Today Pastor Choi talks about the God of Jacob who stayed with Jacob all his life despite his shortcomings and weaknesses. He points out three lessons from Jacob’s life story: first, Jacob turned a life threatening situation into a life-turning experience. Next, Jacob claimed his father’s God as his own. Thirdly, Jacob desired God and cherished what God cherished.
The following is a summary of his sermon:
The God of Jacob
Genesis 32:9-12 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
9 Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O Lord, who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your relatives, and I will prosper you,’ 10 I am unworthy of all the lovingkindness and of all the faithfulness which You have shown to Your servant; for with my staff only I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two companies. 11 Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, that he will come and attack me and the mothers with the children. 12 For You said, ‘I will surely prosper you and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which is too great to be numbered.’”
Let me tell you a story of a man. His name was Jacob. Yes, the man whom we all read and heard about in the Bible. He was a twin son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham. From his birth he was called a cunning man. He was a cheater of his brother, his father, and his uncle. Yet, God never gave up on him and worked on him for his entire life. God was not ashamed of calling Himself, “I am the God of Jacob.” His name became a permanent part of God’s title (Exodus 3:6). What made Jacob so special in God’s sight? Not because he was a saint. Far from it. So folks, let’s think about Jacob and His God this morning.
Isaac and Rebekah his wife had twin sons: Jacob was a younger of the two. His older brother was Esau. They were born a few minutes apart: Esau (meaning ‘red’ —covered with hair) came out first, and Jacob followed holding onto his brother’s heel (Genesis 25:26). So, they named him Jacob “the heel grabber.” By the way, in those days, the second son had no privilege, because the eldest son inherited everything from the father. The Bible calls that special privilege birthright. This birthright was exclusively reserved for the first born, and the first born only. So, Esau was privileged to have all the inheritance from his father. Not Jacob. Sorry, Jacob.
Interestingly, Jacob was very much intrigued by the birthright. He wanted it so much so that he wouldn’t give up on it even though he wasn’t entitled to it. In fact, he wouldn’t mind snatching it from his brother by all means. So, one day a chance arose. His brother Esau the hunter came home from his hunting trip. He was very hungry. Jacob the tent man was cooking a stew at that time. Esau was famished and asked for the stew. Jacob said, “First sell me your birthright, then you can have the whole stew!” (Genesis 25:31). Esau said, “What good is the birthright when I am about to die!” So, for a bowl of soup, he sold his birthright to Jacob (Genesis 25:32-33). The Bible says Esau despised his birthright (Genesis 25:34). In other words, you don’t sell your birthright for a bowl of soup no matter how hungry you are.
Even though Esau verbally sold the birthright to Jacob, Jacob still had one more hurdle to overcome: his father Isaac. Typically, the birthright and its blessings culminated in at the father’s deathbed. One day, Isaac realized that his death was near. He wanted to bless his oldest son, Esau, before he died. So, he asked Esau to prepare a savory meal for him to eat and bless him (Genesis 27:4). Esau said, “Yes, father. I will get a fresh kill and prepare a dish you like. You can eat it and bless me.” So, he went out for hunting. Rebekah was listening while Isaac spoke to Esau (Genesis 27:5). While Esau was out hunting, Rebekah along with Jacob her favorite son (Genesis 25:28) concocted a plan to steal the blessing from Esau and they did succeed.
This is how they did it: Rebekah cooked Isaac’s favorite dish and camouflaged Jacob’s hands and neck with goat skins to fool her husband. She had Jacob wear Esau’s best garments. She then asked Jacob to take his father’s favorite dish to him, pretending that he was Esau, Isaac’s favorite son (Genesis 27:15-17).
Covered with the goat skins, Jacob went into the tent where Isaac was lying. He pretended he was Esau and even imitated Esau’s voice. He did his acting quite nicely. After eating the meal, Isaac finally gave Jacob all the birthright blessings convinced that Jacob was Esau his favorite son (Genesis 25:28). When Esau finally came home after the hunting trip and found out what his twin brother did, he swore to kill him for stealing his birthright blessings (Genesis 27:41). So, Jacob had to flee from his brother’s wrath (Genesis 27:47).
Of course, when he fled from home, his mother sent him away with a good excuse: to marry a girl from her homeland hundreds miles away. It was in part true, because, Esau married foreign women with whom Rebekah was very unhappy (Genesis 27:46). The Bible says his marriage with Canaanite women grieved his parents (Genesis 26: 34).
Fast-forward 20 years (Genesis 31:38). By then, Jacob had two wives and two maids from whom he got 11 sons. He had numerous servants and a huge flock of cattle. Finally, he was heading home. Everything was alright except one thing: his brother. He was frightened that Esau would get him for what he had done before: stealing the birthright blessings from their father. Jacob came up with two plans, A and B. Plan A: appease Esau with lots of gifts—hundreds of goats and sheep, scores of camels, cows and bulls, and donkeys (Genesis 32:15). He thought the gifts might appease his brother’s anger towards him (Genesis 32:20). Plan B: protect his best interests. Jacob divided his possessions and his people in three groups. The first group led by his sons thereof his maids, followed by his first wife Leah and her sons. At the tail of his caravan he put his second (and favorite) wife Rachel and his favorite son Joseph (Genesis 33:2). Just in case Esau strikes the first company, he reasoned, he can escape with his favorite wife and son. That was the plan.
Finally, the night before he met his brother, he had all the company crossed the ford named Jabbok. He was left alone on the other side of the ford. He was facing a life and death situation. He was so desperate. He was greatly afraid and distressed (Genesis 32:7). That night he couldn’t go to sleep so he stayed all night praying to the Lord until the daybreak for divine protection from his brother. That’s what we just read this morning.
Three things stand out from his story:
- Jacob turned a life-threatening situation into a life-turning experience. In his prayer to the Lord, Jacob admitted that he feared his brother (Genesis 32:11). The danger of losing everything including his own life was real to him. He was sure that his brother Esau would attack him with four hundred men who could draw the sword (Genesis 32:6). I would feel the same as Jacob if someone is on the way to hurt me and my family.
Now, Jacob had to make a choice: either to run away from the situation and avoid his brother (and, therefore, live the rest of his life in fear) or to face the threat head on. He chose to face the threat. Not alone, though. He went to God in prayer. You see, we all face from time to time life-threatening situations like Jacob. We have a choice: either to run away and avoid the situation all together or to face it right on.
Let’s make a choice to face it head on. Why? Not because we are strong, but because we have God on our side. When God is on our side, a crisis can turn into an opportunity to meet our God as we have never experienced Him before. By the way, Jacob was so determined to get God on his side that he wrestled with God’s angel that night (that means in prayer) and he had a permanent injury on his thigh socket that made him limp for the rest of his life. He simply wouldn’t let God’s angel go unless he blessed him first. May God help us to make a right decision in times of adversity like Jacob did.
- Jacob claimed his father’s God as his own: Up until that point, Jacob considered the Jehovah God as his ancestors’ God not his (Genesis 32:9). However, when he was frightened with his brother coming at him for revenge, he finally called on his ancestors’ God and claimed Him as his own. Folks, let’s think about ourselves. Let’s think about our relationship with our Heavenly Father. For instance, why do you attend church services on Sunday mornings? Is it because you want to keep on your family tradition of worship even though you don’t have a personal relationship with Him? You see, some of us have four or five generations worshiping in our congregation. That’s great. Keep it on. However, if you think that the God you worship and serve is the God of your grandparents and parents, but not yours, it is time that you called onto Him and made Him your God as Jacob did. That night, Jacob made that claim. No longer was Jehovah God his father’s God. He was Jacob’s God as well. From that night on, God also started calling Himself “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”
- Jacob desired God and cherished what God cherished such as the birthright and the blessings of God. Esau despised the birthright. He took God’s blessings lightly too. Esau was self-reliant. He didn’t pray to God for help. Jacob was different. He took the birthright seriously. He desired God’s blessings so much that he even cheated his father and brother. He went to God for help. He was God-reliant despite all his shortcomings. Perhaps, after he exhausted all his smart ways and his own wits, Jacob realized what he truly needed was God.
That’s what made Jacob special in the sight of God: his desire for God’s company. Jacob was never a godly man in my opinion, yet he went to God in times of need. He was sincere in his prayers. He was determined to have God on his side no matter how selfish it seemed to us. That’s what counts most in God’s sight. Like Jacob, none of us are perfect. In fact, we are far from perfection. We all struggle with our shortcomings and weaknesses, too. But, one thing we can learn from Jacob is to desire God and cherish what God cherishes. Cherish the relationship with God and call unto Him in times of need.
A question for all of us: Is the God of Jacob also my God? Do I know Him personally? Do I go to Him in times of need? Have I experienced God in hardships? Am I self-reliant or God-reliant? Do I cherish what God cherishes?
If you are going through tough times right now, folks, there are no better times than now that you go to God in prayer and wrestle with Him saying, “Lord, I want to know that you are out there. I want to know that you are with me. I want to experience that you hear my prayers and answer me. Until that happens, I won’t let you go!” Let’s cry out onto God. Let’s claim His name. Let the God of Jacob be yours today. Amen.