Alfred Place Baptist Church

Jacob Encounters God

Genesis 32:22-24 “That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two maid-servants and his eleven sons and cross the ford of Jabbok. 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 till daybreak.”

 

It was on the morning of Tuesday 9th August 1983 that I watched Douglas MacMillan come to the front of the pulpit in Shiloh Calvinistic Methodist Chapel, Aberystwyth. What a lovable man he was. He had preached here a few years earlier giving four memorable messages on Psalm 23, and that had been a very wet and stormy week but Douglas had really put the Aberystwyth conference on the map by his preaching, and 1983 was his return visit. Every seat in the church was taken, about 900 people were there. I had not seen it so full since Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones had preached there a few years earlier. Douglas had been a shepherd and that had given a unique dimension to his preaching on Psalm 23 and that is captured in the little published book of those conference addresses that has sold its thousands and done much pastoral duty for ministers, and helped many Christians young and old. Douglas had also been a Highland wrestler and so when he announced that he was going to speak on wrestling Jacob I wondered would there be some personal insights from the Highland Games that would come into his studies of this incident in the book of Genesis recorded in the above text. So I sat back and this is how Douglas began:

 

“The story of Jacob’s wrestling at Peniel is familiar to every reader of the Bible. It has often been the subject of medi­tation for Christian believers. Preachers and commen­tators have applied it in widely different ways to the lives of God’s children. Yet it is always fresh and suggestive of new lessons for the spiritual life. Every time we come to it, whether in our private reading of Scripture or by instruction from the pulpit, it presents us with some of the fundamental features of the work of God in the soul of man. It would be correct to say that even the very young have heard it and read it many times, and each time with renewed interest. The ex­planation for this is simple: this ancient story makes a direct appeal to the very deepest realities in human life, and par­ticularly to the profound workings of God’s grace in the salvation of his people” (Douglas MacMillan, Wrestling with God, Evangelical Press of Wales, 1991, p.11). That is how be began, and now let us begin to consider this passage:

 
  1. THE SOLITUDE OF THIS ENCOUNTER.
 

Memorable times may come into our lives when we, like Jacob, are “left alone” (v.24). We have seen how Jacob’s wives had left him at his own instruction to go across the ford of the river Jabbok; his two concubines had also gone over the stream; his eleven sons had also forded the river with their mothers. Then Jacob sent across all his possessions (v.23), his goats, ewes, rams, camels, cows, bulls and donkeys in two or three herds shepherded by all his servants. All of them had disappeared into the darkness across the river Jabbok and Jacob was left utterly alone. Finally the noise of the herds of animals disappeared into the distance and there were only the night sounds. Everything that was dear to him was on the other side of the river and Jacob was by himself without possessions, without wives, without family. All his life he had lived and worked in relation to other people. He was Abraham’s grandson, the heir of the promise. He was his mother’s favourite son. He was not his father’s favourite, and he’d daily looked over his shoulder glumly at his favoured older twin. Jacob later became Rachel and Leah’s husband and Laban’s aggrieved son-in-law. Jacob had taken aboard all those roles, but none of them was with him any longer, and the question he faced was this, “Who are you, Jacob? Who are you in yourself? Who are you when you are alone before God, when there is no one else left to impress, no one by whom you can measure yourself, when all your possessions are stripped away? When all you have leaned on, all you have worked for is gone, and you are left alone, then who are you Jacob?”

 

Until now Jacob was confident of his gifts and his own resources, of being able to get what he wanted, out-witting his father and brother, triumphing in his dealings with Laban his father-in-law as a strong man, a clever man, a self-sufficient man. Jacob felt he had got his act together, but that had never been true, and God is bringing that home to him as he brings Jacob home to the Promised Land to face up to the mess he had created, the division in his family. He had lost his relationship with his mother; he was never to see her again, and his only brother was his worst enemy. His determination to get the birthright had resulted in alienation from Esau and twenty years of exile. Now he cowers at the thought of meeting him again as Esau advances towards him with hundreds of armed men. So the Jacob who is here in the darkness all alone is being confronted with his sad past and unknown future, and what he saw was not a pretty picture, a schemer, a wheeler-dealer, a deceiver, a physically strong man and a neglecter of God. What had he done with his years? He was now utterly alone. He had destroyed all that was best in life, even damaging his marriage to his beloved Rachel, by fathering children through three other women. He was facing much unfinished business. This is definitely not an illustration supporting the theory that if a man ‘lays all on the altar’ he will get the second blessing of a close encounter with God.

 

Is this a picture of you? Can you stand solitude? Can you abide being left alone somewhere in total silence, without a radio or telephone or TV or even a paper to read, just you there and, of course, God, everything else stripped
from you, all the spin, and all the posture and the posing absent, then why not? Do you know who are you? Is this life you are living worthy of the person God intended a man like you to become? Is this what it’s all about? Isn’t there more?

 

Most of you know about unfinished business, maybe a broken relationship that you thought time would heal, a promise that was not kept, a job unfinished, an incomplete task, a lie you hoped would never catch up with you, and you know that some time or other all this will have to be dealt with. You’ve got to make the journey back to the place of betrayal, as Jacob did, and confront your past. You’ve got to face the people you’ve hurt. You’ve got to come clean about your mistakes. You’ve got to own up to what you did. You can’t just go through life damaging people left and right. You’ve got a conscience, and a memory, and there comes a time, and another time, and again when God determines to make you all alone. Jacob is learning about truth and reality the hard way, that life does not consist in relationships and the abundance of the stuff we collect; man is what he is alone before God, and nothing more than that, and nothing less. So God kicks away every prop holding up Jacob, and he is left all alone with the memories of the past years, and the uncertainty of tomorrow.

 

That is where we meet Jacob, a man under the spotlight of God, who has come to the end of himself. He has no other strategies; he knows of no Plan B; he’s run out of scheming; he’s taken his final shot at appeasement with the brother he has wronged and now there is no one around, everyone having left him to meet Esau; Jacob’s bag of tricks is exhausted. No more disguises; no animal skins covering his arms; the voice is the voice of Jacob, the clothes are the clothes of Jacob, the body is the body of Jacob; the odour is the scent of Jacob, and he has finally to face up to himself. Glimpses of reality come to the worst of deceivers, sometimes as they lie awake in the wee small hours of the morning. God slows us down and gives favoured sinners a time to think. Instead of being on the move, always having the monitor, the web, the ear-pieces, the music, the i-phone, the lap-top, the web, the road, then come a place, one time, maybe at 3 a.m. in the darkness, when all of those diversions are silent – those walls that we have erected to keep God out of our lives, are gone. This is the place where there is no one to speak to but God; we’re left just with ourselves and the white-washed walls or the darkness. At last we can hear, faintly at first, the voice of one crying in a wilderness. Then for the first time we are able to give God our undivided attention. God makes Jacob divest himself of everything in order to be still and be ready to meet with God. Jehovah has got Jacob alone and at the end of his tether.

 

I am labouring this point because it is crucial, and because it is one of the most difficult things in life, just to be alone. It seems to me that everything in life seems to be conspiring together to make us be afraid of solitude, ignore our individuality and our separate identity. Has there ever been such a powerful herd instinct in the world as operates everywhere today? People are all watching the same things internationally, laughing at the same jokes, hearing the same music, so afraid of missing out on what others get excited about. Having banned God they must cling furiously to people. The first step in the direction of discovering truth and reality and the living God is to face up to our own individuality; “So Jacob was left alone.”

 

Dr. Lloyd-Jones says, “Now God has many ways of bringing us to this point. The one which we have in our text is perhaps one of the most dramatic ways. Jacob had to be separated literally from his wives and children, especially perhaps from his goods and his possessions. Jacob’s danger was to identify himself with things like that – and then God separated him. This is something, I say, that God brings to pass in a variety of ways. Sometimes he does it by means of illness. A man may be going on living his life with his family, surrounded by his children, very interested in his business or his profession and he lives for these things. He never stops to ask, ‘Who am I? Have I a soul? What is going to happen to me after this life?’ He is lost and immersed in other concerns, then suddenly he is taken ill. God separates him from his business; God separates him from his possessions and from his interests. [Perhaps he finds himself alone in a prison cell, locked in for 8 hours with no hope of getting out sooner.] Perhaps he is taken to hospital, separated from his family, and there, lying on a hospital bed, he begins to realise that after all he is an individual and that he is absolutely alone. A hospital bed has been the means of bringing many a person to this experience, or a sick bed in one’s own house may do the same thing. I am simply illustrating the ways in which God brings this thing to pass. God sometimes has to come into our lives and give us a disappointment, he has to rob us of our money, he has to bring a crash in our business. Or we may be brought to the same point by a disappointment in a friendship, it may be dis­appointment in the still more tender realm of the human affections. You read the lives of the saints and you will find that it is in such ways that God has begun to speak to them. He has had to isolate them, to cut them off from the things in which they were losing themselves and their souls, and there in isolation they have stopped and realised that they are individuals and they have to face certain questions for themselves” (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Old Testament Evangelistic Sermons, pp.15&16, Banner of Truth, 1995).

 

It is my task as a preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ to speak to you as a gathering of individuals quite personally, even while I am addressing you all. For example I can remind you that you were born alone and that one day you must die alone. We do not leave this mortal coil in a gang but one by one we’ll breathe our last. Your body will be lowered alone into a narrow grave. The box fits one body only. We are individuals in the sight of God, we die as individuals and at the bar of God’s judgment we shall be judged alone, even for every idle word, “that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Cors. 5:10). It will be no comfort in that day that you acted like everyone else, that your morals happened to be the same as all your peers, and that you believed what everyone else believed, and that your longings were for what everyone else was longing for. Your buddies simply will not be there for you to smile and wink at you. They will have to answer for their own lives. The Lord Jesus said that all people alike are walking along the road that leads to destruction. It is easy to find the broad road. All you like sheep have gone astray. The first mark of the gospel is to arouse us to personal interest and personal concern for what we are doing with our lives and what we are in God’s sight, to deal personally with God.

 

God knows how to bring his Jacobs down, and he always does. Those whom he is pleased to save, to whom he will reveal his mercy and grace, have to be brought low in order to know their utter helplessness and inability. The Pharisee in the temple thanking God that he was not like other men, must be made like the publican, hanging his head and beating his breast and crying, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” God’s visits to our lives leave no room for boasting and glorying in the flesh. Jacob was left alone with nothing in his hands, but that is where new l
ife begins.

 

As Douglas MacMillan reminds us, “You are alone in birth, you are alone in death, you are alone in all the great crisis experiences of life. Those are ex­periences which you can share with none other. They draw you off into the sphere of your individuality and shut you in with God. You may be in a crowded church and God begins dealing with you in grace, convicting you of your sin and your need. At such an hour you forget the crowd. How often over the years people who have been dealt with by the Holy Spirit have afterwards come to me and said, ‘I felt you were talking just to me; I felt God had singled me out from the crowd, and was speaking very specifically to me.’ The Spirit can isolate you in a crowded building with that solitude in which you know yourself alone with God” (J. Douglas MacMillan, Wrestling with God, Bryntirion Press, 1991, pp.53&54). Then you need to get off home, and to go to your room, and close the door, and all alone kneel down and start to speak to God, and say your words, your own individual words to God. That is the beginning of grace.

 
  1. THE FIGURE IN THIS ENCOUNTER.
 

Then notice that Jacob was not alone for long. God does not tantalize us, keeping us waiting in some vacuum. So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak” (v.24). The figure who comes out of the darkness to him does not walk up and sit on a rock and begin to talk to him. He comes to fight him. Who is this person? Certainly he is a man, we are told that, but we know from earlier episodes in the book of Genesis, that messengers from God, divine beings, may appear as men. They speak as men, they eat and drink as we men and women do, they can push people out and pull people into houses and close doors, just as other men do. They are totally indistinguishable from regular human beings. So this wrestler who came up to Jacob out of the darkness was a man, soon to be gasping and panting and sweating as he wrestled with the patriarch and grunting with the effort.

 

However, that man is identified by God himself in verse 28 as God, and Jacob also in verse 30 identifies the person with whom he wrestled as God. “I saw God face to face,” he says, “and yet my life was spared.” Furthermore, in the book of Hosea, the prophet identifies the person as an ‘angel’ that wrestled with Jacob; “The LORD has a charge to bring against Judah; he will punish Jacob according to his ways and repay him according to his deeds. 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 favour. He found him at Bethel and talked with him there – the LORD God Almighty, the LORD is his name of renown!” (Hosea 12:2-5). Hosea concludes that it is the angel of the Lord who wrestles with Jacob, and you know that this is the usual term in the book of Genesis to be used to represent a physical, visible, manifestation of God himself, and especially to represent an appearance of the Second Person of the Trinity, the pre-incarnate Christ in respect to his office as Mediator, consumed with longing to come and begin his great work of redemption on earth. So from time to time he assumed the form of a man, trying it on for size as it were, familiarizing himself with our limitations, and for some hours, or for a day, dwelling amongst us.

 

Dr. John Currid suggests two reasons why this wrestling match occurred at night. “First, the darkness cloaked the identity of the adversary. It is likely that Jacob would have immediately recognized his authority and power if he had seen him in daylight. Secondly, night is particularly associated with self-examination, meditation and solitude. It is the time when fear grips a person. Then one often faces reality and truth” (John D. Currid, Genesis, Volume 2, p.136, Evangelical Press, 2003).

 

So when the patriarch was utterly alone the Lord came to Jacob, uninvited and unbidden; in the darkness God in grace came to him. And the Lord struck the pose of a wrestler, challenging the Big Feller Jacob, engaging and grappling with the mighty patriarch in a match. How passing strange! How incredible! Of course it would have been unsuitable for the Lord to do this with a boy or a weakling, but with Jacob, who could lift a great stone off the top of a well single-handed, it was a fascinating challenge.

 
  1. THE PURPOSE OF THIS ENCOUNTER.
 

So what does it mean? A number of things:

 

i] The Lord came to deal with Jacob where he was strongest. God deals with men where they are strong. God dealt with the prophet Isaiah where he was strongest – his eloquence and his preaching – and so it was that his lips were touched with a live coal from the altar. He dealt with Peter in the realm of Peter’s confidence and bodness and he broke it through an encounter with a teenage girl. He dealt with the apostle Paul according the great gifts and privileges he’d received – being caught up to the third heaven and seeing inexpressible sights of glory. It was in that experiential realm that God touched him by inserting a painful thorn in the flesh. The experience of pain was given him lest his experience of sights and sounds would make him proud and useless. So it was that this hulk, Jacob; he had never met anyone stronger than himself, and now he was challenged in the area of his might, to a contest, a trial of strength with another great Man. Again,

 

ii] It was a culturally suitable challenge. In the Near East, wrestling had great importance. Sumerian mythology describes a fierce wrestling match between Gilgamesh, the king of Erec, and Enkidu, who then became his friend. They fought, but it was not fisticuffs, it was a wrestling match for world dominance. Again, wrestling was one form of trial by combat. As David’s engagement with Goliath was to determine the outcome of a battle, so a wrestling match could serve as an ordeal to determine the issue of a trial (cp. Edmund P. Clowney, Preaching Christ in All of Scripture, Crossway Books, pp. 87&88, 2003). In the New Testament the athletic image is again taken up of the runner pressing to the line to win the prize in the games, or wrestling for victory over attacking principalities and powers. But it is also suitable because,

 

iii] Angelic activity was particularly prevalent at this time and place. There were periods when demonic activity was more common, especially when the Lord of glory became incarnate. So there were more prevalent times of angelic action in the world. There was little of that in the life of David, or in the lives of Ezra and Nehemiah, but during the lives of Abraham and Jacob God used his angels to work for him.  Remember that Jacob’s company had been met by a company of angels as they first entered the borders of the land. This is how this chapter begins, in the very first verse we read, “the angels of God met him” (v.1). The place was called Mahanaim, which means ‘two companies.’ Jacob had to learn that it was not just his own company entering the Promised Land. This was God’s land; the angels were saying, “This belongs to Jehovah.” The Lord was reminding Jacob that his return to the land was not the result of mere human personal initiative, but it was part of
the plan of heaven. Jacob was entering the land that the Lord had separated to himself from all the nations on earth, the land that he was preparing for his people, a true ‘Holy Land.’ It was not strange that a guardian band of angels should be encountered at its entrance. The seraphim guarded the entrance to Eden, but these angels permitted Jacob to enter this land..

 

But now in the darkness and solitude of this place Jacob was encountering, not a band of angels, but One who is to be feared far more, the very angel of the Lord, the appearing of God’s own presence. Moses had a similar encounter with the Angel as he entered Egypt on a mission directed by God. Moses had failed to circumcise his sons and the messenger of God confronted him in wrath (Ex. 4:24; 5:3). Again Joshua, standing alone before Jericho after Israel had entered the land, also encountered the Captain of the Lord’s host, who advanced towards him with a drawn sword (Josh. 5:13-14). So the Lord comes out of the darkness to solitary Jacob to show him that the one he must dread encountering is not Esau, but God himself, advancing on him and threatening him with combat – the Messenger of the Covenant, the Lord. Jacob’s struggle, ultimately, is not wrestling with Esau his twin – remember how he had grasped at him and pulled him back down into the womb that he might be the firstborn; that struggle had begun pre-natally. Jacob’s struggle ultimately was with the Lord himself, the God of Abraham and Isaac. So it is with you. Your struggle is not with me or the people of this church, with Christians who tell you that you must repent and turn from your unbelief and that God must come first in your life. That message – you must be born again- is not mine; men did not invent it; it is your own God’s message to you! Fear him! The god of much popular religion is not the holy God of the Bible. The god of popular religion resembles more the genie of Aladdin’s lamp who pops up at our bidding to carry out all our desires. Just rub the lamp and he will come and do what you wish. Name it and claim it! What lies! If we have no fear of God, then we don’t know the holy one who comes to challenge and consume us in his wrath (Heb. 12:29). The Lord met Jacob this night as some fearful Adversary” (Edmund P Clowney, op cit, pp. 90&91). Again,

 

iv] This act of two men exerting themselves wrestling to either defeat or victory was a perfect method for Jacob to feel and know his great weakness. True religion is more than notion!God chose this graphic way of making his mighty power known to Jacob. Incarnate omnipotence condescended to grasp a mere man and steadily overwhelm him. Have you noticed the significance of what we’re told, not that Jacob wrestled with the man, not that Jacob challenged the Lord, “Come on then! . . . Come on!” There’s none of that, rather, “a man wrestled with him” (v.24). It would be amazing if you ever managed to play football in a team that was competing with a team one of whose stars was David Beckham, but it would be even more amazing if Beckham chose to play football against a certain team because he knew that you were playing in it! “I must play against that man from Aberystwyth!” What an honour! That he thought you presented a challenge to him, that he would want to take on you! Imagine the Lord coming so close as to cling to us, to grasp us in his mighty loving arms – we dirty sinners! As Don Fortner points out, “Jacob was not wrestling with this man to obtain the blessing. The man was wrestling with Jacob to give the blessing. It is the object of a wrestler to bring his opponent down, to pin him to the ground, to render him helpless; and that was the object of our Lord here. He wrestled with Jacob to pin him down, to conquer his spirit, to subdue his flesh, to render him helpless. The Lord wrestled with Jacob to reduce him to reality, to a sense of his own nothingness, to make him see what a poor, helpless, worthless creature he was. God’s purpose in all our trials is to make us strong in God, strong in grace and strong in faith; and the way he makes us strong is to make us know, recognize and acknowledge our weakness: ‘When I am weak, then am I strong’ (Don Fortner, Discovering Christ in Genesis, Evangelical Press, 2002, p.273).

 

Of course, Jacob began to learn that he could not possibly prevail against this man, but in sustaining Jacob to go on wrestling with him the Lord showed Jacob how much he was really for Jacob. John Calvin comments on this passage in words something like this, We never fight against the Lord, except by his own power, and with his own weapons; Calvin says that. For the Lord, having challenged us to this contest, at the same time provides us with the strength and the means to go on with the fight, so that he both fights against us and for us. While he assails us with one hand, he defends us with the other. In fact he supplies us with more strength to resist him than he employs in opposing us. So we can truly say, ‘The Lord fights against me with his left hand, and for me with his right hand.’ Yet God is absolutely at one in all he does. He strikes us with a rod, he brings a powerful trial into our lives, and yet the Lord is our strength and we become stronger by the very power through which he opposes us. That is what Calvin says. Again,

 

v] Wrestling is so appropriate a divine choice because it involves the whole of a man’s body and mind for a long time. It is not like a hundred metres dash. It is a marathon. It is thorough, and searching, and there can be only one winner. This man wrestled with Jacob “till daybreak” (v.24). On and on the men wrestled – gripping, striking, twisting, pulling the other to the ground, rolling around in the dust, always aiming for some advantage, looking to pin the other one to the ground. It was grueling. They didn’t talk to each other. Jacob is battling for his life. Hours pass as neither man is able to gain the advantage. Jacob is exhausted, but he dare not stop or show any sign of weakness. What time is it? One o’clock passes, then two o’clock, then three o’clock, then four o’clock. Sunrise is not far away and still they wrestled on desperately.

 

It had to be long, thorough, life-shattering and unforgettable because there were immense issues involved which had to be resolved permanently in Jacob’s life at that time. This could not be a brief, passing encounter. The encounter in the dark and the strife that followed was not the result of a hasty, last minute decision of God. Great issues in Jacob’s life and future were at stake. He was the only Jehovahist in all the world at that moment; there is no hint that any of his eleven sons or his wives yet knew the Lord. Would they have come to fear Jehovah from how Jacob had been living before them until this moment? Jacob had to change in order that the heirs of the promise might know their divine Benefactor and Protector in deed and in truth. If the seed of the woman behaves just like the seed of the serpent then Ichabod is written across them. So, eternal matters had to have their true priority; “Jacob, henceforth seek first the kingdom of God.” The patriarch had to acknowledge Jehovah as his Lord. He had to bow to the will of God in every area of his life, that God was wiser than him, and holier than him, and more powerful than him. Jacob had to lose his life to Christ, because it is the one who loses his life who finds it. He had to be conquered by the Lord completely; he had to surrender to the Lord in all things, from his heart, and willingly. That is true salvation!

It is as the Lord of glory wrestled
with Jacob that he revealed to him his mighty grace. Jacob has been playing with God for years, the Hound of Heaven dogging his path through the years, and finally the Mighty One came, gripping him, holding him tight and not letting him go, purging his will, rearranging all his prejudices, redirecting all the energies of his life in a new way towards the desire for God. “Jacob, thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy might.” God wanted all of Jacob. The patriarch had so often done things his way, making colossal mistakes, adopting devious means to serve his own ends. God determined that Jacob’s will would be purged, cleansed, and redirected – redirected toward God’s glory alone. Come now Jacob, man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him for ever, and so God had to bring Jacob to the end of himself.

Jacob needed to understand that the battle that was going on was not ultimately strife between him and his brother Esau, or that God was coming alongside in order to bless his generous gifts to Esau and to appease his brother’s anger. Would Almighty God take a human form if the end of it were simply to help Jacob out of a fix and reconcile two brothers? Don’t wait for God to come to you in the dark to do what is right. Tonight call your brother and apologize and arrange to meet him next week. You don’t need an incarnation of God to do what is the proper moral action. This was different. The true battle was between Jacob and the living God. Esau was a sideshow. Esau was an occasion. Esau was a circumstance. Esau was an excuse. The real battle was for Jacob’s soul and the real cause was for the glory of God in this man’s life and in his successors, the promised seed.

You see in all of the trials of our lives, everyone of us is involved in great battles. Will we trust in God and obey him? Is God going to be glorified in us and by us?. Thus it was in the story of Job; God’s integrity had been impugned by Satan. You remember how Satan came challenging God concerning the staggering, inconsistent lives of those who were his people. So God asked Satan, “Yes, but have you considered my servant, Job?” Satan says, “Yes I have, but does he serve you for nothing? He is serving you because of the wealth and health and prosperity that he enjoys.” Satan impugns the integrity of God. He claims that the only reason that Job or any Christian loved God as they profess was because of the things that God had given them. So Job, quite unaware, is drawn into a conflict that results in the destruction of his wealth, and then in the destruction of his household, and then in the destruction of his health. It was not a battle between Job and Satan, or between Job and other human enemies, or between Job and natural disasters. It is a battle for the integrity of God. Job’s trials are just a side show in that great battle. I am saying that it’s the same thing here in the story of Jacob. The issue in the Bible is the trust and faith and holiness of those who have been redeemed by God. The issue is the reality of grace, that it is omnipotence acting to redeem and sanctify, and I am saying that it’s the same thing in our lives. God has to bring Jacob to a point where he realizes that no matter what happens that next day with Esau, whether he dies or lives, the most important thing is that Jacob changes from the mere ordinary, that he totally submits to God alone, that God is the mighty Conqueror and gets all the glory in Jacob;s life. That’s the only lesson that Jacob has to learn and never forget.

Men and women, that the lesson that we need to learn. It’s easy to stand up in a pulpit and make that point. It is very difficult to submit to God when life and death issues are before us, and we are trying to justify all our past decisions, refusing to acknowledge that many of them have been rotten, and that our greatest needs are for God’s mercy and his power to change us that henceforth that we live for him alone. Now is the time for us also to submit to Jacob’s God, to fulfil our chief end in glorifying and enjoying him for ever.

16th January 2011   GEOFF THOMAS