob has given up everything. Finally he is empty of all of the things that had filled him with greed, deception and desire for material belongings. Finally it is just Jacob alone in that place there by the river Jabbok. - And then someone else appears.
3. A New Name - Genesis 32
“Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.” (Genesis 32:24)A man appears in the camp with Jacob and he and Jacob begin to wrestle. There's no evidence that the Scriptures indicate that this is symbolic or contains some hidden meaning. Jacob and this man literally wrestle until the sun is dawning. This is yet another evidence of Jacob's strength. Jacob was not the youngest of men at this time. He may have been in his 90s. But he would have to still be in very good shape since he lived to be 147 years old. “When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him. Then he said, ‘Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.’ But he said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’” (Genesis 32:25-26) Jacob was winning! Then the man asked Jacob an odd question. “So he said to him, ‘What is your name?’” and then “he said, ‘Jacob.’” (v. 27)
It seems obvious that the one who is wrestling with Jacob knows his name, so why would he ask him what his name is? I believe he did not ask him for the purpose of finding out his name, but rather that he asked him so that Jacob himself would think about his name.
Who are you? Then, “He said, ‘Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.’” (Genesis 32:28)Do you see the significance of this? This was the Lord! There are some who say this was just an angel, but they would have to argue with the only eyewitness there, Jacob, who said he saw God face to face. Then “the man” says “you have striven with God” (elohiym)! The Lord didn’t have to ask what his name was. He already knew. He wanted Jacob’s response. What is your name? Jacob responds, my name is Jacob - deceiver - conman - grabber... The Lord responds back and says – not any longer, I’m giving you a new name. Because you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed, you have overcome; your new name is going to be Israel. He changed Jacob's name and also tells Jacob who He is! He is God! A pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ Himself!
We need to understand that chapter 32 is the defining divine turning point in Jacob’s spiritual life. He meets the Lord face to face and everything changes from the inside out. Even his name. It's no longer Jacob the supplanter, but it is now Israel! The name Israel means God prevails! In today’s language it might be interpreted as God wins! But in this wrestling match Jacob prevailed! Just like he had grabbed onto his brothers heel in the womb of his mother, he grabbed on to the Lord and he would not let go.
How are we to understand that? Here’s how! God did prevail! All those years God had been patiently working with Jacob. Blessing Jacob and watching over him. Teaching him through the lessons of life so that finally Jacob would come to this point where faith has become something real in his life. God has become more than just his vending machine from which he pulls out his next need! God and Jacob now have a relationship based upon the grace of God through the faith of Jacob. "Jacob The Grabber" is still grabbing but this time he has grabbed the Lord and he will not let go! Jacob will not let go of God! God will never make anyone let go of Him! God won! Because God won in Jacob’s life, Jacob wins! Because Jesus has won the victory, we win!
What does this lesson teach us about God? Man? Sin? Grace? Jacob is a picture of Christ in this. We can see Jesus all over these pages, not just in a wrestling match. Philippians 2:5-7 says, “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.” - “but emptied himself” - There is a phrase in theology known as knosis. This (Philippians 2:5-7) is known as the Knosis passage and there is a huge debate on what He emptied himself of? One thing is for sure! HE DID NOT EMPTY HIMSELF OF HIS DIVINITY!!!!! Here are 5 things He did empty himself of... 1. GLORY - He emptied himself of his heavenly glory! “Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” (John 17:5) . Why did He do that? Because He cared more about you than His own glory.2. WILL - His emptied Himself of his own will and submitted to the will of the Father! He gave up His free exercise of His will. “...who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father” (Galatians 1:4). 3. UNLIMITED ABILITY - He placed upon Himself limitations! “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” (Matthew 24:36) 4. WEALTH - He gave up His heavenly wealth! “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9)5. UNION WITH THE FATHER - He cried out on Calvary "My God, why have you forsaken me?" 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Jacob emptied himself and became a picture of Christ, who lowered Himself and gave Himself for us.In Genesis 32:29, Jacob asks what the man's name is and the man said to him – why would you need to ask my name? Jacob met The Son of God! When he was finally willing to give up everything and empty himself, he met Jesus Christ! This was the turning point of Jacob’s life. From this point on, Jacob walks differently. (physically and spiritually) When you empty yourself at the Jabbok you are going to meet the Man who came down from heaven who was also fully God and He would ask you “What is your name?” You know who He is! The question is who are you? That’s what the Lord wanted jacob to confess! “Jacob the deceiver!” No more!!! Now your name is GOD WINS! ISRAEL! I believe that Jacob had known Him for many years, but for the first time, he has actually emptied himself and is clinging to nothing and no one except the Lord. Jacob realized that he had seen God face to face. “So Jacob named the place Peniel, (pronounced - pen-oo-ale') for he said, ‘I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved.’” (Genesis 32:30)There is an old saying, “vital faith need not be idle faith!” James tells us that faith without works is dead. Jacob is exercising living faith! How did he do it? Jacob has put that faith to work by sending everything away and emptying himself before God. When he does, he sees God face to face! The place where Jacob was became known as “Peniel”, pronounced pen-oo-ale', which simply means “facing God”. Is it possible that some of us have turned our faces away from Jesus? We need to send our things over the Jabbok – empty ourselves – coming to Peniel – just us – clinging to Jesus Christ. We need to turn and face God. So many people know Him as a Christian, but you don’t face Him. Maybe it's time for many of us to wrap our arms around Jesus and refuse to let go until He blesses us? He can change our name – He can give us a new name in our family, in our church and in our community. He can change the way we walk. What a lesson from the life of Jacob!
God speaks to Jacob and tells him “Return to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.”
God acts by meeting him at the river Jabbok and wrestles with him.
God reveals Himself as the Lord when He changes Jacob’s name to Israel.
Why do you think God waited to come to Jacob until everyone and everything else was gone?
Why do you think God (or the Lord) wrestled with him?Why do you think the Lord touched his hip?
What changed between the time Esau left home with 400 men to intercept and kill his brother and when he met him and cried on his neck?
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