[b]Jacob - A Broken Man[/b]
[i]by Zac Poonen[/i]
Jacob is a classic example of a man whom God succeeded in breaking. He had two meetings with God - one at Bethel (Genesis 28) and the other at Peniel (Genesis 32). Bethel means "the house of God" (a type of the church) and Peniel means "the face of God". We all need to go beyond entering the church of God to seeing the face of God. At Bethel, it says that "the sun set" (Gen.28:11) - only a geographical fact, but also indicative of what was happening in Jacob's life, because the next 20 years were a period of deep darkness for him. Then at Peniel, it says, "the sun rose" (Gen.32:31) - again a geographical fact, but Jacob too had finally come into God's light. Many believers who have walked with God through the ages, have had two meetings with God. The first was when they entered the house of God (the church) through being born again. The second was when they met God face to face and were filled with the Holy Spirit and their lives were transformed.
At Bethel, Jacob dreamt of a ladder set on earth whose top reached up to heaven. In John 1:51, Jesus interpreted that ladder as referring to Himself - the Way from earth to Heaven. So what Jacob saw was actually a prophetic vision of Jesus opening up the way to Heaven. The Lord then promised Jacob many things in that dream. But Jacob was so earthly minded that he could only think of earthly security, physical health and financial prosperity. And so he said to God "Lord if You take care of me on this trip and give me food and clothing and bring me safely home, I'll give you 10% of my earnings." Jacob treated God like a watchman who was to take care of him. And if God did that, Jacob would pay Him His wages - 10% of his income!! That's exactly how many believers treat God today too. They desire only material comforts from Him. And if the Lord gives them these things, they attend the church- meetings faithfully and give some of their money for the Lord's work. Such believers are actually doing business with God, seeking their own comfort and profit, just like any worldly businessman. Jacob spent 20 years of his life grabbing earthly things. He tried to grab a wife from Laban's family and got two! He didn't want two, but he got two anyway!! Then he cheated Laban and grabbed his sheep and thus became a very rich man. He had gone penniless to Laban's house, but ended up as a very rich man there. No doubt he attributed his prosperity to God's blessing - as many believers do today!!
But what is the real mark of "God's blessing"? Is it prosperity? No. It is to be transformed into the likeness of Christ. What's the use having a good job, a good house and many comforts, if your life is still useless to God and to man? But God hadn't finished dealing with Jacob. He met him a second time at Peniel. Many of you need a second encounter with God - an encounter that will take place when you hit rock bottom in your life - and when God, instead of judging you and sending you to Hell, fills you with His Holy Spirit! We read in Genesis 32 that Jacob was scared because he had just heard that Esau (whom he had cheated of the birthright 20 years earlier) was coming out to meet him. He was sure that Esau would kill him. It's good for us when God allows us to face certain situations that scare us. Because, when we are afraid of what men might do to us, we will draw near to God. At Peniel, Jacob was alone (Gen.32:24). God has to get us alone first of all before he can meet with us. That's why Satan has ordered life in today's world to be so rushed and busy (especially in the cities) that even many believers have hardly any time to be alone with God. Their lives have become so busy, that matters of low priority (like God) have been crowded out of their timetable altogether! This is the tragedy in today's Christendom.
God wrestled with Jacob for many long hours that night, but Jacob would not yield. That wrestling was symbolic of what had been going on in Jacob's life for the previous 20 years. And when God saw that Jacob was stubborn, He finally dislocated his hip from its socket. Jacob was only about 40 years old at that time, and he was a very strong man. His grandfather Abraham had lived up to 175. So, we could say that Jacob was in the prime of his youth, with 75% of his life still ahead of him. To get a dislocated hip at such a young age would have been the last thing he wanted - for it would have shattered all the plans he had made for his future. To understand it in today's terms, it would be like a young man of 20 getting his hip dislocated, and having to use a crutch for ever after!! That can be a shattering experience. Jacob would never be able to walk without a crutch for the rest of his life. God had tried in so many ways to break Jacob but He had not succeeded; and so He finally gave him a permanent physical disability. That succeeded in breaking Jacob finally. God may do the same for us, if He finds that we need it. He disciplines only those He loves, in order to save them from some greater catastrophe. After God had dislocated Jacob's hip, He told him, "All right, I have done My job. Now let Me go. You never wanted Me. You only wanted women and money." But Jacob wouldn't let go of God now. He had been changed - at last! This man who had spent his life grabbing women and property now grabs hold of God and says " I won't let You go unless You bless me". What a great work was accomplished in Jacob's heart when his hip was dislocated, so that He now desired only God.
Like the old saying goes, "When you have nothing left but God, you will find that God is more than enough"!! That's true. Now God asks him, "What is your name?" And Jacob replies, "My name is Jacob". "Jacob" means deceiver. Jacob admits at last that he is a deceiver. Are you perhaps a deceiver too? Have you been fooling others around you that you are a spiritual man? If so, will you be honest with God today and tell Him that you're a hypocrite? Many years earlier, when his blind father Isaac had asked him his name, Jacob had pretended that he was Esau. But now he was honest. And the Lord said to him immediately, "You won't be a deceiver (Jacob) any more" (v.28). Isn't that an encouraging word? Did you hear it? "You won't be a deceiver any more" Hallelujah! And then God told Jacob, "Your name will henceforth be Israel (prince of God), for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed". What a transformation - from a deceiver to a prince of God. And it was all accomplished only when Jacob was broken. That's our calling too - to be seated with Christ on His throne, as a prince, exercising spiritual authority over Satan, and releasing men and women from Satan's bondage. As members of the body of Christ, we are to have power with God and with men and prevail. We're called to be a blessing to all men. But that can happen only when we're broken. And we can be broken only when we're honest with God about out hypocrisy and our deception.
Many centuries later, when a descendant of Jacob, Nathaniel, met Jesus, the Lord said of Him, "Here is a true Israel in whom there is no Jacob (no guile)" (John 1:47)!! He then reminded Nathaniel of the ladder that Jacob had seen at Bethel and told him that he too was an "Israel" - not because Nathaniel was perfect but because there was no guile or deception in him. It says here that Jacob named that place "Peniel" for he had finally seen the face of God. At Bethel, he had been taken up with the house of God. You may have been in the house of God for many years and yet you may not have seen the face of God. Then you need a second encounter with God - where you see His face. Jacob says in excitement, "Now I see Your face O God and my life is preserved."
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon