Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: Jacob: Wrestling with God and Man, Pt. 3


A Chinese fable tells of the owl’s flight to the east to escape its neighbors, who were increasingly tired and vocal of the bird’s incessant noise in the night. As it was packing, the owl met a pigeon, which asked: “Where are you going? Why are you in such a hurry?”

The owl answered tersely, “I’m moving to the east.” The pigeon asked again, “Why are you moving there?” The owl moaned, “Because people here all complained about my singing. They cannot stand my hooting. I am going to move east so that they will have no reason to complain anymore.”

The pigeon then frankly told the owl, “Moving to another place is a good idea only if you change your voice. If you don’t, the people in the east too will complain about your singing.”

Kevin McHale, the legendary Boston Celtics basketball great, explained why troubles often follow many NBA players that discover newfound wealth: “I don’t think basketball is the answer to all problems. If a guy comes into the league with a ton of problems, and they pay him half a million dollars, then he’s a millionaire with a ton of problems.” (Los Angeles Times 1/3/93)

Jacob made a bad name and a horrible life for himself when he deceived his father (Gen 27:35) and angered his brother (Gen 27:45). The first act of deception in the Bible was not committed by the serpent (Gen 3:13), but by Jacob (Gen 27:35). The English word for Jacob’s and the serpent’s act of deception is similar in NIV but the Hebrew text correctly used the word “beguiled” for the serpent’s actions and “deceived” for Jacob’s. The conniving, selfish Jacob appeared to be leaving his problems behind, but he was just taking his troubles elsewhere, transferring them to others, and prolonging the agony. Jacob’s mother had sent him 500 miles away to Haran, where her brother lived. The sober Jacob had a lot of spare time to reconsider his ways. Though it took leaving his town, his family, and his past behind for Jacob to mend his ways, he was a truly changed man by the time he reached Haran. It was better late than never!

Why is a changed life better late than never? How are people changed and transformed from the errors of their ways? Is there hope for cold, calculative, and crooked people like Jacob?


10Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Haran. 11When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. 12He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13There above it stood the LORD, and he said: “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. 14Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. 15I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” (Gen 28:1-14)

God works in mysterious, marvelous, and miraculous ways.

A friend who is a seminary professor in Hong Kong was converted watching the controversial, ultraliberal, and blasphemous movie “Jesus Christ Superstar.” When asked to repeat his testimony, he wrote: “In September 1978, when I was in a very desperate and low state of mind, I went to the Ocean Theatre to watch a movie called “Jesus Christ Superstar”. The Spirit of God spoke to my heart powerfully through that movie! As I looked to the life of Jesus, I found that Jesus loved me so much. I strongly felt that I was a sinner, Jesus still loved me and died for me on the cross. I still remember a shot showing Jesus’ painful look as he was hanging on the cross, but all of a sudden, Jesus prayed, “ Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34). I was cut to the heart by this prayer and my tears came out as much as it could. I accepted Jesus’ love and forgiveness deep down in my heart. Praise God! He saved me by this unusual means and through this unexpected incident. (Via email 8/13/00)

Jacob’s ladder was God’s brief but deliberate disclosure of His active involvement in the world, His avid interest in human affairs, and His astute intervention into people’s lives. Jacob was tired, lonely, and forlorn when he stumbled into Bethel. He had no company but the sun for his trip, no place but the ground for his body, and no pillow but a stone for his head, but he experienced God’s in a personal and mighty way. The door at home, to his family, and to Beersheba were slammed shut but the window of heaven was wide open to him. God literally threw down a ladder of hope to a down and out Jacob, who was mired in a pit of his own making. For a short while, God made apparent, available and accessible His presence, promise, and providence to Jacob in a powerful and unmistakable way. God confirmed to Jacob his destiny as the heir of God’s promise to his forefathers, to his descendants, and to the world. God reiterated to Jacob His promise to Abraham and Isaac, relayed to him the prosperity of his descendants, and reassured the fearful patriarch of His presence in the dangerous journey.

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