Spiritual Living in a Chaotic World

Strong and Courageous, Jacob

August 30, 2020 Pastor Dave Tucker Season 4 Episode 13
Spiritual Living in a Chaotic World
Strong and Courageous, Jacob
Chapters
Spiritual Living in a Chaotic World
Strong and Courageous, Jacob
Aug 30, 2020 Season 4 Episode 13
Pastor Dave Tucker

What does it mean for us to wrestle with God and allow God to give us a new identity?
Based on Genesis 32: 22-29.

Originally presented Aug. 30, 2020 at St. Timothy Cumberland Presbyterian Church, Bedford, TX.

Show Notes Transcript

What does it mean for us to wrestle with God and allow God to give us a new identity?
Based on Genesis 32: 22-29.

Originally presented Aug. 30, 2020 at St. Timothy Cumberland Presbyterian Church, Bedford, TX.

STRONG AND COURAGEOUS, JACOB

Genesis 32: 22-29   

Jacob was in trouble. It’s not the first time Jacob had been in a pickle, but this time seemed different… This time, it seemed as if the sins of his past had caught up with him and there was no way out. It was very late at night, and he just could not sleep. Jacob crawled out of his makeshift bed and left his tent for some fresh air. He looked up in the sky, Millions of tiny stars penetrated the night air and flickered. Jacob took a deep breath as he remembered the promise God made to him and his grandfather, Abraham. “Your descendants will outnumber the stars.” Right now, it didn’t seem like that was ever going to happen. “I sure messed up THAT plan, didn’t I, God!” I can hear Jacob whispering as he continued to look at the stars. 

Jacob remembered the story his mother told him from the time he was a little boy… about when he and his twin brother, Esau was born. His brother was born first but not by much, because clinging to his heel was Jacob. Thus, the name, Jacob, which is interpreted from Hebrew, “To follow behind.” It did indeed seem to Jacob like he was constantly following in his brother’s shadow. Esau was father Isaac’s favorite. Jacob resented him for that and did everything he could to trick his brother out of his birthright. One time, Esau had returned from the fields and was so hungry, he thought he was going to die! He came Jacob, who was preparing lentil soup for his father. After some amount of negotiation, Esau “gave” Jacob his birthright in exchange for the soup. 

Now, as the tradition of birthrights go, Esau couldn’t just give his birthright away so Jacob and Rachel, his mother, devised a scheme…. The ultimate plan to assure that Jacob received the birthright and not Esau. (You see, Jacob was always Rachel’s favorite.) When Isaac was very old and death was at the door, it was decided that it was time to bestow the birthright. So, Isaac, sent his son Esau into the wild to hunt wild game, and prepare it for his father. The plan was Isaac and Esau would feast and then Isaac would bless him with the birthright. While Esau was away, Rebecca and Jacob went to work. At the behest of his mother, Jacob went into the pasture and brought two goats to his mother. Rebecca killed the goats, prepared the meal, and wrapped up Jacob with the fur of the goats… Esau was a hairy man and for this deception to work, Jacob had to be hairy as well. And Just like that, the birthright was bestowed upon Jacob instead of Esau. When Esau returned from his hunt and realized what had happened, he was enraged and vowed to kill his brother Jacob. That was the last thing Jacob remembers of his brother… the vow that Esau made to kill Jacob. Jacob had to leave his mother and his home and flee to another country as a result of this deception. 

That was about twenty years ago, Jacob mumbled as he recalled the event. He walked over to a rock and sat down in the pitch black of the night. He could hear the crickets chirping and the toads croaking. He could hear the trickling of a brook nearby. He thought about how hard and unforgiving that rock felt beneath him. Then he remembered another time… long ago, where he tried to use a rock for a pillow! He will never forget that night for as long as he lives. It was his first night away from home. He was tired, hungry, lonely and homesick. He had nothing but the clothes on his back and a few extra things his mother had packed for him. As he dozed off into a fitful sleep, he saw a vision from God. In this vision, Jacob saw a ladder that went from the earth to heaven with angels ascending and descending. In his vision, Jacob stood in awe of this ladder. Then God came and stood beside him and blessed him. The words of God can be found in Genesis 28:13-15. “And the LORD stood beside him and said, ‘I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.’

Jacob was deep in thought. How in the world is this promise ever going to happen? After twenty years of living with his uncle Laban in a strange land, he was coming home. He sent messengers to his brother Esau to tell him that Jacob was coming home… just to feel things out and see if Esau still wanted to kill him. The news that came back from his messengers chilled Jacob to the bone. Your brother, Esau is coming to greet you and he is bringing a troop of 400 men with him! Surely Esau was coming to kill Jacob and take his family and flocks and all his possessions. 

As Jacob was pondering his current situation, he heard a rustling in the brush behind him. Jacob reached for his knife, only to discover he had left it by his bed… How could he have been so careless! Surely one of Esau’s henchmen had come under cover of darkness to kill Jacob. Jacob spun around to find himself face to face with a stranger. A quick right hook from Jacob was blocked by the stranger, and just like that, he found himself wrestling for his life. All night long, Jacob wrestled with this stranger until the stranger decided the wrestling match needed to end. The stranger struck Jacob’s hip and dislocated it. Scripture tells us that Jacob’s eyes were opened and he realized he was wrestling with God! “God told Jacob, the sun is rising, let me go.” Jacob, realizing that he was in the presence of God, replied, I will not let you go until you bless me!” God, who knows everything, who could have killed Jacob yet chose to hold God’s punches replied, “What is your name?” “Jacob, the follower.” Came the reply. God said, “From now on, your name will be Israel, which means you have wrestled with God and humans and have prevailed.” Then Jacob, wanting to check his assumption that this was indeed God asked God the same question, “Please, tell me YOUR name? God looked at Jacob and with a smile replied, “Why are you asking me what my name is?” And right there, God blessed Israel!

JOURNAL PROMPTS:

  • When have you been afraid? How did you overcome your fears?
  • With what are you wrestling with God?
  • What things in the past have you identified yourself with? Have you made these things your name? What does it look like to allow God to give you a new identity, and a new name?