JACOB EXEMPLIFIES RESISTANCE TO GOD
Jacob’s experiences with brokenness confirm this truth. In Genesis 32 we find him preparing to face his twin brother, Esau, for the first time in 20 years since usurping Esau rightful blessing as the first-born son. Fearing Esau’s wrath, Jacob had fled to the home of his uncle, Laban, who had offered him a job caring for livestock in exchange for his youngest daughter’s hand in marriage.
You know the rest of the story, I’m sure. Thanks to Laban, Jacob was able to experience first-hand the distasteful consequences of another man’s deceptive business practices, but still, Jacob didn’t change his ways.
All his life Jacob had struggled to prevail; first over Esau, then over Laban. Why? Because he refused to believe that God holds man’s destiny in His hands. Like an unbroken colt, Jacob resisted God’s control.
That would soon change, but first, God had to call Jacob back to Canaan. On his way home fear overcame him, and Jacob ordered his servants to assemble a gift of appeasement for Esau — a sampling of his valuable livestock — and sent out ahead of his entourage. (He was still scheming!)
Meanwhile, Jacob camped by a rushing brook, but he couldn’t sleep that night. Still worried, he sent his wives and children across the stream, while he remained behind — alone. “Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak” (Genesis 32:24).
Brokenness always involves aloneness. They are companions. Together they leave us feeling weak, empty, and dependent on God — and God only. That’s why God traps us in difficult circumstances. He likes to lock us in a “room”– alone with Him — with no way out. The walls close in. The ceiling lowers, threatening to crush us, and, seeing that there’s no escape, we tum in desperation to the only hope we’ve got — the Lord Himself.
Falling to our knees, we cry out for help. I can’t do anything without You, Lord. My heart is deceitful to the core. It’s desperately sick and beyond cure. Only You can save me (Jeremiah 17:9).
God Comes to Break Jacob’s Spirit
There by that stream a man wrestled with Jacob until day break. That man was God Himself, as evidenced by Jacob’s sudden realization: “I have seen God face to face” (Genesis 32:30).
Note, the Bible doesn’t say Jacob wrestled with a man; it says a man wrestled with him. This critical distinction identifies God as the instigator of brokenness. He came not to wound Jacob, but to break him so He might fix him again. And, as we sometimes do, Jacob stood his ground in pride and resisted the Lord’s efforts to humble him.
At dawn, God touched the socket of Jacob’s thigh, causing it to shrivel like a cord in a flame. “Let me go,” God [or God’s angel] said, but Jacob held on in pain. “I will not let you go unless you bless me,” he cried (Genesis 32:26). Finally! After years of denying God’s authority, Jacob acknowledged that all blessings must come from God. He yielded to God. In short, Jacob was broken.
Can you recall such a secret hour when God came to lift you out of self-reliance and make you dependent on Him? I can think of many times when I wrestled with God over something He was asking me to do. I’ve discovered, however, that once I allow God to break me, an amazing sense of peace follows, and my whole attitude toward God’s agenda changes in a heartbeat.
What is keeping you from surrendering unconditionally to God today? Eventually, it will require brokenness. Ultimately, the self-life, or the flesh, must be terminated. It will plead for its life, but Jesus will have no rival.
Self and God cannot occupy the same throne. The enthronement of Jesus requires the dethronement of self. “If anyone wishes to come after Me;” Jesus said, “let him deny himself… ” (Mark 8:34).
God Rewards Denial
Once you do, the doors to spiritual wealth will open. Let me illustrate this concept with a story about the conquests of a military leader from India named Mahmoud.
During one of his military campaigns, Mahmoud forced his way into a shrine honoring Brahma, a Hindu god. “Please spare our god,” the people pleaded. “We’ll give you all our riches if only you’ll spare our god.” (Beware: Self will make the same plea. It offers so much but delivers so little.)
“I’d rather be known as a breaker of idols than as a seller or buyer of them,” Mahmoud replied, and without further ado, he struck the image of Brahma with his battle ax.
The idol proved to be hollow — like the god of self always is — but its contents surprised everyone. Precious gemstones — thousands of them — f!owed out of the idol’s shattered remains. Its brokenness revealed a treasure long hidden from view.
Self is like that idol. When self breaks, untold spiritual blessing and wealth flow out of it [the experience]. God promises to “open for you the windows of heaven, and pour out for you a blessing until there is no more need” (Malachi 3:10).
What might this blessing include? Let’s look at Genesis 32 for guidance in answering this question. Jacob came away from his wrestling match with four treasures:
1. Assurance of God’s providence
Life is not ruled by whims of fate, chance, or random events. Jacob learned. In the breaking process, you may feel like your world is spinning out of control. Fear may grip you. Despair may close in on you. But know this: God is in control, and you are in the hands of a loving master who intends to bless you, not harm you.
2. A Sustaining Promise
“Your name shall no longer be Jacob (meaning cheat, fraud, supplanter), but Israel (meaning power with God, a prince in God’s love … Genesis 32:28). This promise from God gave Jacob hope and vision for the future. When tempted to worry and fret, you, too, must return to God’s promises: “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU” (Hebrews 13:5).
You may feel alone, but you’re not. He has come alongside you — to wrestle self off the throne — and to carry you to a place of safety and blessing. “He heals the broken hearted, And binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3). “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, And saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).
Brokenness can be painful. It usually is, but savor the experience. God is wooing you to Himself by His love. You are taking part in a divine romance. Knowing that will help you to endure the pain.
3. His Divine Presence
After the angel blessed him, Jacob named the place Peniel, which means “the face of God.” In doing so he was saying this: Something special took place here. I saw God face to face (Genesis 32:30). When God said “I am with you” all those times, He meant it (Genesis 28:15; 31:3). No matter what happens to me. I can count on God to be there. I am not alone.
4. The Power of God
Ironically, at Jacob’s weakest moment — when he could barely walk — God gave him a new name to signify a new, more powerful character. Why did his old name no longer apply? “Because you have contended and have power with God and with man and have prevailed,” God said (Genesis 32:28, The Amplified Bible). When we are weak, God’s strength is manifested in place of that weakness.
Part 2 of 3
 Or an angel representing God – JBW
Unless otherwise specified. Scripture references are from the New American Standard Bible.
Bob Phillips (1947-2017) was a respected pastor and author. This article was featured in his newsletter, Come Up Higher (vol. 1, issue 9). Some of his resources are at https://www.pastorbobphillips.com/
North Point has produced an 8 lesson video-assisted small group study that includes important insights from Exchanged Life Counseling. Using the symbolism of renovating a house, the workbook has helpful notes and applications. See North Point’s product page about “Renovate.”