Monday, January 29, 2024

Jacob: From Selfish Supplanter to Surrendered Servant: Genesis 32


Jacob: From Selfish Supplanter to Surrendered Servant: Genesis 32

What can you say of someone who lived most of his life, up to our chapter of Genesis today, as what we would call a weasel. The Bible calls him supplanter and if he had lived by power and truth, that name would mean hero, but instead he lives his life by scheming and lying. So, in an ultra modern translation, instead of Jacob we would read about Esau and his brother weasel.

But that all changes in chapter 32, the weasel Jacob, becomes Israel the prince with God. That is a big change and the way it is achieved is a path of life that all of God’s people must walk. So all of us weasels can be winners. That is what I should have titled this sermon. Jacob from weasel to winner.

Jacob Draws Nearer To God – Genesis 32:1-2

And Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. 2 And when Jacob saw them, he said, This is God's host: and he called the name of that place Mahanaim. (Two Camps)

Two Camps

Up to this point Jacob has lived his life as he now expresses in by naming this place where he meets with God’s angels, two camps. In his mind and as seen in his life, he sees two camps, one where God is and the other where he, Jacob is.

God’s camp was over there. Real but separate and distant from Jacob’s camp. God was in visions and dreams. He dwelt atop the ladder that the angels ascended at Bethel. He was real, He was absolutely and fully God, but He was not in Jabob’s camp because Jacob wanted it that way.

Jacob throughout his life has kept God over there while he did things his own way in his life. With his mother, Rebekah, he schemed and stole his older brother, Esau’s, blessing. To accomplish that he deceived his aged, blind father by telling a lie to his father’s direct question and then giving the lie assurance with a kiss.

Genesis 27:21-27 And 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. 22 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. 23 And he discerned him not, because his hands were hairy, as his brother Esau's hands: so he blessed him. 24 And he said, Art thou my very son Esau? And he said, I am. 25 And he said, Bring it near to me, and I will eat of my son's venison, that my soul may bless thee. And he brought it near to him, and he did eat: and he brought him wine, and he drank. 26 And his father Isaac said unto him, Come near now, and kiss me, my son. 27 And he came near, and kissed him:

Jacob couldn’t wait for God to fulfill His promise giving to Rebekah and instead He lives up to his name and nature, Jacob, the supplanter. He steals from Esau. After all he could justify the action because God was in His camp and Jacob, in his, had to get things moving.

The Bible doesn’t give us a lot of detail on why Jacob such a sneak and schemer or why Esau was such so uncaring, and irresponsible when it came to his birthright. The Bible doesn’t tell us if Isaac tried to take Jacob hunting, to install a bit more manliness into him, to temper his mother’s influence. Or if Rebekah tried to not show so much favoritism to Jacob but also tried to care and love Esau. We can only guess at those things. We only know what the Bible tells us and we can see the outcome of the favoritism of the two parents.

I will say this much though. Parents and grandparents don’t show favoritism, ever. Love your children and grandchildren equally. Each of them must have you full time, must have your full attention, and your full devotion when they are with you. You may not think a young child can tell that you prefer one over the other but believe me they can, and it will hurt them. It will affect them; it will often twist their emotions and make them resentful and rebellious.

I think the Bible makes that very clear. believe it is the reason for the dysfunction and hate in the family of Isaac. Genesis 25:27-28 And the boys grew: and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents. 28 And Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison: but Rebekah loved Jacob.

After the deception and theft, Jacob flees from Esau’s rage and his broken-hearted father.  Then as he sleeps God speaks to him as part in the vision of the Angels climbing a ladder into heaven. After the vision he asks God to bless him as he travels to Laban, but it is a very quid pro quo kind of prayer.  Genesis 28:20-21 20 And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, 21 So that I come again to my father's house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God:

If God will do what I want him to do then I will let Him be by God. Really? Jacob. Really? Talk about keeping God in his camp and Jacob in his own.

Once he gets to his uncle Laban’s land, everything he has does is for himself, God’s plans don’t enter into Jacobs plans. He supplants his Uncles wealth and flees again now away from Padanaram back to Canaan.  From his birth to his marriages everything Jacob did had one goal, to supplant someone else. To take birthrights and blessings, camels and cattle from someone else and make it his own. But now, in chapter 32, things have changed. He has fled the camp of Laban but now he must confront both the coming of Esau and the Camp of God.

Taking God For Granted

Are we sometimes guilty of the same attitude as Jacob? Do we want to keep God in his own camp, while we take care of things in ours?

Do we like the idea of having the blessings of God but not the burden of God, His care but not His commandments. His salvation but not submission.

There is an old Blue Grass song that says, “Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.” It’s kind of the same thing.

Of course, the Bible plainly tells us it didn’t work that way for Jacob, and it won’t work that way for us.

Jesus said you must count the cost.

Luke 14:26-35 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. 27 And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? ... 33 So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.

The Rich Young Ruler - When the rich young man came and asked Christ how to earn eternal life. Do you remember how Jesus answered him?

It’s in Mark 10:17-22 And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? 18 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. 19 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother. 20 And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth. 21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. 22 And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.

Jesus wasn’t telling the man you can be saved if you sell your possessions, He was proving to the man, that he hadn’t kept the law for he loved his possession more than his neighbors and he didn’t love the Lord his God because he wouldn’t follow Jesus who was his God standing right before Him. The man wanted eternal life in one camp but his life and his wealth in another camp. Instead of repenting and trusting in the Lord, he walked away broken-hearted.

That is the same way any of us will walk away if we like Jacob or the rich young man try to compartmentalize the Lord in our life instead of giving him all our life.

What is the catalyst that bring the change to Jacob? It is facing the brother who he cheated and stole from. The brother who has promised to kill him.

Jacob Despairs Of Esau – Genesis 32:6-8

 And the messengers returned 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: and he divided the people that was with him, and the flocks, and herds, and the camels, into two bands;  And said, If Esau come to the one company, and smite it, then the other company which is left shall escape.

The Catalyst of Jacobs Change

Jacob is afraid, he is very afraid. In the grip of that fear he schemes and does everything in his own power to protect himself and in all his plans you see the same selfish supplanter. He sends the servants and the flocks first. He tries to appease Esau with gifts. Finally, he sends his family over the brook and he is left alone.

When he fled from home, he was alone and God visited him at Bethel (house of God), now he has given up everything, he is alone and once again God will visit him, this time at Penuel (facing God).

Jacob’s Prayer

Listen to Jacob’s prayer here at Penuel and compare it to his prayer at Bethel.

Genesis 32:10 I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast shewed unto thy servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands. 11 Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear him, lest he will come and smite me, and the mother with the children. 12 And thou saidst, I will surely do thee good, and make thy seed as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.

Jacob isn’t bargaining with God anymore. He has nothing to bargain with. His life may end tomorrow when he meets Esau. Now in his emptiness, at the very dregs of his strength, all he asks for is deliverance and he knows that can only come from God.

Cataclysm to Catalysts

God often uses hard, hopeless situations in life to bring us to a place where we, like Jacob, must come face to face with God rather than keeping Him in a separate camp.

We see it all through the Bible. Joshua is facing the battle of Jericho, when the Lord appears as the captain of the Lord’s army. Samson keeps God in a camp very far away, until he is captured, blinded and tortured by the Philistines. Paul is blinded by a light from heaven while riding on the Damacus Road. Even Peter had to trying walking on the water without keeping his eyes on Christ.

They all came to a place where at the end of their own resources, strength, and plans, they all called out and surrendered to God.

David when he was running from Saul, an outcast and an outlaw from his own people wrote about this kind of experience in Psalm 18:4-6 The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid. 5 The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented (preceded) me. 6 In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.

“Don’t be overwhelmed by the cataclysms of life, because God often uses them to be the catalysts of change for Him in my life.”

Jacob’s catalyst of change brings him to not make a conditional deal with God, but to now desire God without conditions.

Jacob Depends Only On God – Genesis 32:24-32

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, 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 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. And Jacob asked him, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, thy name. And he said, Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name? And he blessed him there. And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved. And as he passed over Penuel the sun rose upon him, and he halted upon his thigh. Therefore the children of Israel eat not of the sinew which shrank, which is upon the hollow of the thigh, unto this day: because he touched the hollow of Jacob's thigh in the sinew that shrank.

Selfish Supplanter To Surrendered Servant

Jacob prayed and God answers his prayer, but the answer was not in the way that Jacob could have expected. It may have begun as Jacob expected for we read in 32:24 And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.

Jacob stands alone  and he wrestles with a man, an angel. He may have begun in his strength, but the prayer isn’t answered by Jacob be made stronger. The deliverance, God’s salvation comes when Jacob is weakened to the point he can barely walk afterward.

Jacob wrestles with this “man.” The word means to grapple with, literally to get dusty by rolling in the dirt wrestling. Jacob in his physical strength grapples with the Angel of the Lord and will not let go. The Angel allows this last attempt of the supplanter to force his will, to take by force or cunning something that he desperately wants. He seeks to seize God’s blessing.

Jacob, alone on that mountain, is struggling with God, we know that this is God the Son. He is not yet unnamed, because that name will not be uttered until the angel tells the name to Mary. This is Jesus in a pre-incarnate, (before coming in human flesh), before his birth appearing to Jacob as the Angel, the messenger of God.

God is no longer in that other camp, no longer even at arm’s length from his life, but right there in the very center of Jacob’s life.

Jacob saw the face of God that night and it changed him to the core of his soul. Jacob knows who this is just as Moses knew who speaks from the burning bush, just as Gideon knew who ordered him to fight the Midianites or Samson’s parents knew who had told them of the birth of Samson. They all come to the same knowledge that Jacob does. We know this because in Genesis 32:30 Jacob called the name of the place Peniel (which means facing God) He says, “for I have seen God face to face.”

Jacob Is Broken - In the fight Jacob holds on, refusing to give up and let go. Finally, the Lord touches his thigh and cripples him for life. If Jacob had been standing in his own strength up to this point, he is not standing now. The sinews of his thigh are shrunk. His thigh is now disjointed, Jacob can no longer stand. All he can do is fall to his knees. And in that utterly broken state, he just clings the Lord. He just holds on to Jesus.

Now the Lord says, Genesis 32:26 “Let me go, for the day breaketh.” Now listen closely to the answer of Jacob, “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.”

This is not a man who has any power, plots or plans left. This is a broken man unable to do anything but hold on to the Lord, his God. Jacob now knows that only God can  bless him, only God can save him.

The Lord speaks in Genesis 32:27-28 And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob (the supplanter,) but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.


The Lord didn’t ask the question in order to get information, He knew Jacob’s name.  He asks “What is your name?” as a challenge.


Wiersbe says of the Lord’s question to Jacob,  “Are you going to continue living up to your name, deceiving yourself and others; or will you admit what you are and let Me change you?” - Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Authentic, “Be” Commentary Series, (Colorado Springs, CO: Chariot Victor Pub., 1997), 59.


Jacob Is Blessed - We usually translate the name Israel as A prince with God, a ruler with God, but its literal translation is “God prevails.” Yes, Jacob, now Israel, had prevailed and found God’s blessing but it wasn’t through his strength it was through his surrender. It wasn’t by his brazenness but through his brokenness. God had prevailed, Jacob had surrendered and that was where the blessing was found.


Brokenness to Blessedness.


Let me now state the most important part of this message. What happened to Jacob in finding the blessing of God is a struggle that all of us must undergo. God’s blessings begin with my brokenness.


First, my brokenness over the sin that God’s blessing of salvation may begin.

Then the brokenness of my own strength, my own will, my own plans for my life that God’s blessings for my life may begin.


And one day the final brokenness of this physical body at death so that God’s blessing of eternal life and heaven may begin.


None of us seek brokenness, it is always painful, always more than we can deal with in our strength. Only God knows where that breakpoint is. The place where that last store of my strength is drained away and all we have left is God.


The Bible shows this truth in book after book, life after life. We see it in Moses, as he flees Egypt, we see it Samson, standing blind between the pillars and calling out to God.  We see it in Peter after denying the Lord, bitterly weeping when the Lord coming from the Hall of Judgment, looks directly at him. And Paul tells us of his own brokenness in 2 Corinthians.


The Apostle’s Broken Blessedness.


Paul who was blinded, stoned, imprisoned and ship wrecked. This great Apostle to the Gentiles was used mightily by God because he was so utterly broken in his service to God.


2 Corinthians 12:5-10 I will not glory, but in mine infirmities. ... vs 7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.


Paul understood God’s blessing are brought by brokenness. The greatest servants of the Lord both in the history of the Bible, in the history since the Bible was completed and in our own personal history of those we have known, the greatest servants are those who have suffered brokenness but, in that brokenness, found the great blessings of God.


Conclusion: Fanny J. Crosby’s blindness


I just want to give you one more illustration of this truth in the life of Fanny J. Crosby. She was blinded at an very early age by a well meaning doctor or nurse who put the wrong medicine in her eye and took away her sight.


Once Fanny J. Crosby was talking to a well meaning preacher who said, “Oh if only the Lord would have let you have your sight.” She replied, “Oh I would not want my sight back now.” The preacher was shocked and asked her how she could say such a thing. She told him, “Because one day when I die and go to heaven, Jesus’ face will the first face I will have ever seen.”

She wrote this poem and called it her “Soul’s Poem” she recited it a Bible conference once and brought the audience to tears. ‘Someday the silver cord will break, and I no more as now shall sing; but O the joy when I shall wake within the palace of the King! And I shall see Him face to face, and tell the story—saved by grace!’ - Paul Lee Tan, Encyclopedia of 15,000 Illustrations: Signs of the Times, (WORDsearch, 2004).


If you are here this morning and you are broken, broken in spirit, broken in hope, broken in health, broken in strength, then understand God wants to turn your brokenness into His blessedness. He can take what has defeated us and change it to joy and hope. He can take those broken pieces of your life and put them together in His power and you will find His blessings now and forever.

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