We really can’t help what sort of family we’re born into. Seeing a person in trouble with the law or with psychological problems we often try to determine whether there are any hereditary or environmental factors involved. We wonder if some people are genetically predisposed toward certain behaviors or if modeling is to blame. Many in our society have concluded that antisocial behavior (stealing, lying, drug use, fighting, etc.) is the result of disadvantage. These believe the solution is to implement social programs and quotas to lift the disadvantaged out of poverty.
The problem with this way of thinking is that antisocial behavior is not limited to the under privileged. As it turns out, there are quite as many thieves among the wealthy as among the poor (Bernie Madoff). In my experience, very poor families often produce the best-behaved children. The truth is that what outlaws lack is not money or privilege but integrity.
The Bible teaches that we are conceived and born in sin, yet we do not become sinners until we achieve a state of moral accountability. Law and government try to create good citizens by writing a check. The belief being that food, clothing, housing, education, and unconditional regard will insure right thinking and proper behavior. Children need to be taught that God has standards for behavior - that there is a right and a wrong. Entire generations of families often follow a cycle of spiritual corruption. They pass along to their offspring a faulty and sinful way of life (Toddy’s). The pattern must be broken if children are to internalize a positive system of values. Jacob’s family is a good example.
Jacob’s mother, Rebekah was from a family of scoundrels. When Isaac brought her into his home, he brought trouble. She would teach her younger son to get ahead by whatever means presented itself. Our text finds Jacob returning to his native land after having been gone for 20 years. The sins of his youth were weighing heavy and he was afraid that his brother Esau would kill him and his family. Having tricked his father-in-law Laban, and escaping only after God’s intervention, he was encamped a day’s journey from the ancestral home. That night, alone by the river, he wrestled with God. Jacob was 97 yrs. Old!
I. Why Jacob Was Afraid
A. He judged others by himself
1. Jacob is a poor moral example
a. He stole his brother’s birthright
b. He lied to his blind father
c. He mistreated Leah his wife
d. He was a cheat and a schemer
2. Under different circumstances he would have done Esau in
B. For the first time in his life he was depending upon God and not himself
II. Why His Fear Was Wrong
A. Angels had assured him of God’s promise
1. God would fulfill his word to Abraham
2. His death would nullify God’s plan
B. His life’s experience proved God’s trustworthiness
1. Again and again God had proven Himself
2. He had prospered in spite of Laban’s schemes
III. He Found His Courage In God’s Blessing
A. He wrestled with God
1. The first adversary he could not outwit
2. You cannot best God – We may think we have because God gives us what we want. He wanted to do it all along!
B. He refused to let go even after being beaten
1. At last he did something right – Faith!
2. God wants us to test His promises
C. He confessed his faults and took responsibility for his actions
1. He answered God truthfully. Jacob means
2. God changed his name to Israel
Jacob’s was a struggling faith. Like him, we are precious to the Lord. The Spirit waits to unlock doors and push aside obstacles – too bad His keys are often rusty for lack of use.