Summary: In order to find out who we really are we need to ask God who He is!
September 9, 2007
Text: Genesis 32:22-32
Subject: Jacob Wrestles with God
Title: Who Am I – The Quest for Identity
Who are you? Sounds like a simple question doesn’t it? Most of you would answer that by telling your name. But the question is not, “What is your name.” The question asks, “Who are you?”.
“Well, I’m a Christian.”
I’m not asking what you are (though that may be part of what I am looking for) but the question is, “Who are you.”.
“I’m a plumber!”
I’m not asking what you do – I want to know who you are.
And we could go on and on. The answer to the question may not be as simple as you would think. You may not even know who you really are.
Mark Buchanan, in his book The Rest of God, tells the story of a man who took two weeks to walk in silence and solitude in the Highlands of Wales.
He kept company with stones and fields and cold starry nights. At first, the journey was a reprieve, a needed break from his life’s clutter and scatter. But around the fourth night, something shifted. He grew terribly afraid, but not of wolves, ghosts, brigands, or storms.
He sensed something shadowy and naked stalking him, edging ever closer.
He was afraid of himself.
Solitude unlatched a cellar in him, someplace where memories and longings and fears lay buried, locked up so long he’d almost forgotten them. Aloneness loosed them.
“I thought I’d gone mad,” he said. “I felt I couldn’t escape. I feared sleeping. I feared waking. I dreaded daytime and nighttime. I wanted to get as far away from myself as I could.”
But he had nowhere to hide. After many days he began to see things he had not seen for years, some for a lifetime. He saw how he avoided closeness with other people, the subtle way he sabotaged this and made it look as if the other persons were to blame. He saw how he had become busy as a way of eluding his sense of emptiness and insignificance. He saw that all his many accomplishments had never removed from him a primal fear that he was a fraud – and soon to be exposed.
At the end of two weeks, he knew himself in a way he had never imagined. “It was as if I met myself for the first time. I felt I returned from that two weeks with a soul mate. Of maybe I just returned with a soul.” (p. 203)
Let me ask again, “Who are you?” Today I want to take you on a journey with Jacob as he comes face to face with the reality of who he is, and I want to challenge you to begin to ask yourself the same question. Open your hearts to receive a special revelation from the Lord today.
I. THE OUTWARD APPEARANCE OF A MAN You really can’t get a feel for who Jacob is just from this story in his life. For if you look at him now what you see is a very successful business man with an abundance of possessions, a happy family and lots of employees. On the surface it looks like Jacob has everything going for him. On the surface it looks as though he is genuinely concerned about the safety of his family. On the surface it looks like he wants to reconcile with his brother. On the surface it appears that he has thought everything out, has a plan in place, and is ready to move forward with his life. But the reality is that he is so obsessed by his past that he just doesn’t know what to do. To understand how Jacob got here you have to go back to the beginning of the story. In Genesis 25 we see the story of the birth of Esau and Jacob. (The name Jacob means, “he grasps the heel”; literally, “he deceives”.) Here’s how Jacob started his life – with the promise that God’s blessing would be upon him. 23The LORD said to her,
“Two nations are in your womb,
And two peoples from within you will be separated;
one people will be stronger than the other,
and the older will serve the younger.”
Jacob and Esau grew up to be such different men. Esau was a man’s man, a sportsman. He would rather hunt than do anything else. He had a real appetite for life. Jacob was quiet and stayed to himself (25:27 – a quiet man, staying among the tents.) Jacob liked to cook. Esau liked to eat. Jacob was a thinker. Esau was a doer. You know the stories. Esau sold his birthright for a bowl of stew. Later Jacob would deceive his father into giving him the blessing his brother should have received. Jacob runs away in fear of his life. When he gets to his uncle Laban’s house wouldn’t you think that he would be able to start fresh and put all that past behind him? But for the twenty years that he worked for his uncle he became the deceived and Laban the deceiver. When he prepares to leave we see that the same character traits are still there.31:20, 20Moreover, Jacob deceived Laban the Aramean by not telling him he was running away. 21So he fled with all he had, and crossing the River, he headed for the hill country of Gilead. Can you see what was taking place in Jacob’s life? Even though he had personal encounters with God in his life he never really had a personal relationship with Him. He was trying to fill up the “Christ –Shaped” hole in his heart with the things of this world. His problem wasn’t a financial problem; it was a sin problem. And he was trying to fix it by filling up his life with more sin. In Mark 7:20-23 Jesus said, 20 “What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’ 21For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.’” These were some of Jacob’s problems and he was trying to compensate for them by adding more to it.