So, you are probably wondering about the title – where the WWE got its start? I promise that I will get to that in this post. But once again I am amazed at the faithfulness of our covenant-keeping God who is willing to use people like you and me and Jacob (yes, we need to include ourselves in the same category with a man like that) to accomplish His purposes. As we conclude our story today, I want you to notice something about this covenant that God made with Jacob – it is completely unconditional. You go back and read it. No “ifs” are added. It’s a done deal. So, when the dream is over and Jacob wakes up, he realizes what has happened, and he worships God for the first time in his life. He memorializes the place. He names it Bethel, which means “house of God” because he recognizes this is a special place. Then Jacob did what so many of us do when we encounter God for the first time. He sang, “I surrender all,” right? Or “Just As I Am?” Or maybe he put his all on the altar of sacrifice? Look at the story again in Genesis 28:20-22. He at least made a commitment, right? Nope. He made a deal with God. He said, “If you will be with me and take care of me, and give me food and clothes, and bring me back to my dad’s house, then you will be my God.” That’s right. God made an unconditional covenant with Jacob, and Jacob made a deal with God.
And nothing much changed in his life. Jacob continues on his journey, and he marries and has lots of children and becomes very wealthy through his scheming, and understand, God continues to bless because the covenant is unconditional. Remember the point of all these stories – even when we are not faithful, God is. And when Jacob realizes that it is time to return home, he is still the man that he has always been. He’s afraid. He’s afraid of his father-in-law, so he sneaks away. And even after Laban reveals to Jacob that God is supernaturally protecting him, Jacob is still afraid. When he hears that his brother is coming to meet him, he sends gifts ahead hoping they might appease his brother’s wrath. Then he sends all of his possessions ahead including his servants as a barrier hoping that by the time his brother works his way through them – interpret that however you think best – his anger will be satisfied. Then he puts his own family between him and his brother while he stays on the far side of the river. A plea for mercy? Maybe. An act of cowardice? I think so. But God used this time alone with Jacob so that the man can get the full benefit of the blessing.
You see, it’s one thing to meet God, and that’s what happened to Jacob at Bethel. He met God. He heard from God. He developed a head knowledge of God. He told God, “Okay, God. If you do all these things for me, then we’ve got a deal.” And God held up His end of the bargain. Now, read this carefully, folks. It was time to pay the piper. God had come to collect. You might not like this kind of language, but when you make a vow to God, He expects you to keep the vow, and so now, instead of just meeting with God, Jacob has an encounter with the living God. Look Genesis 32:24 very closely. In my Bible, it says that he wrestled with a Man, capital M, until the breaking of a day. Now lest you think that the capital M is just a man-made thing, look down at v. 28, and read that Jacob “struggled with God” and at v. 30 where it says that he has “seen God face to face.” If that doesn’t convince you, look at Hosea 12:3. Understand, this is God in the flesh, and He has come down to meet with Jacob.
Now, don’t get caught up in the details. Yes, God could have beaten Jacob in this wrestling match in a heartbeat. That’s not the point of this story. The point is in Jacob at some point recognized that he was wrestling with God, and he was willing to struggle with God all night long knowing that He could kill Him instantly. In the midst of the struggle, something happened to Jacob. Jacob was transformed by his encounter with God from a coward to a warrior. In fact, the change was so drastic, so apparent that the Lord changed his name from Jacob, “heel-grabber,” to Israel which means “he struggled with God and men and has prevailed.”
But there is more evidence of his change. Look down to chapter 33. Instead of sending his family before him to meet his brother, Jacob is changed into the leader God intended him to be. No longer afraid, he boldly goes out to meet his brother, Esau. No longer arrogant, he bows himself to the ground 7 times demonstrating his humility. But let me show you a little bit more of the contrast brought about in this transformation. After his encounter with God at Bethel, he walked with arrogance. After wrestling with God at Jabbok, he walked slowly and with a limp. Could there be a spiritual implication? I think so. When we truly encounter God, we find ourselves broken and humbled. Encountering God changes us forever. For Jacob, he became Israel, no longer a deceiver, now an overcomer. No longer a man afraid, now a man filled with courage. And for the rest of his days, we see a man becoming the man God always intended him to be. He fell down, again and again and again, but by God’s grace, he got up every time, and that is the key.
Listen to me. You may be just like Jacob, and the enemy is whispering in your ear, “You are no good. You are too sinful. You’ve messed up too many times for God to ever forgive you again. Just forget it. Stay down this time. Don’t even try.” Let me tell you something. Remember Jacob, and get up. Remember God’s grace, and get up. Listen to my voice this morning, and get up because my friend, God loves you and He is telling you to get up and come home today because His grace is amazing and His love is great. Get up, and let Him show you today.