TEXT : Genesis 32 : 29- 30
TITLE : “ Reaching the Place of Blessing “
DATE PREACHED : THE LORD'S DAY 28/11/2010
|False Bay - Cape, South Africa|
Last week my sermon was on the subject “ winning by loosing “ . The commentator Derek Kidner says, that when God touched Jacob’s hip socket,” it was defeat and victory all wrapped up in one."  We saw the NT principle of ‘strength in weakness’ applied here . [ 2 Cor 12:9-10 : “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me… for when I am weak, then I am strong.” ] . This is , as I reminded you last week , ‘biblical logic’ . It usually takes us a long time to understand it , because by our sinful default we are not trained to think like this .
Becoming a Christian and being and living as a Christian certainly leaves us with no dull moments . God has amazing and unexpected ways to get our attention in order to conform us more to the likeness of His Son .
Jacob had no idea that the night would turn out as it did , changing his life forever; nor may you and multitudes of other Christians to whom at one time or another the Lord drew suddenly near and turned their lives around .
From Jacob’s story we have learned that God’s ways with us are not always apparent at once . We often think that our lives are just a series of cause and effect . We tend to think that ‘life just happens’ , but for the Christian life always happens with God at the start of our lives at the center and at the end of our lives .
Think of Jacob’s story : God met him at the beginning, when he as the younger ,was chosen above the older Esau to inherit the covenantal promises (Gen 25) ; God met Him at Bethel (Gen 28:10ff) in conversion experience ; God met him here at Peniel in a further sanctification experience , and if you go to the closing chapters of Genesis 48-50 you will see that God was with Jacob ( Israel) at the very end , still directing his footsteps . Life doesn’t just happen for Jacob . His footsteps are directed . It is such a fact that caused a hymn-writer like Philip Doddridge (1702-1751) to write :
O God of Jacob, by whose hand
Thy people still are fed
Who through this weary pilgrimage
Hast all our fathers led .
What a blessing to know yourself in the hands of the Living God , and not of fate , or the stars , or the devil ! Thank God that this historical narrative ends in blessing at Peniel.
Arriving at the place of blessing through many dangers , toils and snares
Remember where Jacob came from . His name means ‘ deceiver’. This is the nature that we have all inherited in Adam . We are all naturally “plotters and schemers “ who love to manage and organize our own lives .
However God in His covenantal faithfulness and love does not leave His spiritual offspring as they were born . He gives us new birth , and He continues to strive with us by sanctifying us step by step - sometimes small steps , and sometimes through gigantic wrestlings . But , remember , He is determined to bless His children and to bring them into their promised land . In this process we observe that He is longsuffering and puts up with our self confidence and self sufficiency, but He must and He will bring us to the end of ourselves .
When He does that , all He needs is a slight touch and all our strong wrestling is over in the twinkling of an eye . Instantaneously we become aware of our weakness and our utter helplessness . At this stage we find ourselves in the position of “blessed helplessness “ . At such a moment the true Christian learns to cling to Him in their weakness, and will cry out “ I will not let you go unless you bless me” .
Let me say this again : This biographical sketch of Jacob is important for all of us , for it describes all of us . By nature we are all rebels against God .
To be sure , our conversion experience at Bethel changes our destiny , but our sinful nature – “ the flesh” needs to be subdued daily and progressively . For this we need experiences like Peniel . Thank God that He is always at work in us , even if it is a tough , stubborn wrestling match on our part . The wonderful truth is that God in all this is committed to bless us and to make us fit for fellowship with Him in heaven .
Consider what has been accomplished in Jacob since the wrestling had been ended:
1. He has been broken : His self reliance has been given an appropriate knock! He now knows that He needs God’s help and blessing for the future – particularly as he must face Esau . That is Jacob says, "I will not let you go unless you bless him."
2. He has been renamed : God says to Jacob, "What is your name? " And Jacob responds, "Jacob is my name." God says in verse 28, "Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed." Significantly the Lord says to the Churches in the book of the Revelation: "To him who overcomes I will give a new name" ( Rev 2:17) . In this regard you will remember that God also renamed Abram ( exalted father ) to Abraham (father of a multitude) . He had given him a name which would suit him better when the fulfillment of God’s promises were realized in him. God renames Jacob. He takes away that name which was actually an indictment: deceiver ! God says gives Him a new name : Israel - (He strives with God) . This change of name indicates a dramatic change in Jacob.
3. He has been blessed : (v.29) He breaks him, He renames him, and then He blesses him. Jacob responds to this by saying “tell me who you are” . But God does not have to tell him . Jacob knows! (see v.30) . All that God does is to bless Him.
THE PLACE OF BLESSING
There are times in our Christian experience when we make not only a small step but a giant step forward in our growth in grace. It feels almost like conversion.
When last did you have such an experience ?
Have you ever had such an experience?
I have a sense of expectancy that God may perhaps be doing that very thing in many of you at this time . There appear so many of you wrestling with God – but perhaps you have not yet understood that fact . Like Jacob you may think that Esau is your main problem. You may think that Esau (or whatever obstacle there is in your mind) is the true threat to your happiness and blessing . You can see nothing and fear nothing but Esau. But, it is not so. You are fundamentally mistaken. You have misdiagnosed your own problems. Your interpretation of happenings in your life is out of focus .
Remember – if you are a Christian , God is in control – and that to bless, even if that way to the blessing is through a spiritual desert or a cross !
We are all too easily paying attention to the wrong things. We worry about this and that and imagine that if only we could change this or get that all would be well.
But, then God draws near, and in a moment Jacob forgets all about Esau. In a moment of stunning spiritual clarity , Jacob saw himself in the hands of God and not of Esau . And so he clung to the Lord and refused to let Him go and pleaded for the blessing of the Lord .
Perhaps this little series of sermons on the life of Jacob’s struggles is beginning to open your eyes to the fact that you are not wrestling against man or circumstances – you are wrestling with God . But you need to be reminded above all that you are not in a wrestling match for the sake of being in a wrestling match . You are in this to win . However you must remember the biblical logic here . You win by loosing ! And once you have lost you are ready to be blessed .
I wanted to remind you from the example of Jacob , and from Scripture in general that God is not in this to destroy you . He is in this to bless you .
I also want you to learn to be thankful to God that you do not have to wrestle God in the fullness of His glory . If you did , you would not be able to live . It is just as well that Jacob wrestled with the Lord at night. The Bible says that no one can see God and live (Ex 33:20) . By God’s grace Jacob had seen God in the form of a man and only in the dark. That is why he survived.
Thank God that He does not reveal Himself to you in all His glory . You would not be able to live . Those in the Scriptures who had seen God’s greater glimpses of God’s glory always fell down as if dead . That is what happened to many OT characters . It happened to Paul in Acts 9 when he had met the risen, ascended and glorified Lord Jesus on the Damascus road . John on the island of Patmos saw the Lord Jesus on the Lord’s day and records this ( Rev 1:17) “ when I saw Him , I fell at His feet as though dead.”
The blessing of God , even though it may be a very intimidating experience is nevertheless meant to be a blessing . Martyn Lloyd Jones writes :
“Some of you can well remember how the Lord met you and turned your life in a new direction - something that you had never imagined . And many of us can remember how the Lord, in the course of our Christian lives, visited us and completely blasted out of mind and heart those things that we were thinking and planning and worrying about at the time and replaced them with nothing but thoughts of his own glory and the joy of knowing Him. It must be so when the Almighty God draws near that our tidy set of little expectations is stood on its head! 
I want you to learn from the Scripture to become bolder with God . Some may think that Jacob is very arrogant to demand a blessing from God. But we must learn that this is the faith that God approves and loves. This the faith he blesses , because this is a faith that honours God , since it clings to Him , and makes Him be what He is meant to be in your life : Your heavenly Father who blesses you!
Humanly speaking it is not easy to come to this point . Think of ho long it took for Jacob to get to this point , after which everything became so very clear to him .
All his sin and years of struggle resulting from his sin, and all that God had promised to him came to a climax on one night at the river Jabbok .
This experience can be best described as "a wrestling in prayer " . True , faithful, prevailing prayer will cost you more and exhaust you more than anything else you ever do. It may even have physical manifestations - you may even be left with a limp !
But such prayer does get God’s attention . It will lead to the blessing of the Lord .
I wonder how many there are in this congregation today who have finally understood this about their own struggles . I wonder whether there are some who f have finally understood that their struggle has been with God .
I wonder whether there is someone here today who is not very desperate as a result and must now plead for God's blessing. It may be that God must bless you with the ability to forgive those that have trespassed against you . It may be that God must bless you with a renewed sense of hope. It may be that God needs to bless you with grace to overcome your fears or the hatred that may darken your life casting a deep shadow over your joy in the Lord . If this is so , then you must say boldly to God, like Jacob, "I will not let you go unless you bless me !
You show God His own handwriting - the Scriptures; He is tended towards it.
You tell Him : " Lord you have said in your word .... and you lay your oppressive burden down at the foot of the cross of Jesus . You plead with Him : "I will not let you go , unless you bless me." May this be the day that dawns upon you in your struggle with the Lord! May it be so , and may God be glorified in a huge spiritual victory today in your life - a giant advance in your sanctification . Amen !