Faithlife Sermons

1.31.2021 - OT heroes_ Jacob Wrestles With God

Sermon  •  Submitted
0 ratings
Sermon Tone Analysis
View more →
January 31, 2021 - OT heroes: Jacob Wrestles With God Hello, and thanks again for joining us for our online worship service. We're doing something a bit unique in this first part of 2021. On the last weekend of each month, we are taking a brief pause from our usual sermon series to focus on key characters from the Old Testament - looking at how these people from the early days of the Bible can point us to Jesus, and what a vibrant life with God can be like. ● So - next weekend, we'll dive back into our series "Why I love my church", but for today - we're going to explore the story of Jacob. ● Jacob ends up as one of the great heroes of the Old Testament, but it was quite the journey for him to become that. ● In today's message, we're going to look at how a dynamic encounter with God helped transform Jacob from being a conniving trickster into a man of confident trust. And how Jacob went from wrestling with everyone and everything in his life to... rest-ing in the true identity God had given him. As we explore his story, we're going to discover that a similar journey of transformation can occur for us as we encounter God. Let's look at the high point of Jacob's story first and then we'll backtrack to some of his earlier life. Genesis 32:22-30 22 That night Jacob got up and took his family and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob's hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, "Let me go, for it is daybreak." But Jacob replied, "I will not let you go unless you bless me." 27 The man asked him, "What is your name?""Jacob," he answered. 28 Then the man said, "Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome." 29 Jacob said, "Please tell me your name." But he replied, "Why do you ask my name?" Then he blessed him there. 30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, "It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared." Of all the OT Bible stories - this is one that people are often familiar with because it involves some memorable elements... there's a wrestling match (which unfortunately probably did not involve sumo suits like the ones in today's video!). Jacob gets his hip wrenched out of place... and we come to find out that the guy Jacob is wrestling with is actually God!?!? We'll unpack more about that in a few minutes. But first, let's look back at what led up to this encounter - what was going on in Jacob's life before this. Jacob's Background ● Jacob grappled with his brother from the womb (Genesis 25) From the very beginning, Jacob was in a battle with his brother. Gen 25 describes how they struggled with each other even in the womb, and that when they were born, Jacob was grabbing onto Esau's heel, trying to gain an advantage. ● Jacob stole his brother's blessing (Genesis 27) Later in Genesis 27, we read how this family had some pretty messed up dynamics. The dad, Isaac favored Esau., while the mom, Rebecca favored Jacob. When the time came for Isaac to give his fatherly blessing, Rebecca helped devise a scheme for Jacob to get the blessing that was usually given to the oldest son. The irony was that God had already spoken that Jacob was going to be more prominent than his brother Esau... but Jacob and Rebecca decided they needed to manipulate the situation to make sure that happened. The end result: Jacob did snatch the blessing, but then spent the next 20 years running from his brother Esau, who wanted to kill him. (And you thought your family was messed up!) But it doesn't stop there. ● Jacob tricked his way into wealth (Genesis 30) In Genesis 30, we read how Jacob sneakily managed the family sheep herds, so that he got all the strong sheep and his father-in-law got all the weaker ones... tricking his way in great wealth. ● Jacob tried to buy his brother's favor (Genesis 32) And then in Gen 32, when on the cusp of a confrontation with his brother Esau, Jacob tried to buy his brother's favor by showering him with gifts. I could go into a lot more detail about each of those pieces of the story, but - do you get the idea? From start to finish this guy Jacob was a trickster, a manipulator, and as his name literally means... a deceiver. ● But then something changed... when Jacob encountered God. Jacob's Encounter With God That brings us back to the short passage we read a few moments ago. Again, Genesis 32:24 says: "Jacob was left alone and a man wrestled with him until daybreak." What's that all about? First, who was this guy? Consensus is that he was some sort of theophany - which means a physical appearance of God. The man doesn't say his name, but Jacob's clear take-away from this experience was that he had met directly with God. Verse 30: Jacob named the place Peneil, "because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared." Next - what's the deal with the wrestling? At first it seems weird, but doesn't it describe Jacob perfectly? Jacob had been wrestling with people and circumstances his whole life. And in every one of those instances, Jacob expressed a lack of trust in God. Jacob didn't believe that God would provide, and so he took Esau's birthright and Laban's best sheep. He didn't believe God had his best interests in mind, and so he tricked his father Isaac into blessing him instead of his brother. But then, the tables were turned, and Jacob suddenly found himself in a wrestling match like no other - A wrestling match with God. ● God wrestled with Jacob Let's pause for a moment and reflect on our lives in light of Jacob's story. Again, it was Jacob's lack of trust that fueled his scheming and manipulation. Maybe the details look different for you and for me - but let's be honest. Our lack of trust is also what drives our wrestling with other people, situations and circumstances in hopes of making our lives work. ● For some of us, those attempts to control life are more aggressive. Where we try to strong-arm situations or where we are domineering towards people in an attempt to make things go the way we want. ● For others of us - our responses are more passive, but they are still about grasping for control. We might withdraw relationally, or we can get stuck in an inner dialogue that sounds like this: If my wife or my kids or my parents would just behave in this way... If my boss would get his act together... ● Or if I could have this much money, or if I could be in this kind of relationship - then life would be how I want it. ● Whether it's more outward & aggressive - or passive & internal... these are patterns that we can fall into, just like Jacob did. Where we are wrestling with people and situations, in hopes for a "good life." Things began to change for Jacob when he stopped fighting with everyone and everything around him... and he started to engage honestly with God. Jacob finally got into the right wrestling match, and as he encountered God, his pride and manipulation came to their rightful end. What did that look like? 2 Big Items. First... ● Jacob was dislocated For Jacob that literally meant his hip was put out of joint. He experienced dislocation that shifted him from his perceived self-sufficiency into a place of understanding his weakness. In your life, when and where have you experienced dislocation? Have you been bumped off your personal center of gravity before? For many of us, those experiences of dislocation involve facing unexpected difficulty, pain and loss. Maybe it's through a health diagnosis... or through a major change in your job. Maybe it's through the loss of a close relationship, or more literally - the loss of a loved one. We can fall into the trap of thinking "what is..." will always be. But unfortunately, we aren't guaranteed that. None of us would choose these experiences of dislocation, but if we can face them & even embrace them, they can become gifts to us - drawing us to a place of deeper trust in God. Think of what we have gone through with COVID. Talk about experiences of dislocation!! Nearly every area of our day to day lives has been impacted by the pandemic: how we do relationships with family and friends; what school and work and even church look like. Never before in our lifetimes has our whole society all experienced this level of dislocation all at the same time, and for so long. After almost a full year now of adjusting and readjusting to life in a pandemic - we can feel drained. It's easy to become weary, and we can struggle to find hope. But it's often in those experiences that we encounter God and we receive his grace in brand new ways. I know that's been true for me. ● I have always been a planner, and have enjoyed dreaming and working towards the future. Before the pandemic hit, I did not fully realize how much security I drew from knowing where things were, where I wanted them to go, and working on a plan to get from point A to point B. It's been humbling to see the ways I can be reliant on my own skills and wisdom in leading. ● I've also been sorting through a deep sense of loss that's come by the shift in how relationships have worked this past year. My most joyful moments in life come by having people in our home for small group, or in the short conversations that so naturally took place on the weekends here in the church lobby. ● God willing, those elements of life will return in the months ahead, but for now, I need to let these experiences of dislocation do their work in me - freeing me from ways I'd be prone to wrestling with life, trying make it work, & instead moving me towards a deeper trust in God. ● I believe God may be inviting you into a similar journey in this time. So, Jacob was dislocated. The 2nd big item is that Jacob clung to God. In the midst of the wrestling, and after the pain of dislocation, Jacob grabbed hold of God. Think about how big of a shift this was for Jacob. ● For the first time, Jacob was no longer relying on himself, and instead he was willing to cling to God with his whole life. ● Earlier, Jacob stole a blessing from his brother Esau. Now, he is willing to wait & endure until God would give him a legitimate blessing ● In verse 26, he says, "I won't let go until you bless me." Here's the deal friends, for you and for me. Our hope is not in our strength, in our smarts, or in our ability to manage life to our desired ends. Our ultimate hope is found by clinging to God; by putting the full weight of our trust in Him and not in ourselves. God did bless Jacob and that was crucial to his transformation. But God's blessing might look different than we would expect. Jacob's Transformation Contrary to what some TV or internet preachers might say... God's blessing isn't primarily categorized by wealth and power. Look instead at what God's blessing to Jacob included. First... ● God blessed Jacob with a new identity. Jacob - the deceiver, became Israel - the one that struggles with, and engages with God. ● That shift in identity was not only for Jacob, but also for the people that would bear his name Israel for the years to come. ● Jacob's 12 sons would become the leaders of the 12 tribes of Israel - the people God first called to represent him to all the other peoples of this earth. We can also be blessed with a new identity as we place our trust in what Jesus Christ has done on our behalf. ● We can be transformed from being self-sufficient managers of our own lives to resting in our identity as children of the living God. ● We can shift from bearing the weight of our mistakes on ourselves, and we embrace our identity as forgiven and unconditionally loved. ● We can let go of our striving and grab hold of God, trusting our future to Him. Secondly, God blessed Jacob with a new level of dependence Genesis 32:31 says this: The sun rose above him as Jacob passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip. ● Jacob had a limp the rest of his life. The dislocation he experienced in this encounter with God stayed with him from that day on. ● What could have been seen as a disability was actually a blessing - the constant reminder of being dependent on God, rather than himself. The same thing is true for us. It is God's grace to us when we are aware of our weakness, when we understand how dependent we are on him. In fact, God often uses the experiences of our deepest dislocation to become our places of greatest strength in Him. Friends, just like he did with Jacob...God is inviting us into real engagement with Himself. As we encounter God, we can be transformed from who we've been into who we are meant to be. And we can let go of our attempts to wrestle others and our situations into being the way we want them, and instead, we can rest in God's great care over our lives. Would you pray with me... and let's respond to God's invitations and look to him in trust. Prayer... ● Realizing that your efforts to manage and even manipulate your life and circumstances has not produced what you've hoped for. And maybe today, God is graciously bringing you to a place of surrender. Where you let go of those previous attempts at making life work, and you lean into trusting Jesus and what He can do in and through you. ○ What that looks like for the first time... ○ What that means for others... ● Pain of dislocation... ○ Acknowledging that... grieving that... bringing those experiences to God, and saying humbly, "Lord I need you." ○ In those very places, God show us how we can live into our most true identity, and how we can walk in deep dependence in You. ● Thank you God for your promise to change us from the inside out as we put our hope in you. And that's what we do today. ● In Jesus' name. Amen.
Related Media
Related Sermons