Christ Wrestled Jacob
Dr. Joe Temple


Open your Bibles, please, to chapter 31 of the book of Genesis. The early portion of this chapter deals with something that we have already touched upon. We saw Jacob leave home. We saw Jacob spend twenty years in service to Rachel's father, Laban. We saw him during that twenty year period reap the harvest that he had sown. You will remember that before he went to Padan-aram, he had sowed a harvest of deceit and intrigue and subtlety. He was reaping every bit of it in those twenty years of sojourn in the land of Padan-aram. The truth of God's Word cannot be denied: “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7).

God's Grace

We told you that Jacob is one of the best illustrations of the grace of God there is in the Bible. Grace is a word that is hard to define. Some people say that it is the unmerited favor of God. Other People say that it is someone doing something for you without expecting even the faintest kind of return for it. Perhaps to describe grace adequately we would have to say all of those things about it. Jacob, then, is one of the outstanding recipients of the grace of God, because he was a liar and a cheat and everything that you could possibly say about him, yet God cared for him. God looked out for him. God provided for him because He had given him a promise.

When we make that statement we would not leave the impression that God condoned anything that Jacob did. Everything that Jacob did received a just recompense of reward, for the Scripture says that every disobedience receives a just recompense of reward when the individual concerned is a child of God.

There came a time when God said to Jacob, “Go home.” Those were good words to Jacob because he was homesick and anxious to go home. You will remember that in chapter 31, verse 13, God said:

Genesis 31:

13I am the God of Bethel, where thou anointedst the pillar, and where thou vowedst a vow unto me: now arise, get thee out from this land, and return unto the land of thy kindred.

The reference to Bethel is a reference to the place where Jacob stopped when he left home for the first time. That was the first time he had any contact with God. Though God was watching over him behind the scenes for twenty years, there was very little evidence of communion with God on the part of Jacob. Now it was time for him to go home, and God said, “Arise, and go back to the land from whence you came.”

Leaving Padan-aram

Down in verse 17 we read:

Genesis 31:

17Then Jacob rose up, and set his sons and his wives upon camels;
18And he carried away all his cattle, and all his goods which he had gotten, the cattle of his getting, which he had gotten in Padanaram, for to go to Isaac his father in the land of Canaan.

We learned how God watched over him, even in the matter of his wealth and goods, and provided for him in a way that God provides out of grace for all of his children.

Verse 19 indicates the sad condition in his own household, which he should have corrected a long time before and which was going to cause him a great deal of trouble after he got home. Remember, unless we make a clean break with the things that displease God, sooner or later those things are going to come to the foreground and create a problem for us. Notice in verse 19:

Genesis 31:

19And Laban went to shear his sheep: and Rachel had stolen the images that were her father's.
20And Jacob stole away unawares to Laban the Syrian, in that he told him not that he fled.

Idol Worship

The household of Laban was an idolatrous household. In that household there were certain images, and when Rachel left she stole her father's images and carried them with her.

I do think, in all fairness to Rachel…because sometimes when we are studying these Old Testament characters we are inclined to be a little rough on them, judging them in the light of our own lives and not looking too clearly at our own lives…that it is only fair to say that these images were teraphim.

If you are not familiar with that word, sometime when you have time you might pursue that word in the Word of God. Teraphim were idols that were supposed to be able to define direction and definite distances and indicate discovery. I am of the opinion that Rachel stole those gods, not so much because she was an idolator at heart, but because she did not want her father to consult them and find out where they were going when they ran away. I think the subsequent statements in this story will reveal that.

Laban heard that Jacob and his daughters had fled away with all of their goods, and immediately he made pursuit after them. Glance down at verse 24, keeping in mind that God had made a promise. No matter how dispicable the recipient of the promise was, God had to keep the promise.

It might be wise for us to turn back and notice the promise that God gave. In chapter 28 of the book of Genesis, verse 15, when Jacob was leaving his home, going to Padam-aram, God said to him:

Genesis 28:

15And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.

God's Unconditional Promise

Did you notice the promise? God said to Jacob twenty years ago, “I am going to be with you. I am never going to leave you. I am going to bring you back into this land again. I am not going to leave you until I have done all the things that I have promised.

Notice there were not conditions. He did not say, “Jacob, if you are the kind of man you ought to be, if you will quit your lying, if you will quit your conniving, if you will quit your trying to supplant things, if you will quit trying to get ahead of Me, I will do all these things.” He did not say that. He simply said, “I am going to be with you, and I will not leave you until I bring you home again.”

So even though these twenty years were not a record that Jacob would be proud of or which God could approve, God had to keep His Word. We read in verse 24 of chapter 31:

Genesis 31:

24And God came to Laban the Syrian in a dream by night, and said unto him, Take heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad.

Did you notice what He said? “Laban, Jacob belongs to Me, and you may have an evil intent in pursuing him, but you had better be careful. You had better not lift your hand against him, because he belongs to Me. If you do, you are going to have to give an account to Me.”

You know, Jacob had not learned this, but I thank God that I learned it a long time ago, and I wish a great many people could learn it. That is that God is able to take care of everything about you. Do you know that you do not have to get even with people? Do you know that you do not even have to straighten things out? Do you know that you do not have to get people to think differently about you? I am so glad that a good many years ago I learned to trust my reputation to the Lord. I learned to trust people's opinion about me to the Lord, and I never make any effort to try to get people to see things differently about me.

Someone comes to me and says, “Do you know what so and so is saying about you?” I say, “No, and I don't particularly care.” “Well, I think you ought to know about it because I think you ought to go to them and straighten them out.” I always say, “I have turned that over to the Lord. He is the best 'straighten outer' that I know. If I try to straighten things out, I do not do anything but make things worse. Let the Lord straighten it out. He will straighten it out in due season. I belong to God, and anyone who lifts his hand against me when I am in God's will, God can take better care of than I can. So I do not need to concern myself with it.”

That was exactly what God was trying to say about Jacob. “Laban, Jacob belongs to Me.” Laban might have said, “Why, that sorry old fellow belongs to You?” God might have said to Laban, “Well, I am not talking about how sorry he is.” God could have also said, “Laban, I could tell you some things about Jacob that you do not know. I know him, and you don't know him. He is a whole lot sorrier than you think he is, but don't you touch him. He belongs. to Me.”

So do you see what I am saying to you? It is not that when you trust your reputation to the Lord there is nothing wrong with your reputation. There may be. It does not mean that there is nothing wrong with you. There may be much that is wrong with you, but God is able to take care of you if you are on His side.

Laban's Overtaking Jacob

Will you notice in verse 29 that Laban eventually caught up with Jacob and Jacob's wives, Laban's daughters. You will notice, of course, if you read these intervening verses, that Jacob was scared to death. He knew that Laban could do him all manner of harm. Laban said, “Jacob, I do not want you to get any false ideas. I do not want you to think for half a minute that I am afraid of you. I am not. It is in the power of my hand to do you hurt.” He said, “don't you get the idea that you have not done anything wrong. And don't you get the idea that I am afraid of you.” But notice what he said in verse 29:

Genesis 31:

29…but the God of your father spake unto me yesternight, saying, Take thou heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad.

You see, what Laban actually was saying was, “You see, Jacob, I am afraid of your God. I am not going to do anything against you, though I could. I am not going to do anything against you, even though I might have a right to, because God talked to me and told me not to do anything.”

Do you see what I am talking about? If Jacob had tried to handle this matter all by himself, all kinds of trouble would have resulted. But God said to Jacob way back yonder, “Jacob, I am going to take care of you, and I am not going to let anything happen to you until I get you home.”

God makes the same promise to us. Our home is not the land of Canaan. Our home is Heaven, and God has promised to take the same care of us if we will let Him do it.

Jacob, when he found out there was not any real danger, was very, very human, and he was full of the flesh, as we are going to see emphasized a little bit later. The flesh is my problem. Is it yours? Do you not realize that the biggest problem you have is the flesh? It is what the Scripture calls the old man. If you don't, then you do not realize very much about God's dealing with you.

Jacob's problem was the flesh. When Laban made his first approach to him, Jacob was scared to death. But when Laban said that God would not let him do anything to him, in verse 36, Jacob got real uppity. Of course God was going to knock him down before it was over, but this was just before He knocked him down:

Genesis 31:

36And Jacob was wroth, and chode with Laban: and Jacob answered and said to Laban, What is my trespass? what is my sin, that thou hast so hotly pursued after me?

My, how brave we can get when we can hide behind the skirts of God. That is what Jacob did. He was real brave when he found out that God was not going to let Laban do anything to him.

Treaty With Laban

In verse 44 they agreed to make a covenant:

Genesis 31:

44Now therefore come thou, let us make a covenant, I and thou; and let it be for a witness between me and thee.

Really, this was a treaty. Jacob said to Laban, “Now I am never going to bother you with the intent of harm.” And Laban said, “All right, I will not bother you.” If they were living today, they would have signed a paper. But they did not. You will notice that in verse 45:

Genesis 31:

45And Jacob took a stone, and set it up for a pillar.
46And Jacob said unto his brethren, Gather stones; and they took stones, and made an heap: and they did eat there upon the heap.
47And Laban called it Jegarsahadutha [which is Aramaic for “heap of witness”]: but Jacob called it Galeed [which is Hebrew for the same thing].

Laban was speaking Aramaic and Jacob was speaking Hebrew.

Genesis 31:

48And Laban said, This heap is a witness between me and thee this day. Therefore was the name of it called Galeed;
49And Mizpah [which means “a watch tower”];…

Here comes one of the most misused verses in all of the Word of God. I wonder how many of us have misused it? Notice what it says:

Genesis 31:

49…The Lord watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another.
50If thou shalt afflict my daughters, or if thou shalt take other wives beside my daughters, no man is with us; see, God is witness betwixt me and thee.
51And Laban said to Jacob, Behold this heap, and behold this pillar, which I have cast betwixt me and thee:
52This heap be witness, and this pillar be witness, that I will not pass over this heap to thee, and that thou shalt not pass over this heap and this pillar unto me, for harm.
53The God of Abraham, and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge betwixt us. And Jacob sware by the fear of his father Isaac.

The reason I say to you that verse 49 is misused…how often have you heard it used for a benediction among Christians? At the close of some religious meeting folk will say together, “The Lord watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another.”

Actually, this was a pledge. “God keep His eye on you and God keep His eye on me, and God help you if you try to get across the heap of stones. You had better not come against me, because if you do I will kill you.” You see, there was not anything related to love. There was not anything related to understanding. It was all a matter of enmity based upon fear and hatred. It was the best that man could do.

I would like for you to keep that last statement in mind as we go into this next chapter. The best that men can do to settle their differences is to build a heap of stones and hope that that will provide protection. The best that Jacob could do on his way home was to build a heap of stones and call it a watch tower and say, “I hope this will provide some protection.”

Protected by Angels

Notice chapter 32, verse 1:

Genesis 32:

1And Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him.
2And when Jacob saw them, he said, This is God's host: and he called the name of that place Mahanaim.

Let us stop and think a moment about what the one word Mahanaim reveals. Get the picture: Jacob was going on toward the land of Canaan, and every once in a while he would look over his shoulder to see if Laban was still on the other side of that pile of stones. He was scared to death. All at once we read that God met him. God met him on the way home, and God said to him, “Jacob, look! Look behind you!” He looked, and there was a host of angels. God said, “Jacob, look ahead of you.” He looked, and there was a host of angels. This word Mahanaim means two hosts , two groups , two companies of angels …a company of angels behind to protect him from Laban and a company of angels ahead to protect him from Esau.

There was danger behind him, and there was danger in front of him, and the best he could do was to build a pile of stones. That was all he could do. But God said, “Jacob, don't forget. I promised to take care of you. That pile of stones is not going to do a bit of good. I put some angels behind you, and they will see to it that Laban does not bother you. And I have put some angels ahead of you, and they will see to it that Esau does not bother you.”

Failure to Trust God's Protection

How would you have reacted? I want to say to you that it would depend entirely on your spiritual condition how you would react. If you were still living primarily subject to the flesh as Jacob was, you would have done exactly what Jacob did. If you had learned to surrender the flesh, and you were enjoying a measure of victory over the flesh, you might have done differently. But see what Jacob did in verse 3:

Genesis 32:

3And Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother unto the land of Seir, the country of Edom.

Actually that verse should begin with the word but . In spite of the fact that God gave him this message, he went ahead and sent his messengers to Esau.

You understand what Jacob's problem was. Remember, twenty years before he had deceived his brother twice. He had made a fool out of him, and he had robbed him of everything, humanly speaking, that was rightfully his brother's. He knew he would have to pay his brother when he got back, because the reason he ran away to Padan-aram twenty years ago was that his brother, Esau, was going to kill him. As he was coming back home he said, “How do I know that Esau will not kill me?” So he sent out some spies, and they brought the report back, “Esau is coming to meet you.”

You know, if he had been yielded to the Lord, if the flesh had not been so much with him, he would have said, “That is all right. Let him come. God said his angels are ahead of me, and the angels will intercept Esau, and I will not have anything to worry about.” But you see, he was human…too human…so he thought that even though God was doing something, he had to do something.

Importance of Relying on God

I am going to say something right now. Some of you may disagree with me, but if you think about it long enough you will find that what I am going to say is right. I think that one of the biggest lies the Devil has ever told to the children of God is that God helps them that help themselves. I think that that is one of the biggest lies the Devil has ever told! The Devil has made such a good lie out of it that people even quote it as a verse of Scripture. They say it, and you say, “What chapter is that in? What book is that in?” They say, “Well, I do not know exactly where it is, but I know it is in the Bible: 'God helps them who help themselves'.” Let me tell you something, dear friends. God will not help you if you insist on helping yourself. You have got to come to the end of yourself. God has said, “I have put the angels out there, and there is nothing for you to worry about.” But Jacob ignored that, and he sent messengers to Esau, his brother, and this is what he told them to say:

Genesis 32:

4And he commanded them, saying, Thus shall ye speak unto my lord Esau; Thy servant Jacob saith thus, I have sojourned with Laban, and stayed there until now:
5And I have oxen, and asses, flocks, and menservants, and womenservants: and I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find grace in thy sight.

I do not know how you feel about it, but I am embarrassed for Jacob. I am ashamed of him. There was Esau, a disobedient, profane man who did not give God a thought. And there was Jacob, a child of God, with all the promises of God behind him, practically crawling in the dust. He would have kissed Esau's big toe if he had been anywhere around. The idea! A child of God, with all the resources of God back of him, begging for mercy at the feet of a profane man.

We do not need to be too hard on Jacob, because let us remember that there are any number of us who call ourselves by the name of Christ who kowtow to the world and apologize for our God and act as if we have to be a little bit ashamed of our relationship to Him.

Jacob not only sent this message, but you will notice in verse 6 that the messengers returned and told Jacob they had seen his brother, Esau, coming with four hundred men. In verse 7:

Genesis 32:

7Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed: and he divided the people that was with him, and the flocks, and herds, and the camels, into two bands;

What difference do four hundred men or a thousand men make if God's angels are on your side? You see, even though he had the promises of God, Jacob was not depending on them very well.

Then notice again in verse 7 what he did. This is the old conniving Jacob, the man who always had a plan even though God had one. Even though God's was a better one, he always had his. He was a man who believed he had to do something, no matter what God said:

Genesis 32:

7…and he divided the people that was with him, and the flocks, and herds, and the camels, into two bands;
8And said, If Esau come to the one company, and smite it, then the other company which is left shall escape.

Do you see how materialistic he was? “There is no use losing everything I have. Let us divide it up into two bands and put a distance between the two, and Esau may annihilate the first band and think that is all there is.” Do you see his deceit? Do you see his conniving planning?

The First Personal Prayer

But remember this: Though he was all that I am suggesting to you…I hope I am not being too hard on him, but Jacob is such a picture of me and the average Christian…he was a child of God, and he believed in prayer. In the paragraph that begins with verse 9 and concluded with verse 12, we have the first (notice what I am saying here) personal prayer in the Bible. There are other prayers in the Bible, but before this they were prayers of intercession. They were prayers for someone else. This is the first personal prayer in the Bible. I would like for you to notice it with me:

Genesis 32:

9And Jacob said, O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, the LORD which saidst unto me, Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee:
10I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast shewed unto thy servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands.
11Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear him, lest he will come and smite me, and the mother with the children.
12And thou saidst, I will surely do thee good, and make thy seed as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.

Here he brought his prayer to an end. This prayer has four principles of communication with God that it would be well for all of us to heed. Someone has said that the Devil trembles when he sees the weakest saint upon his knees. Sometimes he will get right down beside you and pray, but do not be deceived if he does. There is one thing that makes the Devil tremble, and it is a saint of God in contact with Heaven, even the weakest saint.

Jacob's Covenant Relationship for Prayer

Old Jacob was just about as weak as one could get, but I want you to notice, first of all, that he based his prayer on a covenant relationship to God. He said:

Genesis 32:

9…O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac…

That was his claim on God. God made a covenant with Abraham. God said, “I am making this covenant with you and your son Isaac, and with his sons and his sons' sons.” Jacob was saying in so many words, “God, I am coming to you in the covenant relationship.”

Our Covenant Relationship for Prayer

We must pray the same way, but not on the basis of the same covenant. Jacob was under the Abrahamic Covenant. You and I are under the New Covenant. The New Covenant is the covenant whereby we have authority in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to come to the throne of grace. We come to God, not through any merit of our own, but on the basis of the merit of the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. I wish you could remember that. If you would, you might not spend so much time begging God to hear you. You do not have to beg God to hear you. You do not have to tell God how sorry you are and say, “God, please, even though I am sorry, will you please hear me?” God would not hear you if you did not have anything wrong with you. God hears you because Jesus died. That is why God hears you. God hears you because the Lord Jesus Christ opened up the way so that you and I might come boldly to the throne of grace.

It would encourage your faith tremendously when you pray if you would remember that when you come to God, you are coming on the basis of the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. That is what it means to pray in the name of the Lord Jesus. It does not mean simply to say, “in the name of Jesus,” when you get through with your prayer. You ought to say that, but that is not all it means. It means you are coming not in your own name, but in His name.

It is just as though you ask for an audience with the King of Kings, with God of Heaven, and the one who intercepts those who come to ask for an audience says, “Where are your credentials?” You do not look around in your pocket and find a recommendation that someone gave to you. You pull out of the pocket of your heart the credentials that are stained with the blood of Christ. You say, “Nothing in my hands I bring. Simply to the Cross I cling.” That is the only reason God will ever hear you. Quit trying to bargain with God and quit trying to bribe God to hear you. That was the covenant relationship that Jacob emphasized in his prayer.

Prayer Based On God's Word

The second principle I would like for you to notice with me is the principle of resting upon the Word of God. That is why it is so important to know the Word of God.

Did you notice how Jacob quoted God's Word? He said, “O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac.” Then he quoted the Word of God, ”…which saidst unto me, Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred and I will deal well with thee.” That was the Word of God. You see, he reminded God of His promise.

God is omniscient. He knows everything. He is omnipotent. There is not anything He cannot do. But He has limited Himself to His Word and a prayer. That is why He likes for you to remind Him of what He has said. One of the best ways to pray is to say, “Oh God, You said…and on the basis of Your Word I make this demand of Thee.” You have every right in the world to make any demand that has its roots in the Word of God. If you can quote something that God said to back you up, God cannot deny His Word.

Jacob's Humbling Himself

That is the second thing to keep in mind…and now the third thing. Always remember your unworthiness. This does not contradict what I said a while ago. Jacob asked God to hear him because of his covenant relationship. But he did not do any strutting when he came before God:

Genesis 32:

10I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast shewed unto thy servant…

“God, you have been so good to me, and I am not worthy of anything that you have done.” He mentioned one or two things that God had done. He said, “I passed over this Jordan with my staff.” And remember, he did. Twenty years before he did not have even a blanket to wrap up in. He did not even have a pillow. He put out a stone and rested his head on a stone. He did not have anything but his staff when he crossed over. Now he is coming back with so much that he can divide it into two bands. That is what he is talking about. He says, “Lord, I am not worthy. I am not worthy of the least of Thy mercies.”

You know, earlier in our study we read that God loved Jacob and hated Esau. We told you that those were relative statements. But do you know why God loved Jacob? This is the reason right here. Oh yes, Jacob was full of himself and full of his own ideas and full of his own plans, but he never presumed on God. He said, “God, I know that anything I have got, I do not deserve. I am not worthy of the least of all Thy mercies.”

How many times I have incorporated that statement in my own prayers. No one knows any more surely than I that I am not worthy of the very least of God's mercies. And yet, God has not contented Himself with bestowing upon me the least of His mercies. I sometimes think that God is better to me than to anyone else in all the world, and I am not worthy of even the least of His mercies. I can say that with Jacob.

Jacob's Desire to Glorify God

I have been talking to you about how selfish Jacob was. But, you know, even the most selfish of us sometimes get close enough to God to have basically in our hearts a desire for His glory. Jacob did. That is the fourth principle of prayer that will stand you in good stead when you pray. In verse 12 he says:

Genesis 32:

12And thou saidst, I will surely do thee good, and make thy seed as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.

Will you try to put yourself in Jacob's position? He fully expected to be annihilated by Esau, and he said, “God, I am not worth anything, and I do not deserve anything that You have done for me, but God, if You let Esau come over here and do what he intends to do, then You are not going to have the glory You deserve. You made a promise, and that promise is not going to be fulfilled.”

One sure way to get the ear of God is to forget yourself and to pray about His glory. God is jealous of His glory. God is more jealous of His glory than of anything else in the world. God will tolerate almost any sin except when a person lifts his hand to besmirch His glory. Then He steps in.

And so Jacob prayed. He prayed on the basis of the covenant relationship. He prayed on the basis of the Word. He reminded God that he was well aware of his unworthiness. Then he said, “God, I am really concerned about Your glory.” And he ended his prayer.

I wish that we could end our discussion right here because somehow or other we feel as if Jacob got the ear of God. He did, as we are going to see. But poor old Jacob! Even though he prayed and turned it over to the Lord, he started all over again, making his plans.

Attempts to Appease Esau

Have you ever been guilty of that? Have you ever taken your burdens to the Lord at night and left them at the foot of the Cross and then picked them up the next morning and started all over again? Have you? Have you ever had a problem, and you took it to the Lord in prayer, and you said to your wife, “Dear, I am just going to leave all of this with the Lord. I have had a good time of prayer. The Lord is going to take care of it. Everything is going to be all right.” You got a good night's sleep, and then you woke up in the morning and you said, “Now, let's see, what can I do about that?” That is exactly what Jacob did. Notice in verse 13:

Genesis 32:

13And he lodged there that same night [he got some sleep]; and [next morning]took of that which came to his hand a present for Esau his brother;

Then there is listed everything he took for this present. After all, he was a good Jew. Jacob, you know, was the first real Jew who learned the art of supplanting, who learned the art of making a good bargain.

He did not make just one present for Esau. Notice what he did. He got one present together, and then down in verse 16:

Genesis 32:

16And he delivered them into the hand of his servants, every drove by themselves; and said unto his servants, Pass over before me, and put a space betwixt drove and drove.
17And he commanded the foremost, saying, When Esau my brother meeteth thee, and asketh thee, saying, Whose art thou? and whither goest thou? and whose are these before thee?
18Then thou shalt say, They be thy servant Jacob's; it is a present sent unto my lord Esau: and, behold, also he is behind us.
19And so commanded he the second, and the third, and all that followed the droves, saying, On this manner shall ye speak unto Esau, when ye find him.

Do you see what Jacob was doing? He was just overwhelming Esau with the enormity of his gifts. If he would give him just one gift, it would not make as great an impression because he could not count all of it anyway. But there is a big drove of camels coming, and Esau would say, “Wonderful. What is that down there?” “Oh, that is something else for you, Esau. Jacob loves you.” And here would come a big herd of goats. And Esau would say, “Why this is amazing. What is that down there?” And on and on it would come. Esau would be overwhelmed with his presents.

Notice how Jacob reasoned. In verse 20 we read:

Genesis 32:

20And say ye moreover, Behold, thy servant Jacob is behind us. For he said, I will appease him with the present that goeth before me, and afterward I will see his face; peradventure he will accept of me.

Does that sound familiar? Does that sound like the way you and I pray much of the time? “Oh Lord, take care of this situation,” we pray. And then we get our sheep and our goats and our camels together, and we say “maybe” or “peradventure.” And that is all you can say, Dear One, if you are depending upon your own ability and your own plan. All you can say is, “Maybe it will work.”

Jacob Comes to the End of Himself

Jacob did not know whether or not it would work. He said maybe it would. But even in all of this God had a plan. In verse 24 we read:

Genesis 32:

24And Jacob was left alone;…

Maybe God permitted this activity in the flesh. I think He often does with all of us, that He may bring us to the end of ourselves.

In the paragraph that is before us we have the second crisis experience in Jacob's life. I want to say to you that if you have never had a crisis experience like this, you are never going to amount to much for God.

Receiving Spiritual Blessing

Wait just a minute! I am not saying it is going to happen just the same way. But if you have not had an experience where the result is the same, you are never going to amount to very much for God. I am not too much interested in when you have the experience. You may have it soon after you come to know the Lord. You may live all your life with it. You may have it just a short time after you begin to think seriously about the things of God. But you need an experience like this. Listen closely to it:

Genesis 32:

24And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.
25And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob's thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him.
26And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.
27And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob.
28And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.
29And Jacob asked him, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, thy name. And he said, Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name? And he blessed him there.
30And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.
31And as he passed over Penuel the sun rose upon him, and he halted upon his thigh.
32Therefore the children of Israel eat not of the sinew which shrank, which is upon the hollow of the thigh, unto this day: because he touched the hollow of Jacob's thigh in the sinew that shrank.

This is one of the most interesting records of a spiritual experience found anywhere in the Word of God. Though we are going to touch upon it very hurriedly, I would like for us to get something straight before we start. I would like for us to get straight who wrestled with whom. Who wrestled with whom?

Most of the time we have the wrong idea. I do not know how many times I have heard in Sunday School when I was a child and how many times I have heard preachers talk about Jacob's wrestling in prayer. Well, there is such a thing as wrestling in prayer, but this is not an illustration of it. If you read this carefully, it was not Jacob who did the wrestling. It was the man! The man wrestled with Jacob. It was not the man who was withstanding Jacob. It was Jacob who was withstanding the man. It was not the man who refused to surrender. It was Jacob who refused to surrender. If we get that basically correct, we will be able to start on our little meditation.

Who was the man? I am sure you already know, but do you know why you know? When you have time, read chapter 12 of the book of Hosea, verses 4 and 5, and you will find that this man who wrestled with Jacob was none other than the Lord Jesus Christ.

Surrendering to God's Will

Why was it that the Lord Jesus Christ wrestled with Jacob? He was left alone, all alone. When he had gotten all by himself, and when he had gotten rid of all his attainments and all of his goods and all of his spoils of those twenty years…when he was alone, then the man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day.

This was an all-night battle, which indicates how stubborn Jacob was. When, in verse 25, He saw that He prevailed not against him, when the Lord Jesus Christ saw that even though after an all-night struggle He was not getting anywhere at all with Jacob, He touched the hollow of Jacob's thigh, and the hollow of Jacob's thigh was out of joint. The battle was over then.

Pause and let that sink in. Do you see how quickly the battle was over? Just a touch, that is all. How long do you think it took the man to touch Jacob? No longer than it would take you to touch someone. That quickly the battle was over. That is the reason I am saying to you that the result of which I am speaking does not demand the same process that it took with Jacob. The surrender can be instantaneous. But the surrender is a necessity. It may be instantaneous, as soon as the Lord touches, or it may take an all-night battle, or it may take a life's battle, but you are not going to amount to anything until the surrender comes.

I want you to notice something else. God did not remove the sinew of Jacob's thigh. Will you remember that? That is tremendously important. He only touched it. He only caused it to shrink. Will you look at verse 32:

Genesis 32:

32Therefore the children of Israel eat not of the sinew which shrank, which is upon the hollow of the thigh, unto this day: because he touched the hollow of Jacob's thigh in the sinew that shrank.

Trouble With Body of Flesh

He did not remove it. He merely caused it to shrink. Why am I making this point? Because there are some dear people who think that God will take away this old nature of yours, that God will take away this flesh, and you will never have any more trouble with it. Well, that is not true.

You are going to have trouble with this flesh as long as you are in the body. As wonderful as this experience was, Jacob still had trouble with the flesh…but he learned the secret of victory.

When God touched Jacob's thigh, he took the strength out of it, and Jacob limped the rest of his life, we are told in verse 31. He was a cripple all the rest of his life because God touched his thigh.

This suggests to us that though God does not remove the flesh and the demands of the flesh, when you and I learn the secret of surrender He robs them of their effectiveness. He robs them of their power, so we can say with the Apostle Paul, “Sin shall not have dominion over me.” It does not mean that you do not sin, but it does mean that you do not have to live a defeated Christian life, because you have learned the secret of victory. Notice the difference in verse 26:

Genesis 32:

26And he [Jesus] said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he [Jacob] said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.

No more restlessness on Jacob's part, no more struggle, no more rebellion. He was clinging to the Lord Jesus Christ. He was holding on tight. Jesus said, “Let Me go,” and Jacob said, “I will never let You go unless You bless me.”

What do we mean by that? “I have found the secret, and I am not going to let this moment pass until You give me something that will enable me to carry on victoriously.”

Clearing the Way for Blessing

Notice what Jesus said to Jacob:

Genesis 32:

27And he said unto him, What is thy name?…

Why do you suppose He asked that? He knew Jacob's name. Do you know why He asked that? For the same reason He asks you and me questions. He wants us to confess.

Back yonder in the Garden of Eden, after Adam and Eve had sinned, and God had come down for his regular afternoon walk, Adam and Eve hid. God said, “Adam, where art thou?” Don't you know that God knew where he was? Of course he did! But He wanted Adam to say, “Lord, here I am. I have sinned.”

Why did He say, “What is your name?” He wanted to hear from Jacob's own lips a confession of his sad condition. Remember, I told you that Jacob means supplanter . It means deceiver . This was just the same as Jesus' saying to Jacob, “Now I want to bless you, but I cannot bless you until we have had a little confession time here. What kind of fellow are you? What is your name?”

Jacob said, “Oh Lord, I am a deceiver. I am a supplanter. I am a conniver. I am a liar. Lord, I am everything my name implies.”

No sooner had he made his confession, more quickly than it is taking me to say this, then immediately fellowship was restored. Fellowship is always restored at the moment of confession. You never have to wait for it. You never have to beg God for it. The moment the confession is made, fellowship is restored. So in verse 28 the Lord says:

Genesis 32:

28And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.

I think the last part of this verse is very generally misunderstood. If you will permit me to say this…most people think that when God changed Jacob's name, it meant he was a prince, and it meant that he had power with God, and that he had power with men, and that he had prevailed.

Significance of Words

But that was not it. This last statement is a reference to the past, and it becomes definite when you look at the word Israel . Do you know what the word Israel means? Look at the last two letters in the word…el . That is the name of God. Remember, when Jacob left the land of Canaan to go into the land of Padan-aram, he called the place where he met God, Bethel. Beth means house . El means God: House of God .

Here is another name with God's name in it…Israel. Isra means command and el means God . What Jesus Christ said to Jacob that day was, “Jacob, no longer are you going to be a deceiver and a conniver and a liar. From this time forth you are going to be commanded by God. Your name is going to be Israel…God commands . Your life is going to be different. In the past you have been an orderer, a planner, a conniver. That is the real meaning of the word translated prince . You have contended (that is the meaning of the word power ) with God. You have contended with men, and you have succeeded. But that day is gone.”

That is a perfect summary of Jacob's life. He had contended with Esau about the birthright, and he had won. He had contended with Esau about the blessing, and he had won. He had contended with Laban about his riches, and he had won. He had even contended with God on the banks of the Brook Jabbok, and he had almost won. He won all night long until God touched him. But God said to him, “No longer are you going to do that. Your name from here on out is going to be God commands , because you are going to obey My command. You are going to let Me guide your life. You are going to let Me direct your life from here on out.”

Jacob said, “Lord, what is Your name?” I do not blame him for that. You see, every time the folk in the Old Testament had a new experience with God they spoke of God in a new way.

For example, when Abraham was ready to sacrifice Isaac on the altar and God provided a sacrifice in Isaac's stead, Abraham said, “I am going to call you Jehovah-Jireh from now on.” He had known Him as Jehovah before, but this was a new experience.

Jacob was saying, “What is your name? What is your name?” The Lord Jesus Christ said, “Do not ask My name. Just take the blessing.”

Jacob Surrenders to God

And do you notice how content Jacob was? In verse 30 of Genesis, chapter 32:

Genesis 32:

30And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel:…

Do you see the word el again? That is God. Peni means faith …faith in God. Jacob said, “I do not need a new name. All I need to know is that I have seen the face of God. I have been in contact with God.”

One last word…do you know where all of this happened? It happened at the Brook Jabbok. Do you know what the word Jabbok means? It means emptying . I think that is the secret. When God brought Jacob to the place where he could be emptied of all his own ideas and all of his own plans and all of his own purposes and could hear the voice of God, God was able to do something with him.

Personal Testimony

Will you pardon this personal word of testimony? I remember my Jabbok experience very, very well. It happened many years ago. God dealt with me…not all night long, however. As a matter of fact, I do not know how long He dealt with me, whether it took very long or not. But He directed my heart and my mind to that simple little story in the Gospel where the Disciples had fished all night long and had caught nothing. It was an empty, futile night of fishing. I had reached the place in my life where I felt that that was what I was doing…just empty nights of futile service. Nothing was being accomplished. The Lord Jesus said to them when He found them in that condition. “Launch out into the deep. Let the shorelines go. Let down your nets for a draught.” They did. And remember, the nets were so full of fish that they broke. God used that little story with me along with another one.

In chapter 45 of the book of Jeremiah, a prophet by the name of Baruch was very much filled with himself. He had done something that he thought was just marvelous, and God said, “Throw it in the trash can.” He was really hurt about it. He was really upset about it. And God said to Baruch, “Seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not.”

God took those two passages of Scripture and He said, “Joe, if your life is ever going to amount to anything as far as I am concerned, you are going to have to launch out into the deep. You are going to have to let down your nets where I tell you to let them down, and not where anyone else tells you. If you are ever going to amount to anything for Me, you have got to bury this ambition you have to amount to something for yourself. You are going to have to lay aside this idea of being great. You are going to have to decide that you are never going to seek anything great for yourself again.”

By the grace of God, that night I said, “Amen, Lord.” I want to say to you that my life has never been the same since then, because I came to the end of myself. There came a time when Joe Temple died. He means absolutely nothing. I trust that Christ means everything.

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