Greetings in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one. (2 Thessalonians 3:3)
Jacob was born as the 2nd son of Isaac, who was the son of Abraham, who was a man of God. When God came to Abraham, Abraham believed God and His promise. Abraham left his home and his country to follow God without knowing where he went. And wherever he went, he built an alter and worshipped God by calling upon His name. Abraham’s faithful and God-centered life pleased God, and God guided him through His holy and glorious promise. God gave Isaac through his barren wife, Sarah. Isaac also followed God like his father Abraham, who was absolutely obedient to God.
Differing from Abraham and Isaac, Jacob was a man of world and filled with jealousy. Jacob and his older brother, Esau were twins, but Jacob was born with his hand grasping Esau’s heel. This was the reason why the younger son was named “Jacob”, which meant seizing by the heel. Later Jacob stole his father’s blessing reserved for Esau by disguising himself as Esau. His old father was easily deceived because he had a poor eye sight due to his old age. Of course, Jacob’s deception was soon exposed to Esau, and Esau decided to kill Jacob. Jacob had to run for his life. Whatever is sown, it will be harvested. Jacob experienced this truth.
Make no mistake about this: You can never make a fool out of God. Whatever you plant is what you’ll harvest. If you plant in the soil of your corrupt nature, you will harvest destruction. But if you plant in the soil of your spiritual nature, you will harvest everlasting life. (Galatians 6:7-8)
Jacob planted his earthly passion and desire. He got what he wanted by deceiving his father. He was essentially a thief, but he had to pay for his sin. He was no longer able to stay home. He was pushed out from his home. However, God had His own plan for Jacob. Even at the moment, God’s infinitely goodness was working behind the scene for Jacob. This reflects God’s character and His unfailing love, although we, human beings, get astray from His righteousness, and sin against other people and God as Jacob did – deceiving and stealing his brother’s blessing to get his own satisfaction driven by his earthly desire.
Jacob fled to Laban, his uncle, where he lived about 1,000 km away. Jacob had never traveled this far before. The first night fell, and he was alone in dark under the pitch-black night sky in wilderness. He could not forget his home filled with love and warmth, but he was lonely in wilderness now. He searched for a stone to laid his head, and begged sleep, which was not easy. He could see the faces of his father deceived by himself and his brother who was truly angry at him and was about to kill him. He could truly appreciate how badly he did to his father and brother. He struggled and struggled through the night. But God made him fall deep into sleep. It was God’s blessing. Indeed, God chose Jacob according to His own good will and then God was always with him. Unfortunately, Jacob did not know this fact. He acted like a child who had no knowledge about right and wrong. Jacob was just a man filled with earthly desires and passions.
So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. (Colossians 3:5)
Jacob was, in fact, an idolater, worshipping the things of the world. How could Jacob, an earthly person inherit the holy promise of God, which was passed down from God through Abraham and Isaac? The answer is simply “No.” To be a proper heir of the God’s holy and glorious promise, Jacob had to be completely changed from his earthly nature to a man filled of God’s nature and character. God, who loved Jacob, had just started His training course specially designed for Jacob, which was also just right for Jacob.
God showed up in Jacob’s dream to let him know God was with him. Then although Jacob was not worthy, God gave the same promise that was given to Abraham and Isaac. Jacob was greatly comforted by the dream. As soon as dawning, he built an alter and made a vow to God, which was a transactional vow than a prayer for a truly worshipping believe, who humbles oneself before God. Even so, God heard Jacob’s vow as parents who love to hear children’s saying patiently and lovingly. Indeed, Jacob was just a baby spiritually, who was just born spiritually as meeting God. Then, Jacob needed to go through the holy and blessed training that God had specifically designed and prepared for Jacob to carve out the future Jacob fully mature in Him.
Under God’s protection and guidance, Jacob arrived at his uncle’s house. Jacob was welcomed by Laban, his uncle, but it was short lived. Laban, who was also a deceptive person, deceived Jacob. Jacob, for the first time in his life, was deceived by Laban. If Jacob was mature spiritually, he would have forgiven his uncle, Laban. However, he was not. Jacob deceived his uncle by saying a good and tempting promise to convince his uncle, and then he increased his own wealth at the expense of his uncle’s wealth. Jacob did it again. His earthly nature won over Jacob, which ended up making Jacob leave the Laban’s house where he stayed more than twenty years.
In fact, Jacob had no place to god for this time. He could not return to his own home because of Esau. But God commanded Jacob to go back to his home again. Was it easy to follow God’s command that was against his own desire? No, but Jacob decided to obey God’s command. Yes, he really did not go back home because of the fear of Esau. However, it was the first step to truly increase Jacob’s faith in God. He followed God’s command although the God’s command did not make sense to Jacob.
As getting closer to home, the fact that Esau was waiting for Jacob to kill Jacob was getting pressuring on Jacob. It was really a heavy burden. He paused a moment quietly, and looked around. He saw many of his children, and his own wealth – many sheep, goats, camels. It gave him some comfort, but none of them could help Jacob to completely get out of the heavy burden of his sin committed against Esau years ago.
Soon he heard that his brother, Esau was coming to him with his 400 men. Jacob’s heart was sinking. Jacob could not tell whether Esau was hostile to him or not. If Esau was hostile, it would be the end of his life. He went back to his wisdom that always worked well so far, and devised a plan to come down Esau as well as protect his wealth from Esau’s attack. To make Esau come down, he picked out gifts for Esau — 200 female goats, 20 male goats, 200 ewes, 20 rams, 30 female camels with their young, 40 cows, 10 bulls, 20 female donkeys, and 10 male donkeys, which was huge. Additionally, he divided these animals into herds and assigned each to different servants to form three groups. He sent three groups of gifts ahead of him while making a certain distance between each of the gift groups. He tried to maximize the impact of his gifts to Esau.
Jacob did his best, but his heart still told him it was not enough because his sin was so great. After sending all of the gifts and his belongs to the other side of Jabbok river. He was his family with him, but as the day was getting dark, he could not hold his families any more so he sent them also to the other side of the river. Then he left alone, and the dark night fell.
In the dark night, his prior sin put more pressure on him. Jacob was suffering. He wanted to cross the river, but he could not because for fear of Esau, who was approaching with his 400 men. He bowed down before God. God saw Jacob in his extreme pain and suffering. God, who was so gracious and full of mercy, came to Jacob. God appeared as a man and wrestled with Jacob. Jacob fought and fought against the man throughout the night. Jacob did not know that he was fighting against himself, his own sin and God. In fact, it was God’s merciful plan transforming Jacob once for all. Jacob kept wrestling. The wrestling continued until the dawn began to break.
In reality, that night, God was carving out the new Jacob from the old Jacob. Jacob experienced the weight of his sin, and the stubbornness of his earthly self. God took away all of the worldly Jacob throughout the night by making Jacob wrestling with his own sin, himself and God. Jacob himself felt that it was the last chance, and he tenaciously hold on to the man, who was, in fact, God. Out of this wrestling, the old Jacob was steadily chiseled out, and as darning, the old Jacob was completely destroyed. Instead a completely new Jacob was there, who could truly inherit the glorious and holy God’s promise that was given to Abraham. God was pleased with the new Jacob, and God gave a new name – Israel, which signifies the new Jacob who had fought with God and with men and have won. Yes, Jacob received the glorious name, “Israel,” and he became the father of the twelve tribes of Israel. Finally, the promise of God given to Abraham was ready to its fulfilment by the new Jacob, i.e., Israel. Praise God, who are faithful and full of mercy!
After the man left, Jacob named the place Peniel (which means “face of God”), for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared.” The sun was rising as Jacob left Peniel, and he was limping because of the injury to his hip. (Even today the people of Israel don’t eat the tendon near the hip socket because of what happened that night when the man strained the tendon of Jacob’s hip.) However, Jacob was no longer the old Jacob, he became the new Jacob who would please God, and whom God wanted throughout his life.
Jacob crossed the Jabbok river to join his family on the other side. Jacob looked up. As expected, he saw Esau coming with his 400 men. So he divided the children among Leah, Rachel, and his two servant wives. He put the servant wives and their children at the front, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph last. Then Jacob went on ahead. As he approached his brother, he bowed to the ground seven times before him. Jacob then quietly waited for Esau’s response. Jacob had no idea what Esau would do. He waited and waited while trusting God, which was only thing that he could do at the moment.
Then Esau ran to Jacob and embraced him, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him. And both Esau and Jacob wept. What a miracle! Jacob feared of Esau throughout his life and including the prior painful night. The fear was not materialized, which was the God’s mercy. Jacob clearly knew the reason, not because Jacob’s cunning wisdom, but God and His mercy.
God, who is merciful to His people, has already prepared what we need and provide when we need most. For Jacob, the forgiveness of Esau was what he really needed. In fact, he waited for long time more than 20+ years, and it was provided by God when he needed most – when he saw again his brother, Esau.
Yes, God is the director of our life movies. For each of us, God has an infinitely good plan and story for each of us. God guided Jacob through the paths of His righteousness, although Jacob continuously pursued his own earthly desire with his cunning wisdom. Behind the scene, God steadily chipped away the earthly and raw material of Jacob using the chisel of God, which was sharper and stronger than anything else on earth. Jacob was stubborn and he had a tremendous inner-strength in conjunction with his cunning mind. Practically there was none compared with Jacob on earth at that time. Certainly, he was the best, and nobody could even be close to Jacob — neither His brother, Esau, his father, Isaac, nor his uncle, Laban. All were defeated by Jacob by being deceived by Jacob’s cunning earthly wisdom. Jacob, thus, always relied on his own wisdom and deception, but God had a different plan for Jacob, who loved to use his own cunning mind instead of leaning on God and His mercy. Thus, God steadily carved out the new Jacob who would faithfully and obediently follow God. Jacob used his cunning mind to achieve what he wanted, but God used Jacob’s cunning mind to fulfill God’s glorious plan instead.
God, as needed, intervened Jacob to guide and mold him. Jacob faced with God once, twice, third time, etc. Then Jacob increasingly knew more about God as he experienced more about God. He increasingly believed God more and more by leaning more on him. When he was in trouble with his uncle, Laban, Jacob followed God’s command although it did not make sense to him. Of course, he was still in doubt. He filled up the void of his doubt with his own cunning wisdom, but when he was about to see Esau again, he found that his wisdom did not do anything but being powerless. He realized that he hit the end of the road. Physically, he could not cross the Jabbok river where Esau with his 400 men was approaching to him. His fear of the consequence of his sin was so great that he was essentially frozen. God, who was merciful, saw Jacob and his struggle. The merciful God came to help Jacob. God let Jacob wrestle with God for his own sin. God, who was merciful, gave mercy, and Jacob finally received God’s full mercy. He had been released from his sin and from his own self filled with greed and earthly cunning mind. Yes, God carved out the new Jacob from the cunning and earthly Jacob who was certainly the best among the people around him including his own and extended family members. Surely, God’s chisel was sharper and stronger than the stubborn and earth-bound Jacob. Then what to say? Does God’s chisel become dull now? No. It is still sharp and strong to carve out one whom God wants from any sinners. His love toward us is even stronger than before to save us. His loving hand holding His chisel is raised high to carve out a new self in Christ Jesus. What we need is our infinite trust on Him, and to believe His unfathomable love, which never fails. Therefore, we have an assurance in God, who started the good work in our life, and will surely complete.
And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. (Philippians 1:6)
If we worry about our sin committed before and the consequences associated with our sin, then it is time to come to God, and put all our heart to God for his forgiveness. It might require a huge struggle and wrestling with our sins and God as Jacob did, but God will surely forgive us while completely taking out the root of our sin from our heart forever. When Jacob saw his brother Esau and wept together, we will see the moment that our sins are forgiven and weep together with those whom we sin against. Most of all, we will surely inherit His glorious promise and blessing initially given to Abraham, and as heirs of the God’s promise, we will inherit God’s kingdom. On earth, we surly experience His presence all the way of our lives, and His kingdom amongst us as God promised. Praise God! His mercy endures forever. Praise Him! Amen.
One day the Pharisees asked Jesus, “When will the Kingdom of God come?”
Jesus replied, “The Kingdom of God can’t be detected by visible signs. You won’t be able to say, ‘Here it is!’ or ‘It’s over there!’ For the Kingdom of God is already among you.” (Luke 17:20-21)
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)