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

801 West Buckingham Rd. - Garland, TX 75040

<<==== Pastor Ron Thomas
Read Great Sermons
and Devotions

[RBC Photo]
Daily on Gospel Web



Text: Genesis 32:21-32. "So went the present over before him: and himself lodged that night in the company. 22 And he rose up that night, and took his two wives, and his two womenservants, and his eleven sons, and passed over the ford Jabbok. 23 And he took them, and sent them over the brook, and sent over that he had. 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."

Introduction: The world of professional wrestling has always been bizarre with it's stunts and superstars. The hype, glitz, and theatrics of wrestle mania, has created a new market for kids as well as adults. There are millions who watch such entertainment with passion, pulling for their favorite wrestler and tag team. Professional wrestling has become big money and in my opinion, a big waste of time. This form of entertainment as most everything else in this nation, has grown darker and more violent.

In our text, we have ringside seats to witness the wrestling match of all time. This is no doubt the most unusual wrestling match in history. This event takes place in an open air arena beside the Jabbok River. In one corner stands Jacob, affectionately known as "Big Jake" or "The Schemer." And in the other corner, of all people is God Himself. What a billing! JACOB VERSUS GOD! BIG JAKE VERSUS JEHOVAH! Our text describes the blow by blow account of Jacob's wrestling match with the omnipotent God.

"How foolish," you say. "Who would want to take on God, one on one, in a wrestling match? How could ‘Big Jake' ever hope to win?" God has preserved this historical event in the life of Jacob to teach us lessons concerning our own struggles. You see, the truth is, all of us at some point in our journey, have taken on God. We have all stepped into the ring with God, and wrestled with Him about life. Right now as we speak, someone could be struggling with God about some situation, some problem, some difficulty, some injustice, he or she has incurred! It would be good for us to sit down in our ringside seats, and learn the lessons from Jacob's wrestling match with God.

FIRST, WE OBSERVE THE ROAD TO JACOB'S WRESTLING MATCH WITH GOD. Jacob's encounter with God began even before the day of his birth. The account given in Genesis 25:19-26 tells us that Rebekah was disturbed by the wrestling match going on in her belly as she carried the turbulent twins, Jacob and Esau. There in the womb, these two brothers who were destined to become two nations, were duking it out for dominance! Later when they came forth from the womb, Jacob grabbed Esau's heel as if to pull him back in an effort to be the first born, a position of prominence in the Hebrew family. His parents observing this unusual trait named him, "Jacob." You see in the ancient Hebrew culture, a person's name carried with it the very essence and identity of the person. No Hebrew parent chose a name for their baby just because it sounded nice, or was popular, but only because the name fit the child! The name "Jacob" means "supplanter, schemer, cheater; one who grabs from behind."

Jacob was "called for clipping." Such a person takes things in his own hands, wrestles to get his own way, and the remainder of Jacob's life up to this main event reveals that Jacob was named properly. He wrestled with his brother Essau to get his birthright, he and his mother formed a tag team as they wrestled with his father to obtain the blessing of the firstborn, he wrestled with his uncle Laban (however uncle Laban gave him a run for his money) over flocks, herds, his daughters, and now he WRESTLES WITH GOD! Jacob is WRESTLING WITH GOD, because he has for a long time been wrestling with life. Everything that had happened, everything that was happening in his life, had been leading to this one critical, crucial encounter. By name and by nature Jacob has for a long time walked the road of his own choosing, the road of self will, selfish goals, the road of his own strength and resources. Now that road leads past the Jabbok River, a name which means "wrestling."

In our text, Jacob places his wives, servants, and company, over across the Jabbok river to the south side, and he estranges himself on the north bank. Completely alone with his doubts, dreams, and fears, Jacob was set for his encounter with God. Now would begin his long night of struggle, and in the agony of his soul, Jacob would wrestle in prayer, and actually, literally, wrestle the pre-incarnate Christ. By mornings light, Jacob would leave a different man with a new name, seeking a new destiny, walking a new road!

SECOND, WE MUST OBSERVE THE REASONS FOR JACOB'S WRESTLING MATCH WITH GOD. What was it that so troubled Jacob? What has brought him to this spiritual crisis in his life as he sits alone at the river gorge? What are the REASONS for his wrestling?

One obvious reason is his name and nature. Jacob was growing weary of his wrestling, his struggle with life. Sure, he had some previous encounters with God. The Lord's blessings had been upon his life despite Jacob's insistence on singing, "I'll do it my way!" The truth remained that he had done it his way, and now it was a royal mess! Jacob at the river gorge is a tired, weary, frightened, searching man, a man who is slow to trust God and quick to grab from behind. His name and nature has woven a web of trouble and conflict. What does Jacob have to show for all of his scheming?

He has family problems. Jacob had left home with a father who no doubt was disappointed in him and a brother who swore to kill him. He wasn't exactly popular with his uncle Laban and the in-laws. Now he had two wives who were continually fighting. His family life was a wreck!

Sounds much like today, doesn't it? Families everywhere are fighting and falling apart because they have forsaken God, His house, His Word! Like Jacob, many fathers and husbands turned away from God to follow the god of mammon. A home built upon this world with its philosophy and mind set is like building a house upon the sand. It will stand for a while, but when the wind and waves of trouble come and beat upon it, great is its fall!

He was struggling with his destiny, his purpose. He was supposed to be heir to the promise of God first given to his grandfather Abraham and passed down to his father Isaac. At Bethel that promise was reiterated by God to Jacob and Jacob made a vow to God. We remember that vow recorded in Genesis 28:20-21. "And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If or since 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, So that I come again to my father's house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God." Without doubt, Jacob struggled with the timing of God's plan for his life as well as the direction his life had taken. His patience had run thin and perhaps he was perplexed as to where his life was going.

One thing was for sure, the Lord had kept His end of the bargain. Jacob was a blessed man. He came to Laban's house empty, and now he was leaving full. Jacob was on his way to becoming the person who could fit that promise made by God, however Jacob still had the same nature and name. He was not entirely the Jacob who left home twenty years earlier, but he had not yet come to the end of his ways. There were some things in his life he had not set aside. We see this as he prepares to meet Esau. Instead of trusting God, he is referring to Esau as his master and himself as his servant, which is upside down! Instead of trusting God, he is sending wave after wave of presents to Esau in an effort to appease him. Now his life is as uncertain as ever. He is a man without a country. Jacob was rich in the things of this world, but he was not yet rich toward God.

Today the average American has more than ever before, and yet a sense of hopelessness and despair has never filled the country as it fills it today. We have raised a whole generation without God, values or absolutes, and now we are both seeing and hearing the emptiness within. Most kids have things, but no reason to live. When we walk away from God, we walk away from our purpose for existence! Nothing can fill the heart like Jesus.

He is certainly troubled about his future. Soon, the next morning Jacob is to meet up with his profane brother Essau. "BIG JAKE" for sure is no match for big, red headed, hairy, hot-tempered, rough, rugged he-man Essau. "BIG JAKE VERSUS BIG RED." The mother's boy who hid out in the tents and loved to cook would be no contest for Essau. The future struck fear into the heart of Jacob. He needed some answers, some assurance as he faced the future and now he sits alone. Alone is a tough place to be when you need help, answers, and assurance. Alone is tough when you are at the top, but on the bottom it is unbearable! But Jacob is alone by his own design. He wanted it "his way" and now that is exactly what he has. There at the river ford, Jacob keeps his solitary, restless watch. Sleep was impossible. His troubled spirit would not let him rest. Jacob is at a crisis in life. Jacob is at a cross road.

THIRD, WE OBSERVE THE RESULTS OF JACOB'S WRESTLING MATCH WITH GOD. Now the main event. It could be that Jacob began to pray that night. In the agony of his soul, he cried out to God. He began perhaps for the first time in his life, to earnestly wrestle in prayer. It was as though he sensed that God was really present with him. God's presence and purpose became more and more real to him until, suddenly, He was real! His uplifted arms were actually clinging to God, Himself! There God was, ...flesh to flesh, ...bone to bone, human form!

Jacob in his desperation realized the precious opportunity before him. If he let go, then God would leave with his needs unmet, his prayers unanswered! So, Jacob WRESTLED WITH GOD, back and forth, a head lock here, an arm hold there, the struggle perhaps went on for hours. God in His grace and mercy allowed Jacob to wrestle, work out his fleshly nature and anxiety, ...for in his struggle, his wrestling, his faith and understanding was growing! The turning point came when God touched Jacob in the hollow of his thigh dislocating the ball-and-socket joint of his thigh. Suddenly he was weakened and immobilized. Jacob yelled out in pain, "Ahhhhh," as he stopped wrestling and started clinging!

There is a difference between wrestling and clinging. To "wrestle" is to contend and fight for dominance. However, to "cling" is to hold on to, to grasp in desperation. The pre- incarnate Christ knew that morning light was breaking, and instructed Jacob to let him go. Jacob responded in verse 26, "I will not let thee go, except Thou bless me." He was persistent in his prayer; persistent in his plea; serious in his request from God, even though his body was racked with pain. I believe God knew the change which had transpired in Jacob's heart. Jacob was now holding on in faith, rather than wrestling in fear. God was moved by the persistence of Jacob.

It is the same for us! We are to "wrestle" in prayer. In Colossians 4:12, Paul writes, "Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God." The word "labouring" in the Greek is agonizomai (ag-o-nid'-zom-ahee) and it means to contend in the gymnastic games, to contend with adversaries, to fight and struggle so to obtain. The Lord desires our prayers to be fervent and persistent. Jesus said, "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened."

God blessed Jacob, not because He had to or was forced to, but because Jacob was ready to receive the blessing. What a blessing! "What is your name?" God asked. What He was really asking Jacob was, "Who are you?" As Jacob hung on to Him in pain, he answered, "I'm Jacob, the schemer, the one who grabs from behind, the scared mama's boy, the con-man, the self-centered, self- serving, self-sufficient one!" Then God 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." God was saying, "This is who you were, from now on you are the one who prevails with God, not wrestles without Him!"

God's blessing to Jacob was a new name, a new nature. His name was not just a new label on the jar, but a whole new shape to the jar itself! From now on God would help Jacob fight and conquer the baser elements in his character. The old tendencies no doubt would assert themselves again, but with God's help they would never dominate his life! God had touched Jacob to the bone, to the nerve, yea to the innermost part of his heart.

As Jacob released God, he walked with a limp, a weaker man, yet stronger. And we hear the words of Paul in II Corinthians 12:9, "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." He went on to say, "for when I am weak, then am I strong."

FOURTH, WE MUST OBSERVE THE REALITY OF OUR OWN WRESTLING MATCH WITH GOD. You see, the struggle of Jacob is our own. We all have the name and nature of Jacob. We all have the tendency to wrestle with life, to take things in our own hands, to set our own agenda, and work things out in our own strength. The result? The result is much the same, we make a mess of things which drives us to the river gorge, the banks of our own Jabbok. Family problems, financial problems, relational problems, no purpose, no sense of destiny, fear about the future, all drive us to the end of ourselves and hopefully into the arms of a God who has revealed Himself in the person of a loving, caring Savior, Jesus Christ. But we must stop wrestling and start clinging! We must surrender our lives, our wills, our dreams and schemes, to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and let Him change us. In Jesus Christ, we can have a new name, a new nature, a new destiny, and a secure future.

Right now, you may see yourself in Jacob. You are in the night of your struggle, feeling all alone, scared, and afraid. Are you tired of wrestling? Are you at the end of yourself? Are you ready to acknowledge your weakness, the futility of grabbing from behind? Can you see that when you wrestle with life you are indeed wrestling with God? Perhaps this is the day, bruised, tired, and lame, you will surrender your heart and life to Jesus Christ.

Go To Rodgers Baptist Church Home Page