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Jacob! What Really Happened At Jabbok?


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The situation was desperate. Jacob was more alone than he has felt for a long time. He last felt like this at Bethel where his bitter flight from home brought him, weary and in turmoil, facing an unknown and insecure future. Then he had met with the Sovereign God, who had first demonstrated his power to the young man. Then this powerful God had promised a lifelong commitment.

Gen 28: 13 – 15 "I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you."

It all seemed like as long time ago. In more recent years Jacob had grown to value the promise of Bethel and longed for it's fulfillment. Although he had grown enormously wealthy, he knew he had failed in the fundamental area of his relationship with God and with others. His family life was a mess. The rivalry between his first wife Leah and the woman he really loved, his second wife Rachel, had split the family down the middle. Rachel's boys Joseph and Benjamin were the apple of his eye. Leahs lads displayed a kind of thuggishness that he hated. Every day, the home rang with arguments and tension. Waves of sadness and weariness washed over him as he considered his family life. And in the midst of this, God had made it clear that he had an opportunity to begin again . But he would have to return to his childhood home and confront Esau, his cheated brother who had resolved to kill him if ever he set eyes on him again.

Esau! Jacob trembled at the thought. How he had stolen the birthright. How he had dared to deceive his father, who in the last moments of his life had desired to bless Esau. He had impersonated Esau and allowed the blind old man to bless him instead. Now surely he would pay. Now was the reckoning day for Jacob. One of his servants had come running with message "Esau is coming to meet you and four hundred men are with him". Surely that could mean only one thing. But Jacob at rock bottom, had recognised that he could not ignore God's demand, that he begin again with the first offended one. Without God, his life was worth nothing. He could not turn back now.

He had sent his wives, children, servants and possessions over the other side of a stream, and as darkness fell Jacob was left alone, before God. He fell to his knees before God and wept. "Why, God, why!" The prayer was wrung out of him by years of disappointment. As he looked back to what might have been, self pity rose like a cloying wave within him. Then wave after wave rose up and engulfed him and left him sobbing, gasping. Self pity gave way to resentment, and suddenly the frustration of years spilled out into attacking cries of blame levelled against God.

Where was the promised blessing?

Where was the fulfilment of promise given that day so long ago?

Dully, through the anger and the choking, he became aware of the presence of God, like a mighty warrior standing in front of him. He felt himself hauled roughly to his feet.

"You let me down." "What happened to the blessing you promised?" "You lied to me."

Suddenly he felt himself in a vice like grip, he fought, lashed, struggled. It was hopeless. Then he broke free, turned and demanded once again. Again the warrior was behind him, cutting off his escape.

Then he heard God speak "How about the deceit of your father. Can I bless that?". The words came in like a hammer blow. Before he had time for a answer, there was more. "Think of the lies to Laban!". Then "How have you dared to treat Leah as you have?". On and on the attack went, until Jacob began to see his life as God saw it. He began to see the frustrated hopes, the longed for blessing, with God's frustration and longing. "You tricked Esau.", then "Simeon is a ruined child because of you." Within the space of an hour Jacob's life had been exposed in all it's failure. God confronted him with who and what he was. The self pity was gone, the resentment drained away.

The sky was pitch black, but still the warrior held him fast. "So you see, you disqualified yourself from the blessing". And he knew God was right, he had no rights to God's love or blessing any more. And with that knowledge came a deep sickness and dread into the pit of his stomach. Was there no way back to Bethel - the place of promise. Suddenly he was released. Weakened his legs trembled, then gave way as he slumped to the ground.

Looking up, all could see was the back of the warrior walking away in the distance. Gasping, Jacob struggled to his feet, wincing at the pain in his chest and the sickness in his soul. "No, wait" His voice sounded thin and weak in the night air. He stumbled then ran after the striding God of war. "Don't leave me, please". He grabbed the warrior by the waist and suddenly he was crying like a child. The man twisted and shook him off like a leaf. Desperation overtook Jacob and he found a strength that came from he knew not where. He rose to his feet again, the promise from so long ago rang in his ears "I will bless you".

With new found power, he got his forearm around the neck of his opponent and locked it tight. So tight, he heard the creak of his own bones. The warrior struggled. "Bless me, please, you promised!" The warrior twisted again. Jacob dangled like a Christmas decoration. Again the warrior shook, but Jacob tightened his grip until it seemed his arm must break. "Bless me!" he shouted. All reason was gone, only the phrase and his excruciating grip on God seemed to have any meaning now. "Bless me!". It seemed to go on for hours. The request was all that mattered. Jacob was ready for anything provided the blessing came. Family faces, possessions and places were a blur behind the crystal clear blessing promised from God. And that now was all that mattered.

Through the semi-conscious fire of desire that burned in him, he felt a stab of pain in the pelvis. He felt something from God destroy something within him. Part of him was dead. He would never be the same again.

Let me go, God said, but still Jacob refused, "Not until you have blessed me. Not until I know that there is hope again for the future."

So just as daybreak was turning the sky pink, God again blessed Jacob. And then he told him that from that day on he was to be called ISRAEL- because he had struggled with God and had overcome.

And Israel began that day, to look forward again to Gods fulfilment of all that he had promised in his life. He knew Gods faithfulness, as later that day, he was reconciled to Esau for the first time for years.

God has made all kind of promises to you - and maybe like Jacob, the years don't seem to have matched your early hopes.

Maybe the names you gave to your children, are not matched by their lifestyles. Maybe what you wanted to do for God has not come to pass.

Colossians 1:22-23

But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.

Don't move from the hope that he gave you long ago. Continue to trust him. Don't give up, he makes things new, it is never too late with him. However complicated the situation seems to be, however irrecoverable and hopeless it all looks, God still has his purposes, which he is determined to achieve, for our good and his glory.

Colossians 1:21-29

21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behaviour.

22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

24 Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.

25 I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness, the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints.

27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

28 We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.

29 To this end I labour, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.

Gen 32:22-32

22 That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two maidservants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok.

23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions.

24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.

25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob's hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man.

26 Then the man said, "Let me go, for it is daybreak." But Jacob replied, "I will not let you go unless you bless me."

27 The man asked him, "What is your name?" "Jacob," he answered.

28 Then the man said, "Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome."

29 Jacob said, "Please tell me your name." But he replied, "Why do you ask my name?" Then he blessed him there.

30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, "It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared."

31 The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip.

32 Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip, because the socket of Jacob's hip was touched near the tendon.
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