TEXT : Genesis 32 : 22- 32
TITLE : “The Touch of God that hurt and healed Jacob"
DATE PREACHED : The Lord's Day 7/11/2010
|Sunset over the Atlantic Ocean at Swakopmund , Namibia|
24 And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. 25 When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob's hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him.
Last time we focused upon the loneliness of Jacob’s experience . There are times in our lives when we have to go through spiritual trials alone – with no one in attendance but God. Although these times are not happy in themselves , we saw that when God is behind them , they will always serve to strengthen us . These times will ultimately increase our joy .
The angel of the LORD came to Jacob. He isolated him at the Jabbok river (Jabbok means wrestling) , and it was there that after an intense night of wrestling that God allowed him to wrestle himself to the point of exhaustion .
We will now engage upon a thoughtful study of v.25 as we consider the touch of God which at once hurt Jacob and at the same time healed him .
1. Why this had to happen
2. What did actually happen
3. How this experience changed Jacob ( Lessons)
1. Why did this wrestling have to happen ?
a. This had to happen because Jacob was chosen by God . The Divine Potter will shape this chosen lump of clay for His own purposes and for His own glory .
b. This had to happen because Jacob was also a son of Adam – a sinner . We have seen what an accomplished sinner , schemer and deceiver he was. Jacob was as yet an unfinished product in the hands of God. Like all true believers redeemed from Adam’s curse , Jacob was ‘work in progress’ . On the eve of his entrance into the land of promise God has a great work to do in Jacob .
In this process God appears to Jacob as an enemy ! Why do I say this ? Surely God is not our enemy? Surely, the Bible declares that He is our friend ? He is for us . Yes , that is true , but remember that God is no friend of the remaining sin in us . He will purify us . He will struggle with us until we abandon our self will and follow him meekly like a lamb - like a broken horse.
Jacob , you and I have plenty of self will , and that is why God brings us into situations where He will wrestle this self will , this self reliance out of us . Ultimately we must learn what the apostle Paul learned : we are weak people in the hands of a mighty God . He learned that “ God’s grace is sufficient for me , for God’s power is made perfect in weakness… for when I am weak then I am strong .” ( 2 Cor 12:8-10) .
God is teaching us through wrestling and conflict lessons of humility , obedience and trust. These don’t come naturally to us .
Wrestling is a very good analogy of the nature of spiritual life. The Christian wrestles with the powers of darkness (Eph 6:10ff) because they are contrary to the life of God in us , but we also wrestle with God, because our remaining sin is contrary to His nature in us . We need to learn to distinguish between the two . The outcomes are vastly different . When you wrestle with God , He hurts to heal you . When you wrestle with Satan he hurts to destroy you . Pray that you will have the ability to see in your own wrestlings what is happening . When God is at work , embrace your sufferings . When Satan is at work , resist him and the sin by which he seeks to entangle you , and he will flee from you .
Jacob was a strong, self willed man who wrestled with God .
2. What did actually happen ?
a. God confronts Jacob at the river Jabbok . God confronted him on the eve of a new phase in his life, for which Jacob needed to be prepared
b. Jacob initially felt that it was a man that wrestled with him. Initially it was not apparent to Jacob that it was God . This wrestling is happening in Jacob’s mind and soul. You can relate to this. You sometimes have battles in which you struggle with someone in your mind – sometimes even to the point of exhaustion . Sometimes these struggles even may keep us awake all night! What you may not always appreciate is that this battle that you are having in your mind is not actually with a person , but with God!
Jacob’s antagonist had not revealed himself as an angel . In Jacob’s mind this is a man , and Jacob engages the man in his mind as an enemy .
It must have had to do with what was lying ahead for Jacob . In Jacob’s mind he was perhaps thinking of his estranged brother Esau. Esau was a powerful, fearful figure in Jacob’s mind . 20 years earlier he had to flee from him for his life , hiding in the home of his uncle Laban , for Esau had threatened to kill him (27:41) . What is clear is that Jacob has an antagonist before him .
We do know that Jacob wrestled tenaciously with this man of mystery in the dark . They appear to have been evenly matched until , at daybreak, the man simply touched his hip sockets, and the battle was instantly over ! The Hebrew language apparently employs a mild term for this touch – like the touch of Isa 6:7 , where the angel touched Isaiah’s lips with a live coal. A light touch, not a heavy , crushing blow – and it was over!
c. The turning point ! It is only now in v.25 that Jacob discovered that this man had supernatural powers when at the mere touch of his hip-joint he became disabled . This experience of pain changes everything . Truly ,pain is God’s megaphone to get the attention of a deaf world (C.S. Lewis) .
Until this moment he was fighting and he was not giving an inch the whole night. Now that his hip is painfully out of joint , he is physically incapacitated. He cannot wrestle any longer , but what he does now is that he clings to the man , and in v.26 ( at daybreak) the man or the angel says to him “ let me go!” Jacob s refuses to let him go : “ I will not let you go unless you bless me “.
This is the turning point in which something dies in Jacob . He is humbled . He knows that he is in the presence of a greater , for he now seeks His blessing . His self confidence and self reliance has taken a knock . He now appeals for grace : “ I will not let you go unless you bless me . “ He is now in the place of someone who needs help and assistance . He was left disabled. God had touched him ever so gently in a vulnerable spot , and left him incapacitated . Thank God that He deals so firmly and yet so gently with us !
3. LESSONS : How this experience changed Jacob
a. Jacob learned that God was patiently powerful . God allowed Jacob to wrestle him to the point of annoyance , and then by a simple touch , God put him out of action and showed him that he was actually weak, and vulnerable and dependent.
b. He learned that he was going to have to enter Esau’s land as a weak , vulnerable man , dependent on His God . But that was ok . God did not need him as a helping hand . God was more than able to sort out Esau , just as He was able to sort out Moses’ Egyptians and Joshua’s Canaanites and David’s Philistines and all Israel’s enemies . God did not Peter’s sword to protect Christ from the enemies who put Him to death . God’s power was greater than death . God did not need a strong Jacob. He needed a humble dependent Jacob , who would listen to God for God had already decreed Jacob’s future : “The plans of the Lord stand firm forever , the purposes of His heart through all generations.”
We all need to learn that natural ability will not win spiritual battles . Obedience to God will . Paul says it like this : “ the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” ( 2 Cor 10:4) .
c. He learned that God was a more formidable opponent than Esau . Away with the fear of man . Fear God only!
d. He learned that God is tough and tender . God is unyielding when it comes to His own truth and purpose. He will not change His plan to accommodate us ; but He is graciously tender in touching us without destroying us . He is utterly committed to take sin out of our lives , and yet He does it in such a gracious way – even giving His Son as a sin offering in your and my place !
He is tough ! He will take our pride and put it out of joint . All of us can give examples of how God has sometimes taken our plans and put them out of joint in ways we had never expected . Jacob had never thought that he would be away for 20 years. He had anticipated a short while . But in all things God works out everything for the good of those that love Him and who are called according to His purpose ( Rom 8:28)
e. He learned that to wrestle when crippled is not easy . When the truth of God’s Word eventually wrestles us to the ground , it cripples us . It takes away our false pillars , false securities, pretences and our sense of self reliance upon which we tend to want to build our lives . Cripples have to live by grace through faith alone . Cripples are dependent people . They always need someone to help them . If you are blind you need some one to lead you. If you are lame you need someone to carry you . But the blessing is this: When God puts your life out of joint , then you are finally brought to the place where you are able to trust in Him whose power is without limit , whose mercy is without equal , whose grace is always sufficient , whose love towards His people is unquenchable.
f. We learn that there is pain when God puts our lives out of joint . As CS Lewis wrote in his book “ The problem of Pain” (p.81) : “ God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains : it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” All must hear this , but in particular younger people must listen now : your pride ; your feelings of being invincible, your prejudices, your plans for your life…. If you are God’s man or woman , expect Him at times to take these plans and put them out of joint. Don’t think that this is the devil spoiling your future . You are not in the hands of an almighty devil . You are in the hands of an almighty God , who is committed to making you more like Jesus . He is committed to produce in you fruit that will last . He will spur you on to love , humility , obedient service, and prayer until you begin to understand that the life worth living is lived from dependence upon Him alone.
It is to Him that you must learn to cling , like Jacob , and pray : “ I will not let you go unless you bless me.” Amen!
 That is why we must be very careful to attribute all opposition to Satan . Very often the LORD becomes His people’s enemy . The outcomes between God’s testing and Satan’s temptations are very different. God tests us with the purpose of making us more Christ like ; Satan tempts us in order that he may destroy us .