Greetings in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Praying for you, your family, your community, and the rest of the world. Right now, the whole world is suffering because of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Let’s pray together to God, Our Ever-Loving Father, His mercy and protection on all, and God’s healing on those who are infected by the COVID-19. We all believe God’s grace and love rest on all who look upon Him every moment with faith in Him.
“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. (Isaiah 1:18)
Jacob left all alone in the camp. He sent his family and all his possessions to the other side of the Jabbok River. It was night. Jacob was still in extreme fear, and he had no courage to cross the river.
Jacob heard his brother Esau was on his way to meet Jacob — with an army of 400 men after receiving the message delivered by the messengers sent by Jacob. Jacob immediately knew the worst was coming that he feared most.
Jacob stole the blessing reserved for Esau by deceiving his father, Isaac. Then Esau was so angry and decided to kill Jacob. His mother Rebecca overheard what Esau said and sent Jacob to her brother Laban, who lived about 700 km away. It was a far, difficult, and dangerous journey at that time. Jacob, the mother’s boy enjoying all good things at home, had to sleep under the cold night sky, laying his head on a rock. It was the moment that Jacob truly realized what he had done. His cunning deception made him get what he wanted throughout his entire life since he was born. Jacob came to this work by grabbing his brother Esau’s ankle. Then Jacob had never given up on his ambition to grasp the blessing reserved for the firstborn.
Yes, Jacob achieved it, but the outcome was not what he wanted to have. He became a fugitive rather than being home as the firstborn son while enjoying all the firstborn son’s benefits, privileges, and blessings. Jacob thought that he was the most cunning person in his family, but he was not clever enough to see what would come next. How stupid Jacob was, who was greedy, driven, and cunning! Anyone like Jacob cannot inherit the kingdom of God, let alone this world.
I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. (1 Corinthians 15:50)
Jacob tasted the fear of Esau in the middle of the wilderness alone and lonely while hearing the fearful noise of howling of wild animals. God came and comforted him. Nobody was with Jacob to help or protect him, but God, who loved Jacob, was with Jacob. God also made His covenant with Jacob as He did with his grandfather, Abraham, and his father, Isaac. Indeed, Jacob got God’s eternal blessing that flows down to even us who are God’s children, which was not the earthly fame and power as Jacob always wanted to have.
God made His covenant with Jacob, but Jacob was still the same Jacob who was not qualified to bear God’s covenant. Jacob even could not understand what the covenant meant. He just thought God gave his earthly blessings for the rest of his life on earth. Jacob indeed prayed back to God for God’s protection and worldly rich. If God gave what he wanted, Jacob would worship and serve God, which was his prayer. Even so, God gave His strength, and with God’s strength, Jacob hurried to Laban’s house.
God had already prepared Laban’s heart ahead of Jacob’s arrival. Laban heartily received Jacob. But Laban quickly realized that Jacob had no place to go except himself. Laban then took advantage of Jacob. Laban switched Jacob’s bride on the wedding night, and Laban asked to work seven more years to get married to Rachel, his younger daughter, to whom Jacob thought he was getting married. Instead, Jacob married Leah. Jacob could not forget what Laban did.
Jacob, then, forgot what God did for him. Even so, God was with Jacob, and his life was getting better, although Laban kept taking advantage of Jacob. God kept blessed Jacob. Unfortunately, Jacob kept believing that he was smart and was in charge of his life. Jacob carefully made a long-term plan to revenge Laban. He secretly executed his plan without telling Laban. Jacob even falsely represented his plan to Laban. Laban felt that he was getting a great deal. Of course, it was a deception that Jacob cunningly crafted.
Laban was not an easy person either. He also had his own plan to maximize his gain by further taking advantage of Jacob. He protected his own wealth using his sons. However, Jacob outwitted Laban. Jacob’s plan was hugely successful. But it was not long before Laban’s sons noticed what Jacob did. Jacob realized that he no longer lived with Laban. However, he could not return to his home because of Esau waiting for Jacob to kill Jacob. Jacob realized that he had no place to go. He successfully made Laban pay back to please his eye, but it made him in deep trouble again. Jacob again became fearful and helpless under his extremely uncertain future.
As getting into deep trouble again, Jacob prayed to God. Deferring from the first encounter with God, for this time, Jacob went to God by himself. It was a huge spiritual growth in God. Indeed, it took two life chances before Jacob searched for God by himself – in fear of Esau and then in fear of Laban twenty years later. God had never wasted Jacob’s time. Jacob, who was stiff-necked before God, needed a long time before remembering and searching for God. Jacob indeed lived twenty years without talking and listening to God as prayer. Even so, God was always with Jacob because God loved Jacob.
God patiently waited for Jacob’s return as the father looking out the window to see his prodigal son’s return from the far country. Jacob returned, and God embraced Jacob. God did not ask why. God loved Jacob.
Upon Jacob’s prayer, God who knew the future gave His righteous answer to Jacob. But for Jacob, it was too difficult to follow. God asked Jacob to return home where Esau was waiting for Jacob’s return to kill Jacob. Jacob struggled a lot. He expected God would give something easier to do. It was not. Who would want to get killed? Jacob struggled, but for this time, Jacob decided to follow what God said. It was a truly leap-frogging spiritual growth in God.
Jacob, then, secretly departed with his family and all his possessions, which Jacob practically stole from Laban. However, Laban found Jacob fled with his family and his huge wealth three days later and made a hot pursuit. Out of his anger, Laban decided to kill Jacob. However, God, who loved Jacob, came to Laban’s dream and warned not to harm Jacob. Laban became fearful of God. When Laban caught up with Jacob, Laban only said to Jacob as follows:
“I could destroy you, but the God of your father appeared to me last night and warned me, ‘Leave Jacob alone!’ I can understand your feeling that you must go, and your intense longing for your father’s home. But why have you stolen my gods?”
Laban only could accuse Jacob of his stolen idols. Again, God protected Jacob. Rachel stole his father’s idols without telling Jacob. But God prevented Laban from finding the stolen idols. Thus, Laban gave an apology to Jacob. Of course, Jacob, who was still of the world, became extremely angry at Laban. Jacob felt God completely vindicated him because he was righteous. However, Jacob did not know the truth. If Jacob knew the truth, how would Jacob have had responded?
God gives a valuable lesson. On the earth, we are vindicated not because we are fully righteous but because God protects us. Who would know all the truths, including those happening behind the scene? No one. When we are vindicated, we better be humble and give thanks to God. We are not necessarily upright without any faults and wrongdoings. But God protected us with His almighty and merciful hand in His love.
All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ anything beyond this comes from the evil one. (Matthew 5:37)
Thus, we should not be overly confident about anything, but we should just tell what we know with yes or no. After all, we are all sinners and not perfect. Our excessive claim on our righteousness comes from our own earthly nature, as Jacob did. Jacob could have been gentle and even sympathetic to Laban instead of being extremely angry at Laban.
Be not overly righteous, and do not make yourself too wise. Why should you destroy yourself? (Ecclesiastes 7:16)
Please let’s not forget — God protected Jacob not because Jacob was righteous but because Jacob was His beloved child. Jacob, who did not know this fact, behaved badly. Again, more than yes or no came from the human’s evil heart rather than the loving heart as Jesus said,
“The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” (Mark 12:31)
The first commandment is to love God with all our hearts, minds, and souls, and the second is to love others as ourselves. Is there anyone who would be extremely angry with one who we truly love when the true love did wrong? Of course, not. We forgive and even encourage by showing our sympathy about what happened. Why? Because we love the person. Our God does the same to us.
Finally, Jacob still had to overcome the final fear. Esau was coming to him with an army of 400 men. Jacob again used his wisdom and divided what he had two groups while telling
“If Esau meets one group and attacks it, perhaps the other group can escape.”
However, Jacob immediately knew it would not work because Esau was coming with an army of 400 men. Esau could easily wipe out both groups, which unsettled him. He became very nervous. The situation was even direr than he thought.
Jacob struggled that night. Jacob thought that he was about to be killed by Esau rapidly approaching him with an army of 400 men. He came to God and prayed and poured out all his fears and concerns before God. Jacob authentically prayed with his contrite heart to God.
In his prayer, he did not simply ask for God’s protection. Jacob felt that this prayer was not enough. Jacob added God’s covenant in his prayer while affirming it with his mouth. It was the first time that Jacob firmly grasped God’s covenant in his prayer. Jacob realized that he had to believe in God’s covenant as he directly faced the danger of getting killed.
How much did God love Jacob? God patiently guided Jacob until Jacob firmly embraced God’s covenant. It was not all. Jacob trusts God’s covenant as the sole means to preserve his life before Esau’s threat. The only reason why he would survive from the hand of Esau was God’s covenant – to be the father of a great nation and the source of blessings for all nations. Yes, Jacob was getting closer and closer to whom God truly wanted.
Jacob then selected the best from his possessions to present to his brother Esau. Jacob did not send all at once but divided into three and assigned each to different servants. Then he told his servants,
“Go ahead of me with the animals, but keep some distance between the herds.”
Jacob did everything that he could. He prayed to God. In his prayer, he even reasoned with God by reminding God of His covenant. Jacob also sent three lavish gifts to Esau. Now he attempted to cross the Jabbok River with his family and the rest of his possessions, but he could not cross the river. Esau, the greatest fear in his life, was still with him.
Jacob’s heart told him that all three lavish gifts would not be enough to cool down Esau’s anger and soften Esau’s heart due to his sin. Jacob’s past sin never left Jacob alone, and even at this moment, his sin took Jacob hostage and prisoned him in the sin.
The past sin kept haunting Jacob, and our past sins do the same to us. Our sins never leave us and come back again and again to hunt us. Only is the way to get out of our terrible sins is through Jesus Christ and His forgiveness.
We need to authentically approach Him while truly beating our chest with repenting and contrite hearts. Our prayer should not be a simple prayer before meals or going to bed, but a serious spiritual struggle with God. Our sins always so tightly cling in us while putting us into fears and even telling “God will never forgive you. Look at the hideous sins that you committed secretly. Can you God forgive you?” Please remember Jesus paid all and won the victory already. We had to believe and trust Him for the rest of our lives while committing and recommitting ourselves daily to follow Jesus for the rest of our lives.
Let’s see what Jacob did. Jacob was alone on the other side of the Jabbok River. All that moment, nothing mattered to him, even his family and all that he had. What truly mattered was him and his sin.
Jacob was alone in his camp and prayed. It was the prayer that he had never done before. It was now a matter of life and death. Was there anything more important than one’s life on earth? Jacob prayed fervently and shouted to God for His help because His fear prevented Jacob from crossing the Jabbok River. Jacob prayed and prayed while focusing on God. All the hauling of wild animals and the wind-blowing noise over tree branches became getting fainting and fainting. Jacob was completely into his prayer. Jacob got really close to God.
Suddenly, a man came and wrestled with him. Jacob continued wrestling with the man until the dawn began to break. The man did everything he could, but it was no avail. When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket. Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!”
But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” Jacob could not lose the man because of his fear of Esau. He really needed the blessing that Esau would not kill him. The weight of the sin was that heavy to Jacob. Jacob prayed throughout the night while wrestling with God.
Was God truly not able to match with Jacob? Have we wrestled with a five-year-old son before? How long did the wrestling match last? It was as long as the five-year-old son could endure. Who did win the wrestling match? Then didn’t we declare the five-year-old son as the new champion?
“What is your name?” the man asked.
He replied, “Jacob.”
“Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the man told him. “From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.”
Yes, God declared the night’s wrestling match’s winner was Jacob and gave Israel the new title! As we did to the five-year-old son, God made Jacob proud in His love.
“Please tell me your name,” Jacob said.
“Why do you want to know my name?” the man replied. Then he blessed Jacob there.
God poured out His blessings as soon as Jacob was ready. God broke loose Jacob from the jail in which Jacob was trapped for the last twenty years. God set Jacob free. Jacob also got the mark from God, which made him limping for the rest of his life. It was also God’s love. Without the sin mark, Jacob would commit yet another sin that could be even more serious than the first one. God’s love was two folds: forgiveness and prevention. This perfect love of God came on Jacob. Throughout the night, Jacob fully experienced God and the seriousness of his past sin. Jacob had to keep fighting against his past sin with God. God, then, gave Jacob a victory. It was God’s love.
Following morning, 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. Jacob finally crossed the Jabbok River with the strength of God that directly came from God’s love and forgiveness.
Yes, Jacob was limping because of the injury to his hip. Again, it was the love mark of God to remind the seriousness of his sin. Jacob had never forgotten God’s love, forgiveness, and the severity of the sin that could have had led to death, but God took away the sin with His love. It is the love of God.
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)