Grace Bible Church

Robert R. McLaughlin Bible Ministries

The Tree of Life is a weekly teaching summary.
The Tree of Life for week ending 09/08/02.
God Blessed Jacob in the Very Place that He Disabled Him.

Genesis 32:24-25 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.

We need to note several principles as we continue studying this passage:

1. Jacob is now brought to the point where his human devices and human resourcefulness can no longer serve him purpose. Schemes that he always relied on are now proven inadequate.

2. The Lord touched the hollow of his thigh because He sees whatever is standing in a believer’s way and preventing him from receiving His highest and best, and He will weaken it and break it down. It may be money, a business, a relationship, or a friendship. If it is hindering your spiritual growth, it will not be spared; God will touch it.

3. For Jacob, it was the socket of his thigh, an apparently small thing; however, its influence in making Jacob strong in his resistance of God’s blessing was the reason that God condemned it. Many times it is the little things in our life that creep up on us and get the best of us. Every person has a sin that so easily entangles him, HEB 12:1.

Worry a little every day and in a lifetime you can lose several years. It is often the little things, positive or negative, that matter in life. In Sol 2:15 we read, Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that are ruining the vineyards, while our vineyards are in blossom.

As ECC 10:1 says, Dead flies make a perfumer’s oil stink, so a little foolishness is weightier than wisdom and honor.

This is why we need to ask God to show us what the “socket of our thigh” is, the obstacle that gets in the way of our relationship with Him.
In GEN 32:25, When He [the Lord Jesus Christ] 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.

This seemed to be a defeat for Jacob, but it was not. At times it appears to the world that we have been defeated when in reality we have been promoted. We may not obtain the very thing we seek at the time, but the spiritual strength we acquire in the effort is infinitely more important than the desired goal itself.
Jacob’s life had been the struggle of a clever, strong, self-confi-dent, self-sufficient man using his strength and wit to overcome others. However, in this wrestling match, God desired to break his strength and wisdom in order to bestow upon him divine strength and divine wisdom. For many believers, there are times when God intervenes between us and a greatly desired goal that we have been pursuing and counting on as we throw all our human effort into it. In fact, the expectation of accomplishing these goals or possessions have determined our decisions and dramatically shaped our life. It may even seem that God has been encouraging us to achieve these goals. Then, like Jacob, when it is nearly within reach, and when we are ready to seize the opportunity, we are seized by a strong and irresistible hand, the hand of God. Why? It is often God’s way of bringing us to a state of mind in which we can receive it as His gift, totally by His power and His grace, 1CO 1:29 “That no man should boast before God”

JER 9:23-24, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,’ declares the Lord.”

Many believers desire to attain their escrow blessings for time and eternity, and they are dedicated to doing so-. Unfortunately, there is a tendency to assume that the accomplishment depends solely on them, and therefore God intervenes. They end up with unexpected obstacles in their path, obstacles that even seem to come from God. Then the questioning comes in: “Does God really want me to do this or accomplish this?” “Am I in the right place for my life?” In many cases it is simply that He does not want any help from us whatsoever, and He desires it to be performed only by His might and power! We need to learn the lesson of ZEC 4:6, Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts.

Many believers forget that the possibility of them receiving God’s highest and best, which they long for, is not decided by their readiness to pass through any ordeal, spiritual or physical, that may be required, but by God’s power and willingness to give it. They may not do this willingly or knowingly; it is something very subtle that the believer can fall into without even recognizing it. In the life of such believers there must come a time when their own energy seems to collapse and they are now in a hopeless, helpless situation, forced to rely completely on the intervention and power of God. In that hour the believer learns the most valuable truth he can learn in his spiritual walk, ROM 9:16, “So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.”

We all need to ask God to show us the “socket of our thigh” that gets in the way of our relationship with Him. It may even be your good decisions that cause you to become proud and condemn others for not doing the same. It may be your own personal achievements that hinder your relationship with God, JER 48:7, “For because of your trust in your own achievements and treasures, even you yourself will be captured.” Jacob did not receive the specific thing that he requested in GEN 32:11 when he prayed, “Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother”; instead, he received something greater, a change of nature and spiritual strength. Jacob’s nature was changed because he could no longer depend upon human strength but was forced to either believe God or perish. It is the graciousness of God that answers our desires rather than our requests.

In GEN 17:18, Abraham prayed that Ishmael, the son of Hagar, might be his heir. God said “No” to Ishmael becoming his heir; however, He said “Yes” to the desire behind it, for He eventually gave him Isaac.

In GEN 18:23-33, Abraham prayed that God would spare Sodom because Lot and his daughters were there. The petition to spare Sodom was answered “No”; the desire that Lot and his two daughters be preserved was answered “Yes.” What Jacob sought was deliverance from his brother Esau; what he received was deliverance from himself! It was not that Jacob wrestled with the Lord but that the Lord wrestled with him to reveal to Jacob his weakness, and to compel him to stop relying on his own strength, and then learn to cling to Him with the -grip of a lame man who dare not let go, lest he fall.

In Genesis 32:24-25“>GEN 32:24-25, when the Lord saw that He could not make Jacob give up, He touched the socket of his hip and dislo-cated it. With his hip out of joint, Jacob could not effectively wrestle any more; he could only prevent his adversary from escaping. The word “touch” shows us how quickly and how easily God could have brought an end to Jacob’s resistance and reduce him to helplessness; all He had to do was to “touch the hollow of his thigh,” and in a moment Jacob’s power to continue wrestling was gone. Jacob was now brought to the end of his own resources. One touch from the hand of God and he was rendered utterly powerless.

One of the principal lessons that God desires to teach us through testing and trial is to show us our own powerlessness and teach us to have no confidence in the flesh.
1. In Jacob choosing and arranging the present for his brother Esau, we see the character and activities of the flesh deceiving and scheming.

2. In Jacob’s experience with this Wrestler we are shown the worthlessness and helplessness of the flesh.

3. We also learn from this passage that our nothingness can be discovered only we are alone with God.

4. The fact that the wrestling match lasted all night is an illustration of the patience that God exercises toward us and the slowness of His process in dealing with our human nature experientially.

5. In the touching of the socket of Jacob’s thigh we see the method God pursues with us, which is to bring us to a vivid realization of our utter helplessness.

6. Many times that which hinders us in our spiritual growth is not so much our weakness but our natural strength.

7. The laming of Jacob’s thigh represents the weakening of the strong side of the old sin nature, which hinders our relationship with God.

8. The failure of his natural power is the turning point in the wrestling match, symbolizing the transition in Jacob’s life and character from reliance upon self to reliance upon God, his divine Antagonist.

9. If we are to become like Jacob, who became “Israel,” a prince with God, dependence on self must be broken and lamed in order that we may grasp the hand that smites us and find divine power for our weakness.

10. At first Jacob held his own; the Lord saw that “He had not prevailed against him.” Therefore, at times, the Lord must take some severe measures that will give us no alternative but to give in.

The strength that years ago rolled the stone from the well for Rachel’s sheep was still vigorous. We do the same in our own way; we resist the love of God, follow our own plans, obey our own will, and do things our way. We are “strong” in our own self-sufficiency. As the Lord said to Peter in JOH 21:18, “‘Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself, and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go.'”

The confrontation between the Lord and Jacob continues in GEN 32:26, “Then he [the Lord] said, ‘Let me go, for the dawn is breaking,’ but he [Jacob] said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.'” Jacob refused to let go because by this time he realized this was not an ordinary man with whom he was wrestling. There was something very different and powerful about that touch that dislocated his hip. This Person had the power to bless him, and Jacob wanted that blessing. Jacob is just holding on to Him; he is no longer fighting. Jacob discovered that we do not get anywhere with God by struggling and resisting. The only way is to let go of our human power and strength and learn to rely on His power and strength. God had to cripple Jacob in order to get his attention, and Jacob refused to give in at first, which was typical of his nature.

With His superior strength, at the right time, God pinned him down in a moment. Jacob hangs on tenaciously, and when the Lord says “Let Me go,” Jacob replies, “No, I want Your blessing.” He is clinging to God now. The struggling and striving are over, and from here on Jacob is going to manifest a spiritual nature that is dependent upon God. Jacob won, but he got the victory, not by fighting and struggling, but by surrendering and giving in to the Spirit of God. What looks like defeat to the world can be an incredible blessing from God, PSA 119:71, “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Thy statutes.” What a great picture of God’s faithfulness we have here in Jacob, and as we know, “these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction,” 1CO 10:11. It was not until “the hollow of his thigh” was touched, and he was totally weakened, that his relationship with God dramatically improved and his attitude became serious.

It is not until we fully realize our own helplessness and nothingness that we are driven to cling to God and truly seek His blessing; not only did Jacob say, “I will not let You go,” but continues, “except You bless me.” This is one of the most notable combats recorded in Scripture. God is often compelled to steer us into a situation of absolute helplessness before our faith will take hold of His strength. God graciously deals with His children according to their need, circumstance, and nature, as He does with Jacob in GEN 32:26-27, “Then He [the Lord] said, ‘Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.’ But he [Jacob] 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.'”

Note that God blessed Jacob in the very place that He disabled him. God’s plan calls for the use of God’s power alone; God can only be glorified by power equivalent to His own power, and never by human or angelic power. Failure to utilize divine power means accepting the cheap substitute of human power and dynamics, the wood, hay, and straw, which are burned at the judgment seat of Christ. God blessed Jacob by making him weak and dependent upon the power of God. Neither human failure nor human success are an issue; the issue is: whose power are you using? This is one of the reasons why the Lord said what He did to Gideon in JUD 7:2. Gideon was already outnumbered 135,000 to 32,000, yet the Lord said to him, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to give Midian into their hands, lest Israel become boastful, saying, ‘My own power has delivered me.'”

 When a believer serves God, his service is not human power striving to please God or “pay Him back,” 1PE 4:11,“Whoever serves, let him do so as by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.”

Only works performed as the result of God’s power glorify Him. Bible doctrine metabolized is the means of receiving this divine power. “Chokmah” (metabolized doctrine) is speaking in PRO 8:14, “Counsel is mine and sound wisdom; I am understanding, power is mine.” There is a well-organized satanic attack against sound Bible teaching; Satan’s goal is to mislead us to produce human good (creature credit) and blind us from the power of God. He loves to take a believer away from doctrine because as PRO 24:5 says, “A wise man is strong, and a man of knowledge increases power.”

This was even true of our Lord in His humanity, Luk 2:40, “And the child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.”

Wisdom and power are synonymous, and both come from the scriptures ISA 40:29. Satan, as the god of this world, has designed the world system to draw any life, motivation, or momentum out of any positive believer. We need this divine power to be witnesses and ambassadors for the Lord Jesus Christ. A witness is one who gives confirmation to something and whose life is a testimony of what he claims to believe. The Greek word for witnesses is “martus,” the origin of the word “martyr.” It means that you are willing to give your life for that which you claim to believe. This goes far beyond evangelizing to becoming character witness against Satan in the angelic conflict.

It was obviously not God’s intention to send Jacob away without being blessed, but He wanted to show us Jacob’s determination and the principle that we must never quit. Life is a struggle, a wrestling match, and at times, it may even mean wrestling with the Lord. However, when God withdraws Himself from any man, it is always with that man’s consent. God has a twofold desire-for the unbeliever, 2PE 3:9, “The Lord is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance”; and for the believer, 1TI 2:4, “He desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

This is when you, as a Church-age believer, can say with the Apostle Paul in PHI 4:13, “I can do all things through Him who keeps on pouring His power in me.”

There is a conflict between man and God that is not one of hostility but of friends contending with each other, in which God overthrows, but only to raise us higher. He prevails, He wins. He humbles us, but in the end we are the ones who benefit. The very fact that He has given us a free will means that He has even given us the power to strive with Him, and at the same time He will resist us, fighting both against us and for us. He strikes us with one hand and defends us with the other. To save Jacob from Esau, it was necessary that God should first meet Jacob as an enemy and show him that his real opponent was God Himself, and that he must first deal with Him before he could deal with his brother.

In GEN 32:27-28, “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.'”

Why should the Divine Wrestler ask Jacob his name? He wanted to emphasize upon the conscience of Jacob the meaning of his name being changed from Jacob-a contender or one who overthrows-to Israel-a prince with God. The name “Israel” has been interpreted as “prince with God,” “he strives with God,” “God’s fighter,” “let God rule,” “God strives,” or “God commands.” These all apply in some sense. Being given a new name in Bible times meant a change in nature or relationship. Jacob was to become Israel, a title of victory speaking of contending for the faith with power from God. Jacob will not always act as Israel, however, and God will deal with him again later to confirm his new name. In this magnificent struggle Jacob came to realize his own weakness and the superiority of the Mighty One who had touched him. At the moment he yielded to God’s will, he became a new man who could receive the blessings of God and assume his place in God’s plan. His new name, Israel, indicates royalty, power, and sovereignty among men. He is destined to be a servant of God, a man governed by God’s will, instead of a dishonorable supplanter. He has come through defeat into divine power.

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