Sermon #1938 Miscellaneous Sermons
Title: My name is Jacob.
Text: Genesis 32:24-32
Subject: Free Grace for Poor, Lost Sinners
Date: Sunday Morning—November 13, 2011
Tape # AA-39
Reading: Psalm 77:1-20
“To the chief Musician, to Jeduthun, A Psalm of Asaph.
1 I cried unto God with my voice, [even] unto God with my voice; and he gave ear unto me. 2 In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord: my sore ran in the night, and ceased not: my soul refused to be comforted. 3 I remembered God, and was troubled: I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Selah.
4 Thou holdest mine eyes waking: I am so troubled that I cannot speak. 5 I have considered the days of old, the years of ancient times. 6 I call to remembrance my song in the night: I commune with mine own heart: and my spirit made diligent search. 7 Will the Lord cast off for ever? and will he be favourable no more? 8 Is his mercy clean gone for ever? doth [his] promise fail for evermore? 9 Hath God forgotten to be gracious? hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies? Selah.
10 And I said, This [is] my infirmity: [but I will remember] the years of the right hand of the most High.”
“11 ¶ I will remember the works of the LORD: surely I will remember thy wonders of old. 12 I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings. 13 Thy way, O God, [is] in the sanctuary: who [is so] great a God as [our] God? 14 Thou [art] the God that doest wonders: thou hast declared thy strength among the people. 15 Thou hast with [thine] arm redeemed thy people, the sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah.
16 The waters saw thee, O God, the waters saw thee; they were afraid: the depths also were troubled. 17 The clouds poured out water: the skies sent out a sound: thine arrows also went abroad. 18 The voice of thy thunder [was] in the heaven: the lightnings lightened the world: the earth trembled and shook. 19 Thy way [is] in the sea, and thy path in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known. 20 Thou leddest thy people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.” (Psalm 77:1-20).
God morning. My name is Jacob. Who are you? Turn with me to the 32nd chapter of the Book of Genesis, and (if God the Holy Spirit will graciously inscribe His Word upon your heart) you will find out who you are before you leave here today. Let’s begin reading at Genesis 32:24.
“And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. 25 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. 26 And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. 27 And he said unto him, What [is] thy name? And he said, Jacob. 28 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. 29 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. 30 And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved. 31 And as he passed over Penuel the sun rose upon him, and he halted upon his thigh. 32 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.” (Genesis 32:24-32)
The title of my message is — My name is Jacob. I want, by the power and grace of God the Holy Spirit, to show you something of the rich, free, abounding grace of God in Christ for poor, lost sinners.
This passage of Scripture is often used as a picture of conversion; but this was not Jacob’s conversion experience. The passage before us teaches us many things about conversion, as we shall see. And I know that conversion to Christ is a life-long experience of grace. We are continually coming to Christ (1 Peter 2:4). Yet, this was not the point in Jacob’s history when he first came to know the Savior. Christ had been revealed to him twenty years earlier at Bethel as the only Ladder by which God could come down to man and upon which man must ascend up to God. At Bethel, Jacob met Christ the Mediator and learned to worship him (Genesis 28:10-22). This is the Mediator who was typified in all those blood sacrifices Jacob had seen as he worshipped God with his parents and grandparents.
Frequently, this passage is used as a picture of a man wrestling with God in fervent prayer. But that too is a mistake. In our text, it is not Jacob who wrestles with God, but God who wrestles with Jacob.
Proposition: This passage of Scripture sets before us a picture of the Lord God subduing the proud, sinful flesh of His believing people by His almighty grace, forcing every son of Jacob to acknowledge who and what he is, a fallen son of Adam, sinful, lost, ruined, and helpless without His grace.
Let’s look at this passage together. — Genesis 32:24-32.
“And Jacob was left alone” (v. 24). — Was there ever a man more alone than Jacob? His whole life had been filled with trouble and disappointment. Now, as he was returning home, he feared for his life. When he heard that Esau was coming to meet him with four hundred men, he was confused, and frightened, and alone.
Jacob’s life had been a life of trouble and confusion. All his life long he had played second fiddle to his brother Esau. He was born second to Esau. He was, by all measures, an inferior man to Esau. His father Isaac preferred Esau; and Jacob knew it.
Instigated by his mother, Jacob deceived his father on his deathbed and stole the birthright. He had lived with the guilt of his deed in exile for twenty years. When Esau threatened to kill him, Jacob fled into exile. As he fled from Esau, God met him at Bethel, promised His covenant blessings to him, and confirmed what I am sure his mother had told him from his youth (Genesis 25:22-23; Romans 9:10-13).
Š He was loved and chosen of God.
Š God was determined to save him.
Š He was to be greatly blessed of the Lord.
As he had deceived his father Isaac, so he had been deceived by his uncle Laban and tricked into marrying a woman he did not want (Genesis 29:16-26). Then, the Lord God appeared to him and told him to return home with this promise: “I will be with thee” (Genesis 31:3). No sooner did he start home in obedience to God’s command than he discovered that Esau was coming to meet him with four hundred men (Genesis 32:6-8).
Earlier in the day, Jacob kissed his wives and his children good-bye, took them across the brook Jabbok out of harm’s way and waited to die by the hand of his angry brother. Now, we read, “And Jacob was left alone.” More alone than ever!
Alone, confused, helpless, and afraid Jacob sat down and waited for death. His plotting, scheming, and manipulating was over. He is shut up to the sovereign power and will of God. Like Israel at the Red Sea and Jonah in the whale’s belly, Jacob was totally dependent upon God to deliver him, and he now knew it (Exodus 14:13; Jonah 2:9).
Those whom God is pleased to save, to whom He will reveal His mercy and grace in Christ must be brought down and be made to know their utter helplessness and inability. God’s grace and God’s work leaves no room for boasting and glorying in the flesh (Psalm 107:1-6; 11-13; 1 Corinthians 1:26-31).
“Jacob was left alone.” He seemed to be in a miserable condition, helpless and alone; but he was truly in a most blessed condition.
“To be left alone with God is the only true way of arriving at a just knowledge of ourselves and our ways. We can never get a true estimate of nature and all its actings until we have weighed them in the balances of the sanctuary, and there we may ascertain their real worth. No matter what we may think about ourselves, nor yet what man may think about us, the great question is, what does God think about us? And the answer to this question can only be learned when we are ‘left alone’. Away from the world, away from self, away from the thoughts, reasonings, imaginings, and emotions of mere nature, and ‘alone with God,’ — thus and thus alone, can we get a correct judgment about ourselves.”
(C. H. MacIntosh)
Isolation is always the forerunner of revelation, grace, salvation, and blessing. Before God saves, he separates.
Š Gomer (Hosea 2:14).
Š The adulterous woman (John 8:9).
Š Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9:3-8).
“And there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day” (v. 24). — About the time the sun went down, suddenly a Man appeared out of nowhere, laid hold of Jacob, and wrestled with him until the morning sun began to rise. This was not a vision, or a dream, but a real struggle, both physical and spiritual. It was not a brief encounter, but one that lasted all night long.
Who was this Man? There is no question at all about the fact that this Man was also God (v. 30). Jacob said, “I’ve seen God face to face!” This man who wrestled with Jacob was the Lord Jesus Christ, the God-man, the Angel of the covenant (Hosea 12:4), through whom all the blessings of covenant grace come to God’s elect. — The Son of God frequently appeared to the saints of the Old Testament in human form. Those pre-incarnate appearances were tokens and pledges of His incarnation.
This man, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, wrestled with Jacob. We are not told that Jacob wrestled with the Man, but rather, “there wrestled a Man with him.” Those who use this story as an example of importunate prayer miss the mark. Jacob was not wrestling with this Man to obtain the blessing. This 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 is the object of our Lord in this passage. 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 a sense of his nothingness, to make him see what a poor, helpless, worthless creature he was. Do you see this? — God’s purpose in all our trials is to make us strong in grace and strong in faith; and the way He makes us strong is to make us to know and recognize our weakness — “When I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
This man wrestled with Jacob “until the breaking of the day.” — There were issues involved that had to be resolved. They had to be resolved in Jacob’s heart. They had to be resolved permanently. And they had to be resolved now.
This was not a brief, passing encounter. It was not an indifferent decision made on the spur of the moment at the front of the Church. Great issues were at stake. Eternal matters had to be settled. What were the issues?
God was determined to bless and use Jacob. His purpose could not be defeated. But He would not grant His blessing and He would not use him until Jacob was conquered, broken, subdued, and surrendered. — This conquering of the flesh, this breaking and subduing is not a once for all experience. It is a life-long battle. It continues throughout the night of our sojourn upon this earth.
Š It is a warfare in our hearts (Romans 7:14; Galatians 5:17).
Š Christ will prevail (Romans 7:25). If we are his, our Lord will conquer us; and he will make us willing to be conquered.
Broken by Grace
“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” (v. 25). — Without question, God could have easily subdued Jacob. This conflict was ordered and instigated by God. The outcome was never in doubt; but God’s people are not puppets or robots. We must be made to see, feel, and experience the frailty of our flesh, the emptiness of this world, and the glory of God in Christ, so that we desire His presence and His salvation above all things. — “Thy people shall be willing!” — Grace makes us willing in the day of His power!
Š This is the purpose of all that God reveals to us.
Š This is the purpose of all the trials we endure.
Š This is the purpose of all God’s dealings with us.
Š Thank God for the sharp, painful blows of providence and grace that bring us down before Him!
At last, Jacob was brought to the end of his own resources. One swift stroke from the hand of God rendered him utterly powerless.
“This is the purpose God has before Him in His dealings with us. One of the principal designs of our gracious heavenly Father in the ordering of our path, in the appointing of our testings and trials, in the discipline of His love, is to bring us to the end of ourselves, to show us our own powerlessness, to teach us to have no confidence in the flesh, that His strength may be made perfect in our conscious and realized weakness.”
(A. W. Pink)
“And He said, let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let Thee go, except Thou bless me” (v. 26). — Now, the Lord had accomplished His goal. Jacob was helpless. He could no longer wrestle with his leg out of joint. All he could do was cling to his Master. Until now, Jacob had tried to order his own life, planning, scheming, devising, and deceiving to get what he wanted. Now, he is rendered helpless. All his strength was taken away; and he clings to Christ, saying, “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.”
“Other refuge have I none,
Hangs my helpless soul on Thee!”
Not only did he say, “I will not let Thee go;” he said, “I will not let Thee go, except Thou bless me.”
“The battle is not over for Jacob until he is assured of the Lord’s permanent blessing upon him and His peace within him. This was a life or death struggle for Jacob, a battle that would not be fought again. He had heard the promises of God’s blessings. Now, he wanted them in truth. He was still Jacob, his past clouded with sin. He was a wanderer in a strange country and must still face Esau, his angry brother. He knew he was no better off for this experience unless the Lord gave him his approval, acceptance, and presence.” - (Henry Mahan)
The one great blessing Jacob sought from Christ was the assurance of God’s favor!
“Thou, O Christ, art all I want;
More than all in Thee I find!”
“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 thou hast power with God and with men, and hast prevailed” (vv. 27-28).— Now notice three things in these two verses:
1. Jacob was made to confess his name. — “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation!”
When the Lord Jesus said, “What is thy name?” it was not for His information, but for Jacob’s humiliation and instruction. God forced Jacob to acknowledge who and what he was. — “My name is Jacob.” I am a cheat, a supplanter, a deceiver. I hold the birthright by my own efforts. And all my efforts are sin. I am Jacob, the sinner.
2. God gave him a new name — “Israel”. — This name, Israel, implies royalty, sonship, acceptance, and favor with God. It means, “Prince with God.” Israel is one who has power with God, because he has favor with God. This was not the result of Jacob’s will, his works, or his worth. It was the gift of God’s free grace (John 1:11-13; Romans 9:15-16; Ephesians 1:3-7).
The name Israel also means, “God commands.” Israel is one whose life is commanded and ruled not by self, or by Satan, or by the world, or by circumstances, but by God.
3. As a prince, Jacob had power with God and with men, and prevailed. — His new name, Israel, was a constant reminder to Jacob that his success, his strength, his blessings, indeed, all that he had and experienced which made him to differ with and prevail over men was the gift of God’s grace, the result of God’s command, not the result of his own excellence (1 Corinthians 4:7).
“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” (v. 29). — Jacob was a subdued man; but his flesh was not yet destroyed. Though saved by grace, Jacob was a sinner still. In curiosity, he asked and tried to pry into that which was not yet revealed. Pride dared to seek familiarity with the Almighty. God refused to tell him His name. Jacob must believe God within the scope of His revelation. Faith demands no more than God reveals!
Yet, in spite of this sinful curiosity, the Lord confirmed his blessing to Jacob. — The blessings of grace are unconditional and free!
The Face of God
“And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved” (v. 30). — This was much more than a mere emotional experience. Jacob had met the living God. The hand of God had touched him. He had personally encountered his Redeemer. And God, who might have justly killed him, blessed him with life (Romans 8:33-34).
But there is more here. If you will look at the translation given in the margin of your Bible, you will see that the name “Peniel” means “the face of God.” Jacob understood that the One who had conquered Him was God his Savior and that he had life by Him, by the revelation of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6).
Halting on His Thigh
“And as he passed over Penuel the sun rose upon him, and he halted upon his thigh” (v. 31). — Let me show you three things here.
1. As Jacob left Penuel “the sun rose upon him.” — This was a token of God’s favor. “The Sun of Righteousness” rises and shines upon those who are blessed of God (Malachi 4:2). — “The path of the just shineth more and more unto the perfect day.”
2. While Jacob walked with God, he “halted upon his thigh.” — The sinew of his thigh “shrank,” but it was not removed. And though God, by His grace, subdues our flesh, He does not remove it while we live in this world. We will go halting through this world, forcing us to lean upon Christ. God will not allow us to trust ourselves!
3. Religious men and women who never experience God’s grace will always substitute idolatrous superstition and works for the knowledge of Christ and his grace (v. 32). — Commenting on verse 32, John Gill observed that the Jews have an entire chapter in the Misnah giving rules concerning the eating of the sinew of any animal which is upon the hollow of the thigh, telling men how to cut it out, and demanding that any who eat a piece, even the size of an olive, are to be beaten with forty stripes!
Sons of Jacob
I began this message by telling you that “My name is Jacob,” and asking “Who are you?” Can you take your place with Jacob? Will you confess and own his name before God? If you can, if you can take your place in the dust before God, confessing your sin to Him, the blessing of God is yours, God’s salvation is yours, you are a son of Jacob! In the Book of God believers are called “the sons of Jacob.” I believe I can give you several reasons why we who are God’s are called “the sons of Jacob.”
1. GOD LOVED JACOB. — “Jacob have I loved.” The reason was not found in Jacob but in the Lord God Himself. “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and gave His son to be our substitute.”
2. GOD CHOOSE JACOB. — “For the Lord hath chosen Jacob unto Himself” (Psalm 135:4). He has chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world! Thank God for electing love!
3. THE GOD OF ABRAHAM REDEEMED JACOB. — “Thou hast with thine arm redeemed thy people, the sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah” (Psalm 77:15).
4. THE LORD REVEALED HIMSELF TO JACOB AT BETHEL. — Jacob was running away, but God met him at Bethel (the house of God) and revealed to him His grace and mercy in Christ. Thank God, He crossed our paths and revealed His Son in us and to us by the Gospel. — When Jacob lost all his strength he prevailed with God! The Lord God met Jacob in his path of rebellion and revealed Himself to His chosen and revealed Jacob to Jacob. Jacob was never the same again. The sinew of his thigh shrank, and he lost his strength. He had to walk the remainder of his days in the strength of Another. When he lost his strength he became a prince with God. — Jacob obtained the blessing. Having Christ he had all things and wanted no more. He said to Esau, “I have enough!” — “I have everything!”
5. THE LORD GAVE JACOB A NEW NAME. — “Thy name shall be no more Jacob (cheat) but Israel (a prince or son of God).” — “Beloved now are we the sons of God!” We have a new name and a new family.
Illustration: Johnny’s #60!
6. THE LORD LED JACOB ALL THE DAYS OF HIS LIFE. — “Behold, I am with thee and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, for I will not leave thee until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of” (Genesis 28:15). Do we not have the same promise? He that has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. It is written, — “[Let your] conversation [be] without covetousness; [and be] content with such things as ye have: for He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5).
7. JACOB WAS KEPT IN LIFE AND GRACE, KEPT IN COVENANT MERCY, BECAUSE GOD CANNOT CHANGE. — “For I [am] the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed” (Malachi 3:6).
Yes, my name is Jacob. Who are you? Blessed of God, Jacob was made a blessing (Genesis 48:15-16).
“And he blessed Joseph, and said, God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk, the God which fed me all my life long unto this day, 16 The Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.” (Genesis 48:15-16)
Now, “The God which fed me all my life long unto this day, The Angel which redeemed me from all evil … bless thee bless thee, and keep thee: The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.”
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