Grace that Transforms

Trey Garner July 19, 2015 Genesis 32:-33

→ Click to view the Sermon Outline

Genesis 25:23 - The LORD said to her, “Two nations are in your womb; and two peoples will be separated from your body; and one people shall be stronger than the other; and the older shall serve the younger.”

Genesis 27:41 - So Esau bore a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him; and Esau said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.”

4 grace-filled actions that God takes to transform the lives of His children

I. God allows us to face the consequences of our actions

Hebrews 12:5-6,11 - “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him; for those whom the Lord loves He disciplines”…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.

II. God reveals our real problem

III. God leads us in repentance

A. God implants a new desire in us

Genesis 15:1 - “I am your shield, and your exceeding great reward.” (NKJV)

Philippians 3:7-8 - But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…

B. God requires us to confess our former ways

C. God gives us a new identity

2 Corinthians 5:17 - Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

IV. God brings restoration


Tomorrow marks the 46th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission when astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin made their historic landing on the lunar surface. It was a monumental event, not just in the history of our nation but in the history of all humanity. I mean, if you were alive at that time, I am sure that you could tell us exactly where you were and what you were doing at the precise moment when Neil Armstrong descended the ladder of the lunar module and took those first tentative steps on the face of the moon. It was one of those transformational moments that forever changed the way that we think about the limits of human endeavor.

It also became the event to which every frustration about human progress would be compared. "We can put a man on the moon but we can't make a pair of socks that stays up. We can put a man on the moon but we can't put an end to male pattern baldness. We can put a man on the moon but we can't get an Egg McMuffin after 10:30 in the morning." You get the idea. There is no question about the fact that after man landed on the moon, the world was never the same and similarly if we make this a bit more personal, I’m sure we can all point to key events in our own past that had a radical impact on our worldview. Important moments that transformed the way that we live. God doesn't bring those moments into our lives very often but when he does, our lives are never the same.

With that in mind, I want to invite you to open your Bibles to the book of Genesis 32. That's found on page 24 of the front section of the Bible under the chair in front of you. Genesis 32. If you've been with us for any length of time this year, then you know that our church's annual theme is "Finding Grace," taken from the marvelous passage, Hebrews 4:16 which says, "Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need."

This summer we are drawing near to the throne of grace in our study of the book of Genesis. We're calling this series "Grace from the Patriarchs" because we're focusing on the lives of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph. Today we're going to be studying a transformational event in the life of Jacob. It was the climactic event of Jacob's life. It's a turning point for him. This is the event that allows Jacob to finally understand his past and it alters his fundamental life strategy. Before this, Jacob was merely playing at religion. After this, he is a changed man. But you can't understand this climactic moment without first understanding his family history. Our series began this summer in Genesis 12 when God came to Abraham and God made a promise to Abraham, a covenant with three provisions. If you've been with us this summer, then you know what those provisions are, don't you? Say them with me: land, seed and blessing. Land, seed and blessing. Land: God told Abraham that he would give him a homeland. Seed: God told Abraham that he would make of him a great nation. And blessing: God told Abraham that he would bless him and that through him all of the nations of the earth would be blessed. And in making this covenant with Abraham, God was in essence saying to him, "Abraham, I have a mission for you. I want to save the world through your family." He said, "This world is a mess and I’m going to do something about that. I'm going to send a Messiah and he's going to be one of your descendants and in every generation of your descendants I will choose one child, one child who will carry on the messianic line and you must pass your faith onto him and from him will come another child and another until one day the child, the Messiah, is born and through him I will save the world." Now, it's unlikely that Abraham understood all of the implications of the covenant. We have an advantage that Abraham didn't have. We have a completed copy of the Scriptures through which we're more equipped to understand the full significance of that covenant but I think we would have to agree that was a pretty incredible promise that God made to Abraham.

Well, Abraham has a son named Isaac and the promises is made to Abraham were passed down to Isaac but with Isaac's family, the story gets a bit complicated. Isaac is married to Rebekah and when Rebekah becomes pregnant she experiences some problems. In fact, the problems are so bad that she laments for her own life and she cries out to the Lord and the Lord answers her with a prophecy. He says in Genesis 25, "Two nations are in your womb and two peoples will be separated from your body and one people shall be stronger than the other and the older shall serve the younger." So Rebekah gives birth to twin boys: Esau and Jacob. They were born just minutes apart. Esau was born first but when Esau was born, Jacob is holding on to Esau's heel. In fact, that's what the name Jacob actually means, it means "one who takes by the heel; one who supplants." The name itself predicts the kind of life that Jacob will lead. But Esau is the firstborn and God had said to Isaac and Rebekah that the older would serve the younger. He told them, "I have chosen Jacob." Jacob is the one. He will carry on the messianic line. That was the choice of God.

As the boys grew up, Isaac didn't like the choice of God. Why? Well, here are some things we know about Esau: as far as we can tell, Esau is what you might call a man's man. Esau was a hunter; he was impulsive; he was violent; he was impetuous; he was shallow. He was a man's man, right? And Isaac, for whatever reason, liked what he saw in Esau. Sadly, he didn't feel the same way about Jacob. Jacob was much more like his mother and Isaac apparently liked those characteristics in a wife but didn't like them so much in a son and therefore he favored Esau. Now, from a cultural perspective, it made sense. I mean, Esau was the oldest and in that culture the oldest child was the one that received the birthright and most of the family's wealth. Everyone would have expected Esau to be the favorite but Isaac's family wasn't like the rest of the families in his culture or any other family on earth. God had chosen to save the world through Isaac's family and specifically he had chosen Jacob to carry on the messianic line but Isaac said no. He resisted God's will. He didn't like God's choice. He wanted to decide and Jacob grew up knowing that his father and Esau, in particular, were standing between him and his destiny and he grew up resenting it.

Well, many years later the day arrives when all of this comes to a head. In Genesis 27 we learn that Isaac was very old and by that point he was blind and approaching death so he decides that he's going to put his house in order. He says to Esau, "Look, I don't know how much more time I have so the time has come for me to officially bless you and to give you leadership of the family." Now, what is Isaac doing here? I mean, he knows that God has chosen Jacob and he's resisting the revealed will of God. And on that day when ancient, old Isaac was determined to give Esau the family blessing, Jacob had a choice to make. Now don't miss this, this is important: Jacob had to decide whether he would trust God to carry out his plan or whether he would take matters into his own hands. Jacob had to decide whether he would trust in the grace of God or whether he would manipulate circumstances to work out in his favor. Would he live up to his name, supplanter, trickster, deceiver? Trust God or resist God, what would Jacob do?

Well, as the story goes, Jacob dresses up as Esau and comes to Isaac and says, "Father, I’m here and I want my blessing," and Isaac experiences a little bit of cognitive dissonance because the voice isn't quite right but the smell is right and the clothes are right and Isaac gives Jacob the blessing thinking that he's giving it to Esau and he gives Jacob the promise. Jacob becomes the leader of the family, at least in title. You see, Jacob had decided that he couldn't trust his future to the grace of God. If he was going to get the blessing, he had to take it and so what happens next? Well, Esau comes in and says, "Here I am, Pop. I'm ready for my blessing," and Isaac says, "Whoa, if you're Esau, then who did I just give the blessing to?" Of course, they both know that the answer is Jacob and Esau becomes incensed. Genesis 27 says that Esau bore a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him and Esau said to himself, "The days of mourning for my father are near. Then I will kill my brother, Jacob." Because of Esau's anger, Jacob has to flee from everything that he was trying to get and there is an important lesson here: whenever we take matters into our own hands, whenever you think that you can improve on God, things have a way of blowing up in your face.

They just do and that's what happens with Jacob. Jacob had to run and become a wanderer. He had to run away from his people, from his father and mother, from the very land that he was seeking to inherit and Jacob goes off into another land and even though he's on the run, the grace of God follows him. The Lord prospers Jacob. He gives him a family. He gives him wealth. Now, Jacob thinks that his wealth is the result of some clever animal husbandry techniques that he knows but God is really the one responsible for his success. He turns Jacob into an independently wealthy man and finally God tells Jacob that it's time to go home and so Jacob gets all of his family and all of his wealth, this huge entourage and he heads back to his homeland and this is really high noon because Jacob finally says, "Look, there is only one thing keeping me from having the life that I really want. Yes, God has prospered me but he still hasn't given me what is my right. I still don't have my land. I'm still not leader of my family so I’ve got to go back and I’ve got to face the one person standing in my way, the main problem in my life, I’ve got to face Esau and somehow I’ve got to find a way to appease him. I've got to find some way to play him." By this time in Jacob's life, he's become a master of manipulation. Always calculating. Always conniving. The least spontaneous person you'd ever meet and that's where we pick up our story.

As we study this, remember the role that God has carved out for Jacob. God has chosen Jacob to become the leader of a family through which God would redeem humanity. That's a high spiritual calling but you tell me, based on everything that we've seen in Jacob's life up to this point, do you think he's in the right spiritual frame of mind to step into that role? I don't think so. If Jacob is going to be ready to assume that incredible position of spiritual leadership, he's going to have to undergo a radical change. But praise the Lord, radical change is what our gracious God does.

This morning we're talking about grace that transforms and from this passage, I believe we can find four grace filled actions that God takes to transform the lives of his children so let's turn our attention to God's word. We're looking at Genesis 32, beginning in verse 3. It says, "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,'"'" that's his mother's brother, "'"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.'"'" In other words, Jacob is already doing it again. He's seeking to control the situation. He doesn't humble himself. He doesn't seek forgiveness. He just says, "Hey look, Esau, I know you're ticked at me. I get it but I’m coming back and I’m rich so if you want some of what I've got, you might want to rethink this whole killing me thing."

Verse 6, "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.'" Alright, tell me folks, how does that sound? Jacob sends this telegram and he says, "I'm coming back and I’m rich," and his servants bring back this message from Esau and Esau says, "Oh yeah, I'm coming back too with 400 men." Now, tell me: good news or bad news? It's like really bad news, right? And Jacob, he starts freaking out. He doesn't have any good options but Jacob isn't broken yet. Let's see how he responds in verse 7.

"Then Jacob was greatly afraid," like he always is, "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.'" Now parents, tell me about this: Jacob is like, "I'm going to divide my family in half and if we get attacked, then only half of my family will die." Acceptable or unacceptable casualties? I mean, that's unbelievable, right? I mean, I’m shocked by that but that's how Jacob thinks. He's probably like, "Well, I can put Rachel and her kids on this side and Leah and her kids on this side and then when all the bloodshed ends, at least I’ll have somebody." I mean, it's stunning but Jacob's back is against the wall and that's often when our true character is revealed.

So at this point, Jacob does what most people do when their backs are against the wall, he prays. Take a look at verse 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,"'" in other words, "God, you've kind of gotten me into a mess here." Verse 10, "I am unworthy of all the lovingkindness and of all the faithfulness which You have shown to Your servant," and of course, that's true for all of us, "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," he's reminding God of his promises, "'I will surely prosper you and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which is too great to be numbered.'"

Jacob's in a desperate situation so he cries out to God for help but he's not quite ready to trust in God so he gets this idea. It's an idea for this last ditch effort to placate Esau. Time doesn't permit me to read the next several verses to you so let me summarize what's going on here. Jacob decides that the best approach is to bribe Esau. He's going to overwhelm Esau with gifts and the word "gift," that really doesn't fully capture the magnitude of what Jacob is offering. This is really an endowment. Jacob takes a significant portion of his flocks and herds along with a substantial number of servants and he divides them into separate groups and he sends each group one at a time to meet Esau such that wave after wave of wealth is transferred from Jacob to Esau. I mean, if you lived in that day and you received gifts like these, your head would be swimming and what Jacob is hoping for is that by the time Esau gets to the end of all of those gifts, he will have won over Esau. Verse 20, Jacob said, "I will appease him with the present that goes before me." There is the deal maker fighting to get his way. "Then afterward I will see his face; perhaps he will accept me."

Alright, let's push the pause button for a moment. Is Jacob a changed man at this point? Not yet. Not yet. I mean, he's been through some hard things. He's feeling the heat like he's never felt it before but he's still fighting for control. But all of that is about to change.

I. God allows us to face the consequences of our actions

Here's the first point that we need to remember: grace begins to transform us when God allows us to face the consequences of our actions and that's what he's doing here with Jacob. Eventually, when you get to a place in your life where God lets you feel the full weight of the choices that you've been making, that's a place where God is working to do something. Now, there is grace, there is mercy, but eventually our God of steadfast love lets us feel the full weight of the garbage that we've been creating by not trusting him and when that comes crashing down, that's God trying to get our attention.

Now, maybe you're in a point in your life where you're feeling the weight of your choices. Maybe there are problems at home. You haven't been treating your spouse very well and now your spouse isn't treating you very well. Maybe you haven't done the hard work of disciplining and discipling your kids and now they are rebelling and you don't know what to do. Maybe it's happening at work. Your company laid out some expectations for you and you didn't take them as seriously as you should have and now they're on your back. Now let me ask you: when we feel the pain and the pressure, what's our natural tendency? Our natural tendency is to bolt, right? To get away from the pain. To get away from the pressure. "I don't like this. I'm overwhelmed. I can't handle this. I've got to get away from this." And I want to suggest to you: that is one of the worst things that you can do. Why? Because God is trying to discipline you and he's using the painful consequences of your choices to bring about something good. He's trying to grow you and that's why we read in the book of Hebrews, "My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord nor faint when you are reproved by him for those whom the Lord loves, he disciplines. 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." When all of the consequences of my choices come crashing down on me, that's the beginning of the end and God has something wonderful waiting on the other side.

II. God reveals our real problem

Grace begins to transform us when God allows us to face the consequences of our actions, that's the first point, but grace also does its transforming work in our lives when God reveals our real problem. Take a look at verse 22. It says, "Now he arose that same night and took his two wives and his two maids," these are the mothers of his children, "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," what does it say? "Alone." He's alone. Now, that's a very important element in this text. The process of spiritual transformation is going to require that we get time alone with God. Don't miss that. Oftentimes that's when we're most open to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, when we get time alone with the Lord. And my hope and prayer for this message is not that the work would be finalized in this service but that the work would just begin. My thought is not, "Oh, I’m going to get up here and I’m going to preach some sermon and you're going to have some kind of encounter with God like Jacob did." I am not thinking that. I'm praying that this message would produce in you an unusual impetus for you to get some concentrated time alone with your Bible open and maybe a pen and a journal out and that you're going to ask the Lord to confront you. I mean, when was the last time that God took you to the mat with the full weight of who he is? Now, maybe you'd be able to say, "Praise God, that happened this week," and if that did happen in your life, I hope you would be quick to praise him. But maybe it's been a while for you and if that's the case, then I want to encourage you to do that this coming week.

But here's where Jacob finds himself: he's on the verge of what he expects to be the final confrontation with Esau. He thinks, "I'm about to face the man that has been the biggest problem in my life and I’m going to have it out with him. Maybe he'll kill me. Maybe I’ll be able to pull the wool over his eyes. I mean, he's kind of stupid. But my life, if it's going to get back on track, it's going to happen now." There Jacob is, he's standing in the dark right at the bank of the river and all of the rest of his family and all of his possessions, they're on the other side and maybe he's even hearing the last of the sheep go across and he's all by himself. Suddenly he realizes that there is someone behind him. He's not alone and he turns and this mysterious figure attacks him and verse 24 says, "a man wrestled with him until daybreak." Do you know what that means? It means Jacob is fighting for his life but it appears that Jacob and this mysterious man are absolutely matched in strength. I mean, that is the only way that you can have a wrestling match that goes on for hours. So during all of this wrestling, Jacob is saying, "Who is this? I was expecting a confrontation with my brother, the man who has really ruined my life. I have no idea who this man is."

Then you come to an astonishing verse, verse 25, "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." Now, if any of you have ever had a part of your body dislocated, even a dislocated finger, then you know how absolutely painful that can be. I've never had that happen to me but I’m told if it does happen to you, that just couldn't possibly be any less painful than a fork in your eye. It's awful but a dislocated hip, now that's not the kind of injury that a person receives from a wrestling match. You couldn't injure someone like that by roughhousing in your basement. That's an injury that results from an incredible amount of force. It's the kind of thing that you see in car accidents. It took a lot of power to inflict that injury and as soon as that happens, the contest is immediately over. How did this mysterious stranger inflict this injury? The passage says that he touched the socket of Jacob's thigh. He touched it. It doesn't say he grabbed. It doesn't say he pulled. He touched it.

Right, so, congregation participation time. Everybody do this for me: get your index finger and put it out in front of you. Let's see it. Let's see it. You don't think I mean this, I mean it. Get your finger out in front of you, alright? Now, I want you to wiggle it. Just wiggle it. Up and down. Wiggle it. As you're wiggling it, I want you to say, "Bink.” Go on, it doesn't work without the sound. Do it again. "Bink." There we go. There we go. Alright, you can put your hands down. Now, do you think that "bink" could dislocate someone else's thigh? Is that possible? Absolutely not but that's all this man needed to do in order to inflict Jacob with the kind of injury that would affect the way he walked for the rest of his life. The moment that he did that, this mysterious stranger revealed that he had incredible power. Unbelievable strength and that he had just kept it in reserve. He had voluntarily restrained himself from absolutely wiping Jacob out.

Now, I’d love to be able to tell you that I understand everything that was going on in Jacob's mind at that moment. I can't do that but I do believe a few things are clear. I believe that the minute that Jacob is touched like that, the minute he sees that supernatural strength, he suddenly realizes who this is. He has been wrestling with God himself. Bible scholars will tell you more specifically, with the pre-Incarnate Christ but I believe it goes beyond just recognizing who his opponent was. You see, Jacob had been preparing for this confrontation for his entire life, the confrontation against the person with whom he had been fighting since he was young and he got a confrontation, alright, he just hadn't realized who he had really been fighting against. Jacob's real problem was not Esau. It wasn't Isaac. It wasn't any other aspect of his circumstances. Jacob's real problem was that he had been fighting against God. He had been deceiving and deal making and manipulating his circumstances to work out in his favor while resisting the Lord and refusing to trust him and leaving a path of pain-filled broken relationships in his wake and he realizes, "I didn't have to lie to get my birthright. When I did that, I was fighting against God and the reason my life blew up is because I was fighting against the one who has this kind of power." You see, in that moment when God displays his power, Jacob finally gets a glimpse of who God is and he recognizes that any attempts to succeed in battle against God are utterly futile.

So can I get personal with you for a moment? Have you been resisting God? Have you been wrestling with him? Fighting against him? Maybe you're like Jacob and you really believe that you know what's best for your life better than anyone else, better than the Lord. And you know what's best for your spouse. You know what's best for your children. You know what's best for your job. You know what's best for your church. And you clamor to get your way. I'm not suggesting that you go around putting on sheepskin and pretending that you're someone else but maybe you struggle with trusting the Lord and you clamor for control of your circumstances in more acceptable ways.

I'm convinced that one of the most prevalent sins among the people of God is the sin of fear and worry. Fear and worry are borne out of the desire to control your circumstances. Jacob struggled with that. A person who struggles with fear and worry is constantly asking in their hearts, "What if something bad happens in my life?" And they regularly make choices that are designed to prevent "bad things from happening." When they are presented with opportunities, their most frequent response is no because, "I'm afraid of becoming overwhelmed. I'm afraid I won't know what to say. I'm afraid my kids won't like it. I'm afraid of what people will think of me. I'm afraid I won't be any good at it. I'm afraid that I’ll have to work harder. I'm afraid I’ll be uncomfortable. I'm afraid of looking foolish." And on and on and on. I'll tell you what: fear and worry will absolutely bottle you up. They will rob your life of joy and they will prevent you from doing a whole lot of things for God. In fact, I’m convinced that fear and worry are one of the big reasons why some people say no to service in our church. And if I can be transparent with you for a moment, I think it's especially true in the area of our children's ministries. You know, I talk to a lot of people about serving in our children's ministries and honestly a lot of people tell me no. Some of those people have legitimate reasons. Some, but a fair number of people don't. That's just my view. You said I could be transparent with you.

Now, when people say no, the most common reasons they give are 1. I'm just too busy. 2. Kids just aren't my gift. Now, do I believe that people are busy? Absolutely. I don't know of a single person who isn't busy. Do I believe that people find it challenging to work with kids? Absolutely. I don't know of a single person who doesn't find it challenging from time to time. But when you translate those statements, what people are really saying is, "I'm afraid that if I add something to my schedule it's going to stretch me and I don't like to be stretched." Or they're saying, "I'm afraid I won't like it." Is that universally true? No, you've got to keep all of this in balance and that's the challenge of addressing a subject like this in a setting like this. You get some people who are faithfully serving the Lord several hours a week and those people just need a pat on the back and to be told to keep doing what they're doing. There are other people who are serving in a more limited way and honestly those people need to look at stepping things up. Then you've got some people who aren't doing a lick and frankly they just need to get with the program. The problem is when you talk about something like this, the people who are serving several hours a week, they're thinking, "Oh, you're right. I need to do more." And the people who need to step things up, they're thinking, "Man, all this serving the Lord is wearing me out."

Now, I don't know what you do with that. I figure I just need to trust the Holy Spirit to minister this message in the way that he needs to and the way that each person needs to hear it but I would challenge you with this: if you're resisting God in some way because of sinful fear and worry, God really wants you to do something about that and we have a ton of faithful people around here who are serving every week and we're so thankful for them and may God bless them for what they're doing and may their tribe increase. But the reality is: we've got some positions, not a ton but we've got some that are going unstaffed. I know about 35 of them, because some of you are afraid to step up and you need to ask the Lord to help you in that area to trust him. And if you need help doing that, get in touch with us this week. Let's talk about that.

III. God leads us in repentance

Grace begins to transform us when 1. God allows us to experience the consequences of our actions. 2. When God reveals our real problem. 3. When God leads us in repentance. Verse 26 says, "Then the man said, 'Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.' But Jacob said, 'I will not let you go unless you bless me.'" Then in verse 29, Jacob says, "Please tell me your name." Now, what is going on here? It's a fascinating scene. Jacob's hip has just been dislocated. He's in incredible pain and he's holding onto the Lord and he won't let go and he's asking for his name. He's asking for a blessing and you say, "Why would he be doing that?" It's because when God leads us to repentance, God implants a new desire in us. Jacob has utterly changed his whole strategy toward God. His whole strategy toward life. He's had a complete change of mind and that's what repentance literally is, metanoia, a change of mind. Before he was wrestling with God, trying to control God to get what he wanted and now instead of wrestling with God by force and by power, Jacob is wrestling for God so that he can know him better. He wants to know the Lord better. In an instant, Jacob recognizes that he has spent his whole life in the pursuit and advancement of his own cause.

Now that he has encountered God, he recognizes that his desires before were way too small in comparison to the opportunity that he now has to know God intimately. It's as if God is saying to Jacob, "Jacob, you've been fighting with me because I haven't given you what you wanted but you haven't wanted the right thing." And now Jacob understands what was meant when God spoke to Abraham years before saying, "I am your shield and your exceeding great reward." The Apostle Paul said it this way, "Whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord."

Jacob has learned that the greatest reward he could possibly have is God himself and once Jacob expresses this desire to have more of God, the Lord asks Jacob a question. In verse 27 he asks, "What is your name?" Now, obviously, God knew Jacob's name but in asking the question, God is forcing Jacob to evaluate his life. Jacob has been the trickster, the deceiver, the manipulator who trusted in his own schemes instead of trusting in the Lord and in leading us to repentance, God requires us to confess our former ways. So my question to you would be: have you done that? Has there been a definite point in your life where you have acknowledged your sin before God and cried out for deliverance? You need to understand that the Bible is more than just a collection of stories each with its own moral. The Bible is unfolding revelation of God's plan for the salvation of the world. When God made his covenant with Abraham, God established the family through which the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, would come and make salvation available to all people. Jesus died for our sins and rose from the dead so that, like Jacob, we might be rescued from our former way of life. So that we might come to know him personally through faith in his Son.

Now, if you're here this morning and you're not like 100% sure that you belong to God, if you don't, as we say, know that you know that you know that you know that you're on your way to heaven, I would encourage you, let's make sure of that today. You say, "Pastor Trey, I've got questions about that and I'd like to get those answered first." Great, then contact us. Send us an email. Call the church office this week. Let's set up a time when we can have someone meet with you and get those questions answered.

There is nothing, nothing more important than that because, you see, there's another exciting aspect of this: when God leads us to repentance, God gives us a new identity. After Jacob confessed his name to God, God told him, verse 28, "Your name shall no longer be Jacob," the trickster, "but Israel," he who strives with God, "for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed." You say, "Well, I thought Jacob lost this wrestling match? How did he strive with God and prevail?" That's a great question. You see, even though Jacob lost the match, he prevailed because he won the Lord and his life was transformed because of it. God gave him a new identity that was no longer wrapped up in the pursuit of his own agenda. Instead, his new identity was directly tied to his relationship with God and that's the same promise that God makes to every follower of Christ. 2 Corinthians 5 says, "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come." What a marvelous, marvelous statement about the power of God's grace.

IV. God brings restoration

Before we close, I know some of you are thinking, "Well, what happened about Esau? What happened there?" And that's another incredible part of this story. You see, because when grace transforms us, grace transforms us when God allows us to face the consequences of our actions, when God reveals our real problem, when God leads us in repentance and when God brings restoration. The next day when Esau approached with his 400 men, Jacob limps out to meet him and he bows down before his brother. He doesn't hide behind his family. He goes out in front and he humbles himself and all eyes are on Esau to see how he's going to respond. But Esau doesn't attack his brother, instead, chapter 33:4 says, "Then Esau ran to meet him and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept." You see, God had been doing a work in Esau's heart as well. We don't know how and we don't know when but all of the anger and all of the strife and all of the resentment were washed away as Jacob and Esau wept in each other's arms.

In a single moment, Jacob was restored to the land of his father, to his position as leader of God's covenant family. He was even restored in his relationship with the brother who wanted to kill him. What a beautiful picture of the transforming grace of God but you realize that the work of transforming lives, that didn't end in the days of Jacob and Esau. Our God is still doing that work of grace in the lives of people today. So far this year, we have seen a dozen or more people choose to embrace Christ as Savior and Lord and he is already transforming their lives. Praise God for that. And I would ask you: in what ways are you resisting God? How do you need to be transformed? What's the area of sin in your life that you've been struggling with? What relationships in your life remain unbroken because you haven't been willing to do the right thing and to trust God for the results? What opportunities to serve have you been saying no to because you're afraid of what it will do to your schedule or to your comfort zone?

I want to encourage you to carve out some time, some concentrated time this week to wrestle with God over these issues. To make a plan to change. Then I want to challenge you to tell somebody about it. Don't leave it there. Let's make sure we're taking action and asking to hold you accountable. If God can transform a trickster like Jacob, then he can do the same for you and for me.

Let's go to him in prayer.

Heavenly Father, we praise you for the fact that you are a God who is concerned about transformation. That you are a God who loved us so much that you were willing to send your Son to take our sins upon himself to suffer and to die for them. Thank you, Lord, that he rose from the dead, proving that he conquered our sin. And Lord, I thank you for this story about how you changed Jacob's heart and transformed his life from being someone who was a trickster to someone who could trust in you, someone who wanted more of you. Lord, I pray that the same would be true of us. Help us desire to know you more and to take steps to actually bring that about in our lives where we're pursuing you and seeking to be more faithful to you. We pray this in Christ's name. Amen.

Trey Garner


Pastor of Children's Ministries - Faith Church


B.F.A. - Musical Theatre, Texas State University
M.F.A. - Acting, Purdue University
M.Min. - Grace Theological Seminary

Pastor Trey Garner joined our staff in 2001. He and his wife, Deb, were married that year, and they have two children. Trey oversees our Children’s Ministries, which serves infants, preschoolers, and K-5th grade students. He also provides pastoral care for those who attend the 8:00 a.m. and family worship services at our east campus.

Read Trey Garner's Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Garner to Faith Church.