OLD TESTAMENT READING: GENESIS 32:13-34:31
JACOB- GOD CRIPPLED HIM TO CROWN HIM
What a wonderful God we have! He is willing to get right down into the nitty, gritty, rough and tumble of our crazy lives. He meets with us in a personal way, comforts us, challenges us, resists us, encourages us, and deals us loving blows of correction that will humble us where and when we need it. He is willing to wrestle with us when we are wrestling with our personal problems, our fears, doubts and insecurities.
We see this in Jacob’s wrestling match with the angel of the Lord in Genesis 32.
In Genesis 32, Jacob’s cleverness is at work again as he intends to soften the anticipated anger of his brother Esau. He seeks to appease him with a parade of peace-offerings- his possessions, and if necessary, his people. Jacob’s self-defense mechanisms are working overtime. He puts what he considers his more dispensable possessions and family members up front to offer them as gifts to Esau. He keeps his beloved Rachel and Joseph close at hand. He wants to be able to escape with his life and his nearest and dearest, in case Esau decides to seek revenge and attack.
God had given the promise that Esau would serve Jacob, the elder would serve the younger. But rather than letting God fulfill His promise His way and in His time, Jacob’s story has been one of his efforts to fulfill God’s promise on his own. Jacob has had prior experiences of God’s favor. God displayed His greatness and glory with angels ascending and descending on a staircase to heaven. The Lord spoke to him from the top. He assured Jacob that He would accompany him, bless him and bring him safely into his inheritance. This was the promise given to Abraham of land, a nation of descendants and the Promised Seed (the Messiah) in Whom all the nations of the earth would be blessed (Genesis 28:10-17).
After making a treaty with his father-in-law, angels of God met Jacob at Mahanaim (Gen 32:1) to assure him of God’s accompanying presence. But this was not enough. These magnificent encounters have yet to have any transforming effect on his behavior.
On the night before Jacob is to meet his brother and rival, Esau, he sends his family across the ford of the river Jabbock, a river east of the Jordan.
Genesis 32:24 (NASB)
24 Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.
Jacob was left alone. But he was not alone. Very interesting. A man wrestles with him until daybreak. This was no simple arm-wrestling match with a stranger. When it is over and done, Jacob knows that he was left alone with God. God was dealing with Jacob. God was there in this man to bless him. But Jacob was fighting off the Blesser with his own efforts to be blessed!
What we learn here is that God wants to bless us, but He has to deal with us, and at times resist us when we are relying on our own strength. So, the angel of the Lord had to deal with Jacob. Jacob’s thigh bone was dislocated during the wrestling match. You would think that this blow to Jacob’s strength would have caused Jacob to call it quits. But Jacob finally articulates what he is after. “I will not let you go unless you bless me!”
Does Jacob know to Whom he is speaking? He is speaking to ‘the blessed God’ Who has been the source of all of Jacob’s blessings up until now. He is the One Who blessed his grandfather Abraham, his father Isaac, and blessed him, Jacob, with His presence and prosperity. Jacob is predisposed to bow before his fears. (He will bow seven times before Esau the next day; Gen. 33:3). But he will not yet bow before the Lord.
Instead of reprimanding Jacob, the angel of the Lord presses him with a question.
“What is your name?” the angel asks.
“Cheater,” for this is what the name ‘Jacob’ means, and it certainly fit the man who bore it. “Heel-catcher; supplanter, deceiver” –All of this is implied in the name “Jacob”. All his life Jacob, the younger, had been fighting for the blessing of his elder brother. He grabbed the elder brother’s heel at birth. He cheated the elder brother out of his birthright. He deceived his father to give him the blessing of the first born. But it was the will of God to bless Jacob before Jacob had been born! The LORD said to Rebekah while she was carrying the twins, “Two nations are in your womb; and two peoples will be separated from your body; and one people shall be stronger than the other; and the older shall serve the younger.” (Genesis 25:23)
And all this time he had been fighting for this blessing with his own efforts, a blessing that God had foreordained. (How often we resist God’s grace through our unbelief! Instead of resting in what God has promised, we strive in our own efforts. Like Jacob, as we cheat, we find ourselves cheated. As we deceive, we find ourselves deceived. As we fight for a blessing, we find ourselves resisting the One who has wanted to bless us from the start!)
The Lord has a way of bringing us to the place of conviction and confession; repentance and faith. After Jacob’s admittance of his name, the angel of the Lord blesses him with a new name.
“Your name shall no longer be Jacob (cheater) but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.” (Gen 32:28).
What grace! A new name! Israel is a compound of two words. “Isra” means ‘ruled’ instead of ‘ruler’ and ‘El’ is the name of God. So the name means, “ruled by God”. Up until this point, Jacob had contended with men and prevailed. This had been through the efforts of his flesh, his own natural cleverness and strength. He even tried bargaining with God this way. But the only way to really prevail with God is to receive His grace. Let Him name you!
This really is a picture of God’s gracious dealing with us in conversion. We strive to save ourselves before we submit to the Savior. We strive to get a blessing before submitting to the Blesser.
- Campbell Morgan writes, “Jacob had contended with men and had prevailed. That had been his story all through, and the effect of his successes upon his character had been that of making him more self-reliant, and in that measure forgetful that these very successes had resulted from the fact that all his life was arranged and ruled by God. That was the lesson he had to learn in order that he might be delivered from a self-sufficiency which must inevitably have ruined him. That explains all the story of that night. God crippled him to crown him, revealed his weakness to teach him the secret of strength, defeated him that he might find victory.”
Don’t think that you need to compel a reluctant God to bless you. Remember Who He is. He is the initiator of the blessing. We love, because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19). “He loved us and sent His Son to be a propitiation for our sins.”
This is the third name change we have come across in the book of Genesis. Each name change is a revelation of God’s grace. ‘Abram’ becomes ‘Abraham’. ‘Sarai’ becomes ‘Sarah’. ‘Jacob’ becomes ‘Israel’. God’s promises are coming to pass. Not by might nor by power, but by His Spirit. So at the end of the day, we see lives transformed through the Promised Seed (Christ Jesus) to the praise of the glory of His grace.
Israel walks away from this experience with a limp, a permanent reminder that God’s grace has dealt with him in order that he might rely upon Him more. Like Jacob, we are all to bear the mark of being crucified with Christ. We are weak in Him, that He might be our strength.
Concerning Jesus, Paul wrote “4 For indeed He was crucified because of weakness, yet He lives because of the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, yet we will live with Him because of the power of God directed toward you.” (2 Cor 13:4)
2 Corinthians 1:9 (NASB) 9 indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead;
NEW TESTAMENT READING: MATTHEW 11:7-30
When the ‘Promised Seed’, Jesus Christ, does arrive on the scene, John the Baptist, the forerunner, prepares the way. Who is this mystery man, the last of the prophets?
Jesus tells us the truth about John the Baptist. He is the fulfillment of the prophecy of Malachi 3:1.
Malachi 3:1 (NASB) 1 “Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,” says the LORD of hosts.
Jesus was coming to inaugurate the new covenant. John would be the last of the Old Covenant prophets. He would point people to Jesus as the One who fulfills the Law and the Prophets as God’s promised Messiah.
What does verse 12 mean? 12 “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force.
John the Baptist was a man of conviction and courage. You have to be strong in the Lord and the power of His might (Eph 6:10) if you are going to withstand the violent opposition that is set against the kingdom of God.
Warren Wiersbe writes: “John’s ministry was to prepare the nation for Jesus and to present Jesus to the nation (Luke 1:15-17; John 1:29-34). Had the people received John’s witness and accepted their Messiah, John would have fulfilled the prophecies literally. Instead, they were fulfilled in a spiritual sense in the lives of those who trusted Christ. Jesus made this clear in Matthew 17:10-13.
Matthew 17:10-13 (NASB) 10 And His disciples asked Him, “Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” 11 And He answered and said, “Elijah is coming and will restore all things; 12 but I say to you that Elijah already came, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they wished. So also the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples understood that He had spoken to them about John the Baptist.
Many Bible students believe that Malachi 4:5 will be fulfilled literally when Elijah comes as one of the “two witnesses” spoken of in Revelation 11.” (Warren Wiersbe, Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) – New Testament – The Bible Exposition Commentary – New Testament, Volume 1.)
It is clear from Jesus’ remarks that the people of the Galilean cities were not responding to either the message of John, or Jesus. They were an unresponsive audience (Matt 11:16-19). Yet Jesus trusted that God, Who had sent both John the Baptist and Himself, knew what He was doing. “Wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.” (Matt 11:19).
Jesus denounces the Galilean Cities (Matt 11:20-27). They had heard the words of John the Baptist and seen the works of the Messiah, but they had not turned from their sins and turned to God.
Matthew 11:23 (NASB) 23 “And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day.”
Five of the ten miracles that occurred in Matthew 8-9 after the Sermon on the Mt. took place in Capernaum.
We get the clear picture that miracles do not necessarily result in revival. Unless there is a response to the conviction of the Holy Spirit, true contrition, and a turning from sin to God (11:20) we await certain judgment.
Jesus concludes with a wonderful promise to those who repent and believe:
Matthew 11:28-30 (NASB) 28 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. 30 “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
READING FROM PSALMS Psalm 14:1-7;
Psalm 14 describes the state of the man or woman who either suppresses the knowledge of God’s existence (in the case of an atheist) or God’s self-revelation (in the case of an agnostic), or God’s right to rule (in the case of those who submit to the concept of their own autonomy), saying “There is no God for me” (Ps. 14:1).
Verses 2-3 confirm the doctrine of human depravity. Paul quotes this in Romans 3:10-12.
Romans 3:10-12 (NIV) 10 As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; 11 there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. 12 All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”
Some Greek translations of the OT book of Psalms translate, ‘worthless’ as ‘corrupt’, and ‘useless’. This is the effect of the fall of mankind.
Jeremiah 17:9 (NIV) 9 The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?
The effect of leaving God out of your thought life is found in verses 4-5.
Psalm 14:4-5 (NIV) 4 Will evildoers never learn– those who devour my people as men eat bread and who do not call on the LORD? 5 There they are, overwhelmed with dread, for God is present in the company of the righteous.
Redemption is in view in verse 7.
Psalm 14:7 (NIV) 7 Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When the LORD restores the fortunes of his people, let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!
READING FROM PROVERBS- Proverbs 3:19-20
Proverbs 3:19-20 (NIV) 19 By wisdom the LORD laid the earth’s foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place; 20 by his knowledge the deeps were divided, and the clouds let drop the dew.
PRAYER: Heavenly Father, there are so many examples of Your amazing grace to be found in Your Word. Forgive us for striving to do for You what You have already done and are doing for us. Teach us to rest in the full assurance that You are faithful to perform all You have promised. May our times of prayer be times where we strive according to Your will and Your power instead of striving against it. We put our trust in Your perfect provision for our salvation- Jesus Christ. As we take His yoke upon us, we learn the benefits of being bound up in a faith-union with You. We thank You that He loved us enough to take our place in death, and that He loves us enough to take our place in life. As we take His yoke upon us, we learn that only He can live the Christian life. So, we transfer the ownership of our lives and yield ourselves to Him the way He yielded Himself to You, Father. We take His yoke upon us that we might learn what we have in Him. There and there alone, in identification with Christ, in our faith-union with Him, do our souls find rest and satisfaction. For this we give You thanks. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
So, naturally, we proclaim Christ! We warn everyone we meet, and we teach everyone we can, all that we know about him, so that, if possible, we may bring every man up to his full maturity in Christ. (Colossians 1:28, J.B. Phillips paraphrase)
New Life Community Church, Concord, MA 10742
Meeting Sundays at 10:30 AM at the New Life Ministry Center, 221 Baker Avenue, Concord, MA 01742
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