Wednesday, November 10, 2010

THE LIFE OF JACOB #4 : “The Touch of God that hurt and healed Jacob"

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 ![1] 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!

[1] 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 .

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