Sermon delivered December 2, 2000 by Pastor Donald J. Gettys

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Biblical quotations are from the New International Version NIV unless otherwise noted.

Jacob: Mending Fences

Last week we talked about Jacob. And last week we saw the last of Jacob. Jacob ceased to exist. He is now known as "Israel," but we will continue to call him "Jacob." Now, why would we do that? Well, because the Bible largely does that. So, we're following along with the sacred writers. Jacob was an overcomer. He loved God so much that it changed his life. The new name depicted a character change. Israel means "he struggled with God and overcame." He was victorious over what? What was his problem? What is our problem?

I don't know what his problem was. A lot of us, it seems like, "If I just had more time to study, I would get all A's. I could pass those ridiculous exams those teachers give out." Or, "If I just had more money, I could pay off these bills. I could carry around my money." That might not be a good idea either. Our problem is not a lack of money or a lack of education. But you might say: "Oh, if I only had a different boss, or a different wife, or if, if, if..." Is that really the problem? What is the problem? You know, if you took all the problems in the world and put them all in a large cast iron pot and boil it all down until you get the little bit of residue left, I believe that the mother of all problems is an improper relationship with God, with Jesus Christ. Jacob finally struggled with God until he got victory. He was changed. God recognized this and changed his name to Israel. However for continuity, and because the Bible continues to use the name Jacob, so will we.

Genesis 32:31, The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip. He was partly crippled from that day forward. Like Jesus, Jacob bore a wound the rest of his life. Jacob experienced God and could never be the same. This does not mean he lived an absolutely perfect life. He occasionally failed God as we all do, but Jacob was a new man.

Genesis 32:32, Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip, because the socket of Jacob's hip was touched near the tendon.

As Jacob retained in his body, just so Israel retains in its dietary practice even to this day a perpetual reminder of Jacob's confrontation with God. Avoidance of the sciatic muscle helps even some modern Jews to remember Jacob's life changing experience.

After Jacob finished telling his family about his divine wrestling match he happened to look up and what he saw brought on a cold sweat. Even saintly Patriarchs can be on the mountain top one minute and in the depths of the valley the next. A worldly author might depict Jacob walking in faith from that moment forward. But the Holy Spirit shows Jacob s story warts and all. See yourself in this unbelievably true story.

Genesis 33:1, Jacob looked up and there was Esau, coming with his four hundred men; so he divided the children among Leah, Rachel and the two maidservants.

How quickly fear vanquished faith. Faith ought to be stronger! What a contrast from the night before when he wrestled God. Now he cowers to man. Jacob apparently stopped clinging to God like he had done so well the night before. Why didn't he place this emergency in God's hands? Lo, here came Esau. For twenty long years the two brothers had been alienated from each other. Now a great showdown materializes and it is not a dessert mirage. This is going to make his night of wrestling like a toy compared to confronting Esau's entourage of 400 enraged warriors who are armed to the teeth.

Genesis 33:2, Jacob is in a quandary. He put the maidservants and their children in front, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph in the rear. Jacob placed the more expendable children and wives in front and the favored ones in the rear.

A father should never knowingly jeopardize his family. If a burglar comes to your house, do you send your wife and kids out to get him? Jacob should have gone out to face Esau alone. Keep your family out of trouble. Notice who goes first. Leah's part of the family must take the brunt of Esau s sharp swords. Here Jacob plants a seed that the ten sons will never forget. Here Jacob strengthens the roots of future hatred in his quarreling family. No wonder these men later hated Joseph so much. They sold him as a slave.

Jacob fell from trusting in God. He jumped for his guns instead of jumping on his knees. Why don't Christians trust in God? I am glad God is slow to give up on us.

Genesis 33:3, He himself went on ahead and bowed down to the ground seven times as he approached his brother. Jacob walked slowly and painfully, halting at every step. His heart was at peace with God but fear gripped him. He took a few steps and bowed and took a few more and then bowed again. Finally Jacob stood before his estranged brother. Inwardly he was quaking in his boots but outwardly he put on a front of courage.

Esau was a wild wooly hairy warrior sitting high up on his war horse gazing down at his crippled brother. Behind Esau were 400 mounted cavalry troops, rugged and rough. Behind Jacob were four wide eyed mothers with their scared children clutching their apron strings. And behind them as far as the eye could see were Jacob's herds and flocks of animals. Emotions were very high!

In Eastern lands if you approached a king you bowed before him to acknowledge his jurisdiction and authority over you. Kowtowing seven times indicates unconditional submission. It is like waving a white flag. Psychologists tell us that in confrontation it is best for you to admit fault first. This relieves the pressure so that effective negotiations can begin. Jacob was willing to give up his portion to be at peace with his brother. Can you see Jacob is a changed man? Twenty years earlier he swindled Esau, but now he surrenders to Esau. The mark of a Christian is that he daily grows more and more like Jesus.

Genesis 33:4, But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept.

Is he going to kill me or kiss me? Esau's big hairy arms went about his brother in forgiveness. He was embraced instead of erased. Esau also has done some growing over the years. Instead of a slaughter there was sweetness! Tears of joy watered the parched desert floor that day.

Apparently Jacob's judgement of Esau's intentions was wrong. Should Jacob have feared Esau? Was Esau really out to get Jacob? (See Patriarchs and Prophets p. 198 - EG White) first he was coming to exterminate Jacob from the face of the earth, that is, until God sent an angel. You see, at the exact moment Jacob was out there wrestling with the angel another angel was sent to Esau warning him by a dream not to harm his brother. Esau listened to God. Thus God protected Jacob.

Proverbs 21:1, The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases. God is in control of nations, kings, leaders, situations, events that touch His people.

Genesis 33:5, Then Esau looked up and saw the women and children. "Who are these with you?" he asked. Jacob answered, "They are the children God has graciously given your servant."

Study this story sometime to discover the keys to reconciliation that you might utilize in gaining forgiveness if you have offended a brother. Jacob's spirit disarmed Esau.

Genesis 33:8, Esau asked, "What do you mean by all these droves I met?" "To find favor in your eyes, my lord," he said. Jacob admits: "Years ago I cheated you badly and I want to pay you back."

The droves actually contained close to 600 animals. 200 female goats along with 20 males. This is interesting. 200 female sheep and 20 rams. 40 cows and 10 bulls. Camels and donkeys. Imagine the possibilities for growth! Esau would be richly repaid. Did Jacob have to bribe Esau? Jacob was depending on his gifts when he should have depended on God.

Genesis 33:9, But Esau said, "I already have plenty, my brother. Keep what you have for yourself." Contrast Esau's loving response (brother) to Jacob's starchy "my lord." Esau was a remarkable man. Have you ever met anybody in your whole life, who when talking about material things and money, said: "I have enough!" Even millionaires want just a little bit more. How rare to be content with what we have.

Genesis 33:10, "No, please!" said Jacob. "If I have found favor in your eyes, accept this gift from me. For to see your face is like seeing the face of God, now that you have received me favorably."

How could Esau's red hairy face look like God? Did it Really? I think when Esau's complete forgiveness was totally seen, it reminded Jacob of what God had recently done for him.

Genesis 33:11, "Please accept the present that was brought to you, for God has been gracious to me and I have all I need." And because Jacob insisted, Esau accepted it.

Esau was already a rich man and accepted the gift as a pledge to good will. No one will accept a gift from an enemy. Neither does God. Proverbs 15:8, The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD. God does not want your tithe and offerings until He has your heart.

Genesis 33:12-14 Then Esau said, "Let us be on our way; I'll accompany you." But Jacob said to him, "My lord knows that the children are tender and that I must care for the ewes and cows that are nursing their young. If they are driven hard just one day, all the animals will die.

"So let my lord go on ahead of his servant, while I move along slowly at the pace of the droves before me and that of the children, until I come to my lord in Seir."

I love the way the KJV says it: "I will lead on softly." Isn't that beautiful? A good father will gently lead his children. Not with a big stick, but with a big heart.

So, Jacob said, "You go ahead. I will go on slowly until I meet you in Seir." Where is that? That is south of the Dead Sea in a rocky, barren, mountainous, hill country where Esau lives. Did Jacob ever go there? No, he never went there. Did he have any intention of going there? I don't believe so. I believe he lied to his brother. The new Jacob called Israel still had tendencies of the old Jacob to deceive. He really had no intentions of following Esau back home. He wanted Esau out of his life and out of his life immediately. Why did Jacob lie to his twin brother? He did not trust Esau.

And is it okay to lie a little bit to avoid friction? Is it okay to lie a little bit because you're afraid of the reaction somebody might have to something you would do? Do we always have to tell the whole truth? Do we always have to reveal everything? Well look here in Genesis 33:16. So that day Esau started on his way back to Seir. He started alone. Jacob did not go with him.

Genesis 33:18-20, After Jacob came from Paddan Aram, he arrived safely at the city of Shechem in Canaan and camped within sight of the city. Is that where he was supposed to be? Where did God send him? Not to Shechem. He sent him to Bethel, on further down, further south. But where does Jacob stop? He stops at Shechem. And what did he do in Shechem? For a hundred pieces of silver he bought some land there. He pitched his tent there. He's going to make Shechem his home. Is that God's plan? No, not at all!

What did he do in Shechem? Look in verse 20. There he set up an altar... Was God happy with this altar? Not at all. Why not? Jacob was off course. Jacob was on the path to life, but you can see him zigzagging to the left and right sides of God's known will. He wondered off from that path just like the pilgrim did in that book called The Pilgrim's Progress.

Jacob was not where he was supposed to be. He was supposed to go to Bethel but he stopped at Shechem. Later God had to intervene to get Jacob back on the right path. Gen 35:1, Then God said to Jacob, "Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau." He was in the wrong place. And God said, "That altar you built is in the wrong place. You need to go to Bethel to build the altar. You need to settle in Bethel. I will bless you in Bethel."

Sometimes maybe we're in the wrong place. Maybe we're in the wrong church. Maybe God wants to bless you somewhere else. God will work with you until you get there, but you to keep following God until He gets you to the place where you're supposed to be.

Jacob paid a high price for dwelling in Shechem. Do you know what happened in Shechem? How many daughters are we told that Jacob had? Just one daughter, Dinah. What happened to her in Shechem? She was violated very badly by the men of that pagan place. Here his only daughter was ruined as she associated with these heathens. That never would have happened had their daddy not settled there. He didn't go all the way where he was supposed to go.

And friends, when God is leading you, you need to go all the way with God. Don't stop half-way. Don't be a half-Christian. He paid a high price for that mistake.

Let's close by reading the Genesis 33:20. There he set up an altar and called it El Elohe Israel. That's a great name. This new altar is amazing! It is not built to the God of Abraham or Isaac but to "God, the God of Israel." He is Israel! God is now his God. Jacob is no longer riding on the religious coat- tails of his father or mother. He now has a personal experience with God. Friends, you will never amount to a hill of beans (in a spiritual sense), unless you yourself have a personal knowledge of God. Do you know Jesus? Accept Him now as your personal Savior.

Hymn of Praise: #142, Angels We Have Heard on High
Scripture: Genesis 32:24-28
Hymn of Response: #122, Hark!  The Herald Angels Sing


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