Series of 15 Sermons by Pastor Ron Thomas On
"The Life of Jacob"

801 West Buckingham Rd. - Garland, TX 75040

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Text: Genesis 32:28-31. "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."

Introduction: As we begin this message on the life of Jacob, we do so by retracing our steps back to that life changing moment on the bank of the Jabbock river. The Lord blessed Jacob there by changing his name from Jacob to Israel. Indeed, it was a blessing because that name change meant that God had plans for Jacob. The covenant promise first given to his grandfather Abraham, would flow through him and his offspring!

The blessing was great, but did you notice that Jacob walks away with a limp? It says in verse 31b, that Jacob "halted upon his thigh." The word "halted" in the Hebrew is tsala' (tsaw-lah') which means to limp or to be lame. His encounter with God came at a price. Jacob left with his blessing, he experienced something no one else had experienced, but he walked away with a limp. Most believe that Jacob "halted upon his thigh" the remainder of his life as a testimony to his encounter with God.

Here we are reminded that the road to blessing is the road of brokenness. Jacob begins his life full of himself, full of assurance that he would be successful in his time, his way, and by his own hand, but he ends his life with a limp. In Genesis 47 at the end of his life, Jacob stands before Pharaoh a broken man. When Pharaoh asks him how old he is, Jacob responds in verse 9, "The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage." Jacob's testimony is that of a blessed, but broken man. Job, a man who was also broken by God, gave a similar testimony of his life. He says in Job 14:1, "Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble."

I can remember when I first surrendered to preach and to pastor. Attending preacher's conferences, I would hear the older, seasoned, pastors, stand and deliver messages about the hardships of the ministry. They would preach about the betrayal, the disappointment, the discouragements, the heartache, that comes to a faithful pastor. It was nothing I wanted to hear, just entering the ministry myself. Hearing that, I would go into denial and say to myself, "It doesn't have to be like that. Surely, they are doing some things all wrong. Mine will be a ministry minus all of that. If I remain faithful to the Word, preach hard, work hard, I will never develop a limp." Years have passed, and I have discovered that the road to blessing is the road of brokenness.

It is the same with parenting. Raising children is a humbling experience. At the first we have all the answers. Untested and untried as parents, we say things like, "My children will never rebel. They will always behave and be respectful. I will be a consistent, loving, but firm parent to my children." Soon we learn that all parents make mistakes and the best of homes can produce rebels! If we raise godly children, it is by the grace of God!

Jacob has returned home. He is back in Bethel, but he is not home free. He is walking in the right direction, he is on the right road, but there are bumps in that road, there are bumps designed and placed in his path by God, which lead to brokeness.

FIRST, WE ASK THE QUESTION, "HOW WAS JACOB BROKEN? JUST WHAT WAS IT THAT CAUSED HIS LIMP?" Obviously Jacob is limping because he was touched by God. However, we must realize that God touches us through life itself. We live in a broken world, a world that is under the curse and condemnation of sin. Our bodies are under the same curse. God has a redemptive purpose and plan for us, for these bodies, as well as for all creation, yet it is equally true that God uses this world with all of it's trials and troubles to brake us, shape us, into vessels He can use and get glory. So, "How was Jacob broken?"

First, we observe that Jacob was broken by life's hard losses. Losing someone or something is a humbling experience. The loss of loved ones, facing the grave has it's lessons. It teaches us and or reminds us how frail we are and how fragile life can be. It teaches us how dependant we are upon others. It teaches us that life is short! We do not have always to serve the Lord!

As Jacob returns to Bethel, he faces the loss of loved ones.

In Genesis 35:8, Deborah Rebekah's nurse died. "But Deborah Rebekah's nurse died, and she was buried beneath Bethel under an oak: and the name of it was called Allonbachuth (al-lone' baw-kooth')." It is interesting that Rebekah's death is not mentioned in Scripture, only the place of her burial is mentioned in Genesis 49:31. As a matter of fact, after she counsels Jacob in Genesis 27, there is not another mention of Jacob's mother. Yet here there is great sorrow at the passing of her nurse. It seems strange that such a seemingly insignificant person such as a nurse, should be mentioned, when the person she brought up, is passed by unnoticed!

The name "Allonbachuth" (al-lone' baw- kooth') means oak of tears, or oak of weeping. The nurse in an Eastern family was considered a very important person, someone held in high esteem. In Syria a nurse is regarded more like is a second parent. She always accompanies the bride to her husband's house, and ever after remains there an honored member of the family.

It is probable, that Deborah came to join Jacob and his family after the death of his mother. This was the woman who helped raise him and proved a blessing to his own family. If Deborah was fifty years old when she came to Canaan with Rebekah, she had lived to the great age of a hundred and eighty. Old nurses, like her, were, not only honored, but loved as mothers. Without doubt, her death moved Jacob to tears.

In Genesis 35:16-20, Jacob is faced with his beloved Rachel's death. Rachel was with child. Evidently she had some complications delivering her child. It says, "And they journeyed from Bethel; and there was but a little way to come to Ephrath: and Rachel travailed, and she had hard labour. 17 And it came to pass, when she was in hard labour, that the midwife said unto her, Fear not; thou shalt have this son also. 18 And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin. 19 And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem. 20 And Jacob set a pillar upon her grave: that is the pillar of Rachel's grave unto this day." What a tragedy! Knowing she was going to die giving birth, Rachel named her son, "Benoni" (ben-o-nee') which means son of my sorrow. Jacob changed his name to "Benjamin" (bin-yaw-mene') which means son of the right hand. Think about it. Jacob has lost his mother Rehekah, Deborah, a childhood figure in his life, and now he suffers the loss of his true love, his beloved Rachel.

In Genesis 35:27-29, Jacob faces the loss of his father Isaac. "And Jacob came unto Isaac his father unto Mamre, unto the city of Arbah, which is Hebron, where Abraham and Isaac sojourned. 28 And the days of Isaac were an hundred and fourscore years. 29 And Isaac gave up the ghost, and died, and was gathered unto his people, being old and full of days: and his sons Esau and Jacob buried him." Jacob and Esau stand together at the grave of their father and as they do, they are very different men. Life has changed them. They are no longer fighting for dominance. They have nothing to prove. Things that were once so important, are no longer important.

Second, we observe that Jacob was broken by life's tough lessons. Jacob suffered as much in his own household, as he suffered in the household of Laban. He has been broken by his own children. The psalmist in Psalm 127 pictures children as arrows in the hand of a mighty man. Those arrows are intended to be pointed at the enemy for a parent's defense and protection, yet many times they are pointed at the parent and inflict sorrow and pain. In war it is known as "friendly fire." Jacob's sons were a constant source of trouble and could not be trusted. We know about the massacre of Shechem. Their actions brought fear to Jacob's life.

In Genesis 37, Jacob sends the favored Joseph out to see what his brothers are up to. Finally he finds them and they end up casting Joseph into a pit, and selling him to some slave traders. These sons then took Joseph's coat, ripped it up, covered it in goat's blood, and used it as evidence to back up a fabricated story, telling Jacob that his son had been ripped to shreds and eaten by some wild beast. How cruel and heartless! This of course broke the heart and spirit of Jacob.

Notice Genesis 37:34-35. "And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days. 35 And all his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted; and he said, For I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning. Thus his father wept for him."

Joseph is not dead, but Jacob grieves and suffers as if he were. Little did he know that all this pain, grief, and suffering was caused by the hatred, anger, and jealously of his sons.

Listen, so often in life we reap what we sow. We live in the homes of our own design. Some of this is good, and some of this is not so good! Life is a classroom! It teaches us some very hard lessons.

Third, we observe that Jacob is broken by life's difficult twists and turns. At the end of Genesis 41, we learn that the great famine prophesied through Pharaoh's dream had reached Canaan. Verse 57 reads, "And all countries came into Egypt to Joseph for to buy corn; because that the famine was so sore in all lands." Jacob is now faced with a great famine. Of course we know that God was in this famine, however to Jacob it was just one more hardship he must face. In Genesis 42:1-2 we read, "Now when Jacob saw that there was corn in Egypt, Jacob said unto his sons, Why do ye look one upon another?2 And he said, Behold, I have heard that there is corn in Egypt: get you down thither, and buy for us from thence; that we may live, and not die."

Christians, believers in Jesus Christ, are not spared the difficulties of this life. We suffer economic downturns, floods, earthquakes, tornados and the like. The Lord causes the sun to shine and the rain to fall on the just and unjust alike. Just living in this sin cursed, evil world has a way of wearing us down.

SECOND, WE ASK THE QUESTION, "WHY DOES GOD BREAK US? WHY DOES HE DESIRE HIS SERVANTS TO LIMP? WHAT IS HIS PURPOSE?" We must come to realize that God insist on being the Potter and that we be the clay. The trouble was that even from birth, Jacob wanted to be the potter of his life. He wanted to be the one who was in control! The Lord had to break Jacob in order to shape him, mold him, so that He could use him to accomplish His own purpose! Notice Romans 9:20-21. "Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to Him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? 21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?"

Jacob, the one who wrestled with God, had to be broken by God so that he could become Israel, one who prevailed with God! It is through his brokenness that Jacob becomes Israel! As Jacob limps on through life, we can see Israel still alive, still being formed in Jacob.

The spirit of Israel prevails in Jacob as he learns his son Joseph is alive! Notice Genesis 45:26-28. "And told him, saying, Joseph is yet alive, and he is governor over all the land of Egypt. And Jacob's heart fainted, for he believed them not.27 And they told him all the words of Joseph, which he had said unto them: and when he saw the wagons which Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of Jacob their father revived:28 And Israel said, It is enough; Joseph my son is yet alive: I will go and see him before I die." The coals of hope are still alive and burning among the ashes of Jacob's life.

The spirit of Israel is at peace in Jacob as he meets his son Joseph in Egypt. In Genesis 46:29-30 we read, "And Joseph made ready his chariot, and went up to meet Israel his father, to Goshen, and presented himself unto him; and he fell on his neck, and wept on his neck a good while.30 And Israel said unto Joseph, Now let me die, since I have seen thy face, because thou art yet alive." Israel discovers that with God, he can have peace in the midst of the storm, provision in the midst of famine.

The spirit of Israel by faith claims the promise as Jacob faces his own death. Genesis 47:29-31. "And the time drew nigh that Israel must die: and he called his son Joseph, and said unto him, If now I have found grace in thy sight, put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh, and deal kindly and truly with me; bury me not, I pray thee, in Egypt: 30 But I will lie with my fathers, and thou shalt carry me out of Egypt, and bury me in their buryingplace. And he said, I will do as thou hast said. 31 And he said, Swear unto me. And he sware unto him. And Israel bowed himself upon the bed's head." Israel will not be left behind in Egypt! Israel will not be buried in Egypt! His faith still clings to the Promised Land!

The spirit of Israel prophesies as Jacob blesses Joseph's two sons. Joseph brings his two sons, Manasseh the first born and Ephraim the second born, and places them before Jacob so that he will bless them accordingly. Jacob is blind, so Joseph makes it easy for his father. However, as Israel blessed his children, he pulls a switch on Joseph. Genesis 48:17-19 reads, "And when Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand upon the head of Ephraim, it displeased him: and he held up his father's hand, to remove it from Ephraim's head unto Manasseh's head. 18 And Joseph said unto his father, Not so, my father: for this is the firstborn; put thy right hand upon his head. 19 And his father refused, and said, I know it, my son, I know it: he also shall become a people, and he also shall be great: but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations." Jacob was in control, moving at the impulse of his own will and desires. Israel is out of control, moving at the impulse of God!

Now we can see just why God the Potter has to brake us. Paul said it this way, II Corinthians 12:9-10, "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. 10 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."

THIRD, WE ASK THE QUESTION, "HOW CAN WE SURVIVE GOD'S BREAKING PROCESS IN OUR OWN LIVES? HOW CAN WE BECOME BROKEN, BUT NOT DESTROYED?" The truth we must learn here is that God's breaking process is never intended to destroy us, though in the midst of it, we might feel as if we are going to be destroyed. The Lord wants us to limp in dependance upon Him, not to lie down in denial. Job came to the point in his life that he actually cursed the day he was born.

The apostle Paul must have felt the same way. Listen to his testimony in II Corinthians 4:7. "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us." Here we see again just why the Lord desires to use broken vessels. When we are broken, we realize who we are, that we are nothing but clay pots, that the power comes from God, and the glory goes to God. Paul continues in verse 8, "We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;9 Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed."

So, how do we survive God's breaking process? Here are three observations:

Observation One: If we are going to survive God's breaking process in our lives, we must learn to check our perspective. Notice Jacob's perspective in Genesis 42:36. "And Jacob their father said unto them, Me have ye bereaved of my children: Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and ye will take Benjamin away: all these things are against me." Isn't this the natural perception. Jacob saw the negative things that had happened in his life as counter productive, however they were not! Little did he know that God was using all those things for Jacob's good and His glory! In reality, all those negative things were for him, not against him!

Listen, if we are "in Christ," all these things are for us. All these things serve us! We must keep the proper perspective.

Observation Two: If we are going to survive God's breaking process in our lives, we must learn to trust in God's purpose. There is nothing that comes to us that does not first come by God. Nothing comes to us but by the will of God, and as it does is assigned a great purpose. Every calamity has a purpose. This would be Joseph's great conclusion in Genesis 50:19-20. "And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God?20 But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive."

Observation Three: If we are going to survive God's breaking process in our lives, we must learn to claim God's promise. God has promised never to leave or forsake us. Notice 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." Who is the "Angel" in verse 16? The hand of the God the Shepherd was present in Jacob's life. The eye of the Shepherd never once failed to take note of him. The love of God his Shepherd, never failed.

We must remember that we have a Great, Good Shepherd in our lives, the Lord Jesus Christ. I Peter 2:25 reads, "For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls."

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