THE AGONY OF VICTORY
This is Alan Ross. As my Hebrew professor, Dr. Ross asked me some uncomfortable questions. Ross/Hebrew Questions These questions were uncomfortable but only in an academic sense. The only thing at stake was a grade. It seemed incredibly important at the time, but looking back now, I understand that not having the answer to those questions has little eternal impact. Here’s another uncomfortable question from Dr. Ross. You don’t have to know Hebrew to answer this question. It’s not academic. And it may not seem incredibly important right now, but the answer to this question does have eternal impact. Ross Question…
Let me ask you a question: Can you answer Dr. Ross’ question? WHY DO GOD’S PEOPLE TRY TO GAIN GOD’S BLESSING BY THEIR OWN EFFORTS. Jacob did. The world is full of Jacobs. But the good news is that Jacobs don’t have to stay Jacobs. Through their willingness to be changed and God’s power to change, they can be changed.
That’s what happens in GENESIS 32…
Structure of Passage: 1-21 (Plans and Prays); 22-32 (Wrestles and is Changed) Twenty years ago Jacob ripped off his brother, Esau. He had to leave home to save his life because Esau was making plans to kill him. Now Yahweh has told Jacob to leave Laban’s land and go home. Going home means facing a big, angry, red-headed, hot tempered Esau who has no doubt for twenty years been stirring up a hot bowl of hostile aggression and revenge. Jacob is understandably afraid. But facing Esau is not nearly as hard as the two people he must face the night before he faces Esau.
This passage is shrouded in mystery. There are lots of questions that can’t be answered with any sense of certainty – and even clear answers retain a large measure of mystery. Who is it that assaults, wrestles, and injures Jacob? GOD OR MAN? Both – two times the text says it’s a man. Two times the text says it’s God. Why was God apparently unable to defeat Jacob? Why did God not want to be seen in the dawning of the day? Is this a literal or allegorical wrestling match?
What’s that a picture of? Jacob Wrestling There were many memorable moments in the life of Jacob: defrauding his brother with the soup; deceiving his father in the tent; his dream at Bethel; being deceived by Laban on his wedding night…all memorable events, but none are as significant as this scene.
THE WAR OF THE WILLS…As we watch Jacob wrestle with God in this text…
LET’S WRESTLE WITH THESE TRUTHS:
A trust deficiency creates self sufficiency
Trust deficiency and self sufficiency were problems for Jacob. Before he was born, God made it clear that Jacob was the recipient of the covenant promise and covenant blessing. Did Jacob trust God? No, he schemed and manipulated and tricked and deceived. What God had promised, he thought he had to achieve himself. God reaffirmed his promise at Bethel? I will bless you. I will protect you. I will bring you home. Did Jacob now lay down the scheming and trust God? No, in the midst of God keeping His promise to bless Jacob, Jacob kept up the tricks. Just ask Laban.
If you’re not going to trust God, what do you have left? Yourself. The world is full of Jacobs…people who believe that if anything significant is going to happen in their life, then it’s completely up to them to make it happen. What comes first? The trust deficiency or the self sufficiency? I don’t know but they logically follow one another and feed one another.
God was wrestling with Jacob in an effort to break through Jacob’s hard-headed self-sufficiency.
Before the wrestling match there is a hint of good things to come with JACOB’S PRAYER… God answers the prayer for deliverance…not how Jacob thought it would be answered, but it is answered nonetheless…
Self sufficiency creates a character deficiency
If you’re going to deny God and rely only on yourself, there will be an impact on integrity. Self sufficiency creates a character deficiency. Jacob had a character deficiency. His self reliance made him a user and an abuser of people. His pride and greed were matched by his shiftiness and shrewdness. Jacob was all about self sufficiency and he was really good at it.
Buechner The footnote at the bottom of the page reads, “all wins gained through deception.”
Trust Deficiency Creates Self Sufficiency; Trust Deficiency Creates Character Deficiency.
Two truths to wrestle with, but now…
LET’S GRASP THESE APPLICATIONS:
Face yourself and don’t fight god
Before Jacob could face Esau, he had to face himself.
How did Jacob face himself? During the wrestling match, when Jacob was finally overcome by God, and Jacob begs for blessing, his request for blessing is met with a question: WHAT IS YOUR NAME? Now, this isn’t a question for information. God isn’t asking something He doesn’t know. And God isn’t simply asking, “WHAT DO PEOPLE CALL YOU?” No, he name stood for his nature, his character. If Jacob is going to be blessed, he first has to face the truth about himself. WHAT’S YOUR NAME? JACOB!!!
“My name is Jacob.” “You have spoken truly…and you know very well what your name signifies. You have a a duplicitous man, deceiving everyone everywhere you went. But now that you acknowledge the real you, I can change you, and I will make a great nation out of you.”
God wanted to know if Jacob was ready to come to grips with who he really was or whether he was going to continue to fight the Lord.
Remember Dear Abby? The good advice lady. Well there used to be Dear Billy. Years ago, when it was still acceptable for people of faith to have a voice in the Public Square, Dr. Billy Graham had a newspaper column and people wrote with their questions…Billy Graham
Face Yourself. Don’t Fight God. Fight God about what? For Jacob, and for us, we wrestle with God for CONTROL. The struggle is whether we will put God at the center of our lives. The ultimate issue was and is: Who Will Be In Charge?
God could have crippled Jacob at anytime. Why didn’t he? He held back and let Jacob expend all his strength and energy and let him almost win so that when he was defeated, he would know he was truly defeated. I think if Jacob could visit with us, he would limp in and say, Stop Struggling and Start Submitting. Face Yourself and Don’t Fight God. You can’t win.”
FACE YOURSELF AND DON’T FIGHT GOD…
Bank on god and don’t bet on yourself
God wants to bless. The only thing standing in His way of blessing us is us. Our trust deficiencies and self sufficiencies hinder blessing. Seems like it’s either God’s blessing or self achievement. Jacob came to understand that if he was going to be know God’s blessing, it couldn’t come by the strength of his cunning or the force of his will, but God’s blessing can only be had as a GIFT.
When he finally understands that he clings where he once struggled. “I won’t let you go till you bless me.” How important is God’s blessing to you…to me? Or are we content to live with the rewards and experience the satisfactions of self achievement?
POWER, SUCCESS, and a Measure Of Happiness, as the world knows them are the rewards for anyone who fights for them hard enough. But PEACE, SALVATION, and JOY come only from God.
When we decide we are ready to bank on God and not bet on ourselves, then God is ready to do His work. He changes Jacob. He changes his name. He changes his character. Jacob becomes Israel. A trickster becomes a prince.
And God will change your name…Sinner>Saint Rebel>Friend.
Jacob is entering the land when his name is changed. The point of this story for the nation of Israel as they were about the enter the land of promise is that ISRAEL’S VICTORIES WILL NOT COME BY THE USUAL WAYS THAT NATIONS GAIN POWER, BUT BY THE POWER OF GOD’S BLESSING.
How are you seeking your victories?
ETERNAL LIFE – Never By Self; Only By God
ABUNDANT LIFE – Not By Self; But By God
The theme song in hell is I DID IT MY WAY.
The theme song in heaven is ALL TO JESUS I SURRENDER.
Let’s end the way we began…Alan Ross.
This passage shows us a GOD-MAN who limited Himself and who conquered by exercising power in apparent weakness. The theology of a God-Man conquering through power in weakness is the theology of the cross. Cross There hangs the God-Man. He appears weak, but on the way to the resurrection, His death is a triumph. And the cross compels us…compels us all…to surrender to this God-Man…to give up the fight…to trust Him and in doing that to live in blessing.