Genesis 31: A New Beginning
In verses1-3: we see that Jacob perceives the resentment and change in attitude of Labans sons and Laban himself toward Jacob. Word has come to Jacob that Labans sons were complaining and bitter over Jacobs prosperity and that the wealth Jacob had gained- rightfully belonged to their father Laban. Then in verse 3, God tells Jacob it is time to go back- to leave this place.
Did you ever ask your parents to get you something for Christmas or your birthday and that you would be so content you would never ask them for anything else again?
Did you ever want to a job, a position, to earn a certain amount of money and think if I only had that kind of job making that kind of money it would be all I would ever need?
Let me ask you- once you got those things, once you achieved those goals were you content? Or did the pride of ownership, did the excitement of the new position, the feeling of accomplishment soon not satisfy you as you thought it would?
Of course we have all had those experiences. Let me be clear- there is nothing wrong with having goals, desires and ambition. Remember this: a goal is simply what we do to accomplish an objective in a period of time. Purpose is why we do what we do. In other words, the goals are the what we do ; the purpose is the why we do it. Purpose is by nature long term. Goals are what we do to achieve our purpose.
Jacob had two goals soon after he arrived at Labans home.
- Marry Rachel.
- Get Rich.
Now after 20 years he has it all and then some. He not only has Rachel, he has Leah and two concubines, 12 children, (11 sons and daughter) plus the last 6 years he has gained great wealth. You see Jacob had two goals- which he achieved but unless the goals are part of the accomplishment of the purpose- they will not satisfy for long.
Do you know what is the purpose of man according to God? What is the chief end of man? To glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Here in what is called the Westminster Catechism we find Gods eternal purpose: to enjoy Him forever and His earthly purpose: to glorify Him. Jesus told us how to do this and not get caught up in the worlds value system. He told us to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all the thing we need would be given to us. ( matthew 6:33)
Is Jacob happy? Fulfilled? No. His life has become miserable. God has allowed Jacob to become wealthy- but now God allows the world and its riches to turn sour for Jacob. They are not the lasting fulfillment Jacob thought they would be.
When God allows the things of the world which attracted us to become sour, even bitter and unfulfilling it is actually a blessing. For now we are willing to listen to God and what God has to say to our souls. The deceitfulness of sin is that a little sin is good for you, fun, fulfilling and not harmful. But we discover sin is not only deceptive- it is a cruel taskmaster. The wine that sparkled in the cup- stings like an adder in the end.
After God instructs Jacob to leave, Jacob calls Leah and Rachel to come out to the fields where he can tell them of the plans God has for them. This is the wise thing to do. Jacob needs for his wives to understand what they are about to do. Marriage has its difficulties because both husband and wife come with parents to whom they are loyal. Many problems in a marriage have come from the parents of the husband and wife. But Rachel and Leah exhibit where their loyalty and allegiance must be- with their husband.
In verses 5 13 Jacob tells Rachel and Leah exactly what is going on. He tells them of the change in attitude of their father and brothers. The threat is real that they would come and take away what Jacob has worked for and what God has provided. He tells them about the dream that God gave him regarding how to increase his flocks, Jacob recalls how their father has changed his wages 10 times.
In verse 13: We notice Jacob in looking back sees how it has always been God who was at work in his life. God in the dream reminded Jacob that He was the God of Bethel. He reminded Jacob of his vow to God at Bethel.
God reminding Jacob of his Bethel experience is important. When we, like Jacob get caught up in the rat race of life in pursuit of happiness and those things of the world we believe will make us happy, we can get off course cant we? Like Jacob when we lose our way- we need to turn around and go back to where we got off the path and made the wrong turn.
Lets go back to Jacobs Bethel experience and remember that as Christians Paul tells us in Galatians 3- if you belong to Christ, then you are Abrahams seed and heirs according to the promise.
Listen carefully to this promise made to Jacob by God at Bethel, for this spiritual promise is also ours- we can claim this according to scripture. God tells Jacob and you and me: I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go and I will bring you back to this land(home). I will not leave you until I have done what I promised you. Jacob responded with a vow- which God reminds Jacob of his vow- that if God did those things- God would be his God and I will give you a tenth of everything- meaning I will recognize that all I have gained comes from you.
So Jacob begins the race that God would have Jacob run. Just as we begin the race that God would have us to run after we got saved. Then something happens. We get caught up in the rat race, the routine of setting goals, making lists and checking them off. But the goals of achievement the world recognizes and rewards can distract us from the race God had laid before us. Listen to this verse from Galatians 5:7: You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth?
What Jacob wanted and what we want, I can describe in three words: The Good Life.
Here in lies the dilemma: who gets to decide what is the good life? Confusion exists about how to achieve the good life. It is not that we should not want to improve our standard of living and as Jacob declared to his father-in-law- I have nothing for my household. Jacob wanted something to call his own- and God not only did not condemn Jacob for wanting something for his household- God also helped Jacob get it.
You see the world has a definition of the good life and what it entails and what it looks like. And God has a definition of the good life and what it entails and what it looks like. And we get caught in the confusion of this rat race and the tension between living the Christian life and life in the 21st century. In other words, will we live the good life according to Gods view or the worlds view? Or like a lot of us we come up with a hybrid good life that combines the two. We are constantly bombarded by messages, seemingly innocent messages that if we have this type of car or live in this neighborhood or belong to this club- we are living the good life.
Jacob had been caught up in a rat race for 20 years. After an encounter with God at Bethel twenty years before, Jacob pledged his allegiance to God and begin a personal relationship with him. But in the years that followed, Jacob got caught up in the pursuit of the good life.
What God is going to have to do with Jacob- He will have to do with us. When we get caught up in the rat race and let the world and its desires cut in on us and keep us from obeying the truth, God will get our attention. He will have to tell us it is time to go back to where we got out of the race and get back in it. And He will allow circumstances often adverse ones to direct us and steer us and get our attention.
The choice between the Christian life view and the worlds secular life view is the difference between Gods race and the rat race.
What do we need to do? We need to throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and run with perseverance the race marked out for us. ( Hebrew 12:1)
So at this point in his life Jacob will do what we most often do as God intervenes in our lives
we must, like Jacob, make a New Beginning.
Jacobs wives are in agreement with Jacob regarding their father, Laban, and his mistreatment of Jacob and so plans to leave immediately begin. In fact Rachel and Leah both tell Jacob do whatever God has told you to do.
Should Jacob have left the way he did? Not sure. But they left soon thereafter. But Rachel does something that at first glance confused me. Why did Rachel go steal the household idols? Did she still believe in them? Or did she do this out of spite because of her fathers behavior?
Can we identify with Rachel as an immature believer? She believed Jacobs God, she trusted Him. But she was also reluctant to completely give up some of her previous beliefs, superstitions and ways of life. Rachel like all of us had been conformed by the world, her beliefs had been shaped over years by the world in which she lived. Rachels attitude is little different from that of many a new Christian today, happy to know the Lord but not yet willing to enter a life of separation from the world.
In verse 22, we read it was not until the third day Jacob had fled that Laban discovers he has left- with his wives, children and flocks. Laban and his sons take off in hot pursuit. Even though Jacob has a three day head start, he has large flocks and herds and women and children so his travel is slowed.
In seven days of hard travel, Laban overtakes Jacob and his entourage in the hill country of Gilead. Laban spends the night and will confront Jacob and his family in the morning. But as so often happens in the Bible we read this phrase.. Then God Then God came to Laban, a pagan in a dream and warns him not to do anything to harm Jacob.
Interesting that Laban did not know God in a personal way, but knew enough about God to know he had better do what God says. James says you believe there is one God..Good! Demons believe that and tremble. ( James 2)
In verses 20-27 we see Jacob accused of being a deceiver three times. Surely he lives up to his name. As Jacob was counting all the offenses of Laban against him over the last 20 years, he seemed to not be bothered by any of the offenses he had committed against Esau.
In verse 26, Laban reveals his hypocrisy as he tells Jacob he left and did not even give him the opportunity to tell his daughters and grandchildren good bye and throw them a going away party.
But then Laban asks a question that catches Jacob completely by surprise for he does not know what Rachel has done when Laban says why did you steal my household gods?
Rachel must have started to get very nervous and begin rehearsing her lie.
Jacob tells Laban he left the way he did out of fear that Laban would take his daughters away from him After all, Laban had used his two daughters to get 14 years of work out of Jacob. But Jacob is indignant that Laban would accuse him of stealing his household gods. Jacob says if you find anyone who has your gods, I will execute them. Rachels heart rate must have zoomed to over 180!
Laban and his sons begin a search of Jacobs camp. Rachel has hidden the gods in her camels saddle. She had evidently brought the saddle into her tent and was sitting on the saddle like it was a piece of furniture. She refuses to stand when her father approaches her and explains she is having her period. So Labans search ends without uncovering the stolen gods.
Just a thoughtwhy would anyone want to worship a god( small g) who can be stolen.?
Having been cleared of any wrongdoing- in fact it speaks to Jacobs integrity they found nothing belonging to Laban in Jacobs possession, Jacob vents 20 years worth of being mistreated.
You might say this is one exit survey his former employer had rather not have heard.
Jacob begins to talk about what he had done for Laban and how he born the loss for animals killed or damaged by paying for them himself. Jacob recounted how for 20 years through heat and cold and sleepless night he had been a faithful, productive employee. And how in return, Laban had changed his wages 10 times.
Then Jacob talks about how God had been with him and protected him and provided for him and even rebuked Laban. The names he uses to describe God are interesting- the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac.
Fear of Isaac- the only time this name is used to describe God. But think about Isaac and what Jacob must have known about his father, Isaacs relationship with God.
Fear here does not mean a physical fear- like being afraid of a snake. It refers to a holy fear , a reverence of an awesome God. Isaac first learned about God from his father Abraham. A day he would remember forever was the day his father took him as a young man to Mount Moriah. There Isaac was bound and lay on the altar where Abraham appeared to have every intention of killing him. When Isaac asks his father where was the lamb- his father replied God would provide. It was on that day I believe that Isaac intimately in a few moments knew both the terror of a God who would instruct his father to sacrifice him and in the same moments come to reverence for the rest of his days the One would save him.
Jacob used this name, the Fear of Isaac, to remind Laban that God was not to be taken lightly.
Laban then proposes a covenant with Jacob.
God desires for us to be reconciled to Him.
God desires for us to forgive others who have sinned against us.
But sometimes the best way to get along with someone is to separate yourself from them.
Sometimes two people need God to stand between them who cant seem to keep from doing harm to one another. Perhaps one person is unreasonable and refuses to give in or neither party seems to be able to reach a compromise. We are told to make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.
Sometimes I believe it is in the best interests of two parties to let God send them to opposite corners of the ring- like a referee in a boxing match.
Laban and Jacob offer us a prime example of restoration in terms of forgiveness and good will but not togetherness. There is a restoration and forgiveness without togetherness.
I remember once when we were driving in the car for a long period of time- probably from a vacation. Something occurred that upset one of our children. He was probably 8-10 years of age but already exhibited a strong will, a quick mind and a way with words. Upset, he began to say he was leaving home- and moving to Fun Town. There he said you could do anything you wanted, and he made a list of things that little boys like him would like. It was funny and he got caught up in describing Fun Town and we all had a good laugh.
But in those little boy terms- he really described what is at the heart of our desires-to live the good life- to live in Fun Town.
Have you ever heard this statement: If at first you dont succeed change goals. It was meant to be facetious but there is actually a truth hidden there.
You see- we have succeeded in accomplishing some goals in our life- only to find they did not please us- did not give us the lasting satisfaction we thought they would . Fun Town wasnt that much fun after a while. So having gained some wisdom we change our goals in pursuit of contentment.
We are told the secret of contentment by the Apostle Paul. I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. ( Philippians 4:11-13)
The Lord is our source of contentment. The Holy Spirit is given to each and every believer. If we will allow the Holy Spirit to control and direct our lives we will find contentment. There in lies the problem- are you daily seeking His guidance? His Strength? His Wisdom? Or you still in the rat race trying to get to Fun Town?
I Timothy 6: 6-10. But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world and we can take nothing out of this world. But if we have food and clothing we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptations and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many
griefs. So much for living in Fun Town!
If our purpose is to glorify God- then our goals must be toward that end. Decisions then become clear- will this action, words or thoughts glorify God. If not- change your goals.
Genesis 32: Jacobs Return. Lets Get Ready to Rumble!
Having left Laban behind, Jacobs journey and thoughts turn toward his return to Canaan and meeting with Esau face to face.
As it was at Bethel, Jacob is met in some fashion by the angels of God. Consider the following: Jacob was greeted by angels when he was fleeing from Esau 20 years ago and going to meet Laban; now he is greeted by angels as he is fleeing from Laban and going to meet Esau. A reminder from God that He, God, is with Jacob coming and going.
But also a reminder that after 20 years, Jacob still finds himself either running from someone or something only to run into someone or something. We cannot run from God and we cannot run away from who we are.
Jacobs story is such a rich source of illustrations and examples. It seems Jacob turns to God only in troubling times, in adversity and desperation. Surely the Bible tells us: What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee. ( Psalms 56:3) But can we come to a place in our walk with the Lord where the following would be true: Behold God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid. ( Isaiah 12: 2) Or The Lord is my light and my salvation- whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life- of whom shall I be afraid? ( Psalms 27:1-2)
But we can see by the actions that Jacob takes- he is imagining the worst. Esau, his big brother, may have always been someone Jacob feared physically. For we will see in this story Jacob is terrified and dreads this meeting with Esau. I believe his actions also reveal that Jacob realizes what he did to Esau and how he did it was wrong. But before Jacob faces Esau- he must, as we all must, honestly face God.
I wonder- do you and I have someone or something in our lives- we dread facing? If you are facing a struggle or battle in your life- your real struggle may be with the Lord. And although you may go for some years without facing that something or someone- God will not leave this issue unresolved, but will in Him timing see that we deal with it- as we are about to see in the story today.
In verse 3, after seeing the angels, Jacob begins to make preparatory actions for this long dreaded face-to-face meeting with Esau. In verses 3-5, Jacob sends messengers ahead with carefully worded greetings. The messengers were instructed by Jacob to call Esau, Master, and refer to Jacob as your servant. The meaning behind those words were evident- Jacob is telling Esau, I come with no political agenda to exert control or authority over you. Then there is a brief explanation of where he has been for the last 20 years- with Laban. He also lets Esau know he has cattle, donkeys, sheep, goats, menservants and maid servants- in other words, I have substantial possessions- so I am not coming to take anything away from you by right of the blessing. Jacob says through his message to Esau- I have come to find favor in your eyes. Jacob wants to set the stage for peaceful negotiations.
In verse 6, the messengers we return to inform Jacob your brother Esau is now coming to meet you with 400 men..
In verses 7& 8, Jacob is thinking the same thing you and I are thinkingthis does not sound good. Jacob reacts with fear and distress. His imagination goes immediately to the worst-case scenario- Esau is coming to attack us. He divides his people into two groups. His thinking is if Esau attacks one group- the other group can have an opportunity to escape.
But in verse 9, we see that Jacobs fear and distress drive him to his knees in prayer. Let us carefully review and observe this prayer of Jacobs. God has shown us in the story of Jacob, what an imperfect sinful, manipulative man Jacob is. If Jacob can pray effectively, the surely there is hope for us. Remember Paul said these were written to teach us. For if Jacob can get his prayers answered, it is of great encouragement to us. For God is the same today as He was in the day of Jacob. If God is faithful to answer the prayers of a schemer like Jacob- there is great hope for schemers like you and me.
Jacob, like us, has some clear promises from God, in other words Jacob has the Word of God. Already we have seen that Jacob is fearful, because he imagines the worst. Fear is the companion of doubt and uncertainty. They are attacks of the enemy- they are at the root of the spiritual battle we wage. We are told in 2 Corinthians 10- the weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension( imagination) that sets it self up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive the thoughts to make it obedient to Christ. ( 2 Cor. 10:4-5) Remember every action we take began first as a thought; that is why it is a battle for the mind.
Do you see that we have access to the same mighty weapons that Jacob used to pull down this stronghold? Let us understand what a stronghold is. A stronghold is an area of sin that becomes a part of our lifestyle. It may be a harmful habit involving drugs, pornography, or sexual sins. This stronghold may be an attitude of loneliness, inferiority, pride, worry or doubt. These strongholds use a whole arsenal of rationalizations to support these positions. But the knowledge and reasoning on which these habits or attitudes are built directly oppose the truth of Gods Word. We have prayer and the Word of God-these are our mighty weapons to pull these strongholds down. It is in prayer that battles are won and lost. We can ask God in faith to tear down these strongholds and He will do it. Then we must renew that part of our minds with the truth of Gods Word or we will be subject to those lies again. Therefore it is essential that we learn to pray.
Jacob is outnumbered- he is weak, Esau is strong. Esau is many, he is few- at least in the eyes of the world. Jacob has done everything he knows to do physically and in his own strength. Now realizing he is no match, that he is powerless he calls upon the Lord.
The Prayer or Jacob: Verses 9-12.
First notice the prayer of Jacob is very specific. Protect us from the hand of my brother.
It is also the prayer of a desperate man- who realizes the outcome does not depend on him but on God. Let us carefully consider this prayer:
First Jacob states the purpose of God. Jacob says to God- it is You, God, who said to me to go back to your country and your relatives and I will make you to prosper. Jacob is saying back to God what God has said to Him. This is the essence of praying back to the God the Word of God. Jacob is saying to God I am where I am- because I am following your directions. Remember this- where God guides He provides.
Notice also, how Jacob is humble. God gives grace to the humble. Jacob confesses he is not worthy of all Gods kindness and faithfulness that God has shown to him. Having observed Jacobs life, his deceitfulness and manipulating ways, we would certainly agree he is not worthy. ( For me this is a great encouragement- for like Jacob I consider myself unworthy of Gods kindness- but that is what Grace is and why we call it Amazing. )
Jacob then does something, we need to do. Look back and see what God has done. Jacob declares as he looks back, I left home with a staff and now I have returned 20 years later with all of this, You have given me.
The Jacob pleads with God as a desperate, fearful man to protect him and his family from the violence of Esau.
Then Jacob boldly reminds God of Gods promises to him, Jacob. That is always a potent argument with God to take Him back to His promises.
This is a very important point- dont miss this. WE ARE TO ARGUE OUR CASE WITH GOD BY TAKING HIM BACK TO HIS PROMISES- NOT TO CONVINCE GOD BUT TO CONVINCE OURSELVES!
( Verse13-21)Now Jacob arises from this prayer and prepares a gift for his brother Esau. He arranges for his servants to bring these gifts of herds in sections- so that Esau with each gift will hear the same message: this is a gift from your servant Jacob sent to my lord, Esau. Were these gifts meant as a bribe or as a gift of goodwill? Not sure. But I believe Jacob arose from prayer more confident and having succeeded in convincing himself as he recalled the promises of God. These promises of God reminded Jacob not of who he was- but WHOSE he was. For at Bethel, Jacob had experienced a personal relationship with God. He became a believer. Now Jacob will be broken. We need to realize the two go together. For when we are weak, when we realize we are powerless- then we become strong in the Lord.
(Vs. 22)After sending the flocks Jacob remains behind with his family to await the arrival of Esau in the morning. He takes his two wives , his two maid servants and all of his children and crossed the stream, Jabbok. Then Jacob was left alone- evidently to spend the night in prayer and we are told of a strange occurrence- a wrestling match until daylight.
Sometimes we wrestle with something in the dark that we cannot clearly see until the light of day. Those problems that keep us awake at night- might not really be the problem we are wrestling with- only a symptom of the deeper root of the problem.
Some think the wrestling match is a spiritual allegory- but that does not explain Jacobs dislocated hip which was physical. Since the Pre-Incarnate Lord had met with Abraham in the desert and eaten lunch and two angels appeared as men in Sodom and Gomorrah- we know this physical encounter can be taken literally.
Jacob wrestles with this unseen, unknown man through the night until daybreak.
Verse 25 tells us when the man saw that he could not overpower him(Jacob), he touched the socket of Jacobs hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. If this is the Pre-Incarnate Lord, or even a mighty angel of the Lord, how could a mere man not be overcome by the mighty angel or the Lord Himself? Simple answer is God allowed Jacob to struggle with Him. But clearly by touching his hip and dislocating it, God shows He was in control all the time. Jacob would never walk the same again- he would always walk with a limp a reminder of this night.
In doing so, God teaches us that perseverance in prayer is an important and necessary element.
When this man tells Jacob to let him go- Jacob refuses to give up until this man blesses him.
Then the Lord ( I believe this is who this man is) asks Jacob his name. Jacob answers- I am Jacob. What does the name Jacob mean? Heel grabber- supplanter, deceiver, a cheat and a liar. Jacob has confessed who he is. For the last time he was asked his name by his father, Isaac, he lied he was Esau.
Now that he has admitted who he is and was. This was all God wanted. God simply wanted Jacob to be broken in His Presence and see himself as he really was. A natural born sinner born with a name that described his nature- a cheat and a liar.
His name was changed that early morning by the brook Jabbok, from Jacob to Israel. This new name marked a new beginning and Jacob, now Israel, would never walk the same.
There seems to be a pattern in our walk with the Lord. There is salvation which occurs at once and forever. But then begins the ongoing process of sanctification- the molding and conforming in the image of Gods son. Our walk begins and it should be different than it was before. For the Lord delights to order our steps.
It is clear that God has shared with us in His Word prayers of biblical characters. By searching the scriptures and these prayers we can find those real people in real situation like ours and see how they prayed effectively. Remember these things were written to teach us.
Let us summarize what we see in this story are the elements of effective prayer and how they relate to us in our situations.
- A right relationship. Jacobs right relationship began with God at Bethel, where the God of his fathers became Jacobs God. Can you look back to your own Bethel experience?
- Knowing Gods thoughts. God had revealed His will for Jacob in dreams, visions or in some way the spoken word. He has revealed His thoughts to us in His Word with the Holy Spirit to teach us and even pray for us. Saturate your mind with Gods word and you will begin to think like God.
- Pure heart. We must confess all known sins. Sin means divided loyalty. God will not trust His Power and Authority to anyone not completely yielded. Jacob surrendered to the Lord- he gave up at Jabbok.
- Pure motive The true desire to know Gods will in any given situation. We can make our requests and petitions known to God – but realize the point of prayer is not to have God do our will- but for us to have our will aligned with His. Not my will- but Thy will, Father, prayed Jesus in the Garden.
- Persistent confidence in the faithfulness of God. Pray until we receive an answer. Ask and it shall be given, seek and you shall find, knock and it will be opened. These instructions speak of a persistence.
If you are a believer you have the right relationship with God- you can call on Him as your Heavenly Father.
You and I are commanded to study to show ourselves approved- spending time in the Word and saturating your mind with the word of God. By studying His Word we will come to know what Gods will is.
Then confess your sins- now with a clean heart you will have a clear mind and a clear mind will produce the right motives.
Lets think about something for a minute- if Jacob had the promises of God that He, God was with Jacob and would watch over him wherever he went and bring him back to this land and prosper him- why was he afraid and in distress? Because the enemy, satan had a stronghold in Jacobs mind. The stronghold was based on a lie- that Jacobs situation was unchangeable- he would be defeated and destroyed by his brother Esau. But this was contradictory to the will and promise of God.
Remember the battle is the Lords.
So let us remember the following truths:
Remember your position in Christ. We have been raised from the dead with Christ and are seated with Him in heavenly places. ( Eph. 2:6) We are to therefore set our minds on things above, not on things on earth. (Col 3: 1-2) He(Christ) is head over all rule and authority.( Col 2:9-10) I am in Christ and Christ has authority and rule over satan. The enemy will retreat before the authority that comes from Christ. You and I can bind the enemy on the basis of our position in Christ.
Rely on Gods provision. His provision is His Grace. I am not talking about saving grace but the grace, the unmerited, undeserved favor of God that gives us power we need to live victorious lives. James 4: 6 states: But He gives us MORE GRACE. That is why Scripture says: God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. In other words the grace that God gives you to tear down the strongholds is far greater than the power that set up those strongholds.
Obviously we want to know- how do we obtain this grace that is greater? And the word of God tells us: Submit yourselves therefore to God. ( James 4:7) Surrender to the Lord. Completely yield to His power quit trying to do it in your own strength- it hasnt worked and it never will. That is why as a 32 year-old man- I had to confess I was powerless over alcohol.
How do we plug into this power? We disconnect from what had not worked- self effort and plug into Christs power. Draw near to Him and He will draw near to you. ( James 4:8) Drawing near results from spending time in Gods presence in prayer, worship and study of His Word.
Repent of our sins. James 4: 8-9 says: Wash your hands you sinners and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. We need to get serious about our sin.. confession is cleansing and Godly sorrow leads to repentance. Gods word is telling us- sin is no laughing matter.
Then having done these things we can resist the devil. We can resist only by knowing and using the Word of God. (Matthew 4)
For example when the enemy comes with the lie that you will never be able to change your rebuttal is ; I am a new creature in Christ. When the enemy tells you that you will never be free- tell him it is written, if Christ sets you free you are free indeed.
It is time to claim your new identity.
It is time to draw on the inexhaustible provisions that God has provided.
It is time to send the enemy packing and tear down the strongholds.
You wrestle not with flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. ( Ephesians 6)
Lets get ready to rumble!
Genesis 33: A New Name a New Walk?
Jacob has a new name- Israel- he has also acquired a pronounced limp. A reminder of his encounter with the Living God. He is , as we continue to see, a flawed man who has a tendency to fall into old patterns of behavior.
Verse 1: Jacob looks up and there was Esau coming with his 400 men. What is Jacobs reaction? He divided his family among his wives- placing the maidservants and children in front, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph in the rear.
He could not have been more obvious in his favoritism and where each member stood in their importance to Jacob. Jacob cannot seem to refrain from leaning to his own understanding. His old nature a schemer, a manipulator is still at work. Jacob has been broken and he has been blessed. He has a new name and a new walk- but the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Jacobs dependence upon the Lord does not seem to be complete, he is cautious in his approach to Esau. He is fearful and suspicious of Esaus intention, thus he puts Rachel and Joseph his favorites in the rear. Like Peter when he stepped out of the boat, showed great faith- but a rising wind and waves, caused Peter a fisherman to become fearful and he begin to sink. Jacobs new found faith, name and new walk were halting at best, when the winds of adversity blew- Jacobs faith seemed to falter. He had to learn to trust the Lord with all his heart. To trust in the Lord with all your heart is a difficult lesson to learn.
When God teaches us a new truth about Himself or about ourselves or both- we can then expect an opportunity to apply the new truth in obedience. Lets give Jacob/Israel credit- he did put himself first. Are we not slow learners like Jacob?
I imagine, Peters steps out of the boat were cautious ones, dont you? He was cautious but courageous. Walking by faith is sometimes a scary proposition. Jacobs walk of faith had taken a new turn- but his steps were cautious- yet courageous.
Verse 3, does tells us Jacob puts himself in the front ahead of all of his family. A true shepherd always goes in front. The Lord Jesus, Our Good Shepherd, went ahead and told us to follow him. Jacob also bows down seven times in his approach to Esau.
Verse 4- a reunion and a relief. Esau upon seeing his brother runs to meet him. Can you see the picture- Jacob, now Israel is limping and bowing- Esau is running full speed. Do you get it? Jacob, the chosen of God is limping- in pain. His limp is as noticeable as our walk with the Lord should also be. It is made even more evident by Esaus running. Esaus last 20 years have been good to him, as we hear of his family and wealth later on- while Jacobs last 20 years have been seemingly one struggle after another. We see the two brothers embrace-Esau threw his arms around him and they embraced and they wept. I like to believe for several minutes they did nothing but hold each other and weep. Tears of joy perhaps mixed with laughter as they looked at each other and how they had changed. Ever have one of those types of reunion? For a few minutes words are not necessary. Then the words tumble out in a torrent of questions and answers.
Several scriptures and observations come to mind.
First: Proverbs 16:7- When a mans ways are pleasing to the Lord, He makes even his enemies at peace with him. God had prepared the heart of Esau to welcome his brother and forgive him. You will see in a minute how this reunion and Esaus forgiveness remind Jacob of his encounter with God.
Second: As far as the struggles and adversity and painful limp of Jacob, we are reminded of what the Apostle Paul told us: For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. ( 2 Cor. 4:17)
When I think of the Esaus of this world running, while Gods chosen saints are limping it brings to mind the parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:Listen to what Abraham says to the rich man who has found himself in Hades: But Abraham replied , Son remember in this life you received your good things and Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. Want to trade places with this rich man who in this world had it made? If I interpret this parable told by the Lord Jesus literally- the lost in Hades have memory of the past. Can you imagine that? Want to exchange your future for the future that awaits the Esaus of this world?
Sometimes God chooses to wound us, His own children in order to make us walk differently while the unbeliever seems to run with confidence and enjoy the successes of this world. But what does it profit a man if he gain the world- but loses his soul?
Keep these scriptures in mind as you deal with lifes seeming inequities and realize that in the end God will balance the scales and will reward accordingly and punish with sure justice.
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away,yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary,but what is unseen is eternal. ( 2 Corinthians 4) In other words, things are not what they seem. (Keep in mind- those who are serving the Lord in ministries that are impacting the world and walking by faith are more vulnerable to attack- and the attacks can be devastating.) We are told in the early days of the church: the apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name of Jesus. ( Acts 5)
I love the words of this song we often sing: No guilt in life, no fear in death. Thats the power of Christ in me. Oh, that our walk with the Lord could give us this as the song of our heart. A walk that keeps us in the light, as He is in the light that keeps us continually and immediately confessing our sins- so there is no guilt in life and no fear in death for that is the power of Christ in us.
Was Jacob afraid? Yes, of course he was. And even though the ways of his old nature would still cause him to act according to the flesh sometimes- there he is, Jacob, the limping liar who is learning how to walk by faith- out in front facing his problem and his past.
We have all experienced fear and will experience it again. That is why the one of the most often repeated commandments of the Lord Jesus is Fear Not. Many times our fear comes from a lack of confidence, or being called to leave our comfort zone. Apparently this was the situation the Apostle Paul was addressing in his young protégé, Timothys life.
In 2 Timothy 1:7, we read: For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power and of love and of a sound mind. I love this verse for it reminds me I serve a Triune God who has given me three weapons to overcome the spirit of fear.
- God has enabled us with His Power- the Holy Spirit.
- God has enriched us with His Love. ( How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we shall be called children of God. I John 3:1)
- God has enlightened our minds with His Truth. (If you continue in my words you are my disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth and the truth will set you free. John 8)
Judge Jacob at your own risk
I, for one, will not make judgment. The Lord Jesus said: Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brothers eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? Jesus goes on to say we are hypocrites who need to take the plank out of our own eyes first then we can see clearly to remove the speck from your brothers eye.
Verse 5: After several moments of what has to be one of the most tender moments in the book of Genesis, Esau looks up and saw the women and children. Who are these with you? he asked.
Jacob replies they are the children God has graciously given your servant. Then each maid servant and children approach, then Leah and her children and finally Rachel and Joseph. I am sure Jacob must have introduced each one and said something about them. Esau is looking for the first time at nephews and a niece he has never seen. You can imagine Esau- hugging and laughing at this brood. What a reunion- what a relief as the tension went away like the air out of a balloon.
Vs. 8: Then Esau asked Jacob what he meant by sending all those flocks as a gift.
Jacob replies to find favor in your eyes.
In verse 9-11; I want us to look carefully at what each person says and to do that means we must understand the meaning of the original Hebrew words.
There are two different words used in the original Hebrew that reflect the difference. The KJV says Esau responded to Jacobs gift by saying I have enough. The original Hebrew word is more closely interpreted as plenty ( NIV) or much.
In Jacobs response, the KJV again uses the word enough I have enough But the Hebrew word used originally is closer to the meaning provided in the NIV- I have all I need.
Jacob also mentioned Gods graciousness as the source of his supply.
Esau says I have much
Jacob says I have all I need. Do you see the difference? Jacob realizes he has a supply that cannot be exhausted because God is the source. God is the supplier of all his needs. Esau has accumulated much- but he does not state that he has all he needs. In his pride, Esau wants to let his little brother know he doesnt need anything from Jacob. Esau is proud of his accomplishments- he is a self-made man- who is saying to Jacob- look what I have become.
Jacob insists Esau accept this gift if he has found favor in Esaus eyes. Then Jacob makes a statement in verse 10: For to see your face is like seeing the face of God, now that you have received me favorably.
Remember after wrestling with the Lord all night at Jabbok, Jacob named the place Peniel, which means I have seen the face of God.
How is it that Jacob could see in the face of this profane pagan, Esau, the face of God? When Jacob looked at the tear-stained smiling face of his twin it triggered his spiritual memory. He remembered his experience at Bethel, Gods protection from Laban, angels sent both coming and going, and the answer to his specific prayer for God to save him from his brother was standing right there in front of him. As physical an answer to a prayer as ever one could hope to see. Esaus forgiveness was to Jacob a reminder of Gods forgiveness and favor.
Jacob has humbled himself before his brother and made amends. We must note to NOT humble ourselves and make amends to those we have offended can keep us from our promised lands and from the greater works Jesus said we would do. Remember that he who loveth God loveth his brother also. (I John 4:21)
Following this Esau says to Jacob come on with me and my men- I will accompany you. Jacob says you go ahead, we are a slow moving group- I will see you in Seir.
Esau, being a gracious host, says let me leave some of my men with you. Jacob says dont do that we are fine. Esau gets the message and leaves.
VS. 17: Next we see Jacob going to Succoth where he would stay for some years. Now you have to have knowledge of the geography of that day and if you look on a map, you will see Jacob and his family did not enter Canaan, but stayed for some years on the other side of the Jordan River. In other words, Jacob stopped short of entering the Promised Land, which God had told him to return to. He also builds a house. That he will be there for some years is evident for Dinah, the baby sister will grow up to be a young woman.
After spending those years in Succoth, Jacob crosses over the Jordan River to an area near the city of Shechem. The Word of God tells us he camped within sight of the city. Remind you of anyone? Lot pitched his tents toward Sodom. Jacob buys land from the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem. This tells us the city is named for Hamors son. Hamor is like the ruler of that area and his son, Shechem would be like a prince, and heir to his fathers rule.
Now we will soon discover that Jacobs children are an unruly, undisciplined group. This will soon become evident in the events in chapter 34.
VS.20: Notice as this chapter ends, we find mention for the first time of Jacob building an altar. When did this occur? AFTER his business dealings with Hamors sons. Did Jacob sense that something was amiss? Or was this the old Jacob trying to get Gods approval after the fact rather than before?
Have you ever made an important decision without consulting the Lord? Have you then, like Jacob, asked God to bless it after you had done it? Did you see what Jacob named the altar? El-Elohe-Israel. The God of Israel- the new name God gave him at Jabbok.
Ever try living as close to the world as possible without actually living in the world? It is a dangerous place to live. And what about Jacobs children? Children watch what their parents do- more than what they say, especially when there is a difference between the two.
Forbidden fruit is always tempting, isnt it? Did you ever stop to think, that Eve was standing next to the tree of good and evil when she was tempted by the serpent, the old devil himself? Young people especially- like the forbidden fruit. Sin appeals to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. Sin is pleasurable for a season- but that is its deception.
Jacob has led his family into a dangerous place.
He has chosen a land and a place to live without consulting the Lord.
Like Lot, he has appeared to have chosen for himself.
There was obviously good pasture land.
There was a city nearby- so there was commerce and trade.
The principle of drifting is we not only drift from something- we drift toward something.
There was an old radio show called The Shadow. It started out with this statement: Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of man? God knows and God will reveal the evil in our hearts if we ask Him to search our hearts..
But we must learn as the Apostle Paul tells usgood and evil travel on a parallel path. The path of evil is broad- the gate is wide and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and only a few find it. Have you found the Way?
Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life and no man comes to the Father except by Him.
No Guilt in life;
No Fear in death-
Thats the power of Christ in me.
Do you ever wake up afraid?
Is there something in your life that is a stronghold- that is producing guilt?
Ask the Lord to open the eyes of your heart- the eyes of faith, so that you might see the unseen.
Ask the Lord to enlighten your heart that you might see the hope to which you are called, the glorious inheritance of the saints and the exceedingly great power in us who believe.
Copyright © 2010 Linda Benthal
Last modified: 08/12/14