Summary: This morning, I invite you to consider with me, “How do people actually have a life-changing encounter?” Is it near death experience that causes us to change? What would cause you to change?
We continue our series, My Crazy Family, the story of Jacob. Jacob is a complex character – we would say in our day, “He’s a piece of work.” Jacob’s life is a Russian nesting doll with one conflict inside conflict inside yet another, conflict. What begins as a conflict with his twin brother Esau, moves to a vow with his father-in-law Laban. Both his brother and his father-in-law want to kill Jacob. And you thought your family had its problems?
Laban and Jacob place a heap of rocks down on the ground as a line in the ground (Genesis 31:51). If either one of them crossed it, it would an ancient version of Hatfield’s and McCoy’s. Yes, Jacob’s family life is almost continual strife.
Today, we see Jacob head toward home with his family. He has children from four different woman, ranging anywhere from preschool to a maximum of thirteen years old. After twenty long years away, Jacob is about to meet his brother again. Though it had been more than twenty years before, Jacob can still remember the anger of his brother that led Esau to vow to kill him. Little did Jacob know it but heaven was about to meet earth and Jacob’s life would never be the same.
This morning, I invite you to consider with me, “How do people actually have a life-changing encounter?” Is it near death experience that causes us to change? What would cause you to change? For real change to happen, three things need to occur …
Your Divided Attention is Captured
Your Stubborn Will Collapses
And Your Inner Nature is Laid Bare
“The same night he arose and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream, and everything else that he had. And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip. Therefore to this day the people of Israel do not eat the sinew of the thigh that is on the hip socket, because he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip on the sinew of the thigh.” (Genesis 32:22–32)
The book of Genesis hovers over this family because this is the one family that God has chosen to change all humanity through. The first part of Genesis teaches how humanity spirals downward but as you approach Genesis 12, the remainder of the book focuses on this family. God pours out tremendous blessing on this family. This family is the hope of the world.
1. Your Divided Attention is Captured
We are the most distracted we have ever been. We live in attention-deficit age, do we not? We have a cell phone in one hand and a steering wheel in the other. For many of us, we pay attention to God like we pay attention to the flight attendant when he/she gives us the pre-flight safety instructions. What would it take for God to capture your attention? Do you multi-task God? Do we listen to God while we tweet, read the paper, listen to the news, or snapchat with our friend?
God gets Jacob’s full attention. Jacob has ancient version of a “come to Jesus” meeting. Jacob is all alone. All the troubles of Jacob converge on him in one night. God finally has his attention.
1.1 The Sequence of Suffering
Jacob finds himself at a critical moment in his life in today’s story. There’s a tunnel that Jacob travels through and you have to look carefully for it. Old Puritan pastors would often speak of the morphology of conversion as the steps God goes through to convert a person to faith in Christ. It’s an amazing thing to consider how much trouble God puts into changing Jacob. Like strategically maneuvering chess pieces on a board, God has Jacob in the middle of stereo speakers – His grace and Jacob’s suffering.