- Sermon Notes
Hold onto God
Illus. Out of control.
As we open up to Genesis chapter 32 this morning, the question I want you to consider is, “what are you holding onto?” Many of you know scriptures, such as Jeremiah 29:11, which reminds us that God knows the plans He has for His people, plans to prosper and not to harm, to give hope and a future. Many love to quote that verse, and others like it, yet when the path forward looks problematic, do we hold onto God and lean into it, or figure out the best place to jump in a decision to split?
This morning we are going to get a glimpse into the life of a man named Jacob. Jacob had a history of manipulating matters by taking them into his own hands. Throughout his story we see him plot and strategize his way into blessings and out of difficulties, but here it becomes clear that who he was, was not who the Lord had for him to be.
Illus. Jacob’s history.
His story is a great encouragement to you and to me, because we all have a history, someone we have been, yet we all know that who we have been is not who the Lord has for us to be. In Jacob’s life, no matter how things had been, or the way they had gone, the Lord didn’t give up, and here we see a change in Jacob as he goes from holding onto his own strategies and faculties, to finally and fully, holding onto God.
Read: Genesis 32:3-30
Heading to the place God told him to go, Jacob knew he was heading toward a great obstacle. His brother, who had declared 20 years prior that he was going to kill him, was coming his way. Jacob had a history of finding a way around obstacles, finding a way to sway people, pulling the right strings, doing anything to ensure things would go his way. But it was this day that the Lord was going to bring about a change in Jacob, he would meet him there. Jacob was stuck between what was and what would be, and it was time for him to see differently, to see specifically what God had for him to see.
When things aren’t looking the way you would like them to, or the difficulty ahead seems impossible to get through, perhaps you often find yourself responding like Jacob. Finding a way within your own ability to ensure situational stability and favorable circumstances, regardless of what those favorable conditions might cost. But in paying that cost a great deal is lost, and this morning I want to encourage you to hold on God, rather than any plan you began, because it is only then that you will truly understand what life is like in His hands.
I. No Matter What You Face, Walk by Faith
- In chapter 31:3, the Lord had instructed Jacob to return to the land of his fathers and relatives. That also came with a promise, that He (the Lord) would be with him.
- Knowing there was a previous problem in place, his brother Esau, Jacob sends some of his servants to inform his brother of his return.
Genesis 32:3-8, The messengers returned to Jacob, saying, “We came to your brother Esau, and furthermore he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.”
- Jacob interprets this news as a sign of great danger, thrusting him into a crisis situation.
- Jacob could not turn back to Laban, yet, on his way home he hears about his brother and 400 men, which fills him with fear.
- God told Jacob to head home, knowing that Esau was waiting for him.
- The difficulty ahead would be essential in taking Jacob from pretender to surrender, it would be necessary for him to face the past and reconcile with his brother.
- The threat of great difficulty and the steps ahead, were God’s doing. He was doing a greater work within Jacob, whereby he would need to hold onto God and walk by faith.
James 1:2-4, Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect.
- The Lord strengthens your faith, and that strength comes through various trials. The testing of faith produces endurance, James tells us to consider it joy, let endurance have its perfect result.
- We need our faith strengthened for what is ahead.
Jeremiah 12:5, If you have run with footmen and they have tired you out, then how can you compete with horses? If you fall down in a land of peace, how will you do in the thicket of the Jordan?
Illus. Hills and valleys.
- An essential reminder for Jacob and you and I today is to remember that when we head up hills, or compete with the horses, we aren’t heading up, or competing alone.
- In what you face you can walk by faith, and when the hill looks higher than ever, what the Lord will use it to produce will make you better than ever.
- What the Lord promised Jacob, He promises you and I who are in Christ.
Matthew 28:20, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
- Don’t surrender all at the sight of the hills, surrender all at the sound of God’s will.
- Surrender All
- What we saw in verses 9 to 12, after beginning to plan his own way, Jacob did, in fact turn to the Lord and pray.
- “O God,” he prays, “You are the one who directed me and the one who said that you would prosper me, deliver me, I pray…”
- You don’t see Jacob as a man who prays until this point in his life, but he turns to God in the midst of this dilemma, and calls out to God by quoting the promises that God gave him.
- The Lord was, in fact, going to deliver Jacob. And the way he would do it was by first delivering him from himself.
Illus. Help! Move!
- Jacob prayed a great prayer, according to the promises of God, however, Jacob goes back to plotting and devises a plan to give Esau and impressive gift.
- Jacob said “I will appease him with the present that goes before me…After seeing the gift that go before me, perhaps he will accept me.” His plan to appease was clear in this saying, making him a good example of, “when all else fails, pray.”
- Jacob knew he would face his brother the next day, and he prayed, and it was a good prayer, but he did as you and I do, he took back the burden, carried the heavy concern personally.
1 Peter 5:7, Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
- The word used here “cast” (epiripto), means to throw upon, place upon.
- To cast your anxiety, your care upon the Lord means all your discontentment, discouragement, despair, suffering, situations, fear, stress, and distress, upon the Lord.
- Then, once you do that, trust Him with what He is doing with and in your life.
- Jacob cast his care, but did not leave it there.
- Jacob hoped his brother would accept him, but in his mind, perhaps not. It seems Jacob also thought, “perhaps he will kill me like he said he would.”
- It is a good example of our doing things to ensure that things happen the way we hope apart from trusting the Lord.
Proverbs 14:12, There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.
Illus. I surrender all.
Illus. Learning to surrender all.
- We want the will of the Lord, but then when it comes to giving up some of our stuff, things get a bit tough.
- We can do similarly, hiding things out in order to render them untouchable.
- Running away in order to find any other way.
Matthew 16:24-25, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.
- Jacob had been on the run throughout his life, and it had been 20 years since he ran away from his home.
- Run No More
- A man came and wrestled with Jacob all night long. The scripture makes it clear that he had an encounter with God.
- God allowed Jacob to wrestle with Him. He didn’t pin him down, though He could have quite quickly.
- The Lord wrestles with us even when he doesn’t have to. Why? So that we get to the point of surrender, no more running, no more trying to be someone else.
- As they wrestled through the night, Jacob refused to give up. Seeing that Jacob would not stop contending, God touches him on the hip, and dislocated it.
- Jacob would thereafter walk with a limp; a reminder that he must no longer trust in his own strength.
- With this limp, he would not be able to run as he had in the past, truly he would run no more.
Illus. Difficulty running, plans change.
- This brokenness would surely change Jacob, but it would bring him closer to who God wanted him to be.
Psalm 139:23-24, Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.
- This involves true surrender, even in difficulty, allowing God to search, know, and lead you.
- The Lord may prune in order to bring forth fruit, however, in the pruning process, in difficulty, keep holding on.
Hebrews 12:11, All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.
- After wrestling all night, broken, know he needs he Lord alone, Jacob holds onto God and says, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
- Throughout his life, holding onto his brother’s heal, who his brother was, and to his own plans. Here he holds on to the Lord.
- He held on in the midst of brokenness, that is where God blessed him. That was the only blessing that mattered.
- Allow God to take over
- The Lord then asked, “What is your name?”
- The answer would reveal who Jacob is, my name is Jacob, and I have been a supplanter, a deceiver and a heal snatcher of men.
- He then said, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.”
Illus. In the process of deceiving his dad, taking the blessing of his brother, Jacob’s dad asked him, “are you Esau?” Jacob responded, “I am”…
- Jacob prevailed when he was broken and he still held on. You prevail when you say, “I can’t go through another day without you.”
- The name “Israel” means ‘God rules,’ and “God contends.”
Illus. How he prevailed.
Jeremiah 18:3-4, Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something on the wheel. But the vessel that he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so, he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make.
Isaiah 43:1-3, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you. For I am the Lord your God,”
Then Jacob sent messengers before him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom. He also commanded them saying, “Thus you shall say to my lord Esau: ‘Thus says your servant Jacob, “I have sojourned with Laban, and stayed until now; I have oxen and donkeys and flocks and male and female servants; and I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find favor in your sight.”’”
The messengers returned to Jacob, saying, “We came to your brother Esau, and furthermore he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.” Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed; and he divided the people who were with him, and the flocks and the herds and the camels, into two companies; for he said, “If Esau comes to the one company and attacks it, then the company which is left will escape.”
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,’ 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. 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. 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.’”
So he spent the night there. Then he selected from what he had with him a present for his brother Esau: two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, thirty milking camels and their colts, forty cows and ten bulls, twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys. He delivered them into the hand of his servants, every drove by itself, and said to his servants, “Pass on before me, and put a space between droves.” He commanded the one in front, saying, “When my brother Esau meets you and asks you, saying, ‘To whom do you belong, and where are you going, and to whom do these animals in front of you belong?’ then you shall say, ‘These belong to your servant Jacob; it is a present sent to my lord Esau. And behold, he also is behind us.’” Then he commanded also the second and the third, and all those who followed the droves, saying, “After this manner you shall speak to Esau when you find him; and you shall say, ‘Behold, your servant Jacob also is behind us.’” For he said, “I will appease him with the present that goes before me. Then afterward I will see his face; perhaps he will accept me.” So the present passed on before him, while he himself spent that night in the camp.
Now he arose that same night and took his two wives and his two maids and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream. And he sent across whatever he had.
Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 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.” 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. So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved.”