On this day, December 18, in 1958, history books tell us that the first voice from space was heard. It was the voice of President Dwight D. Eisenhower giving a Christmas message to the World. It was done via a newfangled thing called a communications satellite.
On this day, December 18, in 1957, history books tell us that the first commercial nuclear power plant in the United States began supplying electricity in Shippingport, Pennsylvania as a sort of pre Christmas present, they called it. As you know, electricity comes from two poles, a positive and a negative.
On this day, December 18, in 1890, history books tell us that Edwin Armstrong was born in New York City. He was a great inventor in the field of radio. You know of his greatest invention by the initials FM. frequency modulation, which eliminated the static from radio.
On this day, December 18, in 2004, you will hear a message that I hope is clear and free of static. I hope that it will come out as positive in a negative world. I hope that you will understand that you should not be listening to my feeble voice but to a voice from space. Not the voice of Eisenhower bouncing off of a satellite, but the voice of the Creator which has been heard from space in many different ways, not just since the 1950s but since the beginning of time.
I have noticed that it is not usually the great among us that God chooses to speak to or through. It is usually the least. That's the way it was in the case of Jacob. You remember Jacob. What do you think of when you think of Jacob? I think of Jacob was a man of fear. Do you think of Jacob as a man of fear? Jacob led a life full of fear. Jacob was what we may call a dead man walking. I say that because a person who leads a life of fear dies a thousand deaths in their mind. But, you know, a brave man only dies once. Jacob was so in fear for his life that he might as well have been dead to begin with, for that is no way to live.
I know a lady who lives more than a hundred miles from here. She mistrusts everyone. She lives a life of fear. She is great fear. You see her looking out of her windows in her house. Her doors are locked at all times. She is fearful that somebody will come in. She has been to visit me in my home. I leave my door open. Just the screen door there. And she will go and shut my door and lock it. She doesn't trust anybody. Even in the small things. You will see her in the line at the supermarket she is one of those people who stands there after she has purchased her goods looking at the receipt, because she is in fear that somebody will have charged her 48 cents for the pound of bananas instead of the 45 cents. If she does find a mistake, she will know that they did it maliciously. She doesn't trust them. One day I got frustrated and I said, "I would rather trust everybody all of the time and be wrong five percent of the time than to mistrust everybody all of the time and be wrong ninety-five percent of the time."
I receive through email prayer requests. Always pray for these requests. But there is one man, I have never met him I am not sure where he is from. I receive an email from him everyday. Sometime two or three times a day. And he always has a letter written to me, full of prayer requests. This guy has got trouble. Everyday it is a different request for something going on in his life. I say, "this guy is in bad shape." One day I almost wrote him back and told him, "If you would only spend you time looking for things to do for other people, you would have less time to write to me, and you would have less problems to write about. Have you noticed that when we do things for other people our own lives seem to shape up? The problems that we experience tend to melt away, or at least get put in proper perspective?
Well, fear ruled the life and actions of Jacob. Fear caused Jacob to take matters into his own hands. He traded Esau a bowl of lentil soup for the birthright inheritance instead of trusting in God's timing. Have you noticed that a fearful person is an impatient person? They believe that they know the best time for everything. If it doesn't happen in their time, it can't be right and something will go wrong, when waiting usually brings better results.
It was fear that caused Jacob and his mother to be sneaky and deceptive about gaining the special blessing from Isaac. It is a fearful person who is a manipulator. They are afraid of what might happen if they were open and honest and allow things to go their natural course. Both Jacob and his mother wanted what God wanted but they did not trust that He could or would accomplish what He had promised. Their methods hurt themselves. Their methods hurt others.
It was fear that caused Jacob to run when his plot was discovered. People that cannot face up to the way they have hurt others live in fear.
Even with all this going on, here's the amazing part: God still speaks to His wayward children. God still spoke to Jacob. He's given a dream and a message of peace. Look with me at Genesis 28. Here we find Jacob running from Esau in fear. He has disobeyed God, he has done what is wrong, and God doesn't just say, "you get what you deserve! See if I talk to you." That's what I would do If I were God. That's why I'm not God. God is wonderful. God chooses to speak to this arwsome sinner named Jacob. That gives me hope that he will speak to me.
Genesis 28:10-22 says: And Jacob left Beersheba, and set out for Haran. When he reached a certain place, and stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of that there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the Lord, and He said: "I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying." What?? He didn't say anything about, "what are you doing Jacob? Your life is all messed up. I had it all planned for you." No, he is speaking positively to Jacob. "By the way, you are going to get the inheritance, Jacob, even though you have messed it up." Genesis 20:14-22: Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over your wherever you go." I was just looking at the story of Jonah. He is running away! Does God know where he is? Does God watch over him? Oh, my, yes, thank you. Wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you, until I have done what I have promised you."
When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, "Surely the Lord is in this place; and I was not aware of it. He was afraid, and said, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven." Wherever you are, it's the gate of heaven. And the door is open.
Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it He called that place, Bethel, though the city used to be called Luz.
Then Jacob made a vow, saying, "If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father's house, then the Lord will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God's house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth,"
Poor Jacob. Have you ever made a promise to God? How long did it take to break it? I'm not going to give any personal stories, but I can tell you: plenty of times. I can't believe He still listens to me.
Look again at Genesis 28:16 When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, "Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it." Jacob was amazed that God was still around, that God was still there, that God still cared, that God was still in charge, in spite of his fear! Our fear does not negate God! His promised inheritance is still available, in spite of ourselves.
God continues to bless Jacob. Jacob finds uncle Laban, marries his daughters, has children, attains great wealth with God's blessing. But, even with all of this, his life is still full of fear. He is afraid that Laban will take from him all that he has. At this time God speaks to him again in Genesis 31:3. God is still talking to him! Then the Lord said to Jacob, "Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you." That should take away the fear, shouldn't it?
But fear is still in control. God just said, "I'm going to be with you." But Jacob decides not to face his uncle and he sneaks away. When Laban catches up with Jacob, Jacob's excuse, which is found in verse 31 is simply "I was afraid..." That's simple. Laban asks "Why didn't you even say goodbye?" "I was afraid." And God says, "Didn't I say I was going to be with you?" "Yes, but I was afraid!"
Now we find Jacob nearing home in fear twenty years after he had fled home in fear. The road was the same. His emotions were the same: Fear, Worry, Misgivings, Mistrust, Guilt. The last time he had followed this road, he had been running from his brother who had plotted to kill him. This time he was headed towards his brother who had the power to destroy everything he had. He had wronged his brother , he had deceived his father all for something he could never enjoy; the birthright and the blessing.
This is kind of like the bank robber who steals from the bank and is afraid to spend it. He has got to hide it somewhere. He wonders why he did it to begin with. Now his life is in fear because he enjoys nothing.
As he draws closer to home, Jacob starts looking for ways to ensure peace with his brother. As he nears the place he used to call home, he starts sending his brother gifts (we might call them bribes). He sends ambassadors with specific non-threatening messages to his brother. "Your servant Jacob." Not "Your brother." Your servant, Jacob. He prays to God for peace with his brother. But Jacob is still afraid.
Look at Genesis 32:6 -12: When the messengers returned to Jacob, they said, "We went to your brother Esau, and now he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him." What does it say in verse seven? In great fear and distress Jacob divided the people who were with him into two groups, and the flocks and herds and camels as well. He thought, "If Esau comes and attacks one group, the group that is left may escape." He didn't trust God with his possessions did he?
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 to prosper.' I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. I had only my staff when I crossed this 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. Bur You have said, 'I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.'"
In verse one of this chapter, God even shows Jacob the angels that are protecting him, surrounding him. And even seeing this and hearing from the mouth of God what was to take place, Jacob is afraid! God's patience with us is overwhelming, isn't it? Where can peace be found?
It is my understanding that no prayer is allowed publically in the United Nations Building. This is due to the variety of faiths and the lack of faith thereof. But newspapers carried a story about one prayer that was found in the steel ballot box of the Security Council. It had been written by the metal worker who put the box together, and it read: "May I, who have had the privilege of making this ballot box, cast the first vote. May God be with every member of the United Nations Organization, and through your efforts bring lasting peace to us all throughout the world." Paul Antonio, Tinsmith
Unfortunately, prophecy has foretold no peace for our present world. Jeremiah 8:11 says, "Peace, Peace," they say when there is no peace. I Thessalonians 5:3 says While people are saying "Peace and Safety," destruction will come on them suddenly. Matthew 10:34 says "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword." That was Jesus speaking.
These texts have proven true. Only eight percent of recorded history has seen our world without war somewhere. Ninety-two percent of the time there has been a war somewhere on this globe. People keep talking about peace in the Middle East. The best they have ever had, or are likely to have, is a cease fire. And that's not peace. Satan has made sure that this is a world of war. But there is another kind of peace. It is not dependant upon what is going on around us. It is dependant upon what is going on inside of us! I will prove this shortly with verses that we need to carry in our hearts.
What Jacob wanted and prayed for was peace with his brother. What Jacob needed was peace with God and himself.
Would he get what he wanted, or what he needed, or both? Jacob had reached the Jabok River and he knew his brother was close. Wisely, he chose to spend the night in prayer. He went alone and unprotected to a private place to plead for God's protection for his family that was in danger because of his sins. I have heard it said over and over, "What I do is my business: It only hurts me." When Abraham tried things his way and took Hagar, the World Trade Center was doomed to fall. Our actions can affect others centuries later.
Look at Genesis 32: 22-24. That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two maidservants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbock. After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.
Patriarchs and Prophets says: "Suddenly a strong hand was laid upon him. He thought an enemy was seeking his life, and he endeavored to wrest himself from the grasp of his assailant. In the darkness the two struggled for the mastery. Not a word was spoken, but Jacob put forth all his strength, and did not relax his efforts for a moment. While he was thus battling for his life, the sense of his guilt pressed upon his soul; his sins rose up before him, to shut him out from God. But in his terrible extremity he remembered God's promises, and his whole heart went out in entreaty for His mercy."
Look at verse 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. Then the man said, "Let me go, for it is daybreak."
But Jacob replied, "I will not let you go unless you bless me."
Jacob finally understood who he was dealing with. How long will it take us to understand who we are dealing with here?
Hosea tells us in Hosea 12:3-6 In the womb he grasped his brother's heel; as a man he struggled with God. 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 the Lord God Almighty, the Lord is His name of renown! But you must return to your God; maintain love and justice, and wait for your God always.
Basically Hosea is saying that Jacob wrestled with God and he learned to be patient and wait for God, for God's timing.
Now look again at Genesis 32:27-32. The man asked him, "What is your name?"
"Jacob,' he answered.
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."
Jacob said, "Please tell me your name.:
But he replied, "Why do you ask my name?" Then he blessed him there.
So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, "It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared."
Let's go on to Genesis 33:1-3. Jacob looked up and there was Esau, coming with his four hundred men; so he divided his children between Leah and rachel and the two maidservants. He put the maidservants and their children in front, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph in the rear. He himself went on ahead and bowed down to the ground seven times as he approached his brother.
What a difference has come over Jacob. He is at peace. It no longer matters what happens. He goes on ahead. He stands in front now. He trusts God! He has nothing to fear. He has learned to hold on to God's word, His promises. Nothing can loosen his grip! Jacob has learned that true peace can only be found within the strong grasp of Jesus! Safe in the arms of Jesus. Protected in the garage from the frost. We don't have to fear that.
In this case, the end of the story turns out the way Jacob wanted because he fell on his brother's neck, and they wept together. But even if things had not gone as Jacob desired, he was content in the arms of Jesus, no matter what. His faith in God had finally matured.
Remember what I said earlier? There is another kind of peace. It is not dependant upon what is going on around us. It is dependant upon what is going on inside of us! Jacob latched onto the promises of God. You may wish to write down the following texts for memorization.
Finding this peace that passes understanding is not the end, because Matthew 5:9 says "Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the Sons of God."
How do you become peacemaker? By spreading the gospel of peace to everybody that you meet! That is a peacemaker, by sharing Jesus. If we have truly experienced this peace, we cannot keep it to ourselves. We must share it with people who only live in a world that only offers fear. Just like another voice from space that was heard upon the fields surrounding Bethlehem to fearful shepards: glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace, goodwill toward men.
On this day, December 18, 2004, will history show that you have heard this voice from space?
Hymn of Praise: #132, O Come All Ye Faithful Scripture: John 16:33 Hymn of Response: #140, Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne
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last updated December 21, 2004 by Bob Beckett and Eric Koester.