GRACE BIBLE CHURCH
Robert R. McLaughlin Bible Ministries
The Tree of Life is a weekly teaching summary.
The Tree of Life for week ending 09/22/02.
It is one thing to step up to new spiritual level - it is quite another to maintain it. Gen 32.
Genesis 32:24-29 Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. And when He saw that he had not prevailed against him, He touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob's thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with Him. Then He said, "Let me go, for the dawn is breaking." But he said, "I will not let you go unless you bless me." So He said to him, "What is your name?" And he said, "Jacob." And He said, "Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed." Then Jacob asked Him and said, "Please tell me your name." But He said, "Why is it that you ask my name?" And He blessed him there.
In GEN 32:30 Jacob is well aware of who has wrestled with him: "So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, 'I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved.'" Jacob finally realized that he was just another member of the human race, hopeless and helpless without the Lord. This was the beginning of his rebound and his reversion recovery. He recognized that this was none other than God manifest in the flesh, a pre-incarnate manifestation of the Lord Jesus Christ.
GEN 32:31 Now the sun rose upon him just as he crossed over Penuel, and he was limping on his thigh.
"The sun rose upon him"-this was the beginning of a great change in Jacob's life. He will now get serious with His relationship with God, and he is now on the way to spiritual maturity where he will be thoroughly tested.
GEN 32:32 Therefore, to this day the sons of Israel do not eat the sinew of the hip which is on the socket of the thigh[of the animals they use for food], because He touched the socket of Jacob's thigh in the sinew of the hip.
With his physical infirmity, Jacob was a stronger man than he had ever been before, and he was better able to meet Esau as a lame man than he had been before in the pride of his strength; this time he had been given strength of soul, the highest form of strength.
Some believers, when they reach a new spiritual stage of growth or attainment, maintain it and are blessed by it throughout their lifetime. Others, after tasting a great spiritual victory or experience, actually withdraw from it. After doing so, they can never truly enjoy life in the devil's world, no matter how hard they try, HEB 10:35-39, "Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. For yet in a very little while, He who is coming will come, and will not delay. But My righteous one shall live by faith; and if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him. But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul." After this tremendous experience, Jacob immediately shrunk back from the glorious level to which the Lord had lifted him, and returned to the garbage pit of the self-life. This decline is indicated by the retention of the name Jacob in GEN 33:1 where we read, "Then Jacob..."
In GEN 32:28 we are told that the Lord said, "Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel"; in GEN 33:1 we would expect to see his new name, the new title, Israel, a prince with God. However, he could not be called Israel because he had immediately reverted back to the life of the old Jacob. He went right back from the life of clinging to the Lord, to the cringing, crafty, scheming life which he had been leading all too long. The time will come when Israel will become his commonly used name, but he has not yet left behind Jacob, the swindler and deceiver.
God is very compassionate toward us, and if we do not learn His lessons at once, He will present them to us again and again, in one form or another, until at last His objective is accomplished in our lives. The ultimate objective that He will accomplish is found in ROM 8:29, "For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren."
We see three major failures of Jacob in Gen 33:
1. The first failure was in his manner of meeting Esau, verses 1-11.
2. The second failure was in the deceit to which he resorted, to free himself from Esau's company, when Esau offered him the protection of his armed men, verses 12-16.
3. The third failure was in settling at Shechem, a place he will greatly regret and which symbolizes going only "half-way" with the Lord.
After wrestling all night, the first thing Jacob sees is Esau coming with 400 men. Jacob still assumes that Esau is coming to kill him. Life in this world is filled with abrupt and sudden changes; many times we find that a great blessing is sent to prepare us for a great trial. God prepares us and then tests His preparation in us. Do not be surprised or discouraged if a time of testing or trial follows a time of fantastic and unusual blessing.
King Asa said to the Jews in 2CH 14:7, "'Let us build these cities and surround them with walls and towers, gates and bars. The land is still ours, because we have sought the Lord our God; we have sought Him, and He has given us rest on every side.' So they built and prospered."
When we have a time of rest and prosperity, it is still a time to build. We should never let down our guard after a spiritual victory or during a time of prosperity. In fact, a believer is most vulnerable to failure after experiencing victory. We should be surprised if, after a great spiritual victory, our local assembly does not come under satanic attack. In JOH 15:20, our Lord said, "Remember the word that I said to you, a slave is not greater than his master. If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also."
Many believers fall away from doctrinal ministries because they can not handle the persecution and pressure that will inevitably come with Bible doctrine. As MAT 13:21 says, "'They have no firm root in themselves, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately they fall away.'"
In JOH 16:1-2 the Lord tells us where this persecution will come from: "These things I have spoken to you, that you may be kept from stumbling. They will make you outcasts from the synagogue ["ex-communicate" you from their church], but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God."
The persecution of faithful grace believers comes from religion, legalism, self-righteousness, current-day Phariseeism, and hypocrites and phonies. Our Lord continues in JOH 16:3, "And these things they will do, because they have not known the Father, or Me." However, we are told to welcome this persecution as people testing, and we are to operate in the Royal Family Honor Code of ROM 12:14, "Bless those who persecute you; bless and curse not"; and 1CO 4:12, "When we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure." Remember the reason for persecution, and you will know whether you or your ministry is really being persecuted! The Apostle Paul reminds us in GAL 4:29, "But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also."
Those who live according to the Spirit will be persecuted by those living by the flesh. A goal of every local assembly should be to hear what the Apostle Paul said in 2TH 1:4, "Therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure." Paul also warns us in 2Ti 3:12, "And indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted."
GEN 33:1-2 Then Jacob lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, Esau was coming, and four hundred men with him. So he divided the children among Leah and Rachel and the two maids. And he put the maids and their children in front, and Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph last.
Jacob arranged his caravan so that, in case of an attack, those whom he loved the most would have the best chance of escape.
GEN 33:3 But he himself passed on ahead of them and bowed down to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother.
The act of bowing down to the ground was an honor and a tribute paid toward a king or someone highly respected in the ancient world. Here Jacob is compromising with the flesh, living in fear of what a man can do to him. We realize as we study this passage how frail our human life is, PSA 39:5, "Behold, Thou hast made my days as handbreadths, and my lifetime as nothing in Thy sight. Surely every man at his best is a mere breath. Selah."
The Hebrew word for "handbreadths" is "tephach," which means a span or a width of the hand-a wave of the hand, and our life is over. Our life is fragile, frail, fleeting, flimsy, and feeble, PSA 39:6, "Surely every man walks about as a phantom; surely they make an uproar for nothing; he amasses riches, and does not know who will gather them."The previous verse, PSA 39:4, in one translation reads, "Lord, help me to realize how brief my time on earth will be. Help me to know that I am here for but a moment more."
In PSA 56:1-4, a poem written by David, we read, "Be gracious to me, O God, for man has trampled upon me; fighting all day long he oppresses me. My foes have trampled upon me all day long, for they are many who fight proudly against me. When I am afraid, I will put my trust in Thee. In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me?"
Moses writes in PSA 90:1-6, "Lord, Thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were born, or Thou didst give birth to the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God. Thou dost turn man back into dust, and dost say, "Return, O children of men." For a thousand years in Thy sight are like yesterday when it passes by, or as a watch in the night. Thou hast swept them away like a flood, they fall asleep; in the morning they are like grass which sprouts anew. In the morning it flourishes, and sprouts anew; toward evening it fades, and withers away."
He is describing human life and how frail it really is.
PSA 90:10-12 As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, or if due to strength, eighty years, yet their pride is but labor and sorrow; for soon it is gone and we fly away. Who understands the power of Thine anger, and Thy fury, according to the fear that is due Thee? So teach us to number our days, that we may present to Thee a heart of wisdom [doctrine].
MAL 3:16 shows us what it means to respect and honor Bible doctrine: "Then those who respected the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord gave attention and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who respect the Lord and who esteem His name." Many believers do not realize how much they please God, simply because of their faithfulness to Bible class. We tend to get too subjective and sin conscious to see this principle, and we form a low opinion of our relationship with God. However, there is a book in heaven with a record of attendance in Bible class, of our daily perception, metabolization, and application of Bible doctrine. For most, it is face-to-face teaching, but for others who do not have that opportunity, it can be any other form of teaching that is available. Whatever it is, if it is daily and consistent, it pleases God! The lesson to be learned is that our life is so fragile, yet the average person lives as though his future on this earth is eternal.
In Gen 33 Jacob is living in fear of a man who is not even born again. He has forgotten the tremendous power and omnipotence of God. Back in GEN 32:26 he had said to the Lord, "I will not let you go unless you bless me." In verse 29, the Lord does bless Jacob.
Then Jacob says in GEN 32:30, "I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved." Next, he forgets he has seen God and been blessed, and now lives in fear of man once again. There are two ways of meeting our personal troubles-through the means of the flesh or the means of the Spirit. The flesh compromises and anticipates terror, prepares against troubles with fear, many times even prays but in a panic, and then cringes before trouble as Jacob did, who bowed himself to the ground seven times as he approached his brother.
The way of the Spirit is faith-rest and doctrinal application. Some of you may be dreading a meeting with your Esau tomorrow, your most difficult problem. Are you worrying, planning, scheming, and conniving, as Jacob did? Listen to a far greater way from God the Holy Spirit. Do not lift up your eyes and look for the Esau's of life. Those who look for troubles will find it. The Lord said in MAT 6:34, "Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Learn to look at the solution and not the problem. Those who have seen the face of God (which we can through the intake of doctrine as born-again believers in the Church-age) need not fear the face of man. It is with us as it was with Jacob; to have power with God is to have power over all the evils that threaten us.
GEN 33:4-8 Then Esau ran to meet him and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept. And he [Esau] lifted his eyes and saw the women and the children, and said, "Who are these with you?" So he [Jacob] said, "The children whom God has graciously given your servant." Then the maids [concubines] came near with their children, and they bowed down. And Leah likewise came near with her children, and they bowed down; and afterward Joseph came near with Rachel, and they bowed down. And he [Esau] said, "What do you mean by all this company which I have met?" And he [Jacob] said, "To find favor in the sight of my lord."
Esau desired to know the meaning of the herds of cattle that had been sent to him earlier as a present. Jacob's answer is quite frank and shows us where he has placed his confidence; he was de-pending on his presents, or bribes, rather than God, to pacify or win his brother over. Here is a case in which an unbeliever acts with more morals and values than a believer, GEN 33:9, "But Esau said, 'I have plenty, my brother; let what you have be your own.'" The anticipation and the coming problem turned out to be much less than what Jacob expected. Notice the plain implication of Esau's words-we are shown the futility and needlessness of Jacob's deceitfulness and scheming. Jacob had devoted much of his time and energy to the problem of how he could best soothe the anger of his brother, whom he feared. However, his thoughts, schemes, and plans all accomplished nothing. It was all time and labor lost. He had wasted effort in unprofitable labor, as so many believers do while they try to get ahead. God had taken care of Esau and protected Jacob, just as He did when He protected Jacob from his deceitful uncle Laban. How much better it would have been had Jacob just been "still" and trusted in the Lord to act on his behalf. Not only are all our human viewpoint, human planning, and energy of the flesh dishonoring to God, but they are uncalled for and unnecessary.
There comes a time when we must stop trying to grab the wheel and let God drive.
For a more detailed study, order last week's tapes, IA11-209 to IA11-211.