Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Humanity in Sin Part 39: Jacob Prepared to Meet Esau

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev.Dr.Stephen Tong on 13th January 2007 in Newton Life. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Passage: Genesis 32

We might have made some mistakes in the past which have present consequences and as we grow older these things still follow us. So we have difficulties facing the people we have offended. Jacob was afraid to meet Esau and had carried this burden for decades. Finally it was time to go home and he had no peace to meet his brother. He had a big family and had acquired a lot of property now but they could be all gone in a day if his brother wanted to take revenge. It is diffcult to make good friends and it is even more difficult to get rid of our enemies. We should try our best to live at peace with all people and not make enemies through our self-centeredness.

Jacob sent messengers to Esau and was told that Esau was bringing 400 people to come and meet him. Jacob was very frightened. Why would Esau need 400 people to welcome him? Jacob deceived Esau before, so could not believe that Esau meant well. If we always use craftiness to deal with others, we will keep thinking that others are also crafty like us. Our inability to trust anyone is itself it is a punishment for us. Was Esau as bad as Jacob thought? We tend to think of others badly but always try to justify ourselves. Actually it was not the case. Later on Esau embraced Jacob. They were brothers after all.

That night a person came and wrestled with Jacob. Jacob used all his strength to fight. He could not overcome Jacob so he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip. Since then Jacob limped. The person was a Messenger of God. But why couldn’t he defeat Jacob? It was not that he could not overcome Jacob, but he limited his physical strength to that which was comparable to a man’s.

Jacob feared God and had always longed after God’s blessings in his life. But he was also a deceiver. So there was irony in his life. God was pleased with some aspects of his life, and was displeased with other aspects of his life. Jacob knew it was important to have God’s blessings but in he often relied on himself in worldly matters.

Many Christians are willing to listen to the Word of God and receive heaven’s blessings, and this is good. But practically, we might use many self-centered methods to achieve our ends. Would God allow a spiritual person to continue in decadent life? Many unbelievers live better ethical lives than Christians who love to read God’s Word and are active in church ministry. Jacob is a special character than reflects many of us.

God might allow believers to sin for a time and might seemingly close His eyes. But when His time comes, His judgement would come first upon His household. The principle of justice will go to those He loves first. Do not think we can fool around with God and use our own methods to achieve personal gain. Do not think we can sin all we want and God still takes care of us. Like the Israelites, we might think that for the sake of His own name, He will never forsake His people. But God will not consider these as obstacles when He wants to carry our His principle of justice and chastise His children.

Like Jacob, He just need to touch our lives once and we will be limped forever. But it is better to fall into the hands of God and in the hands of our enemy. When God touches us, it is the end of all our self-deception. We are to come down from our throne of pride and correct wrong concept of God.

Jacob was already limping, but with his hand he still grabbed hold of the Messenger. He would not let go. He asked for His blessings. The Messenger asked for Jacob’s name, and changed it to Israel. It means the Crown Prince of God. But he was now crippled for life. His strength had been taken away. From that day onwards, Jacob no longer walked like he did in the past. He could no longer boast. He can no longer rely on himself.

Before the hand of God touches a person, his glory is false and his success is temporal. But when God chastise us, rebuild us and work on us, our spiritual life will have a true awakening. Now that he was limped, he could not escape from Esau anymore. He could no longer on his own experience and strength. He could only rely on God.

Often we cannot be blessings to others because we ourselves do not think we need God and are using our own wisdom to walk our lives, therefore we do not have God’s blessings to overflow to others. Only when we lose the reasons to boast of ourselves, the sun will arise in our lives. After this event, Jacob went his way across the river, limping, to meet Esau his brother.


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