Lessons from Jacob’s life #6- Key turning point in life, sun rose and started limping in to God’s destiny
The key turning point in Jacob’s life-limping into God’s destiny by holding a staff-the Patriarch who is transferred to lean on God.
A clear and lasting break from Paddan-aram.
Laban and Jacob made a clear and lasting break in their relationships with a covenant. Genesis 31:44-53 explains the covenant they made between themselves. Verses 51-53 says, “Laban also said to Jacob, “Here is this heap, and here is this pillar I have set up between you and me. This heap is a witness, and this pillar is a witness, that I will not go past this heap to your side to harm you and that you will not go past this heap and pillar to my side to harm me. May the God of Abraham and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge between us.” So Jacob took an oath in the name of the Fear of his father Isaac.” This illustrates no going back to that part of Mesopotamia as far as the children of Israel is concerned for any matter including marriage relationships. The covenant ended by Jacob offering a sacrifice on the mountain. They ate the meal and spent the night on the mountain. Early in the morning Laban arose and kissed his sons and his daughters and blessed them. Laban departed and returned to his place. (vs. 54-55). Here ends the description about the individual of Laban. However, the life history of God’s elect, Jacob, goes on further down through the history of humankind. Still, today and ever more in human history, the nation formed in his name with his twelve children (twelve tribes), will continue to exist. (Jeremiah 31:34-35).
The angels of God met and greeted Him.
Now Jacob went on his way to Canaan. Bible says the angels of God met him. When he saw the angels, Jacob said “This is God’s camp” He named that place Mahanaim. In Hebrew, the meaning of Mahanaim is “two camps” and the location is a place near Jabbok, beyond the Jordan River. Jacob was, of course, coming from the east side of the promised land and the location, therefore, is the eastern border of the promised land. The description could take us to at least prior places and incidents in the book of Genesis. The first one is in Genesis 3:24, “he (God) placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.” Bible says humans were sent away to the eastern direction. Moving away was to the east side as Genesis chapters illustrate. Coming back from the East is considered to be returning to the promised land. Deuteronomy 11:12 says this about the promised land (Israel),” It is a land the LORD your God cares for; the eyes of the LORD your God are continually on it from the beginning of the year to its end.” Zechariah 2:8 says this about Jerusalem and the land of Israel, “Jerusalem, because any nation who harms you harms the apple of His eye.” Apparently, the land of Israel is specially watched over and protected by the Lord God Himself. Secondly, we remember when Jacob had a dream and he saw a ladder with its top reaching to heaven we were told the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. The unique phrase “the angles of God” was used only in two places – in Bethel where he saw the dream and received God’s promise and here in Mahanaim. This reminds Jacob of God’s promise, guidance and protection. God promised He will bring him back to the land and now the angels of God this time signaling God’s fulfillment of the promise in Jacob’s life. The word Mahanaim which means two camps shows two camps in Mahanaim – the camp of God’s angels and the camp of Jacob- his wives, children, servants, and animals.
Once crossed Jabbok with only a staff, now became two camps- who gets the credit?
Jacob himself testified the Lord is the reason for all his blessing. He says in 32:10 this, “I know I am not worthy of even a little of all of the loyal love and faithfulness You have shown to me, Your servant. You have already blessed me because I left home and crossed the Jordan with nothing except my staff. Now I have grown into two large camps.” When he left home and crossed the Jordan to go to Laban’s house, he had nothing in his hand except a staff. Now God made him grow into two large camps. Despite all Jacob’s maneuverings, schemes, Laban’s unfair treatments, cheating, animosity and Rachel’s stealing of household precious metal idols and so forth, it was the hand of God that made Jacob wealthy. In addition, God made him grow into two big camps as he testified. It reminds us of the fact that God is the one behind Jacob’s descendants and He is the one who protects them against all enemies and evil schemes. The same is true to God’s children, the church, who was grafted to Abrahamic’s blessings through Jesus Christ. The believers in Christ are the part takers of all the Abrahamic blessings in and through the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Galatians 3:14 says this about all believers in Christ, “He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.” Despite mistreatments, unfairness, and animosities true believers face today, they can be comforted and encouraged by the fact that their God is the same God- the God of Jacob. Bible says, If God is for us, nobody can stand against us. (Romans 8:31). Indeed the God of Jacob is our protector, deliverer who bless us even through the animosities and unfairness of our enemies- spiritual and worldly. Unfair treatments and human counsels against God’s elect will be stopped by the powerful hand of God one day. Please be cautious about how do we treat the believers. Possess Godly fear. Do we ignore them? Are we trying to avoid God’s plan and agenda for our selfish agendas and desires? Do we treat them badly and do we try to take their God-given opportunities away from them? Even in Christian churches, human agendas are superseding God’s plans and agendas. It is good to think seriously these matters before it becomes late. No matter what, in the end, God protects His own with His mighty and outstretched arms and He will bring His plans and agenda to succeed.
Left alone in the night and trembled with fear reflecting the past.
This background of God’s angels met Jacob sets the stage for the key time of Jacob’s life. The fear of Esau gripped Jacob’s mind fully at this time as he came closer to Canaan. He remembered what Esau said that led to his flight to Paddan-Aram. Esau’s anger and the plan to kill Jacob were reported to Rebekah, his mother. It is reported in Genesis 27:41, “Esau held a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him. He said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.” In order to save the life of Jacob, she sent Jacob to her brother’s house and a few days became more than twenty years now. Now, these thoughts paralyzed Jacob. He sent messengers to Esau who was living in Edom, requesting his favor for him. However, they came back and reported Esau was coming to meet Jacob and had four hundred men with him. Jacob was greatly afraid and dismayed at this news. He prayed to the God his father and grandfather, Isaac and Abraham. He reminded God about His promise- “return to your country and relatives, and I will be with you.” (31:3). He prayed the Lord to deliver him from the hand of his brother, Esau. He prayed, “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. But you have said, ‘I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.” He sent gifts to Esau- two hundred female goats an twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, thirty milking camels and their colts, forty cows and ten bulls, twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys. He commanded his servants to tell Esau this-Behold, your servant Jacob is behind us. He said to tell you, “I will appease him with the present that goes before me. Then afterward I will see his face; perhaps he will accept me.” So he sent the present before him and He spent the night in the camp. The man Jacob was truly terrified to face Esau.
God’s mysterious intervention changed Jacob’s life and future destiny.
Jacob then arose and took his wives and his two maids and his eleven children and sent them across the stream. All he had he sent across the ford of the Jabbok. Jacob now was left alone for the most critical time in his life. When he was left alone, God dealt with him mysteriously. A Man wrestled with him until the daybreak. Read what the Bible says about this unusual incident of the encounter.
“So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
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 humans 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.”
The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip.” (32:24-31).
Wrestling with a Man until the daybreak, who was later recognized by Jacob as God (vs 30). “Jacob said I have seen God face to face, yet my life was preserved”. Do you understand what is really happening here? Wrestling happened to teach Jacob a lesson that he would never forget in the rest of his life. The Lord, in essence, was saying, Jacob, you spent your life in deception and human techniques so far. All through your life, you relied on your ability and plans. Now if I am going to fulfill all that I have planned for your future destiny according to my promise to Abraham (Genesis 12) and you (Genesis 28), I need to change you to a different man. I need to re-organize and reshape you before you enter into the promised land. As the Man wrestled with Jacob all through the night he reached out and pulled Jacob’s hip out of joint. The thigh, the joint and hip are the center of force for a wrestler. The Man touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched and he became disabled. Jacob began to walk by limping. He could not stand and walk on one leg. He needed a staff from this point onwards to walk. The Lord turned Jacob from a self-reliant and self-dependent man to God-reliant and God leaning man. The Man who wrestled with Jacob is none other than the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ, the Son of God. You see Jesus Christ was pre-existent in heaven before His birth in Bethlehem. This is what the theologians call Christophany. Several occasions the Son of God appeared to His people in the Old Testament, before his human birth on the first Christmas day. Generally, these incidents are described as the visit of the angel of the LORD. Whenever the Bible reports, the angel of the LORD appeared, it is referring to the appearance of the pre-incarnate Christ in the Old Testament time period. Jesus was in existence from the very beginning, from the eternity past. He came to the world to save you and me from our sins in the consummation of time. Some of Christ’s appearances in the old testament are described in Genesis 16:7-14; 22:11-15; Exodus 3:2-4; Judges 6:11-23; Zechariah 3:14.
Keep in mind, if you are a child of God, He touches us sooner later.
What is the lesson here? God wants to turn His children from self-reliance to God-reliance. Learning to lean on the Lord is the essence of spiritual growth. We think we are able and we can control. I am all I need. I do not anybody else. I will control and I will make the decision. I don’t need anyone’s input. Self-reliance and self-dependence is a hindrance to God to accomplish His plans in our personal life and corporate life. When will we learn we can not do it all? If we do not learn to rely on God and then God would do the same thing in all of our lives – pull the hip out of joint-so that we would learn to lean on God. Jacob said to the Man, “I would not let you go unless you bless me.” Jacob understood He was dealing someone mightier than Him. Therefore the Man asked him “what is your name.” Jacob said, “Jacob.” The Man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel.” Jacob’s name was changed to Israel and from Him (from his twelve sons) twelve tribes of Israel came into being. Jacob asked the man, “Please tell me your name.” The Man said, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.” Jacob called that place “Peniel” saying “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.” Jacob testifies he saw God face to face- the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the second person in the triune Godhead. Then verse 31 of chapter 32 says, “The sun rose above him (Jacob) as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip.” The Morning sun rose on Him as he moved from Peniel. The big change was he started limbing because of the touch of the Lord on his hip. He became disabled.
Are you limping? Do not worry- Read on.
My friend, are you limping by the touch of the Lord? Limping is not bad. For Jacob, it was not bad. For you, it is not bad either. If God touched, disabled you and you started to limb because you are disabled, your limb is going to be your future strength. Your limb is the pathfinder for your divine destiny. The biggest testimony Jacob passed to his grandchildren was the lesson he learned to lean on God in the pace called Peniel. Hebrews 11:21 says, “By faith Jacob when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.” He limped all through his life from Peniel and at the end of his life he asked to bring all his children to him. As his time of departure came, the Bible mentions three things happened. He blessed his grandchildren, He worshipped the Lord as he was leaning on the top of his staff. The patriarch who learned to lean on the Lord. He passed the to his sons and grandchildren a divine lesson -to lean on the Lord. His grandchildren remember vividly how Jacob departed from this world. Blessing his grandchildren, worshipping by leaning on the top of his staff. Grandpa, why do you use the staff? Grandpa would describe the mysterious incident in Peniel to his grandsons where God turned him from self-reliant, scheme oriented, maneuvering man to a fully to God-reliant man who learned to lean on the Lord.
Your limb is your strength and testimony.
Your limb and your God allowed weakness is going to be your strength that God would use to touch the hearts and minds of people. Paul had a limb and he testified “for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Did you notice what Paul said. “When I am weak, then I am strong.” Paul prayed three times to take away the divinely allowed thorn in his flesh. However, the Lord said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Lord said to Paul, listen: I am not going to take away your limb (thorn in the flesh) but do you know what I would do? I would pour my grace sufficiently in you. When he heard this, Paul said, he would boast all the more gladly about his weakness. Why? because Christ’s power is resting on his weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
Your limb is exactly where Christ’s power rest! In your limb, in your weakness, the Lord will pour sufficient grace. He is going to get glory out of your limb. If God touched you and replaced your hip out of your joint, share it with others. God is going to get the glory of your unique testimony. You have a powerful testimony to share. You have a divine destiny to fulfill.
When we hear the name of the nation Israel, keep in mind the nation is named after Jacob, a man who once was a deceiver and self dependent, who became disabled after the touch of the Lord and fulfilled His divine destiny in God’s plan. A man who was transferred by the Lord from self reliance to God reliance, who leaned on the Lord for each step of his walk, who blessed his future generations and worshipped the Lord as he was leaning on the top of his staff, just before his departure. Even in the last moments of his life he was totally God-reliant and leaned on God.
The Lord’s goal is the same for each one of our life-to lean on Him. The sooner we recognize this, the better equipped would we become to fulfill God’s destiny for our life.