- Sermon Notes
Wrestling with God
July 4-5, 2020
1. It has been said, “Old habits die hard.”
2. I believe that is a true statement.
3. In fact, there is one habit which plagues many, the tenacious habit of unbelief.
4. Unbelief bears poisonous fruit such as fear, manipulation, anger, lying, anxiety, depression, and striving.
5. Today, we are going to see how God confronted unbelief in Israel’s patriarch, Jacob.
6. By doing so, we will also learn how God wants to build up our faith in Him, so that our lives may no longer be poisoned by unbelief.
1. Jacob was 97-years-young in Genesis 32.
2. For 20 years he served his Uncle Laban, who was a master deceiver like Jacob.
3. Jacob went from a 77-year-old, failure to launch, momma’s boy to a wealthy man with two wives, two maids, ten sons, and one daughter.
4. During the last six years of his time serving Uncle Laban, Jacob became very wealthy. He acquired goats, sheep, camels, cattle, donkeys, and servants.
5. But Jacob’s wealth created tension with his relatives. Jealousy filled their hearts and Jacob was in danger of losing all he had acquired.
6. According to Genesis 31, God commanded Jacob to move back to the land of his fathers, Abraham and Isaac, the Promised Land.
7. But there was a problem. Jacob had to pass through the land of Seir, the country of Edom, where his big brother Esau lived.
8. Suddenly Jacob’s past came back to haunt him and threatened to interfere with his future.
Transition – From this we must see that God was confronting an issue in Jacob’s heart, the very issue that put him in the predicament he was in, unbelief. Why did God confront Jacob’s unbelief?
I. God Wants to Bless Our Tomorrows (6-21)
A. God confronts the past we try to forget (6)
• To put it nicely, the fraternal twins, Esau and Jacob had “issues”.
• Esau sold his birthright to Jacob for a cup of stew.
• With the help of his mother, Rebekah, Jacob deceived his father, Isaac, to steal Esau’s blessing.
• When Esau heard his blessing had been given to Jacob through deception, he wanted to kill Jacob.
• So, Jacob fled for his life and moved in with his Uncle Laban.
• 20 years later God told Jacob to go back home and promised to be with Jacob every step along the journey. (31:3)
Genesis 31:3, Then the LORD said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.”
• When Esau heard that Jacob was coming back, he decided to welcome his twin brother with an army of four hundred men.
APPL – Why did God tell Jacob to go home if going home meant seeing Esau, the brother who wanted to kill him?
• While it is true that God was calling Jacob back to the Promised Land, it is important to recognize that God was also confronting the past Jacob had run from.
• The same is true in our lives.
• Poor choices, fractured relationships, addictions; God wants to liberate us from it all.
• God wants to heal our lives and bless our tomorrows by confronting the past we try to forget.
1. When Jacob heard Esau was on his way to see him, he was “greatly afraid and distressed.” (7)
2. Knowing that the Lord was with him should have been enough for Jacob, but it was not.
3. But true to form, Jacob evaluated his options and came up with a series of clever schemes:
a. He divided the camp into two groups so if one group were attacked the other could escape. (7-8)
b. He prayed for deliverance. (9-12)
c. He sent Esau gifts, over 550 animals, staged in groups to make for a long procession or parade of sorts for dramatic effect. (13-20)
4. Ultimately, Jacob did not trust God’s promise to be with him, so fear gripped his heart. Jacob thought the only way he could calm his brother’s anger and avert his revenge was through gifts, and lots of them.
Genesis 32:20, I will appease him with the present that goes before me. Then afterwards I will see his face; perhaps he will accept me.
B. God uses our past to change us
1. This is God’s goal, to change us.
a. To strengthen our faith and fortify our character.
b. To purge manipulation out of the Manipulator.
c. To prune the control out of the Control Freak.
Martin Luther, “A Christian is never in a state of completion but always in the process of becoming.”
2. Jacob thought that Esau would keep him from God’s blessings and promises.
3. But God wanted to show him that Jacob was keeping Jacob from the promises and blessings of God.
4. God would not allow Jacob to enter the Promised Land as Jacob.
5. Jacob needed to change so God used his past to pave the way for a blessed future.
APPL – Many people carry their past around with them, the very past they are trying to forget.
• The guilt and shame of failures, addictions, and pain they have inflicted upon themselves and others.
• Therefore, we must be convinced of God’s heart for us and that He wants to use our past, failures included, to bless our tomorrows.
• God is working in us for our good.
Philippians 1:6, For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
Transition – God is committed to our good, which means He confronts what is not good in our lives.
II. God Confronts Our Unbelief (22-25)
A. God waits for a teachable moment (24a)
1. Jacob sent everyone away. (22-23)
2. Jacob had done all he could do, no more schemes left in his bag of tricks.
3. In the middle of the night Jacob was alone with his fears and uncertain future.
4. But Jacob learned that he was not alone.
a. God was with him.
b. Just not in the way Jacob expected.
Charles Spurgeon, “As sure as ever God puts His children in the furnace, He will be in the furnace with them.”
Isaiah 43:2, When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you.
B. God confronts us because He loves us
Hebrews 12:7, 10, Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. (NIV)
1. It is important to note that Jacob had been wrestling with God before there was an actual wrestling match.
2. God took the initiative to wrestle with Jacob to show him how he had been living for the last 97 years of his life.
3. At first, Jacob probably thought he was wrestling one of Esau’s men.
4. But the Bible reveals the real identity of Jacob’s opponent, the angel of the Lord, God’s Son, a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ.
Hosea 12:3-5, In the womb he took his brother by the heel, and in his maturity he contended with God. Yes, he wrestled with the angel and prevailed; He wept and sought His favor. He found Him at Bethel, and there He spoke with us, even the Lord, the God of Hosts; the Lord is His name.
5. Why did God appear in the form of a man? Because Jacob was treating God like He is a man:
a. Frail and Finite.
b. Forgetful and Unfaithful.
c. Foe, not a Friend.
A. W. Tozer once said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”
ILLUS – Little hands
6. But we must remember that God is not man.
a. God is faithful and never forgets His people
Isaiah 49:14-16, But Zion said, ‘The Lord has forsaken me, and the Lord has forgotten me.’ Can a woman forget her nursing child, and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands.
b. God is for us and able to save His people.
Romans 8:31, If God is for us, who is against us?
Transition – A person who doubts God is a person who wrestles with God.
III. Stop Wrestling with God (26-32)
• I believe many want to stop wrestling with God.
• In fact, many are tired of wrestling with God.
• But the reality is, we do not know anything different.
• We wrestle with God because we doubt God.
• How do we break this horrible cycle? What is the alternative?
A. Cling to God instead
1. Jacob wrestled God.
a. God is in a completely different weight class.
b. Yet God allowed Jacob to wrestle Him all night.
c. God could have pinned him easily and then some.
2. When it was time to be done, the Lord merely touched Jacob’s thigh, the symbol of Jacob’s strength, and Jacob’s hip was dislocated.
3. With a touch, not a twist or torque, God revealed His superiority.
4. God also revealed He was Jacob’s Advocate, not an adversary. God was for him, not against him.
5. Once Jacob’s hip was dislocated, he could not flee.
6. Even better, once Jacob realized he had met his match, he did not want to wrestle or flee.
7. Jacob cried out for a blessing as he held fast to the Lord.
Psalm 63:1, 6-8, O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; my soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. . . When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches, for You have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy. My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me.
APPL – Is anyone tired of wrestling with God?
• Our world is a dry and wearying land.
• Life is hard, but too many make it worse when they wrestle with God.
• Cling to God instead.
B. Be governed by God
1. God gave Jacob a new name. In that day, a person’s name revealed their nature or character; what their name had come to mean because of the way they had lived their life
a. Jacob means “heel grabber,” or “supplanter.”
b. But Israel means “God fights,” “God’s prince,” or “governed by God.”
c. Jacob’s new name answered Jacob’s question to his opponent, “What is your name?” God.
2. God gave Jacob a new walk, a “limp.” (31)
a. Jacob’s limp was a constant reminder to Jacob to walk by faith.
b. Not by fear.
Psalm 56:3-4, When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, in God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me?
APPL – But what did the Lord mean when He said, “you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed”?
• It was a reference to God’s heart for Jacob and for all who come to Him in faith.
Hosea 12:4, Yes, he wrestled with the angel and prevailed; He wept and sought His favor.
ILLUS – Walking up the stairs with Malina to go to bed each night
• Faith in God prevails upon the heart of God because God wants to bless His children.
• We do not have to manipulate or strive to get God’s attention so that He may bless us.
• Simply believe in God and His heart for you.
• Stand on His promises and He will do it.
• Cling to God, do not wrestle with God.
Proverbs 3:5-6, Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.
Genesis 32:22-32 NASB
22 Now he arose that same night and took his two wives and his two maids and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 He took them and sent them across the stream. And he sent across whatever he had. 24 Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 25 When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.” But he said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28 He said, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.” 29 Then Jacob asked him and said, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And he blessed him there. 30 So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved.” 31 Now the sun rose upon him just as he crossed over Penuel, and he was limping on his thigh. 32 Therefore, to this day the sons of Israel do not eat the sinew of the hip which is on the socket of the thigh, because he touched the socket of Jacob’s thigh in the sinew of the hip.
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