Summary: The incident at Jabbok’s Ford was a watershed in Jacob’s life. For it was a time where Jacob drew aside from everyone else to spend time alone with God. And if you mean business with God, he will mean business with you.
The Showdown at Jabbok’s Ford – a watershed in Jacob’s life
Story: Bruce and the spider
After the Scottish defeat at the battle of Falkirk, and then the terrible news of Wallace’s execution - Robert the Bruce is said to have been inspired to continue the struggle against the English - by the persistence of a spider trying to weave its web.
Bruce was hiding out from his English pursuers in a cave. He was exhausted from the never ending struggle - and in despair. Should flee to France and live out his life in comfort or stay and fight?
His eye fell on a spider spinning its web. It kept trying to swing across the ceiling, over and over again, until at last it reached the other side and anchored the first strand of the web.
"Try, try, and try again", became Bruce’s motto
It was a watershed in Bruce’s life that ultimately led to his victory against the English at Bannockburn in 1314
The incident at Jabbok’s Ford in our OT reading this morning was a watershed in Jacob’s life.
For it was a time where Jacob drew aside to spend time alone with God.
He persevered and sought God’s blessing in his life. And our challenge today is - are we as hungry for God’s blessing as Jacob was?
1. Introduction - Who was Jacob?
Perhaps it is worth reminding ourselves who Jacob was.
He was the grandson of Abraham and the son of Isaac. But he didn’t have their endearing qualities.
Jacob was what we would call today a “rascal”
As one commentator has said:
“Jacob was the kind of person that could enter a revolving door behind you and come out ahead of you.”
Jacob cheated his brother, conned his father and his brother, and swindled his father-in-law.
What he did wasn’t exactly illegal but it wasn’t exactly morally right either.
Why – because Jacob was only interested in Jacob. What could he get out of it?
And in today’s Old Testament reading, Jacob comes to a watershed in his life. He meets God face to face.
And it is fitting that the stream where all this happened is called Jabbok (which means pouring out or emptying).
And we see a pouring out of himself before God.
2. How did Jacob come to be at Jabbok’s Ford.
So how did Jacob find himself at Jabbok’s Ford?
He was on his way home, having slaved away for nearly 20 years for his Uncle Laban.
And now he was on the run from his uncle Laban and Laban’s sons – and but for the intervention of God, Jacob would have been killed when they caught up with him.
But as it was – they parted amicably.
And he was now on his way home – back to his father Isaac – Jacob was at last going home after 20 years.
Crossing the Jabbok River meant crossing into his brother Esau’s territory. It was the same brother Esau from whom he had run 20 or so years earlier.
He didn’t know if Esau still bore him a grudge – for stealing the blessing and the birthright from him. So he sent gifts across the river ahead of him, just in case.
He sent his servants with gifts 200 female goats and 20 male goats, 200 female sheep and 20 rams, 30 female camels and their young, 40 cows, 10 bulls, 20 female donkeys and 10 male donkeys. (Genesis 32: 13-15). That was quite some gift by Middle Eastern standards.
As Jacob was making these preparations he said to himself, “I will pacify him with these gifts I am sending on ahead; later, when I see him, perhaps he will receive me” (Genesis 32:20 NIV).
Later that night he sent his wives and children and all his possessions across the river.
3. The incident at Jabbok’s Ford
And when that’s all done, we find Jacob alone on the other side of the stream.
He has done all that he can think to do, and now he comes to pray.
But God answers his prayer rather unexpectedly - with a wrestling match.
Have you ever noticed that God does not always answer our prayers in the way we expect him to?
I wonder how it was that night – all alone at Jabbok’s Ford.
Did Jacob see a shadowy figure sneaking up behind him?
Did he wonder who it was?
Did he think it might be his brother Esau? A local thief?
As far as Jacob was concerned, it didn’t matter.
And the desperate fight was on– and it took all Jacob’s energy.
But then encounters with God usually do - when you take time to be alone with him
But then disaster struck.
We read that God, in human form with whom Jacob had been wrestling