1. Jacob's Character!
A. His Defrauding of Esau!
B. His Deception of Isaac!
C. His Despising of God!
2. Jacob's Conflict!
A. The Exchange that Confronted Him!
B. The Encounter that Changed Him!
3. Jacob's Compliment!
A. God's Progress with Jacob!
B. God's Purpose for Jacob!
A man stretched a tightrope across Niagara Falls and pushed a wheelbarrow across it. Next, he filled the wheelbarrow with 200 lbs. of cement and pushed it across. The onlookers were astounded. Then, the tightrope walker asked the crowd, "How many of you believe I could do this with a man in the wheelbarrow?" The hands flew into the air. He pointed to a man who had his hand up and he said, "All right sir. You get in first." However, you couldn't see the man for the trail of dust he left behind.
It is one thing to profess faith, it is quite another thing to possess faith, produce faith and practice faith. Faith is not only a head issue, or a heart issue, but a hand issue. In other words, true Bible faith is active, not passive.
I believe that one of the greatest progressions of faith in the Bible is revealed in the life of Jacob. He is, without question, one of the most mysterious of all the patriarchs. He is a man whom God changed dramatically. Not only did God change his family, his fortune, and his future; but, God changed his faith.
A. W. Pink comments that there are at least 8 interesting contrasts in the life of Jacob.
He went out young; he came back old.
He went out single; he came back married.
He went out poor; he came back rich.
He went out healthy; he came back lame.
He went out with an old name; he came back with a new name.
He went out alienated; he came back reconciled to his brother.
He went out with his mother alive; he came back with his mother dead.
He went out walking from God; he came back walking with God.
As I consider the life of Jacob, I see 3 trademarks beginning with:
1. Jacob's CHARACTER!
The man told his doctor that he wasn't able to do all the things around the house that he used to do. When the examination was complete, he said, "Now, Doc, I can take it. Tell me in plain English what is wrong with me." "Well, in plain English," the doctor replied, "you're just lazy." "Okay," said the man. "Now give me the medical term so I can tell my wife."
I don't believe there is a scientific, or a medical term to describe the character of Jacob. His name speaks for himself. The name Jacob means "supplanter, or deceiver." The idea is of one that bargains.
Jacob, for many years, lived up to his name. He was a man who lived for himself and to himself. He was self-centered, and he was often found at the bargaining table. He schemed, cheated, lied, bribed and conned his way out of many difficult situations. For example, we learn of:
A. His DEFRAUDING of ESAU!
In Genesis 25 we have the story of the first twins in the Bible, Jacob and Esau. Esau was the firstborn, and elder brother of Jacob. By custom, and tradition, the birthright belonged to the firstborn of the family. Thus, Esau was the rightful heir of his father's birthright.
However, the birthright was something that Jacob strongly desired. So much so that he schemed, plotted and tricked his brother, Esau, by trading him a bowl of "pottage," or soup for his deserved birthright.
Jacob took advantage of Esau in an hour of weakness. Esau was a man's man. He worked with hands, and was a lover of the outdoors. After a long day working in the field, Esau comes home. In Genesis 25: 29 we read that "Jacob sod pottage: and Esau came in from the field, and he was faint."
Thus, in a moment of weakness and vulnerability, Jacob took advantage of his brother to get what did not belong to him.
I need not remind you that, as Christians, we have an enemy who does not play fair, nor does he play by the rules. He knows when we are weak, vulnerable and weary. Thus, at that vulnerable moment, he sets before us the "pottage" of this world to allure, and entice us.
If we are not careful, like Esau, we will give in to our own vulnerability
and trade the blessings of God, which are eternal, for a bowl of worldly
and fleshly "pottage," which is only temporary.
B. His DECEPTION of ISAAC!
In Genesis 27, Jacob's father, Isaac, is old, blind and near death. Time had come for Isaac to issue blessings upon his sons, and we find Jacob again taking advantage of the situation.
Along with the help of his mother, Rebekkah, Jacob plots not only to defraud his brother, but to deceive his father. His avarice stole the birthright, but his appearance stole the blessing.
His mother helped Jacob change his appearance, to resemble that of Esau, in order for him to receive the blessing that belonged to Esau.
C. His DESPISING of God!
Jacob's greatest con was not in his defrauding of his brother, nor in the deception of his father; but, in the despising of his God.
Jacob's problem was a heart problem. It was spiritual in nature. He was rebellious in his heart toward God. Thus, in his rebellious, he plotted and planned ways to cheat, scheme and defraud.
At this point in Jacob's life, God was an inconvenience to Jacob. Spiritual matters were of no interest for Jacob, no influence on Jacob, and no importance to Jacob. He wanted to have his way, and God only got in his way.
The commanding officer was furious when nine GIs who had been out on passes failed to show up for morning roll call. Not until 7 p.m. did the first man straggle in. "I'm sorry, sir," the soldier explained, "but I had a date and lost track of time, and I missed the bus back. Being determined to get in on time, I hired a cab. Halfway here, the cab broke down. I went to a farmhouse and persuaded the farmer to sell me a horse. I was riding to camp when the animal fell over dead. I walked the last ten miles, and just got here."
Though skeptical, the colonel let the young man off with a reprimand. However, after him, seven other stragglers in a row came in with the same story--had a date, missed the bus, hired a cab, bought a horse, etc. By the time the ninth man reported in, the colonel had grown weary of it. "Okay," he growled, "now what happened to you?"
"Sir, I had this date and missed the bus back, so I hired a cab." "Wait!" the colonel screeched at him. "don't tell me the cab broke down." "No, sir," replied the soldier. "The cab didn't break down. It was just that there were so many dead horses in the road, we had trouble getting through."
I have seen many, many people down through the years, even in the church,
who fit the description of Jacob. There are those who say they love God,
but God only interferes and interrupts their plans, hopes and dreams for
their own life. Their motto would echo that of Burger King, "I'm going
to have it my way." And, as a result, they always have an excuse for why
they are doing what they are doing. They plot, scheme, and con their way
out of doing what God wants them to do, just like Jacob.
2. Jacob's CONFLICT!
Once Jacob had apparent success in defrauding his brother, and deceiving his father, he faces the greatest conflict of his life.
His brother, Esau, discovers that Jacob has not only stolen the birthright, but the blessing. As a result, Esau's heart is filled with rage and revenge. Jacob fears for his life, runs away from home, and goes to Padan-aram, to avoid his brother and seek a wife.
However, it is there that he enters the fight of his life. Jacob discovers that he might be able to run away from his brother, but he couldn't run away from God.
A. The EXCHANGE that CONFRONTED Him!
Once Jacob arrives in Padan-aram, he meets a man named Laban. Laban had two daughters named Rachel and Leah. Jacob made an agreement to work 7 years for Laban in order to have Rachel as his wife. However, after 7 years he got Leah instead.
Thus, he makes another agreement, with Laban, to work another 7 years, and was finally given Rachel to be his wife. In the process, Jacob had "reaped what he sowed." Instead of being the deceiver, he had been the deceived. Instead of being the con, he had been conned.
He had "sown the wind, and reaped the whirlwind."
B. The ENCOUNTER that CHANGED Him!
In Genesis 32, Jacob comes to a place that he later called 'Peniel," because it was there where he "saw God face to face."
Jacob's encounter was with a pre-incarnate Christ, known as a "theophany." Some suggest that Jacob's opponent, in this first wrestling match of history, was a seraphim. Others believe that it was Michael the archangel, who often appeared in human form before he assumed a human nature.
However, I believe that the Bible substantiates the fact that Jacob's opponent was none other than God Himself. It was an opponent unlike any he had ever faced before.
Up until this point Jacob had been able to have his way with every opponent. Up until this point Jacob has resorted to whatever means, or method necessary to come out on top.
However, now he faces an opponent much greater than he, and he is in the fight of his life.
We do not know how many blows were exchanged in this battle; however, we do know that there was one blow that changed the match entirely. The angel "touched the hallow of Jacob's thigh" until it was "out of joint."
Jacob went into the match a whole man, he came out a lame man. However,
though he walked away with a crippled leg, he also had a humble heart.
He was a completely different man. God had gotten the attention of Jacob,
not only changed his nature, but changed his name. He was no longer known
as Jacob, but Israel which means, "a prince with God."
3. Jacob's COMPLIMENT!
There is an epitaph in Bristol, England which reads:
Here lie John and Richard Ben
Two lawyers and two honest men
God works miracles now and then
God had worked a miracle in the life of Jacob. He had gone from a con to a Christian, from trickery to triumph and from foolishness to faith. The greatest compliment of his life is found in
Hebrews 11, which reminds us of:
A. God's PROGRESS with Jacob!
As we come to Hebrews 11 we notice a dramatic change from the Jacob we once knew. What a difference God had made in his life. After his "face to face" encounter with God, Jacob was never the same man.
He had gone from wrestling God to worshiping God. He had gone from being a deceiver to being a disciple. He had gone from being a self-centered man to being a God-centered man.
God had made great progress with Jacob, and Jacob had made great progress for God. It reminds me of a self-proclaimed Christian Sunday school teacher. He thought he was the greatest Christian in the world, yet in reality, many people knew different. One Sunday, he taught a lesson on what it meant to be a true disciple, and a real Christian. He asked his class, "Why do you think everyone thinks I am a great Christian?" One little boy replied, "Because they don't know you!"
As people of faith, we ought to seek to make progress with God, and the things of God. We should be a greater Christian today than we were when we met the Lord Jesus. Our life should be marked by productivity, performance and progress.
B. God's PURPOSE for Jacob!
We read in Hebrews 11: 21, "By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshiped, leaning upon the top of his staff."
As a young man, we saw Jacob taking the blessing.
As an old man, we see Jacob giving the blessing.
As a young man, we saw Jacob wrestling God.
As an old man, we see Jacob worshiping God.
Through all the events of Jacob's life, God had a plan and a purpose. His purpose was to challenge, and change Jacob into a man of faith. His purpose was to bring Jacob to the place of unconditional surrender and submission.
Whenever I think of Jacob I am reminded that if God used him, then there is hope for all of us. Just as God had a purpose for Jacob, He has a purpose for you and me. Those of us that know Him have been predestined, not to salvation, but to sanctification. In other words, God pre-arranged before the foundation of the world for us to become like His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Thus, every trial, trouble and tragedy; every problem, perplexity or predicament; every sorrow, sadness or situation has one eternal purpose: to make us more like Christ. God will do whatever He has to do to fulfill His purpose.
I am reminded of a simple story that I read many years ago, that still speaks volumes to my heart. A renown architect and sculptor was beginning a piece of art with nothing more than a huge piece of granite. His finished masterpiece would be a beautiful marble lion. Day after day the artist labored, with seemingly very little to work with, to bring about his completed product.
One day, a fellow colleague visited the artist. He noticed the piece of granite, as well as the many pieces of granite that had fallen to the ground. He asked, "How are you going to complete the project?" The sculptor replied, "I am simple going to chip away everything that doesn't look like a lion!"
As you and I journey through this life, in order to fulfill His purpose for us, God is going to use whatever means or method necessary to chip away whatever does not look like the Lord Jesus Christ.
Chuck Colson, who served with Nixon during the Watergate scandal, and eventually served a prison sentence, once said: "The real legacy of my life was my biggest failure, that I was an ex-convict. My greatest humiliation, being sent to prison, was the beginning of God's greatest use of my life. He chose the one experience in which I could not glory, for His own glory!"
My prayer is that God's desire and design will be granted in each of
our lives. Like Jacob, he wishes, wants and will that each of us become
giants of the faith. I pray that we will cooperate with Him so that His
purpose of 'chipping away everything that looks like His Son' may be fulfilled.