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Wednesday in the Word

Second Baptist Church

May 25, 2016

Genesis 32:1:28

  1. Chapter 32:1-2: Jacob left Laban and went on to Canaan. He did this in obedience to God's command (see 31:3). As he was traveling along, “the angels of God met him.” They joined Jacob's company of travelers for his protection. This is the reason for the name “Mahanaim” (i.e., “double host” or “double camp”) meaning extra help. These angels were apparently intended to reassure Jacob of God's protective presence. In order to go back towards his father’s land, Jacob had to travel through the land his brother Esau inhabited. For 20 years Jacob has wondered whether Esau still plans to kill him (cf. 27:41). Jacob was scared when he left and 20 years later he is still scared. The angels provided reassurance that he was headed in the right direction. Part of God's plans with Jacob are to restore his broken relationship with his brother. Through various circumstances, followers of Christ are driven by God’s Spirit to make right relationships that are wrong. it may involve an apology, an act of restitution, or a simple phone call (see Matthew 5:23-24 and Romans 12:1).

  2. Verses 3-8. Jacob sends some of his men ahead of him to speak to his brother. He tells them what to say to his brother. Esau your servant Jacob is coming showing humility. He also calls Esau “lord.” Jacob also hopes to impress Esau with his greatness. He wants it made known that he is wealthy and is not returning for the inheritance. In spite of the angels of God traveling with Jacob and serving as his bodyguards, Jacob falls back into fear. So he divides his people into two groups as a precaution when he hears Esau is coming to meet him with 400 men. Jacob's reaction to Esau’s apparently hostile advance against him was to try to protect himself. This was Jacob's standard response to trouble. Jacob recognizes that this time his scheming ways would not be enough. So, he calls on God for help.

  3. Verses 9-12. In these four verses, Jacob offers up one of the greatest prayers in the Bible. I see four elements for us to implement in our prayer lives. 1. Acknowledge God. Jacob addressed the Lord as the God of his “father Abraham” and his “father Isaac” (32:9a). This is significant. Jacob was beginning to understand more fully his place in God’s divine plan. His prayer is the divine pattern of many biblical prayers--to acknowledge who God really is! 2. Pray God's Word. Jacob prays on the basis of two things: 1) God told him to return to his homeland, and 2) God promised to bless him (32:9b). He isn't appealing to God on the basis of his own performance, but solely on the basis of God promises (cf. Rom 4:20-21). Jacob stands on the promises of God because he knows that God keeps His Word. Many of our prayers fall short because there is none of God's Word within them. This is because there is so little of God's Word in us. 3. Admit your unworthiness and God's goodness. Jacob's arrogant self-confidence is gone and he finally acknowledges that he is completely unworthy of God's lovingkindness and faithfulness (32:10). This is a big step for Jacob. He has come to the point of recognizing that he stands by God's mercy alone. Sometimes we have to hit bottom before we can see our true condition. Only as we recognize that we stand by mercy will we be prepared to act mercifully toward others. When you pray to the Lord, it is critical that you confess your sin, keep short accounts with Him, and acknowledge that you are undeserving and nothing without Him. 4. Pray specifically. Jacob asks God to save him from the hand of his brother (32:11). He doesn't mince words...he's clear and specific. Unlike his actions before going to live with Laban, when he took matters into his own hands to steal away Isaac’s blessing from Esau (27:1-29), Jacob now realizes that he must depend totally on God in order to secure his own well-being. It is worth noting that Jacob requests God's protection for himself and his family. Side note. Jacob should have turned to prayer earlier in this process. It seems Jacob prayed as a last resort. Thus, Jacob fears Esau (32:11) and is “greatly afraid and distressed” (32:7). This did not have to be! Prayer diminishes anxiety. Many of us worry because we have chemical imbalance or emotional problems, but most of us worry because we don't pray.

  4. Verses 13-21, Jacob sends a total of 550 animals to his brother with servants. Jacob assigned a servant to each herd. This was a very generous gift! Restitution is critical for reconciliation. It is the surest evidence of a truly changed heart. A person who wants to reconcile but does not want to make restitution for sin is not really repenting. He wasn't going to skimp in his effort to be reconciled with Esau. He truly wanted to make things right with his brother. He instructed them in what to do and say. After praying a Godly, exemplary prayer only a short time ago, Jacob reverts to his cowardly and self-serving ways. He sends his servants, his children, and his wives before him. He wants them to protect him when he should have been the one at the head of the procession protecting them and putting his trust in God.

  5. Verses 22-26. Jacob is alone and can’t sleep. The fact that Jacob “arose” indicates he had already gone to bed. No doubt unable to sleep, he awakened his family members and ushered them and his possessions across the river. And he is all alone. It was when Jacob was alone, having done everything he could to secure his own safety, that God came to him. God has arranged the circumstances so that He can get Jacob alone at a moment when he feels completely helpless. God then comes to Jacob as a wrestler to teach him how to fight like a man. This is only fitting since Jacob had spent most of his adult life wrestling with people--Esau, Isaac, Laban, and even his wives. Jacob was standing between his past struggle with Laban and the impending struggle with Esau. God comes at this time because He wants Jacob to realize that his real struggle all along has been with God. Notice that we are not told that Jacob wrestled with a man...the man wrestled with Jacob. It shows us that God is the initiator of this conflict. God was leading him to a truly understand that God was superior to him and that he must submit to God's leadership in his life. After wrestling with Jacob all night, the God, as wrestler, merely “touched” Jacob's thigh socket and dislocated his leg. But why did he touch Jacob's thigh? Because the thigh is the largest and strongest muscle of the body. By touching his thigh, the man was deliberately crippling Jacob at the point of his greatest strength. When you wrestle with God, you always lose. In one sense, this is an “unfair” fight because at the end God will always get his way. “Then he [the wrestler] said, ‘Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.’ But he [Jacob] said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me’” (32:26). This is a new determination. Up until this point in Jacob's life, he used all his strength and ability to achieve his own ends. For the first time, he's come to the end of his own resources. Before this night, Jacob was running the show. Now he realizes that without God, he's nothing. The man requested to be released but Jacob refused to let Him go. Jacob has been reduced to the place where all he can do is hold on to the Lord with everything he has. Jacob can't fight anymore, but he can hold on. He requested that the man bless him. Jacob, the schemer, had finally come to realize that the blessing of God must be obtained from God Himself, and this must be done by clinging to Him in helpless dependence, not by trying to manipulate Him. Jacob prevailed, in the sense of obtaining his request, by acknowledging his dependence and cleaving to God as his deliverer. He is sincere in his need for God's help (32:26; cf. John 15:5).

  6. Verses 27-28. God says to Jacob, “’What is your name?’ And he said, ‘Jacob.’” Now this may seem like a strange question coming from the Lord! Didn't He know who Jacob was? Of course He did. The question is, “Jacob, do you know who you really are?” The last time Jacob was asked for his name, the question had come from his earthly father, Isaac. Jacob had lied on that occasion and said, “I am Esau,” and he stole the blessing. Now, 20 years later, he was seeking the blessing of his heavenly Father. This time he answered truthfully, “My name is Jacob” (i.e., “heel-grabber,” “cheater,” “deceiver,” and “supplanter”). It had come to stand for the basic reality of Jacob’s life. He was a man who fully earned his own name. It is a confession of who he really is. He had to acknowledge the truth about himself before God could make him into a new man. Jacob owned up to his name. Women birth males; God makes men. What is your name? Until you can say, you can't be healed. What is your name? Whenever you are ready to come clean, God can make you clean. But until then you will stay just as you are. Every believer’s self-confidence, self-reliance, and self-dependence must be conquered by God if we are to fulfill His purposes in our lives. God may be wrestling with you this very day. Until we are “broken” by God, we can never be greatly used by God. God brings us again and again to breaking points. Why? Because God can't really use a self-reliant man. But a broken and contrite heart, he will not despise. When you are broken, you'll be ready to listen and ready to obey. God responded, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.” Jacob was given a new name, Israel. Israel means either “God strives” or “he who strives with God.” If the latter interpretation is the one intended by the wrestler who blesses Jacob, then the name fits well with Jacob’s character as one who, throughout his life, strove with God. Jacob became a man's man...God's man! When the sun goes down his name is Jacob. When the sun comes up again his name is Israel. At 8 PM he is “the cheater”; by 6 AM, he is “the man who wrestled with God.” Before that night, Jacob was in excellent physical condition; ever after that he would walk with a limp.

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