And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him
until the breaking of the day. And when he saw that he pre-
vailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh;
and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint, as he
wrestled with him. And he said, Let me go, for the day
breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou
bless me. And he said, Thy name shall be called no more
Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God
and with me, and hast prevailed… And he blessed him there.
IN GENESIS 32:29, I want you to underline five words: “And he blessed him there.” Circle that word there. The story is about Jacob. I am going to begin by going back several chapters. I read somewhere about a famous astronomer getting on a plane and sitting down alongside a not-so-noted clergyman. When he found out the clergyman was what he was, he dismissed everything in one sentence. The astronomer said, “I like to keep my religion simple, and this is it, all I need is: ‘Do unto others as you want to be done unto you.’” The preacher replied, “I like to keep my astronomy simple: ‘Twinkle, twinkle litter star, how I wonder where you are.” Now there is profound meaning in that exchange because lots of people think you don’t have to do any digging at all into the things of God. I have learned that the things of God can be made clear. But these things are not simple, if by simple you mean you don’t have to put forth some effort of digging.
I want to dig a little into Jacob and his past and lead up to that statement, “And he blessed him there.” The conjunction “and” tells me that something went before it; and the word “there” tells me that now is the time of blessing. We are part of a revival stream that talks a lot about blessing. Everybody wants a blessing. Well, this one is pinpointed, and you can learn a lot about blessing if you will trace the path that is linked by that conjunction “and” and come to know the circumstance, the place and the quality in that situation that brought forth the blessing.
Jacob had wanted a blessing for years; he had sought it by every means. Let’s trace the story today. It’s familiar, but let’s pull it apart. Way back in chapter 25, Esau and Jacob are born. Jacob gets his name from that event; and as you know, names mean a lot in the Bible. They were twins. Verse 26 says when Jacob was born, “His hand took hold on Esau’s heel; and his name was called Jacob.” Some of your Bibles will have in their margins supplanter as the translation of his name, but in its root it was a very descriptive name: it simply meant heel catcher. He grabbed his brother’s heel, and they named him “heel catcher.” It became a characteristic of his life: “grab it for himself” Jacob.
Now, I never preach messages just to preach. I preach God’s Word because it is life, and I preach it first to myself. If it filters through to you, praise be to God. I don’t want to just utter words today. I think there is a little heel-grabbing in all of us. There is a nature in this man Jacob that prevented him from receiving the blessing, and it took a long time before he got it. The clue is in his name. He was always looking out for Jacob, first and foremost.
I can say, parenthetically, one of the great blessings of this Scripture is that I have many promises that promise me God’s attention as the “God of Jacob.” If you will look in the Old Testament, you will find that God was the “God of Jacob,” as well as the “God of Israel” (Jacob who later became Israel). That tells me God isn’t going to turn aside just because my starting point has some of these flaws. He is the God of Jacob, who in grace continues to deal with us until we reach the point where He can give us the blessing He gave to Jacob. But this is the way Jacob started: “heel catcher.”
Jacob was the second-born. As they grew older, Esau was the hunter; he was the man of the field. One day Esau came in tired and weary from the field. Jacob had fixed a mess of pottage, lentil soup, and Esau was famished. Now if you have never hunted a lot, you probably don’t know how this fellow felt. I have never tasted better coffee in my life than it tastes after you have been out fishing a long time. Food takes on a quality out there when you come in. Will you put “flesh and blood” back on these biblical characters and see them as men of like passions as we? This poor fellow comes in and says, “Behold, I am at the point to die.” He was hungry, and he asked Jacob to give him something to eat. His brother, heel-catching, conniving supplanter, Jacob says, “Give me your birthright.” Jacob must have dangled that food in front of Esau. “Give me your birthright, and you can eat.” Well, Esau said, “Behold, I am at the point to die: so what profit shall this birthright do to me?”
In the New Testament book of Hebrews, we are told not to be like that “profane person Esau.” The Greek word translated profane means “not discerning the true nature of spiritual things.” The New Testament writer transposes this history into the spiritual frame and tells New Testament Christians not be profane like Esau, who failed to discern the true nature of spiritual things, and not to make the mistake that Esau made: taking something that tickles and satisfies the immediate sensory appetites, in his case, and miss the birthright that was his. In the spiritual frame, don’t be satisfied to get that which satisfies now, and not discern the true spiritual inheritance, which is eternal. You can apply that yourself. But he said, “What do I care about the birthright? It’s not going to do me any good; I’m about to die.” Jacob said, “Swear to me this day.” And Esau sold his birthright to Jacob.
In chapter 26, there was a famine in the land, and Isaac, their father, began moving around. He ended up in Beersheba, which is on the border between what is today the more cultivated land and the desert, which lies to the south. There is more about Isaac and the strivings among people over water and Esau getting married to the wrong people and grieving his parents.
Then comes chapter 27. Isaac was old, his eyes were dim; and he thought he was going to die. He called Esau, his son, and said unto him: “My son, here I am, and I’m old, and I don’t know the day I’m going to die, so do this for me, I pray. Take your weapons, the bow and arrow, and go out and take me some venison; make me a savory meat like I love and bring it to me that I may eat.” Rebecca, the mother, heard this exchange between Isaac and Esau. She said to Jacob, “You, go get me two kids from the herd of the goats and bring them to me and I’ll make a savory meat.” I can almost fill in the lines: “I have cooked for your dad long enough. I can make it until he won’t know the difference, and you bring me the kids and I’ll fix him something to eat and send you in ahead of Esau because he’s going to give the blessing to Esau.”
Jacob said, “My brother is a hairy man, and I am smooth. If my father feels me, I will seem to him a deceiver.” His mother said, “Upon me be the curse.” He went and fetched the kids and brought them to his mother, and she cooked the meat. She took the skins and put them on his hands and on the exposed parts of his body and sent him in.
Now listen to this exchange, and remember all the time that again and again in God’s book, God is the God of Jacob. As I said, I preach today to lives, that we might walk out and apply the truth from God’s Word. If there is some supplanter in you, some heel catcher in you, you don’t have to expose any of that nature to anybody else. If you know, down deep, that your life history has been “to look out for number one” (always when my back is to the wall to cover my corners), then I can tell you before I finish this sermon, you are going to settle it between you and God.
“He came unto his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I; who art thou, my son? And Jacob said unto his father, I am Esau thy firstborn; I have done according as thou badest me: arise, I pray thee, sit and eat of my venison, that thy soul may bless me. Isaac said unto his son, How is it that thou has found it so quickly, my son?” This is hard to believe if you really think about it, “And he said, Because the LORD thy God brought it to me.” See, it’s not new at all to blame God for things He had nothing to do with. Lots of people want to demonstrate the flesh and give God credit: “Because the LORD gave it to me.”
“Isaac said unto Jacob, Come near, I pray thee, that I may feel thee, my son, whether thou be my very son Esau or not. And Jacob went near unto Isaac his father; and he felt him, and said, The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau. And he discerned him not, because his hands were hairy, as his brother Esau’s hands: so he blessed him. And he said, Art thou my very son Esau?” Isaac still had some doubts, and here’s Jacob again: “And he said, I am.”
Verse 41 says Esau came in and “hated Jacob because of the blessing.” And he made his mind up and pledged that he would kill Jacob. Rebecca got the word, and she said, “Jacob, your brother is going to kill you. Get away from him for a while. Leave until he cools down. I have a brother Laban in Syria; go see him.” Isaac called Jacob and blessed him when he heard he was going. Jacob left, he thought, for a short trip. The mind is tricky as it covers up for our sins. It never really tells us the truth. He stayed 20 years.
On the way he stopped at a place that is near Nablus, in modern Israel. It is between the two mountains called the Mount of Blessing and the Mount of Cursing. Gerizim hangs up on one side, Ebal on the other. It was not yet called Bethel. Jacob went to sleep; and you know that familiar story. This is the same fellow who had grabbed his brother’s heel, cheated him out of his birthright and deceived his father. In the night, a ladder came down from Heaven, and God ministered to him in his sleep. He had that vision of God, and he made a pledge to give to God what God blessed him with. Then he went on to the land of his uncle Laban.
He came to a well and there was a big rock on the well; he asked about it and found this was where Laban, his uncle, watered his sheep. And Rachel, Laban’s daughter, came to the well. Jacob fell in love at first sight. He wanted to marry Rachel, so he met the family. He went to work for his uncle and asked if he could have Rachel’s hand in marriage. He said, “I’ll work seven years for Rachel, thy younger daughter.” How would you like to have your man work for you that long? Seven years he worked for Rachel, and Laban fooled him and gave him Leah. Seven more years he worked then for Rachel; that’s 14 years for Rachel! When this old heel grabber wanted something, he never let go! That is the point being made: that side of the nature that, in its own strength, will never say die, will never give up, will grab for himself. Corner him, he’s still fighting!
After 14 years, he had two wives and children, but not much else. So then he struck a bargain with his uncle Laban that he would work in exchange for herds. The bargain he struck was that the speckled, striped and off-color animals would be his and the straight-color animals would belong to his uncle. Now if you want to see a scene, get two connivers together.
The minute they struck the bargain, Laban made up his mind and he called his herdsmen: “Take every speckle and striped and off-color animal you’ve got, separate it from the crowd and move it as far from Jacob as you can get.” That way he figured that he would keep Jacob from getting anything; he’d work for nothing. Well, you ought to read that chapter. Then Jacob out-connived Laban. He figured out a way to fix it so that he could mate the striped ones that were strong with ones that weren’t striped that were strong, so that he would produce strong cattle that were the color that were his. And he would try to put the weak ones together to produce Laban’s cattle.
I utterly fail if you don’t see a little bit of Jacob down inside you. You don’t have to tell me. You may even have hidden it from your wife or your parents or your children; and you may try to hide it from yourself on occasions. It’s that side of the nature that can justify anything that makes it better for me. Finally, after 20 years, when he had so many cattle and so many striped ones and Laban had a lot of feeble, solid-colored ones, Jacob decided to go home.
Now, you ought to listen to their speeches; if you want someone to be hard on a liar, get a liar to judge him. If you want someone to be tough on a cheat, get a cheat to be his boss. As the psychologists will tell you, we forever express open and outward hatred for that which we are secretly most guilty of ourselves.
In chapter 31, Jacob said to his wife, “You know that with all my power I’ve served your father. And your father hath deceived me, and changed my wages ten times.” I’d say they deserved each other, wouldn’t you? Here is the one who deceived his dad and deceived his brother; he is crying because he has been deceived. When he leaves with his wife, here comes Laban, “What hast thou done, that thou hast stolen away unawares to me, and carried away my daughters, as captives taken with the sword?” (Genesis 31:26) And Laban begins to cry tears about being taken advantage of. He would have sent Jacob away after 20 years with nothing if he could have kept the speckled cows off in the woods somewhere.
Finally Jacob is coming home, getting close to the place of blessing. The characteristic had never changed. As he comes close to home, he remembers what he had done to his brother. He is now coming home with wives and children and laden with goods. He sends a message to Esau, hoping he will get a sign of peace, but the messengers return to Jacob saying, “We came to thy brother Esau, and also he cometh to meet thee, and four hundred men with him. Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed.” (Genesis 32:6-7)
I want you to watch this man, right up to the “prayer meeting.” The old conniver starts working. He divides his camp into two parts: just in case Esau lands on him, half will get away. Then he starts sending gifts, and he tells his servants to take the gifts in relays. Take one bunch; and when Esau, who is coming, runs into that impediment of love and it softens him a little, then just a little bit behind the first one, hit him with the next relay. And then a little bit behind the second one, hit him with the next relay. Don’t give it all to him in one fell swoop, but soften him up a blow at a time: heel catcher!
I walk a tightrope today wondering how direct and blunt to be. Lots of people want blessings. Why, and for whom? Lots of people will connive to be first in the kingdom. I’ve seen men struggle for first place with God, not because they wanted what God wanted from the man in that place. They wanted to be first. I’ve watched men perform for God, each one upstaging the other. I’ve watched saints completely lose the anointing if their position begins to shift. There’s a little Jacob running in the stream of mankind. This is why every time you find a man who is really used of God, he has been brought to a point where he doesn’t really want it.
Abraham says, “I am but dust and ashes.” Jacob will come to the point of saying, “I am not worthy of the least of thy mercies.” David, God’s greatest king, said, “Who am I and what is my house, that thou hast brought me hitherto?” Jeremiah: “I am a child; I cannot speak.” Every great man of God, before God can trust him adequately, seems to be brought to that point where this conniving, thrusting, “gain it for myself in my strength” side of his nature is brought under. Jacob wasn’t there yet. Even though he is going to seek God and pray for help, he covers his back in case God lets him down. Dr. Tozer calls this pseudo faith: the kind that will always trust God as long as you’ve got something in your hip pocket to bail God out in case He lets you down.
But none of that worked. Verse 24 says “And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. And when he saw that he prevailed not against him . . .” that is, the one who wrestled with Jacob. Later in the chapter, Jacob is going to call this one who wrestles with him “God.” Hosea in his prophecies calls this one an “angel,” with that loose designation that leaves the question whether it was God or one of His angels. At this point Jacob is reacting to his own sensory awareness: he thought he had wrestled with a man.
And when that one who wrestled with him saw that he prevailed not against Jacob, “he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him.” And the one who wrestled with Jacob said, “Let me go, for the day breaketh.” And Jacob said, “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.” And the one who wrestled with Jacob said unto him, “What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.” (Verse 29: “And he blessed him there.”
Take a pencil and write in the margin of your Bible. Everything is introduction to this. I can capsulize the message now. I don’t often do it but I’d like you to remember Jacob with a formula that comes out of old Keswick Bible teaching. I’d like you to put some words down and identify these verses with a word that starts with the same letter. It may help you to remember it.
Verse 24: confrontation. I almost said cornering. You can use either one. Eventually, God is going to confront the Jacob in us, and we’re going to confront Him whom we cannot fool. The place of blessing brings every man to that point of truth, where you’re left alone and you and God work it out. How long it takes God to corner most of us and bring us to that kind of confrontation I don’t know. I know what difficulty God has with me, for you’re looking at a man who learned how to do the work of the Lord before I ever met the Lord. All of my life, I’ve been dashing out to do it for Him. But God somewhere brings the man who gets His blessing to a confrontation where the two of you settle it; and it could be today.
Second, that confrontation, if it’s going to be like Jacob’s experience, will lead to a crippling. When that one wrestling with Jacob “saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh;” and he crippled him. Jacob was going to walk with a limp the rest of his days to remind him of that experience.
When I used to read that Moses was a “meek” man, it bothered me because meekness spoke of a milktoast quality that I didn’t match with manhood. I can’t tell you how blessed I became when I read an ancient Greek classic and learned that the first use of the word translated meek is in a classic on the taming of horses. Literally, Moses became a tamed man, “brought under.” He didn’t become milktoast nothingness, but all the powers and capacities and strengths that were his were finally brought under God’s control. Moses, with good intentions, wanting to deliver God’s people, killed an Egyptian; it took God 40 years to undo the damage. Too much of Christian service is a diving onto the scene to do God’s work for Him in our own ability and our own mental capacities and our own skills and our own talents, which is a conniving thrusting of the self on the stage where God must rule supreme. Moses was tamed, so tamed that God almost got frustrated at him when He dragged him forth from the desert after the burning bush.
Jacob had to be tamed, he had to be broken. He had to be brought under control; he had to have his strength touched until in weakness he could be made strong. I need spiritual ears to listen today. A God who loves us, and who believes the desire of our heart when we want to be like Him, knows that there’s that old nature in us that has to be brought under. When we are finally cornered, where that old nature is not enough, we wrestle with Him in that experience, be it for a night, for a day, or for a week. I know that many of the things I kick against and that I rebel against are part of God’s taming process for me, as He starts to bring this nature under control that came to Him in a stroke, that I might begin to be used by Him.
He had to cripple this man Jacob to bring him under and that brought him to the third stage that made him ready. All he could do was cling. The confrontation brought a crippling of his own strength and left him clinging. The angel, or that being, said, “Let me go, for the day breaketh. And Jacob said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.”
I don’t often open my heart on personal things because I’m here to preach
Christ and to minister to you, but I know from personal life that it isn’t until you run out of your strength that you really begin to tap God’s strength. I would repeat again what F.B. Meyer said: only when you’re beyond your resources, which are limited, do you begin to tap the resources of God, which are unlimited. As long as you can do it yourself, that nature in man will make us do it, but when we’ve been brought finally by God to the point where we cannot do it without Him, then He can demonstrate He is enough. I speak to a church, I speak to individuals, and I speak to myself. Some people come to know God’s performance. To Moses, God lamented that the people saw His deeds and saw His ways. He says in His book, “His ways are not our ways.” (Isaiah 55:8)
So much of the church world just sort of rolls with the punch of the happening; but if you want God’s blessing, God’s blessing will bring you to a confrontation where the two of you settle it. And to get past you, you may not really hang on tight enough to listen close enough until you are crippled.
Spiritual pride is a vicious thing. No matter what we receive from God, Satan doesn’t care how he accomplishes it if he keeps us from God’s best. Those experiences in the Holy Spirit that ought to bring us into a fuller expression of God’s nature all too often become a vehicle of the worst kind of sin, which walls us the furthest away from God: spiritual pride.
But this old heel grabber was cornered, crippled and clinging. “He said, I won’t let you go, except you bless me.” And then what happened? Confession. “He said unto him, What is thy name?” That doesn’t come through much to us; nobody is going to be too perturbed about saying,”Jacob.” But for Jacob to say it was to confess what he was. “What is your name, clinging one here?” Weakened, no longer conniving your own way. “What is your name?” “Heel grabber, conniver, supplanter.”
You don’t have to confess to me. I could take you into the laws of the offerings and prove to you there is a lot of confessing that goes on that never should have gone on. Let every tradition be a lie, and God’s Word true. In the Old Testament, the only confessions that were brought before the congregation were the sins of the congregation when they acted as a whole or as a body, or when the priest or leadership of the congregation led the congregation and sinned on behalf of the congregation in their leadership. Individual sins were handled at the personal altar between man and God. I’ve heard that revivals start with a lot of confession. That is not biblical. Keep your confessions between you and God. God will corner each of us, if we want His best; and with the mask pulled apart, clinging, we say, “Yes, God, that’s just exactly what I am.” But glory be to His name, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all,” not an iota left, “all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
He made Jacob confess. That is why in the New Testament, in Romans, it says we are not to assume we have to go up into Heaven and bring Him down or descend into the depths and bring Him up. The word is already nigh you; it is in your mouth; speak it forth. (Romans 10:6-10) I repeat, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us.” When out of the gut honesty of our soul we can say, “Yes, God, I’ll quit hiding it. This is what I’ve been; this is what I am, but I’m tired of it. That’s my name.” Then comes the miracle. He said, “Thy name shall no more be called cheating, conniving, heel-grabbing, supplanter Jacob, but Israel.” Most translations lift it up and interpolate it, and you’ll find it in the margin: “a prince of God” or “a prince that has power with God.” But if you trace it back to its raw roots it simply means “God-governed.”
He finally knew who the boss was. He finally took himself off the throne. Instead of being a heel catcher looking out for himself, in that breaking, clinging, confessing experience, he was converted, changed; and he became “a prince that hath power with God” because he became God-governed.
What do you think the church is? It is a people that belong to the Lord. In its root meaning: kuriakone, an extension of the word for Lord; kurios: “the Lord’s.” What is repentance? I want to demystify spiritual things. We get the word repentance out of the Latin Bible, Jerome’s Vulgate. We carry it over as a cognate. Jerome used a Latin word to translate a Greek word that is different; repentance comes from the Latin word that puts emphasis on emotions and on penance. The Greek word did not put its emphasis on emotions; it put it on the mind, it put it on the will. It simply means “to turn from, to.” Jacob turned from his self-seeking to a God-governed position. Clinging and mastered, he became suddenly, paradoxically, “a prince that had power with God.”
God says, “Heaven is my throne; earth is the footstool; where is the place of my rest?” “All these things have my hands made.” He hurled the worlds in space. You can’t build a building that will get God’s attention with cathedral expressions of music, or, in the days of the psalmists, with bands of beautiful singers. There is nothing wrong with that, but talent will not bring Him down. “All those things have my hands made . . . but to this man will I look,” He says, “to him that is of a humble and contrite spirit.” (Isaiah 66:1-2)
When you break under Him and when you level with Him and you say, “Lord, I’m hanging onto You. Bless me, and I’m facing myself,” in that instant the miracle comes, and He says you won’t be called that anymore. “Him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37) is the promise for me and for you today and for this church. “As a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed . . . And he blessed him there. Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face,” the literal meaning of the word is face of God, “and my life is preserved.”
And in Genesis 32:31, I like this picture; it can be your future life story. “And as he passed over Peniel the sun rose upon him.” I don’t think that figure is by accident. Psalm 84 says, “The LORD God shall be a sun.” “The sun rose over him, and he halted,” in the morning light, “upon his thigh.” He limped, to remind him. Some dark experience of the soul must always stay with us to remind us we can’t get along without Him. But if you will face yourself and hang on, He can change you and make you a prince.
Heavenly Father, take the Word today, simple, blunt and direct. Grind it into the soul of us who sit here today. Some of us wonder why we have to die so hard. Others of us have even wondered what is happening as You slowly corner us and bring us to total reliance on You. But I pray today for sight to see light, to this church that has yet to tap its future as we rely on You. To every individual here that has some Jacob in his nature and to everyone who listens who knows they have got that old man to deal with, may God corner us today, cripple us if He has to, bring us to such a state of clinging reliance we will not let go until You bless us. We face ourselves with You in that act. Glory to God for the change that will come.
Reprinted with permission from Pastor Melissa Scott
Dr. Gene Scott was the Pastor of the University Cathedral, the largest Protestant congregation in downtown Los Angeles.
Dr. Scott's teaching style was characterized by a professorial approach to investigating, unpacking and presenting God's Word through studies in languages, grammar, history, theology, sciences, psychology and other academic fields. Consequently, his work was exhaustively researched, and during his lifetime he amassed the largest collection of rare Bibles in private hands.
Dr. Gene Scott and Pastor Melissa Scott are the first and only biblical scholars to provide 24/7 global access to pre-recorded and live messages, with students in 180 countries. A staunch advocate for church freedom, Dr. Scott helped write and fought for passage of the Petris Bill, and was a steering voice for church leaders nationwide who are indebted to him for his research, advocacy, and clarity on the subject of giving. Pastor Melissa Scott continues to broadcast the teaching of her late husband, as well as her own messages on PastorMelissaScott.com
-taken from: www.drgenescott.org
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