(Genesis 30 - 32)
I hope you had a great Thanksgiving. We're still having Thanksgiving, still eating it. There's plenty of it left over. We'll be eating it for a week. And it's just as good.
Last week we left Jacob in a mess. He thought he married Rachel, But lo and behold, it was Leah! In their wedding ten I imagine that Leah whispered. "Yes, I agree." She didn't dare use her voice or she would have been caught. He was clueless until sunrise when he discovered that the wrong woman had been in his arms all night long. Imagine the tender things he might have whispered to her. "Honey, I want twelve boys. And we aren't going to quit until we get them." She must have been excited.
There honeymoon lasted one short night. Then the honeymoon was over because in the morning when he woke up, the Bible says, "It was Leah." And he jumped up and ran to her daddy. "You old deceiver," said Jacob the deceiver, "you deceived me!" Of course it take one to know one, doesn't it.
Well, finally they settled the argument and it was decided that he could have Rachel if he would wait one more week and if he would work seven more years. And so it was agreed.
Domestic problems descended on the bigamy home. Polygamy is not really a good idea and Jacob loved attractive Rachel far more that he loved weak-eyed Leah. You're bound to love one more than the other. It just didn't work. Poor Jacob. Here he was, trying to be a patriarch, trying his best to be something for God, and he has domestic problems. He has marital problems.
Do you realize that you can have the finest Christian home, you can be doing your very best to be a good Christian and you can have problems at home. That happens. You may be striving for a closer walk with God and you may wonder why things are not going just right. Psalm 34:19. A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all; He protects all his bones, not one will be condemned who take refuge in Him. The Bible does not promise, you will never find it here, that God promises you a trouble-free marriage, or a life with no problems. It isn't going to happen, but He does promise that He will deliver you from those problems in His way and in His time. It'll happen. So just trust in Him.
Now let's go here to Genesis 29:31 and pick up on this story. When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, He opened her womb, You know, God is a great equalizer. but Rachel was barren. Leah had become the mother finally of Jacob's first four sons. And poor Jacob. He had all kinds of problems. The wife he loved the most was barren, his wages were changed ten times by his father-in-law. It was not a happy situation. And despite the inequities, God richly blessed Jacob. His children grew, his flocks grew, he had all kinds of people in his family. He eventually ended up with eleven boys by the time he moved away from there. No wonder they call that the fertile crescent.
Jacob spent twenty terrible years there in Haran, but they were years of great spiritual growth. And that tells me that if you have trials in your home, if you bare them correctly, there's going to be a blessing. It's going to happen. So, you just make sure that you bare up under those trials.
It was in Haran that Jacob ceased deceiving. He permitted God to be in charge of his life. You may be having problems in your home, but if you just hang with God, keep trusting God, God will allow you to receive a blessing. He turned the other cheek. Every time Laban was against him it turned out to be a blessing for him. So, let God fight your battles.
Genesis 31:3. The Lord said to Jacob, "Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you. You see, this wasn't his home up there in Mesopotamia. His home was down there in Beer-sheba. He needed to go south. It was probably the fact that God allowed his nest to be uncomfortable so that the move would be a little nicer, a little easier to do.
And, notice what Jacob did before deciding to move. He consulted his wives. You men should consult your wife before you make a decision. Blessed is the man that has a wife like Jacob had. Genesis 31:16, his wives said, "Surely all the wealth that God took away from our father belongs to us and our children. So do whatever God has told you." What a blessing to have a cooperative spirit like that! They could have said, "I don't want to go. I was born here. No way!" But they said, "If God is leading you in this that's exactly what we want to do." That's a blessing.
To avoid problems, they decided to sneak away. Genesis 31:19. When Laban had gone to shear his sheep, Rachel stole her father's household gods. You see, they were getting ready to sneak off. Laban went out to shear the sheep. Usually he was shearing Jacob. But this time he was shearing his own sheep. And so they decided this would be an ideal time to slip away.
Now, Jacob was unaware that his lovely wife, Rachel, was an idolater. You see, she believed in idols. She stole her father's household gods. In doing so, she was making a statement that she believed in them. She didn't want to leave home without them. I don't think Jacob knew that. She was an idolater in secrecy. I don't believe that you can have a great marriage while you or your husband keep secrets from each other, unless you've bought her a new dress or something. You can't keep secrets from each other and have a great marriage. She was the Achan in the camp. How many times did Jacob pray for her to get pregnant when he really didn't know that in reality God was not rewarding her with pregnancy because of her secret sin.
Well, after three days Laban discovered that Jacob was gone and worse yet that Jacob had taken his wives and all of his sheep and his goats, his flocks, and his herds and servants which rightly belonged to Jacob. Jacob traveled fast as you read it here in the Bible. People discover that in ten days he traveled three hundred miles (some say it was four hundred miles or even more). That's a long way when you're traveling with little children, with flocks, with sheep; some of them were lambs. That's a long way: thirty miles a day.
After three days, Laban discovered this, and so he got together an armed posse, a group of strong men and decided to go after Jacob. So, here came Laban.
But the night before he caught up, he met God. You can read this in Genesis 31:24. He had a visit with God, and God spoke to Laban, and God commanded Laban, "Don't you touch Jacob because he is leaving at My command." Well, that changed things. Naturally that would change things.
Sometimes I just think we don't realize that we're in a jam or in a problem; somebody is about to catch up with us, about to do us in, and God intervenes. That happens a lot and we don't even know it. If you're out there driving, maybe at Thanksgiving to visit relatives, God intervenes and you don't have to have that wreck that you might have had. God intervenes a lot and we don't even know it.
Laban met God that day. God actually spoke with Laban. Has God ever spoken with you? I've never heard God speaking to me other than through the Bible and other things like that. God spoke to Laban, and yet, Laban rejected God. Laban chose the idols rather than choose the true and living God. That was his last chance. He rejected God.
Come to Genesis 31:34. Now Rachel had taken the household gods and put them inside her camel's saddle and was sitting on them. Laban searched through everything in the tent but found nothing.
Rachel said to her father, "Don't be angry, my lord, that I cannot stand up in your presence. and she gives the reason why. So he searched and he could not find the household gods. Imagine sitting on your gods. We're not able to do that, are we. Here she was sitting on the gods. That must have surely told her that these aren't worth much. Jacob's lovely wife was so attached to these pagan gods that she lied to avoid being found out. Perhaps she thought these portable household idols would help her get pregnant. And she needed to get pregnant. She wanted to get pregnant. And yet they didn't help her. God could not grant that request to her as long as she held on to those pagan remnants of her idolatry. We must separate ourselves from the things that prevent God from blessing us, whatever that thing is, whatever that habit is.
Well, Laban finally gave up his search in her tent and then Jacob lost it. Notice what happens in Genesis 31:36. It says, Jacob was angry and took Laban to task.And Jacob was wroth, and chode with Laban. He literally tore into his father-in-law. Jacob was so upset. Here he had worked twenty years to get these two ladies as his wives, and to get these sheep, and the flocks, and he had never wronged that man. (See Genesis 30:26-43) As you read through these verses, you will discover something very interesting: that they had a hot argument, that Jacob yelled at Laban. You could probably hear their argument reverberating from the canyon wall out there in the desert. Two men: one, a believer, a "Christian," and the other a pagan, arguing with each other.
That's the last time they ever met, by the way. That's the last discussion they ever had. I will tell you that when you lose your temper, you lose your testimony. That's what he did. How much better if he had given the credit to God, and said, "Okay, you've come to get me. I haven't taken anything of yours that I know of. You've searched. All these animal are mine. I rightly worked for them. I wan to tell you that the reason I have all these animals is because God blessed me. He could have magnified Jesus Christ. He could have magnified the Father. Instead, he bad-mouthed his daddy-in-law. Pagan Laban probably thought, "If that's what 'Christians' are like, then I'm not going to have anything to do with them." Pagan Laban turned back to the darkness of idolatry. He went out of Jacob's life, and he went out of God's book. We never again hear of Laban. How much different it could have been had he magnified God instead of complaining. He lost his testimony.
Well, now that Jacob is finally unshackled from Laban, he has smooth sailing? Correct? No, not exactly, because he gets closer to his home town and he begins remembering Esau. He remembers how he miss-treated Esau. He thinks, "I'm in trouble here because I stole Esau's birthright. He's going to discover that I'm back in town and he's going to come and get me. That's not good." Why is Jacob having so much problem? He is no longer being chased by his father-in-law, and about to be killed by him, but now he is about to be killed by his brother. Why is he having so many problems?
In your life, you've had a lot of problems, have you? Was Jacob on the road to obedience or not. Yes he was. He was doing God's will. God told him to move (Genesis 31:3). I will tell you that you can be on the path following God and still have problems. That happens. How can God bless us unless as far as possible we've made things right with our brother?
And so, Jacob goes to mend fences. Mending fences is not easy. Have any of you had a ranch or a cow or a horse and you've had to mend fences? You see, Jacob many years ago fled from his brother and disappeared. Esau, we're told by EG White, thought that Jacob would never return. So, Esau thought that all of this was his birthright because his brother had disappeared. And all of a sudden he come back into view again. There's a problem here. Esau was enraged. Jacob had badly cheated his brother. And then he ran away.
Well, they sent out (Genesis 32) scouts ahead and they found Esau, and the alarming report was brought back that "we came, we found Esau, we looked over the nearest sand dune and there he was and he had four hundred armed soldiers with him. This great desert chief is bringing with him an army of four hundred men and they are equipped."
And what happened? Genesis 32:7 KJV says, Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed. Terror struck in the camp. Jacob panicked. He divided his camp into two parts. He said, "Leah, you go with this group, Rachel you go with that group. We're separating here my flocks, my wives. Maybe if Esau finds one of you and kills you, the other one will get away. A lot of us are going to be killed here." This is his personal desert storm. He sent everybody else across the river Jabbock while he stayed on the other side.
And you know what he decided to do that night? He decided to pray. It's a pretty good idea when you're in a problem to pray. Jacob didn't usually do that. Jacob usually took things into his own hands. Now he put his problem into God's hands. And that's the best thing to do when you have a problem. Don't ever keep it in your own hands. Put your problems in God's hands. Put your marriage, your financial problems, whatever the problems are, put them in God's hands. Give it to Jesus.
Come to Genesis 32. I want you to look at his prayer. This is a beautiful prayer. We have the actual words of this prayer. Genesis 32:9-12. Then Jacob prayed, "O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, O Lord, who said to me, 'Go back to your country and your relatives and I will make you prosper,' I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. I had only my staff when I crossed the Jordan, but now I have become two groups. Save me I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children." Jacob was petrified.
Now we as arm-chair quarterbacks, looking back with our hindsight, should he have been afraid? No, he should not. Why not? Come back to verse 1. Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. What did he name this place? He named this place 'Mahanaim,' which means "Two groups." Not only were there two camps of his people but two camps of angels going there with him. I read something very interesting in Patriarchs and Prophets p. 195, EG White. "One group of angels was behind Jacob and his group. The other group of angels was in front of him." It's sort of like the fiery cloud by night and the pillar of cloud by day. There were those groups of angels surrounding Jacob, protecting Jacob. Jacob didn't need to be trembling and fearful. He needed to be trusting in God. I think those same angels still over us. You need to be coming to prayer meeting on Wednesday nights. We are having the most delightful study on angels. You need to be here.
Now, let's go back to Genesis 32:22. That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two maidservants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. Then when Jacob crossed that ford, when he crossed that river, I believe that was a watershed event in his life. He is not just crossing geographically, but he is crossing spiritually. He is a new person. That night Jacob changed. He is leaving behind the old ways. He is leaving behind his old name. He is given a brand new name. He's a new creature.
At Bethel, he got his beliefs. At Jabbok he got his behavior. At Bethel he saw the ladder. At Jabbok he saw the Lord. At Bethel he became a son of God. At Jabbok he became a saint of God. At Bethel he experienced justification. At Jabbok he begins the walk of sanctification.
Can you see what is happening here in his life? If you let God help you and lead you, you, like Jacob will become a great person. You leave those old habits behind. Begin keeping the Sabbath like you ought to be keeping the Sabbath. Are you doing your best for God? You ought to. Let Him into your life and help you.
Well, then Jacob decided to spend the remainder of that night in prayer. Have you ever prayed all night? Did Jacob pray all night? No, he didn't. He set out to do it, we are told, and suddenly while he was praying, a big strong hand got a hold of him, and grabbed him, grabbed the grabber. Remember what Jacob was doing when he was born? He was grabbing the heel of his brother even as they came out of the birth canal. This hand grabbed Jacob. And they began to fight. Jacob was wrestling with that angel and this was not a show. Come over here to Hosea 12 because this speaks about Jacob. We find Jacob in several places in the Bible. Hosea 12:3. In the womb he grasped his brother's heel; as a man he struggled with God. Verse 4. He struggled with the angel and overcame him; he wept and begged for his favor. He found him at Bethel and talked with him there. Who did Jacob talk with? Who was that angel? I believe that the angel was none other than Jesus Christ. That was a wonderful opportunity to meet Jesus Christ. And Jacob met Jesus.
Back here in Genesis 32:24, ...so Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 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. Now, this must have caused Jacob considerable pain. Have you ever broken a hip? Have you ever had a shoulder get out of its socket? This was a terrible experience and he is paralysed His hip would not work any more. He's in excruciating pain and so, basically, you can't wrestle when you're in that type of pain. All Jacob could do was cling. That's all he could do. You have a broken man clinging to Jesus Christ. I will tell you that is the secret of life. That is the secret of a spiritual walk with God that will lead you to heaven is that you as a broken person you cling to Jesus Christ.
These aren't just Bible stories. You're not just reading some story here. These are examples of how things work. We need to be studying these things. If life has handicapped you, should you give up? What should you do? Cling to Jesus. That's the answer. What if he had given up? To be fully blessed we must keep up the good fight. I think the fight was battling self. In fact, Paul says in 1 Timothy 6:12, Fight the good fight of faith. Take hold of eternal life... Cling. That's the secret.
Now, let's go back to Genesis 32:26. Then the man said, "Let me go, for it is daybreak." Why did he not want to continue the fight? Because it was getting light and Jacob is going to discover in the light that he was fighting with God. I think he knew that by now. But he would have seen the face of God. What does the Bible tell us? Exodus 33:20. ...for no man may see me and live. And so the man said, "Let me go. It's daybreak." But Jacob replied, "I will not let you go unless you bless me."
Do you realize what's going on here? He's wanting to let him go that he might protect him, that he might keep Jacob from being killed, destroyed by the brightness of his face which maybe he would have seen, because "...no man may see me and live." Sometimes our prayers are dangerous. Sometimes God has to protect us against our prayers. Sometimes we pray the wrong thing. What if his prayer had been answered? I think sometimes all we need to do is submit ourselves into the hands of God. That's the best thing you can do.
Genesis 32:27. The man asked, "What is your name?" Here is Jesus asking Jacob "What is your name?" Does Jesus know Jacob's name? Yes, he does. So, why does He ask him his name? Remember the last time somebody asked Jacob his name that is recorded here? Isaac said, "What's your name? Are you Jacob or Esau?" "Oh, I'm Esau." Here, Jesus asks him, "Who are you?" "I'm Jacob. I'm nothing but a cheat. I'm a deceiver. That's me. I'm Jacob." He admits who he is. Until you admit who you are and until you admit your flaws and your mistakes God can't do anything with you. After you do that God can help you.
And notice what He did. Not until he admitted who he was did he receive the blessing. Verse 28, Then the man said, "Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome." Why was he given a new name? Because he overcame. Will all overcomers be given a new name? Yes they will. Isaiah 62:2. ...you will be called by a new name that the Lord will bestow. Genesis 32:29. Jacob said, "Please tell me your name."
But he replied, "Why do you ask my name?" Then he blessed him there." Jacob wrongfully got the blessing from his own father, but he rightfully gets the birthright blessing from his heavenly Father. And that's where you can get it from.
I could just picture what happened later. Jacob's hip was out of joint. And he came hobbling in to camp that morning. And people said, "What happened to you, Jacob? You're limping. Something is wrong." Do you know what Jacob said? "Last night I met God and I will never walk the same." How true that is. Have you met Jesus Christ? If you have, you will never walk the same. Your life will be different. Give your heart to Jesus and then and only then will you be ready to go home.
Hymn of Praise: #136, Good Christians, Now Rejoice Scripture: Genesis 32:24-28 Hymn of Response: #626, In a Little While We're Going Home
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last updated 11/25/2000 by Bob Beckett.