Now the Sons of Jacob Were Twelve

It was Thursday. It was the same, but different kind of Thursday. Like every Thursday, there is my Bible opened to the book of Genesis. Like every Thursday, there is my notebook and a black fine point gel pen. Like every Thursday, music plays; a playlist called thinking music. It is strictly instruments, no singing except maybe my own. And like every Thursday, I write. I think through every verse in the text for Sunday, from the first verse to the last verse and just write out every thought, every observation, every connection. It is all done in seeking the big idea of the text. And it is called wrestling. I find myself wrestling with the text and it is exhausting. But this was a different kind of Thursday. I was frustrated and at a loss. I just could not get it. In fact, I wrote in my notes more than once and in big letters – I DO NOT GET IT. So, I took a walk.

I had never walked this walk before. But I knew that in order to get back to where I started, four right turns were needed. It was after the second right turn that all did not seem right. The third right turn was not appearing. So, I kept walking and looking and hoping. Before long, and it seemed long, the third right turn appeared. But there was a slight problem. At the third right turn I realized that I was no longer in North Olmsted. This was the Giant Eagle parking lot in Fairview Park. All I really knew to do was to make the third right turn. And the fourth right turn was nowhere in sight. This walk, planned to be just ten minutes, took just a bit longer.

It was, perhaps, the same, but different kind of Thursday. But out of desperation he took a walk, a walk he had never walked before. All that would be needed though are four right turns. He was about my age – 40 years old – when his walk began. This is Genesis 28 and his name is Jacob. This walk, planned to be just ten minutes, took just a bit longer.

Genesis 35:1-29 is the fourth right turn. And at the fourth right turn, Jacob is nearly 70 years old.

But Jacob Finished the Journey

The big idea of Genesis 35:1-29 is that Jacob, this 70 year old man on a walk that took just a bit longer than anticipated, finished the journey. His journey was to find a wife and come home. It sounded simple enough. But Jacob not only found a wife, he found two wives. It would be twenty years before Jacob would make the third right turn to head home. And on that third right turn, he stopped. Then he started to walk and stopped again. And then he was delayed. And delayed again – his leg was injured. On that injured leg, he walked again, but delayed some more. He soon started walking again and then he stopped. He built a house and some barns. And after a while, he started to walk again. But then he stopped again. He put up a tent, bought some land and stayed for quite some time.

It seemed innocent enough to stay some time. The Bible says that Jacob was enjoying some peace, the first in a really long time. His injured leg was a bother and a city was in view. When is the last time that Jacob saw a city? So he stopped just far enough to keep the city in view but also have some space and peace (Genesis 33:18-20). But regardless, the point is that he stopped. God had commanded him to go, to go home, but he stopped and made a home.

Decisions have consequences. Jacob’s particular decision has been called partial obedience which is always disobedience. And Jacob’s particular decision would affect his daughter. Jacob’s particular decision would affect his sons. Jacob’s particular decision would affect an entire city (Genesis 34). And as these consequences unfold before Jacob’s very eyes, he remained relatively silent. What was he thinking?

We would agree that in Genesis 34, Jacob does not look good. He was rather disappointing and shamefully so. He had disobeyed God and the effect on his family seems from our viewpoint so irreparable! What does a man do? And this is not just any man, this is God’s man. This is a man that knows the personal touch of God. He has seen God. He has experienced God and through weakness discovered how much it is that he needs God. And in Genesis 34, just to be completely blunt, he looks like a total failure. But God had told him that he was to go home. It may have been a long time ago, but God had told him to go home.
The big idea is that Jacob finished the journey. In all that we have seen, and it seems like we have seen it all, Jacob’s life is so transparent before us, he finished the journey. The big question then is, why? Why did Jacob finish the journey?

The Struggle in Finishing the Journey

Again, Genesis 35 is the final leg, the fourth turn of the journey. And what is so incredible is that even in the final turn there is still a struggle in finishing the journey. The struggle in finishing is real. It was real for Jacob.

Listen to verse one. “Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there.” Pause here for a moment. At this particular point, Jacob is only about 20 miles or a day’s journey from Bethel. He was at the city formerly known as Shechem. And he had been there for maybe ten years. Genesis 35:1 tells us that when Jacob began this journey back home, the target stop before getting all the way to the home of his parents was Bethel. Apparently, in all that time, those maybe ten years, Jacob never made it to Bethel. Bethel is where Jacob heard God say, declaratively and clearly, “Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you” (Genesis 28:15). And it at the very least gives some indication to the struggle in finishing the journey. How though did Jacob initially struggle in finishing the journey? Could it be that the words of Genesis 28, some thirty years prior, grew strangely dim? At the time, Jacob was really excited about these words. At their sound, he put together a stone pillar, poured oil all over it, called the place awesome; that it was God’s place, God’s house and the entrance to heaven. He even made a vow. He said that if God would do all these things for him, then God would indeed be his God.

And I just wondered, how often for me, does God’s Word grow strangely dim? And how do I let it happen? It is an attitude of “what have you done for me lately, God?” It is a dangerous attitude. So, how do I undo that attitude? Listen to how Jacob finishes the journey.

So, this first verse gives an indication to the struggle in finishing the journey. And God told Jacob to get up to Bethel, which geographically is down, and dwell there and make an altar there. God reminds him “I appeared to you there. Remember that? You saw me there.” And Jacob will get to Bethel. And he will build an altar there at Bethel. And he will worship there at Bethel. And he will put up another pillar there, like the first and maybe the first is gone or maybe it is there, it would be neat if it was there as Jacob put up this second pillar. He will pour oil and wine over the second pillar (Genesis 35:5-15). And perhaps Jacob, in not doing the same thing as years before by pouring wine or a drink offering over the pillar, is saying this moment is a moment of renewal. It is not like the first. It stands on its own.

But once Jacob got to Bethel there was a death. This too indicates the struggle in finishing the journey. It is the things we do not see coming. He did not anticipate this and either do we. Her name was Deborah. It is her first mention by name in Genesis. She was Rebekah’s nurse. Rebekah was Jacob’s mom. What is Deborah doing here? How did she get here? It is reasonable to assume that Rebekah had died and when she died Deborah was sent to meet up with Jacob. He was not there when his mom died. He left home with the thinking that he would soon see her. He never would. And when Deborah died, he buried her here at Bethel and called the burial place, “the oak of weeping.” It hurt his heart when she died.

Jacob and his family would soon continue from Bethel. The journey was not over. And as they journeyed, they stop. They stop about two hours from a little town called Bethlehem. And surprise! Rachel goes into labor. Rachel was pregnant?! Who knew?! The reader, us, do not know until now. It was a hard labor. She gave birth to Jacob’s last and youngest son. She called him son of her sorrow. Jacob changed his name almost right away. He loved this boy. He named him son of honor or Benjamin. Rachel then died. Another funeral. He would build a pillar over her tomb, near Bethlehem (cf. Matthew 2:18; Micah 5:2; Jeremiah 31:15). He loved Rachel. He always loved Rachel. She was his first love and now she was gone. This too is the struggle in finishing the journey (Genesis 35:20).

But Jacob presses on. He is finishing the journey. Then his oldest son does something dumb and wrong and immoral. He slept with a woman not his wife. It was Rachel’s servant and a woman who was also the mother of two of Jacob’s sons. It seems Reuben did this so as to remove an honor from Bilhah of becoming the favored woman of the house over Reuben’s mother Leah. This too is the struggle in finishing the journey (Genesis 35:22).

Now the Sons of Jacob Were Twelve

It leads to a transition (Genesis 35:22b). The birth of Benjamin and this sinful act of Reuben leads to a transition. “Now the sons of Jacob were twelve.” There is this short record of Jacob’s family given, not in birth order, but according to motherhood (35:23-26). These twelve sons will later be called the twelve tribes of Israel or in Acts 7, the twelve patriarchs. It is very interesting. And of the twelve patriarchs, three so far – Simeon, Levi, and Reuben – have all earned disfavor from their dad due to their actions (cf. Gen. 49:3-7). Reuben, Simeon and Levi are all full brothers (have the same mom). Their fourth brother Judah will become, along with Joseph, a major focal point of Genesis and the unfolding redemption story of the Bible.

Still a Struggle in Finishing the Journey

In Genesis 35:27, Jacob will get home. He will finish the journey. And after he finishes the journey, his dad, who he longed to see (cf. Genesis 28:20-21) will die. A third funeral. It is here that he sees his brother Esau again.

However, it is still a struggle in finishing the journey. It is my struggle. I struggled with this chapter more than I struggled with Genesis 34 and it was not until I saw the big idea that I realized why. I think about quitting more than I think about finishing. And the Bible has a lot more to say about finishing than it does quitting (cf. Colossians 4:17; Revelation 14:12; Philippians 3:13-14; 2 Timothy 4:7; Hebrews 12:1-3).

So, how do you finish the journey? Look back at Genesis 35:1-3; 10-12. Why did Jacob finish the journey? It was because God told him to. And after God told him to finish the journey, Jacob exhorted his entire household, including himself, “Put away the foreign gods that are among you and purify yourselves and change your garments” (35:2). The New Testament says it like this, “assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:21-24).

So, how do you finish the journey? It is never too late to finish the journey or to think about how to finish the journey. How did Jacob finish the journey? It is Genesis 35:10-12. It was by the help of God himself. All God did was remind Jacob of his promises, his old, steadfast promises. And God called himself God Almighty or El Shaddai – the God who makes things happen by his power and might.

By the way, God is never mentioned in Genesis 34, but Genesis 35 is filled with him. His name is mentioned some 23 times. And it is all in finishing the journey. Finishing the journey begins and ends with him. His call to you is to get up, go and finish. Being faithful because he is faithful. And as the journey progresses and gets longer than anticipated and has more disappointments or frustrations or stress than needed, be renewed by his promises, his old, steadfast promises.

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Jacob Though Still Remained Silent

When the phone rings, hours after bedtime, there is every reason to be nervous. But when it is Friday morning, the warmth of the Cleveland sun can be felt, it is 8:41 and the phone rings, well, there is not much reason to not answer. But when the automated voice messaging system of the high school says that your daughter, who was dropped off at school and carefully watched as she entered the building at 7:10, is missing…your heart sinks. How can this be? Where could she be? “Oh God, do not let it be!”

Four minutes pass and you can give God great thanks at the hearing that your daughter is just fine. She is where she needs to be; in second period, eager to do some learning. The first period teacher took attendance a bit too hurriedly. What then do you do? Other than wanting to have a firm, but gentle, conversation with attendance takers about attendance taking, and double checking and triple checking, what do you do? Particularly, as a father what then do you do? You get quiet. And in that silence, you look forward to 2:15 p.m. when you can wrap your arms around your little girl and not let go for a really long time. You also buy her ice cream in the evening.

That We Would See Silence

It has been said that Genesis 34 could have some advantage for a men’s Bible study. But when preaching it, such as right now, there is uncertainty that anything could or should be preached. There are books about Genesis that say something about every chapter but this one.[1] Is that not something, in preaching or in books that there would be silence when it comes to Genesis 34? I think it is appropriate. I think it is appropriate that when it comes to Genesis 34, we would see silence.

Genesis 34, not unlike the chapter before it or the chapter before it or the chapter before it, has been about this man called Jacob. And in Genesis 34:5 we hear about Jacob. “Now Jacob heard that he had defiled his daughter Dinah. But his sons were with his livestock in the field, so Jacob held his peace until they came.” Jacob remained silent and as the chapter continues we hear Jacob say nothing until all is said and done at the very end of the chapter. Genesis 34 is about silence. And so, we may want to ask and think about, why was Jacob silent?

A Daughter’s Story

It begins with Genesis 34:1. “Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to see the women of the land.” What do we hear in this very first verse? We hear names. There is Dinah. There is Leah. And there is Jacob. And the key word is daughter. Dinah was the daughter of Leah and Leah was married to Jacob and Jacob was Dinah’s father. This is all we learn in those first few words of this first verse. Now Leah and Jacob have seven children – six sons and one daughter. Two of these sons – Simeon and Levi – have a significant part in this chapter. And Jacob has five other sons with three other women. But he only has this daughter. And it is that word daughter that really sticks out. Dinah the daughter.

Genesis 34 is Dinah’s story. It is a daughter’s story. And what is her story all about? Her mom was Leah. Leah is mentioned just here in her daughter’s story. Her dad was Jacob. He is mentioned all throughout his daughter’s story. And her story begins that she “went out to see the women of the land.” Note the word see. Some translations have the word visit. Dinah went out to visit the women of the land. The word women could strictly be translated as daughters. Dinah a daughter went out to visit the other daughters of the land. The word see or visit has the sense to get to know. She apparently went alone and perhaps without her parents’ knowledge or permission. Dinah was most likely a teenager and the only teenage girl not just in her house, but in her neighborhood. So, take verse one for what it is; Dinah was inquisitive and innocent and naïve. She wanted to get to know some girls her age.

Now listen closely to Genesis 34:2. “And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite.” Just pause there. Again, this is Dinah’s story; a daughter’s story. In this daughter’s story, the dad is present. And in verse two we are introduced to Shechem. Who is Shechem? Notice how he is introduced. He is a son. And his dad is a man named Hamor. So, in this daughter’s story, there is the daughter’s dad and there is Shechem a son and his dad.

Who is Shechem? Keep reading. Just so interesting how he is described. Shechem is “the prince of the land.” The land was previously called the city of Shechem (33:18). At first, we might think that the name of the city was Shechem. It very well may be that this city had a previous name, but Shechem the man, the son was so prominent that this city was just called Shechem’s city and eventually would just simply be known as Shechem. What does that tell us? Shechem is not just prominent, but powerful. He is in charge. And I would say he is more in charge than his dad.

Shechem saw Dinah. And when he saw her, he seized her. And when he seized her, he laid with her and humiliated her. Genesis 34 is in the Bible. And it is hard to read as much as it is hard to hear. A woman was raped. A young woman was raped. I want us to listen closely to the next two verses. “And his soul was drawn to Dinah the daughter of Jacob.” Pause there. Who was Dinah? Keep listening. “He loved the young woman and spoke tenderly to her.” Pause again. Note the word tenderly. It means to speak romantically or reassuredly. What is Shechem reassuring Dinah of? But something not to miss is the fact that Shechem spoke. And he keeps talking. He tells his dad, “Get me this girl for my wife” (34:4).

So Jacob Held His Peace

Again, pay close attention to how things are worded. “Now Jacob heard that he had defiled his daughter Dinah” (34:5). Who was Dinah? How is she identified both in verse three and now verse five? It is as a daughter! Jacob had heard what had happened to his daughter. His sons were out working in the field when he heard what happened to his daughter. His daughter was raped! “So he held his peace.” Jacob remained silent.

One of my favorite authors said this about Genesis 34, “The Bible does not spare its readers the awful truth.” What is the awful truth of Genesis 34? What makes Genesis 34 so hard to read and so hard to hear? Again, pay close attention to how things are worded. Keep listening to verse five. “But his sons were with his livestock in the field, so Jacob held his peace until they came.” The impression is that Jacob remained silent, but not for long! He waited for his boys to come home. He waited for his boys to hear him speak.

But then in verse six, we are reminded that Hamor is coming to Jacob’s house. And who is Hamor? He is Shechem’s dad. And this dad is coming to do what? Speak! He is coming to speak with Jacob. Meanwhile Jacob’s sons come in from working, hear about what has happened to their sister and, rightly so, become indignant and very angry. Why? The Bible is very clear. Because Shechem “had done an outrageous thing in Israel by lying with Jacob’s daughter, for such a thing must not be done” (34:7). What is outrageous? What must not be done? All of it. A man is not to seize a woman. A man is not to humiliate a woman. A man then does not speak romantically or reassuredly to a woman. A man does, though, speak up for a woman. I know, a woman is more than capable of speaking up for herself, but when her voice is silenced, there is one man she should be able to count on to speak up.

A Man Speaks Up

In Genesis 34:8-12, a man speaks up. It is Hamor, Shechem’s dad. He shares that Shechem is just head over heels in love with Dinah. Where is Dinah, by the way? He requests that Dinah become his son’s wife. And the proposal also includes that this marriage between these two families be the first of many marriages between these two families. It is because there is prosperity to be had in this land. Then there is apparent silence. Dinah’s brothers are angry, but under control and silent. Jacob seems to be just silent. Then another man speaks up. It is Shechem! Shechem, the man who did this outrageous thing, what ought not to be done, came with his dad. He cannot take the silence, however short it was, much longer. He says, “I will give anything and do anything to have your daughter and your sister as my wife.”

Then Men Speak Up

In Genesis 34:13-17, another man speaks up, joined by another man and another man and another man, none of who are Jacob. Jacob’s sons are talking. They are about to give their reply. This is just amazing. These brothers are fit to be tied (angry). But note that it is under control. How so? They have enough of a mind to speak deceitfully, meaning they have a plan, and the patience to see this plan through. They cannot do it. They cannot give their sister to this man. And what right do these brothers have in giving away this woman in marriage? Jacob, the dad, is sitting right there, silent! They can do it, however, if Shechem and all the men of the city become like Jacob’s sons – circumcised. This is important. The circumcision was holy. It was a sign that one was in covenant relationship with God. These sons are misusing the covenant and its sign for their own design. And Jacob was silent!

More Men Speak Up

Shechem and Hamor are more than happy to agree to these terms. Listen to Genesis 34:19. “And the young man did not delay to do the thing.” And Shechem and Hamor gather with all the men of the city and share this proposal. Then more men speak up, all in agreement to become one people with Jacob’s family. And why? There is prosperity to be had (34:23).

And then as the men of the city are recovering, it was the third day, two sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, slaughter the entire town of its men. The sons of Jacob then plunder the town of all its wealth and children and women (34:29).

Jacob Though Still Remained Silent

Blood soaked, the sons return to their father’s house and for the first time, Jacob speaks. “What have you done? Your actions, this murderous tirade, will make me a stench in all the land!” What is it that finally awakes a response from Jacob? The actions of his sons. But the sons so readily bring up the whole point of the chapter. This is Dinah’s story. “Should he treat our sister like a prostitute?”

No one, except the daughter, shines in this story. This is Dinah’s story. This is a daughter’s story. And what exactly is her story? Through it all, her dad though still remained silent. Jacob never said a word for or about his daughter.

There are lessons here. There is a lesson about parents and their children. There is a lesson about sin and wicked men and the wicked things wicked men do. Rape is wicked. But so is “the placid acceptance” of the wicked things wicked men do. Hamor could have taken care of his son. And by taken care, I mean whipped. He could have whipped his son. Hamor could have rescued Dinah. She was being held in Hamor’s house the whole chapter!

Jacob though still remained silent. He never said a word for or about his daughter. Why does God not spare us this story? It is because God the Father speaks. He has a word for and about you, especially if you can relate to a story such as this. It is 2 Timothy 3:16-17. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man [woman] of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

I like that word complete. It means to make fresh. It means to make ready and renew. And notice it, “for every good work.” Dinah is heard of one other time in the Bible. It is Genesis 46:15. It is simply that she was Jacob’s daughter. No husband is mentioned. No children are mentioned.

But God speaks. He speaks to those who feel ruined and battered and used. He speaks. And he heals – by his stripes you are healed (Isaiah 53:5). There is healing in his wings (Malachi 4:2). And he himself restores you and confirms you and strengthens you and establishes you, and all by his multi-colored grace (1 Peter 5:10). And it is all because he speaks. He speaks through his Son, Jesus the Christ who says, “Come. Come to me, you are heavy laden and burdened. And I will give you rest for your soul” (Matthew 11:28).

[1] cf. H. C. Leupold; Arthur W. Pink and Alexander MacLaren.

And Yet Jacob Journeyed Peacefully

It is about Jacob. Genesis 27 was about Jacob, but so was Genesis 28. Genesis 29 was about Jacob, but so was Genesis 30. Genesis 31 was about Jacob, but so was Genesis 32. His brother Esau may have shared the sentiment, “Hey! It has always been about Jacob! Even in the womb it was all about Jacob!” But then there is Genesis 33. And come Genesis 33, it is still about Jacob.

Jacob, along with his family, was on the journey home. This was an approximate 500-mile journey; a walk that Jacob had anticipated for twenty years. As soon as it began, Jacob was stopped. And as soon as it restarted again, Jacob was stopped again. Then he was delayed from restarting the journey a third time. He was delayed by the word of his brother’s coming to meet him. He was delayed by a restless night’s sleep. He was delayed by God who would not let him rest. God wrestled him to the ground and wrestled with him all over the ground until the break of the day. Then as a new day dawned, Jacob was delayed by the sight of his brother’s coming to meet him.

And in Genesis 33:12-20, Jacob seeks to keep moving and to get home. And as soon as Jacob renewed the journey home, he stopped. But then he moved again and stopped again. So, the big question is, why did Jacob stop? Why did he not keep heading home?

It Has Been Hard

Genesis 33 has been called a very difficult passage; a very difficult passage to interpret. Genesis 33 has three parts to it. The first part is when Jacob met Esau (Genesis 33:1-11). The second part is simply a transition (Genesis 33:12-17), a transition to the third part. The third part is that Jacob journeyed peacefully. The difficulty of the passage is these last two parts. The first part had quite a bit of drama and intrigue. There are the previous 24 hours and all Jacob endured leading up to the moment of meeting his brother face to face. And there is this picture of these two manly men weeping together in the warm embrace of forgiveness and reconciliation. It is wonderful!

But then there are these last two parts with a lot less drama and little less intrigue. So, what could possibly be so difficult about it?

Jacob began his journey home in Genesis 31. And in Genesis 31 Jacob shared his heart. His journey had started and then came to an abrupt halt. He had been stopped by his father-in-law Laban. When Jacob had his chance, he unloaded on his father-in-law. It was twenty years of pent up frustration. And it began with these words, “These twenty years I have been with you.” Listen closely to what Jacob says next. “Your ewes and your female goats have not miscarried, and I have not eaten the rams of your flocks” (31:38). What had Jacob been doing for Laban for twenty years? He was a shepherd. Now listen to what Jacob says about being a shepherd. “What was torn by wild beasts I did not bring to you. I bore the loss of it myself. From my hand you required it, whether stolen by day or stolen by night. There I was: by day the heat consumed me, and the cold by night, and my sleep fled from my eyes.” What does Jacob say about being a shepherd? It was hard.

A commentator made this mention, “Pastoring is hard.” Another word for shepherd is pastor. Those three words I believe apply here in Genesis 33. Pastoring is hard – this is what Jacob shared at the very beginning of his journey and at the first stop of his journey. It has been hard. And I know what you may be thinking; it is all hard. Parenting is hard. Being married is hard. Working is hard. What is not hard?

The Transition

Remember, there are three parts to Genesis 33. The first part is Genesis 33:1-11; when Jacob met Esau. And the second part transitions into the third part, so we are a calling the second part…the transition. It begins with Genesis 33:12. “Then Esau said, ‘Let us journey on our way, and I will go ahead of you.’” This all must be read at face value. These brothers just hugged it out; twenty years of estrangement and hard feelings. And Esau with what must be some exuberance says, “Come, let us go! Let us move on together! Let us travel together and I will lead the way!” I just take it that Esau is really glad to have his little brother back.

Then comes a word that we have gotten used to paying attention to; but. “But Jacob said to him…” The children are frail, and the livestock are fragile. If this family takes one more step, we will all collapse. This is rather important. What is Jacob hinting at here in this transition? You have to keep in mind that out of all 417 people, Jacob is the only one who has not showered in a really long time. He is tattered and battered and dirty. And he has not slept in twenty-four hours. He looks how he feels – a hot mess. In addition, the family was awakened during the middle of the night – nothing worse – sent packing across a river with no warning, without their dad and husband, without their protector. And the next time the family sees Jacob, he is unrecognizable and has a limp. This family, including Jacob, was wore out physically and perhaps more importantly, emotionally. So, what do they each need? Rest. And it is all because it has been hard.

Pay close attention to verse fourteen. Jacob tells his brother that he needs to sit and recuperate for a while and for him to go on ahead. As soon as the family and Jacob are ready, “I will lead on slowly, at the pace of the livestock that are ahead of me and at the pace of the children, until I come to my lord in Seir.” Seir is in the opposite direction of home, if we count home as Beersheba (cf. Genesis 28). And it is completely opposite, east, of the journey it takes to get home. It is Esau’s home and, again, take it all at face value for now, Jacob shares an intention to come to Esau’s home. When will Jacob come to Esau’s home? He does not say. It is never recorded that Jacob ever came to his brother’s house.

The transition continues and is near full completion. Esau offers that he leave some of his men behind to accompany Jacob (33:15). Esau is fully embracing Jacob’s intention that he is coming to his house sooner rather than later. Then comes a word that we have gotten used to paying attention to; but. “But he said, ‘What need is there?’” This is more important than we think. What would be the point of leaving Esau’s men with Jacob? Help. Assistance. Protection. And Jacob very clearly does not see the need. Why? The worst is behind him – Laban; wrestling with God; the anxiety of seeing Esau then actually seeing Esau. And in the tear-filled embrace of Esau, God had done more abundantly than Jacob asked or thought. What more is there to be concerned with? Things could not get worse! Is it reasonable to assume that Jacob is letting his guard down?

Then here it comes. Esau goes his way toward his home (33:16). And Jacob goes the opposite direction (33:17). Why would Jacob really not go with Esau or to Esau’s home? God commanded Jacob to journey home, the home of his fathers (31:3). God commanded Jacob to return to the promised land (28:15). It was not God’s will that Jacob go to Esau’s home outside of the promised land. But is it not curious that Jacob never shared that with Esau? Instead, he left Esau with the impression that he would meet up with him soon at Esau’s house. Maybe it was because Jacob was not ready to fully trust Esau. Or maybe Jacob was being Jacob.

And Yet Jacob Journeyed Peacefully

Notice verse seventeen. This is where it all transitions into the third part of the chapter. It starts with a word that we have gotten used to paying attention to; but. “But Jacob journeyed to Succoth.” Jacob moves a little west. It is closer to the path he needs to get home, but not much closer. And notice that when he moves a little west, he stops. He is still close to the Jabbok and Jordan River. But why did he stop? When he stopped he built a house. How long would that have taken? And then Jacob built some sheds for all his livestock. How long would that have taken? Better yet why is he doing it? Why is he building a home for his worn out family and his worn out livestock?

Notice then verse eighteen. Jacob moves again. He moves further west. This is to the other side of the Jordan and he stops again. Why did he stop again? And when he stops, he stops at the city of Shechem. Shechem is not only the name of the city, but the name of a man who lives in the city. He has brothers and his dad is Hamor. So, Jacob moves his family across the Jordan and stops in this city, buys some land and he stays. The impression even after reading the next chapter is that he stays for a while.

Why though did Jacob stop? And not once, but why did Jacob stop twice? I know part of this passage seems to be saying something about obedience. Jacob was told, commanded by God to return home (cf. 31:3). Succoth, although Jacob built a home there, was not home. Shechem although within the boundaries of the promised land, was not home. Beersheba was home. I want us to notice that Bethel is really close to Shechem, some 20 miles or a day’s journey. Bethel is where God promised Jacob “I am with you and will keep you wherever you go,” and note this, “and will bring you back to this land.” So, it seems the destination could be Bethel. This was the place Jacob called God’s house. But maybe Shechem was close enough. Maybe it was good enough to be within the promised land and travel to Bethel, travel even to Beersheba, home, whenever Jacob wanted. Jacob got close enough. Close enough is called partial obedience and partial obedience is called disobedience. God’s command was to not be close enough.

Why did Jacob stay in Shechem? The people were friendly. They sold him a piece of land for what seemed like a friendly amount. He was near the Jordan River, a major river. The ground was fertile. His family liked it there. It was comfortable. Notice that Jacob took his time to get to Shechem. It was slow. Jacob saw no need for a rearguard. He slowly moved into Shechem. And he came with such ease. “And Jacob came safely,” (Genesis 33:18). Another word for safely would be “in friendliness,” or “peacefully” (cf. Genesis 28:21). Things were going great. Jacob even built an altar and worshiped. He called on the name of the Lord – God is the God of Israel! But the cost of his comfort would be seen soon enough. This is Genesis 34.

But our big question was, why did Jacob stop? Keep in mind how the journey began. It had been hard. And Jacob at the end of Genesis 33, not the end of the journey, was tattered and battered and dirty. Why did he stop? He was tired. Being tired he let his guard down and grew comfortable.

I am tired. The journey is not over, and I am tired. So, what can I do? (cf. Matthew 11:28-30).

1. Listen for and to God’s voice. This is only possible with God’s written word. Recently and it is with being tired, this, hearing God’s voice, has renewed my spirit. I have heard him speak in the Gospel of John. I heard him yesterday morning in Proverbs 29. “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint [get discouraged], but blessed is he who keeps the law” (29:18).

2. Lift up my voice. Recently, and it is with being tired, this, lifting up my voice, has renewed my spirit. It is prayer. And it is not just praying for myself, but spending time praying for others. “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you” (Jeremiah 29:12; cf. Ephesians 3:14-20).

3. Get with God’s people. I knew I was in trouble when I watched a program where a man volunteered to experience solitary confinement and I envied him. Recently, and it is with being tired, this, getting with God’s people, has renewed my spirit. “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

Jacob was tired. He let his guard down. He grew comfortable. He got as far as he could on his own strength. It was partial obedience. The cost would be immense.

When Jacob Met Esau

Yesterday morning, I sat in my study awaiting a second cup of coffee, listening to the voice of God. I was reading 1 Peter 2. Then I bowed my head and lifted my voice to God. I was praying. I prayed for me. I prayed for my daughters. I prayed for my wife. I prayed for you by name. Then I made one request for our church. As soon as the request passed my lips, I stopped, stunned. I had just asked God to touch our church.

The Touch of God’s Hand

As Genesis 32 nears an end, it was night. Jacob was left alone, when out of the darkness he felt the grip of a man tossing him and tossing with him in the dust of the ground. Each man was in the grip of the other until the breaking of the day. Who was this man? His name was never given and his coming never announced.

Listen closely to Genesis 32:25. “When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob…” Who was this man whose own strength and endurance thus far was apparently being matched by Jacob? “When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket.” Who was this man? This man would only be known by his touch. Last week, it was shared that the word touch is much too tame. It does mean to strike or to deal a devastating blow, which implies that this will hurt. It means to wound. But this week, I came to appreciate just the word touch. The word touch does convey a certain ease. Listen to the rest of Genesis 32:25. “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.” Who has the power in the mere ease of his touch to put out of joint a man’s hip? Jacob knows this man. And Jacob knows this man because of his touch.

Listen to Genesis 32:30. “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.’” Who was this man? It was God himself. It was God as a man who out of darkness wrestled with Jacob until the breaking of the day. The touch was the touch of God’s hand. And it was God who wounded Jacob.

Why would God wound Jacob? This might be the most important reality of Genesis 32. Jacob realized by that touch that he had seen God face to face and had been delivered. And so because of that touch, Jacob gave the place a permanent reminder. He named it Peniel, which means the face of God. And because of that touch, God gave Jacob a permanent reminder. “The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.” The permanent reminder was a limp. Jacob would never walk the same. Your walk matters. There is a third permanent reminder. Eating. For generations to come, the offspring of Jacob would not eat of the hip socket, so as to remember that God touched Jacob. Why would God wound Jacob? It was for his own good. Jacob wrestled with God throughout the night, gripping God as a fighter. But then came that touch. And what then did Jacob do because of that touch? He would not let go of God. He held fast to God, he gripped God not as a fighter, but now as a desperate man in desperate need. When that hip went out of socket, Jacob could no longer rely on his own strength, his own ability, himself. Why? “If we in our own strength confide; our striving would be losing; were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing. Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He; Lord Sabaoth, His name, from age to age the same, and He must win the battle.”

When Jacob Met Esau

What then does this have to do with Genesis 33? Genesis 33 is about the day when Jacob met Esau. But when did Jacob meet Esau? Notice the very first word of Genesis 33. “And Jacob lifted up his eyes.” The word and (now or then) connects to what was said previous or in this case, what happened previous. And what happened previous in relation to Genesis 33:1 is Genesis 32:31. “The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.” The sun comes up, it is a new day dawning. Jacob passes the place he just named as a permanent reminder, the face of God. It is the place he saw God face to face. It is the place that God answered his prayer (cf. Genesis 32:11). He was limping and as he was limping he lifted up his eyes and looked. BEHOLD! This word is for us the reader. See what Jacob sees as he limps. “Esau was coming, and four hundred men with him” (Genesis 33:1a).

Genesis 32 and Genesis 33 and Genesis 34 are like dominoes. A guiding principle to reading these three chapters is that the preceding chapter affects the proceeding chapter. So, Esau was coming, and Jacob was limping because God touched him. And four hundred men are coming too, four hundred men who are with Esau. And Jacob was limping.

Jacob was in no way ready for this; he had not slept in 24 hours! He knew his brother was coming, but this soon? Jacob was limping. Jacob was tattered and battered and dirty. Where did the time go? He made his way to his family. They see their husband. They see their dad. What must they be thinking and feeling at the sight of their limping, battered and tattered and dirty husband and father?  And what was he doing? He was dividing the family. Jacob did this once before at the word of Esau’s coming. He divided his family into two camps so as to increase the odds of survival (cf. Genesis 32:7). But now at the sight of Esau’s coming, Jacob divided the family again – the two servants with their children in front; Leah and her children behind them; and Joseph and his mom Rachel in the rear (33:1b-2). Was Jacob speaking? Were they all asking questions? Was he answering? Was this, too, an act of survival, Jacob’s own survival?

Jacob moved, still limping. He moved to the front of his family. Then Jacob moved again, still limping and he bowed himself to the ground. Oh, the pain! And with his one good leg, he struggled to get up again and he moved again, still limping, bowing himself to the ground a second time. Jacob will do this a total of seven times, and oh, the pain! Up again and moving again and bowing again. It is an act only reserved to greet a superior, sometimes a royal superior. Before Jacob left home, some twenty years prior, his dad blessed him saying, “Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may your mother’s sons bow down to you” (Genesis 27:29). Yet, here Jacob was bowing down to his brother with his hip out of socket. And he was limping because God touched him – do not lose sight of this; it is a domino. Jacob’s future was that he would be exalted, and God’s path to fulfill this purpose was humility.

The Prodigal Brother Returned

The tension builds with each bow and with each wince of pain for Esau draws nearer. The 400 men draw nearer and nearer, too. Jesus told a story, a story with a lesson to be applied. It is called a parable. And this parable is known as the parable of the prodigal son. The son had it all, wealth and position and wanted it all now. He wanted his inheritance now. His father gave it to him and he ran out into the world and “squandered his property in reckless living.” He was then brought low. Humbled. Broke, he hired himself out to work in the fields with pigs. Soon he was eating with the pigs. And he wanted to go home. He saw the path to home. He would ask his dad to welcome him back home, not as a son, but as a servant. “And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him” (Luke 15:20).

The father demanded that the best robe be put on his son and a ring on his hand and shoes for his feet. A celebration was to be had that night with the best steak dinner. “For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found” (Luke 15:24). We sing with tears and much joy a hymn based on this story – Amazing Grace. But did you ever wonder how Jesus got the idea for this story? Listen closely to Genesis 33:4. “But Esau ran to meet him and embraced him and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.”

This is the prodigal brother returned. Jacob is the prodigal brother. Jacob anticipated the unleashing of his brother’s anger upon him, but instead was met with amazing grace. How? It was in that limp and through the path of humility. It was because of the touch, the wound, of God. Esau’s heart would not be softened in Jacob’s own strength. No, God had softened the heart of Esau. He had won the battle. Notice that the brothers wept. It is such a glorious picture of the biblical reconciliation of brothers and forgiveness.

Esau looked up through watering eyes. Picture it, these are some of the manliest men in the Bible weeping! Esau sees all these women and children. “Who are these?” he asked. Jacob responds that these women and these children, his family are God’s gracious gift to him. Then Esau asked what was meant by all those animals, the droves and droves of animals given as a gift to Esau. It was an offering; Jacob’s offering seeking Esau’s forgiveness. At first, Esau graciously will not accept the gift, but at Jacob’s insistence, he needs to accept it to show that forgiveness has been granted (33:5-11).

Seeing Your Face

Then Jacob shared with him that seeing his face “is like seeing the face of God” (33:10). Jacob has put it all together. Why did God wrestle him the night before and tatter and batter and bruise him into the dust of the ground? Why did God wound him? There was a purpose in the wounding for Jacob’s own good. It was humility. It was humility for when he would see the face of his brother.

There are three parts to Genesis 33. We, here, have only covered the first part. The first part is when Jacob met Esau (Genesis 33:1-11). The second part is to act as a transition (33:12-15). And the third part is about Jacob’s partial obedience (33:16-20). We will walk together through the last two parts next week. But we need today just this first part.

I have asked God to touch us. I do not think we are a prideful church. But the root of all sin is pride. And the Bible talks very bluntly about pride. It says to kill it (cf. Luke 9:23). Why did God touch Jacob?  “Sometimes a wound is a very special act of God’s grace. How often we need to be wounded because it is so easy for us to trust our own skills and ability.”[1] What is the point of the wound? In part, humility: to grip God because we are a people in desperate need of him. But why is humility so necessary?

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:6-8). Who does our adversary the devil as a roaring lion seek to devour? Those who trust in their own skills and ability – the prideful.

The touch is a gift and for our own good. I have asked God to touch us, but I first need to ask God to touch me.

[1] Ligon Duncan. https://www.fpcjackson.org/resource-library/sermons/the-meeting-of-the-brothers

Why Is It That You Ask My Name?

There are two particular essentials for everyday living. Although a person might be able to survive twenty days without it, come day twenty-one food is essential for everyday living. Although a person might be able to survive two days without it, come day three water is essential for everyday living. And although a person might be able to survive nine months without it, come month ten everyone in Cleveland knows warm air and sunshine are essential for everyday living.

But then there is Psalm 127:2. “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.” I love this one verse. Why go to bed late just to get up early? Why eat the bread of anxious toil? Your God has gifted to you, his beloved, sleep! And the two particular essentials then for everyday living are a pillow and a blanket!

Genesis 32:22-32 is about Jacob. It is about the night that Jacob could not sleep.

Why Could Jacob Not Sleep?

And the big question to ask is, why could Jacob not sleep? Pay close attention to Genesis 32:22. “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.” Where is Jacob? The immediate answer is that Jacob is with his family – his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven children.

So, where is Jacob? Jacob is with his family at the Jabbok River. And the Jabbok River runs east and perpendicular to the Jordan River. There Jacob finds a safe place to send his family across the river. Why is Jacob sending his family not up the river but across the river? Keep in mind that earlier in Genesis 32, Jacob divided his family into two camps (cf. Genesis 32:7, 10). We will come back to this in a moment, but for now pay close to attention to how Genesis 32:22 begins. “The same night…” It is night time. It is night time and Jacob has sent his family across the river.

But again, where is Jacob? Pay close to attention to those first few words of verse twenty-two. “The same night…” It is night. The English Standard translation makes the point that this is “the same night.” Still other translations point out that this is “that night.” What night? Two things have happened which resulted in Jacob staying the night on this night. First, listen to Genesis 32:21. “So the present passed on ahead of him, and he himself stayed that night in the camp.” Jacob had sent a present – gift after gift after gift – to his brother Esau. Then Jacob stayed that night.

But then there is Genesis 32:13. And this, I think, more fully answers, where Jacob is. Listen to verse thirteen. “So he stayed there that night.” Where is there? It is where he prayed. In Genesis 32:9-12 he prayed. And when Jacob prayed, he had but one heart felt need. “Please deliver me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I fear him, that he may come and attack me, the mothers with the children” (Genesis 32:11).

This is a particular night. Jacob is afraid of his brother. Jacob sent gifts to his brother. But he stayed that night in the camp. But Jacob also prayed. Jacob prayed because he is afraid of his brother. And he stayed there that night where he prayed. “The same night, he arose.” Notice the word arose. It just means to get up. So, let’s put it together. It is night time. And Jacob gets up. He gets up from where? Where is Jacob? He is in bed! And why is he in bed? It is because night time is the right time for bedtime. But he cannot sleep. Why can Jacob not sleep? What does Jacob do soon after getting up? He takes his family, all fifteen of them and sends them across the river. Back in Jacob’s prayer, what was his concern? He asked God to deliver him, but he also thought of his family, the mothers with the children.

Jacob cannot sleep because he is thinking about his family. It is nine o’clock, he is in bed with his pillow and blanket, but he cannot sleep. He is eating the bread of anxious toil. And now it is still night and Jacob is left alone.

And a Man Wrestled with Jacob

Jacob is left alone. It is night. I keep picturing him standing there at the river. He stood watching his family cross the river. He stood watching the last figure be enveloped by the darkness. He stood listening to their sound until all he could hear was the water. I am all alone, he thought. And then he felt it; the grip of a man taking him to the ground.

Notice the word wrestled. It literally means to be covered with dust. A man wrestled with Jacob until the breaking of the day. The man is unnamed. There is no announcement, like “here in this corner.” The unnamed and unannounced man wrestled with Jacob, tossing with him in the dust until the breaking of the day. This is hours of silence, except for the grunting and tearing of clothing and the pounding of the heart and the sounds of pain and the deep heaving from round after round after round of struggle. The bigger question thus far is, who is this man?

Why Is It You Ask My Name?

I want us to jump ahead to verse twenty-nine. At the breaking of the day, the silence has been broken. There are finally words, none of which was, why are you wrestling with me? But at verse twenty-nine, Jacob asks the man, “Please tell me your name.” And the man only responds, “Why is it you ask my name?” The man never gives his name. It is because Jacob already knows it. How does Jacob know this man’s name? Are you ready for it?

But first listen to Genesis 32:29b-30. Jacob will receive a blessing “there.” Where is there? It is where he could not sleep. It is where the wrestling match was held. It is where Jacob prayed. Look again at Jacob’s prayer request. “Please deliver me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I fear him, that he may come and attack me, the mothers with the children.” Mark the word deliver. Jacob knows this man. For he calls the place, and remember, where is this place? Jacob calls the place “Peniel, saying, ‘I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.’” See the word delivered? It is the same Hebrew word as in the prayer request. There is so much more to be said regarding seeing God face to face and yet Jacob’s life has been delivered. But this much is true: God answered Jacob’s prayer request by the breaking of the day. What has Jacob realized? He asked that God deliver him, and his family too, from Esau. But the real battle was not with Esau. The real battle was with God himself. Facing Esau would not compare to facing God (cf. Genesis 32:21). And before Jacob came face to face with Esau, he had to come face to face with God.

But how did Jacob know this man’s name? Get ready for it.

Jacob Wounded by God

It is in Genesis 32:25-26. The breaking of the day was coming, and these two men have been going at it. There these men stood holding on to each other, trying to tighten each grip amidst the sweat and blood and dust. “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 him.” Notice the word touched. The word touched is too tame. It means to strike; to injure; to hurt; to deal a devastating blow. It means to wound. And since we already know who this man is, the biggest question of all is, why would God wound Jacob?

My guess is that this wound was pretty painful. Jacob’s hip by a mere touch was put out of joint. Why would God be the cause of my pain? Hosea 6:1-3 is helpful. “Come, let us return to the Lord; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him. Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.” Why would God wound Jacob? God wounds like a surgeon wounds. It is corrective. It is to heal and to bind, to revive “that we might live before him.”

Keep though looking at the text. Why did God wound Jacob? It is verse twenty-six. This is my favorite part of the whole text. God said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” Jacob would not let go. He was wounded, and the two men kept wrestling and Jacob would not let go. God had wounded Jacob, and Jacob would not let go of God. Why? Jacob says, “unless you bless me.” This is not Jacob scheming. He is in no position to scheme or bargain. So, what is he doing? Jacob will not let go because he is finally admitting, “I NEED YOU.” And this, my friends is the blessing. “SATISFY MY NEED.”

And what happens next is beautiful. God asks to hear Jacob’s name. Now, he is God, he knows Jacob’s name, so what is the point? A person’s name was their reputation, their character. Who was Jacob? He was a liar. He was a schemer. He was a cheater. He was a sinner. And to say his name was to confess who he really was. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Then God gives Jacob a new name – Israel. Why did God give Jacob a new name? It was because he touched him. But how did Jacob know this man’s name?

‘Twas battered and scarred, and the auctioneer thought it scarcely worth his while to waste much time on the old violin, but he held it up with a smile. “What am I bidden, good folk?” he cried, “Who’ll start the bidding for me? “A dollar—a dollar—then two, only two—Two dollars, and who’ll make it three?” “Going for three”—but no—from the room far back, a gray-haired man came forward and picked up the bow, then, wiping the dust from the old violin, and tightening the loosened strings, he played a melody pure and sweet as a caroling angel sings. The music ceased, and the auctioneer, with a voice that was quiet and low, said, “Now what am I bid for the old violin?” And he held it up with the bow. “A thousand dollars—and who’ll make it two?” “Two thousand—and who’ll make it three? “Three thousand once—three thousand twice—And going—and gone,” cried he. The people cheered, but some of them cried, “We do not understand. What changed its worth?” Quick came the reply, “The touch of the Master’s hand.” And many a man with life out of tune, and battered and scarred with sin, is auctioned cheap, to a thoughtless crowd, much like the old violin. A “mess of pottage”—a glass of wine. A game—and he travels on: He is going once—and going twice—He’s going—and almost gone! But the Master comes, and the foolish crowd never can quite understand the worth of a soul and the change that’s wrought by the touch of the Master’s hand.[1]

Jacob left this day with a limp. It was the limp that mattered. He would forever have this limp. The nation of Israel would remember this limp. Why does the limp matter? It is because God touched Jacob and changed his worth.

[1] https://www.crossway.org/tracts/the-touch-of-the-masters-hand-2607/

And Afterward I Shall See His Face

It takes approximately 14,000 steps to walk seven miles. And when two people walk seven miles together, it takes approximately 14,000 steps. But when Jesus joins two people walking seven miles together, it still takes approximately 14,000 steps.

This is what happens in Luke 24. Two people walking seven miles together, taking approximately 14,000 steps. And they are walking and talking about all that had happened. Then seemingly out of nowhere, Jesus joins in on the walking and the talking. “What happened?” he asked. He must be the only visitor, they say, in all of Jerusalem who has no idea of all that had happened – how Jesus was a prophet mighty in word and in deed; how the chief priests and rulers delivered Jesus up to be condemned to death and crucified; how all had hoped that Jesus was the one to rescue Israel; and how now it was the third day; his tomb empty, but no one has seen him. “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” Jesus exclaims. “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” Then comes my favorite part; Luke 24:27. “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”

By the way, it takes approximately 1,000,000 steps to walk 500 miles.

And Jacob Went on His Way

Genesis 28 was about Jacob. Genesis 29 was about Jacob. Genesis 30 was about Jacob. Genesis 31 was about Jacob. And Genesis 32:1-21 is about Jacob. And the big question we want to ask is, how is it about Jacob?

First, listen to Genesis 32:1. “Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him.” Pay close attention to the angels of God. This only appears twice in the Old Testament. The first time is when Jacob left home. And when Jacob left home it would be the furthest he had ever been away from home; about 500 miles. And it takes approximately 1,000,000 steps to walk 500 miles. When Jacob first left home, he was looking forward to returning home. He was so eager to return home that he left home without a pillow. And when night came and using a stone for a pillow, he had a dream. What did he see? The angels of God ascending and descending on a ladder (Genesis 28:12).

When Jacob saw the angels of God, he also heard God speak. So eager for the day when he would return home, he heard God promise, “I will be with you every step of the way and will bring you home” (Genesis 28:15).

Twenty years later and Jacob went on his way…home. And on his way home, the angels of God met him. And twenty years later, finally going home, he sees the angels of God and hears nothing. He hears God say nothing. But Jacob is so excited he proclaims, “This is the camp of God!” He even named this very spot the place of two camps, referring to the camp of God and the camp of Jacob meeting in this very spot. And it could be that the mere sight of the angels of God, which must be more than just two angels, was a reminder to Jacob that not only was he going home, but it was God who was bringing him home…just as he promised.

Then Jacob Stopped and Remembered

Genesis 32:1-21 is about Jacob. But it is not about Jacob going home. The word angel means messenger. And so it is somewhat interesting that when Jacob sees the angels of God, he hears no message. But listen to Genesis 32:3. “And Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother.” The word messengers in verse three is the same Hebrew word for angel. It may be that seeing the angels of God reminded Jacob of the first time he saw the angels of God and what God said when he saw the angels of God. But the focus of Genesis 32:3-21 is about what Jacob did when he saw the angels of God: Jacob stopped.

Jacob is on his way home and has been longing for home ever since he left home. And when he is finally making the 1,000,000 steps toward home, he stopped. And it is so moving. He stopped and remembered. Jacob stopped and remembered his brother Esau.

Notice the rest of verse three. “And Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother in the land of Seir, the country of Edom.” Jacob is on his way his home, but Esau is not on the way home. Esau is out of the way home! I read it said that although Esau is not on the way home, spiritually, he is the only way for Jacob to get home. Why?

Jacob’s relationship with his brother was broken. Jacob was the one who broke it (cf. Genesis 25 and 27). And it was Jacob who was seeking to repair it (cf. Matthew 5:23-25). So, he sends messengers with a message for his brother. It is really just three things. He has been staying with Uncle Laban until now. He was coming home now. And he was coming home now pretty wealthy. Why does that or any of it matter? At the very least there is no self-serving reason for Jacob to be seeking out his brother Esau. But also notice that Jacob calls Esau “my lord” and himself “your servant” (Genesis 32:3-5). What is Jacob up to? Is this more scheming?

So, there was a broken relationship with a brother. Jacob was the one who broke it. Jacob was the one seeking to repair it. But Jacob was afraid. Esau got his brother’s message and responded with nothing. Well, he said nothing but there was something. Esau was coming. He was coming to meet Jacob, along with four hundred men (Genesis 32:6). And so, naturally Jacob was afraid (32:7).

And Jacob Prayed

Jacob was not only afraid, he was greatly afraid and distressed. He felt stuck. He cannot go back to Laban. Laban was not too happy with Jacob and who knows what Laban would think seeing Jacob turn around. Could he run away from Esau? Probably not. He had donkeys and camels and livestock and two wives and ten sons and one daughter to carry. What was he to do? He divided his camp into two camps, presumably Leah, his first wife, with her kids and her servants in one camp and Rachel, his second wife, with her kids and her servants in another camp. It was an act of survival. If Esau came to attack, he could only attack one camp at a time. And then Jacob prayed (Genesis 32:9). We have never heard Jacob pray…until now.

Listen to what he prayed. He relied on God’s Word. Twice he recites what God had said (cf. Genesis 31:3; 22:17). This has been called a Bible-believing prayer “full of Scripture; Scriptural ideas; Scriptural thoughts; Scriptural promises; Scriptural ascriptions of glory and praise and adoration to God. And Scriptural descriptions of the character of God.”[1] So, what then helps us pray? God’s written word.

But the heart of the prayer is verse ten. Yes, part of the prayer is Jacob seeking God’s supernatural deliverance from his distress. He is stuck! And he is afraid of his brother. Why is Esau coming with 400 men? But the heart of the prayer is verse ten. Listen to his prayer. “I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds of steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant, for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps.”

What do you hear? The English Standard translation reads “I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds of steadfast love and all the faithfulness you shown me.” Other translations simply read “I am not worthy of all the steadfast love and all the faithfulness you have shown me.” What do you hear? God did deeds, and in those deeds, Jacob was shown something. What did Jacob see? Steadfast love and faithfulness. Now watch this. In Exodus 33:19, Moses asks of God, “Please show me your glory.” And God said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’” Then in Exodus 34:6, God proclaims his name. “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” These are the same two words, same two Hebrew words as in Jacob’s prayer.

And it gets better. In John 17, Jesus prayed. Listen to the last request of his prayer. “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world” (17:24). And it gets better. The beginning of the Gospel of John is John 1:14. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” The Hebrew words steadfast love and faithfulness can easily be rendered grace and truth. God did deeds, and in those deeds, Jacob was shown grace and truth. But what does it all have to do with his brother? Jacob had been shown grace and truth.

And Afterward I Shall See His Face

After Jacob prayed, he then he sent gifts; lots and lots of gifts. Jacob sent at least 550 animals as gifts to his brother, not all at the same time, but in groups. He sent a servant with each group of animals, perhaps up to ten groups. Part of it was strategic, he put 550 animals in between him and his brother with 400 men (32:13-20).

But why the gift after gift after gift? Listen to Genesis 32:20. “I may appease him with the present that goes ahead of me, and afterward I shall see his face. Perhaps he will accept me.” No matter what happens and no matter how many animals he puts in between him and his brother, he will see his brother’s face. And in seeing his brother’s face there is the hope that he can appease him with gift after gift after gift. Notice the word appease. It means to cover over and satisfy. The most common word in the Old Testament is atonement. Jacob is seeking to cover over his guilt and satisfy his brother’s anger, for he knows he will see his face. And the further hope is that Jacob can do enough, can give enough gifts so as to satisfy his brother’s anger and be accepted.

I want us to listen to 1 John 2:1-2. “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation [similar to appease] for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” We are accepted before the face of God because of Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the gift that has been given (John 3:16). He, as the gift, has been given to cover our guilt, our sins, and satisfy the righteous anger of God. And for all those who have received him, this gift, and believed in him, your sins are covered and forgotten. You stand accepted.

But what does have to do with the brother? Do I have any relationship with a brother or a sister, not just in my biological family, but in my spiritual family, that is broken or in need of repair? For I have seen grace and truth. And I am accepted in Christ before the holy and righteous God. How important is it then, to stop, put everything down, and make things right with my brother? with my sister?

[1] J. Ligon Duncan, https://www.fpcjackson.org/resource-library/sermons/the-fears-of-jacob

And Then They Sang a Hymn

Shadrach Meshach Lockridge, better known as S. M. Lockridge, is well known for the Easter meditation It’s Friday, But Sunday’s Comin’. It’s Friday. Jesus is praying. Peter’s a sleeping. Judas is betraying. But Sunday’s comin’. It’s Friday. Pilate’s struggling. The council is conspiring. The crowd is vilifying. They don’t even know that Sunday’s comin’. It’s Friday. The disciples are running like sheep without a shepherd. Mary’s crying. Peter is denying. But they don’t know that Sunday’s a comin’. It’s Friday. The Romans beat my Jesus. They robe him in scarlet. They crown him with thorns. But they don’t know that Sunday’s comin’. It’s Friday. See Jesus walking to Calvary. His blood dripping. His body stumbling. And his spirit’s burdened. But you see, it’s only Friday. Sunday’s comin’. It’s Friday. The world’s winning. People are sinning. And evil’s grinning.

It’s Friday. The soldiers nail my Savior’s hands to the cross. They nail my Savior’s feet to the cross. And then they raise him up next to criminals. It’s Friday. But let me tell you something. Sunday’s comin’. It’s Friday. The disciples are questioning what has happened to their King. And the Pharisees are celebrating that their scheming has been achieved. But they don’t know it’s only Friday. Sunday’s comin’. It’s Friday. He’s hanging on the cross. Feeling forsaken by his Father. Left alone and dying. Can nobody save him? Ooooh it’s Friday. But Sunday’s comin’. It’s Friday. The earth trembles. The sky grows dark. My King yields his spirit. It’s Friday. Hope is lost. Death has won. Sin has conquered and Satan’s just a laughin’. It’s Friday. Jesus is buried. A soldier stands guard. And a rock is rolled into place. But it’s Friday. It is only Friday. Sunday is a comin’!

It is Sunday. Sunday has come. But I am stuck at Thursday.

On Thursday There was a Meal

I do not want to forget Thursday…ever. On Thursday there was a meal. This meal was in the evening. And Jesus was there at this meal. All of the disciples were there at this meal too – Peter and Andrew; James and John; Philip and Bartholomew and Matthew and Thomas and James and Simon and Judas and Judas the Iscariot. This Judas would soon leave this meal to do what he was going to do.

And at this meal, Jesus will take bread and bless it. At this meal, Jesus will take a cup and give thanks for it. And at this meal, Jesus will lead these men in a hymn. This is Matthew 26:26-30. Eating the bread and drinking the cup prepared these men for Friday, Good Friday.

These men would have eaten this bread before, but not like this. And these men would have drank this cup before, but not like this. This meal was the Passover Meal, a meal that up to this Thursday evening had been celebrated and observed for some 1500 years. It was a remembrance meal of God’s deliverance of Israel out of Egypt. The bread was unleavened bread and was a reminder of how their ancestors ate the bread of affliction as they fled Egypt. And the cup was one of most likely four cups. Each cup corresponded to four “I will” statements from Exodus 6:6-7. Again, all about the Egypt exodus. “I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.”

But on this Thursday evening, Jesus took the bread and broke it. Why did he break it? Listen closely to Matthew 26:26. “Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it…” Pause there and notice the word blessing. Jesus blessed the bread. This particular word just catches the reader’s attention and partly because Matthew records that when Jesus took the cup he gave thanks. So, intentionally Matthew points out, for some reason, that Jesus gave thanks for the cup, but he blessed the bread. And the blessing of the bread is a form of thanks, it is just that blessing and thanks are two different Greek words. The word blessing is the Greek word eulogeó. And this word basically means good word. When Jesus took the bread, he gave a good word. But its usage here indicates that in blessing the bread Jesus gave a celebration of praise. This makes you pause for a moment. Jesus took the bread and in a celebration of praise broke it. And why did he break it? Listen to the rest of Matthew 26:26. “…and gave it to the disciples.” So, Jesus broke the bread in order to share it with the disciples. And this bread which for 1500 years had been about the eating of affliction in leaving Egypt, Jesus now says, “Take, eat; this is my body.” Just as for 1500 years this bread had been a reminder or a picture of the eating of affliction in leaving Egypt, this now was a reminder or a picture of Jesus’ body. No longer would the bread be about the affliction of Egypt, but now it would be about the affliction of Jesus. “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted” (Isaiah 53:4).

And then Jesus took a cup. It was one of the four cups traditionally used in the meal. And when he took this cup, the disciples having been so used to hearing something from Exodus 6:6-7, probably heard something from Exodus 6:6-7, but then heard Jesus give thanks. The word thanks is the word eucharisteó, often translated as thanksgiving. This word is made up of two words: good () and grace (charis). Jesus took a cup and gave thanks, he was thankful for God’s good grace. And this cup Jesus described “is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (cf. Exodus 24:8; Jeremiah 31:31-34). And like the bread, this is a picture. It is a picture that without the shedding blood there is no forgiveness of sins. Jesus’ blood was shed for the forgiveness of sins.

And so, Thursday evening there was this meal and this meal prepared these men for Friday, Good Friday. But there is more.

Evening was Followed by Night

Following Thursday evening came Thursday night. And after this meal, Jesus led his disciples out into the night toward the Mount of Olives. A band of soldiers would soon be dispatched there with lanterns and torches and weapons. But on the way there, after the meal, Jesus said to the disciples, “You will all fall away [skandalizó] because of me this night” (26:31). Listen to these words on their own. Jesus just shared a meal with these men and we will see in a moment that he also just sang a glorious hymn with these men. The next thing he shares with these men is devastation. Each one of you will desert me on this very night. What night was that? Thursday night. But. These words are only devastating without the rest of Matthew 26:31. “For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’” Notice the words “For it is written.” This is Zechariah 13:7. And Jesus is sharing with these men that Zechariah 13:7 is about them and this will happen on this Thursday night. Why is Jesus seemingly devastating these men? In short, it is to prepare them for Thursday night. Just as the meal, the bread and the cup prepared these men for Friday, it pre-explained Good Friday, Jesus now is preparing these men for Thursday night. This had to break them. But this is good news. It is because of the words “For it is written.” Zechariah 13:7 is God’s written plan. And Jesus is preparing these men that although they will all fall away on this very night, it is all according to God’s written plan. The whole night, even their own falling away, will be according to God’s written plan.

And then there is Matthew 26:32. “But [the greatest word in the Bible] after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” Jesus on this Thursday evening, is talking about his own resurrection. He is talking about Sunday. He is talking about Resurrection Sunday. And who is he telling this to? These disciples! On this Thursday evening, Jesus has prepared these men for Thursday night when all would seem so devastating – you will all be scattered; Jesus has prepared these men for Friday when all would seem so lost; Jesus has prepared them for Saturday when all would seem so hopeless; and Jesus has prepared them for Sunday – we will all be together. He is alive!

And Then They Sang A Hymn

I love Matthew 26:30. After they ate the bread and after they drank the cup, Matthew 26:30 says, “And when they had sung a hymn.”  Peter and Andrew and James and John and Philip and Bartholomew and Matthew and Thomas and James and Simon and Judas with Jesus sang a hymn. There is a very good possibility that they sang Psalm 118. Psalms 113-118 would have been sung at this meal. And if they sang as their closing hymn Psalm 118, these men along with Jesus, better yet led by Jesus, would have sang, “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (118:24).

But why did they sing a hymn? Both Matthew and Mark record that before heading out to the garden, Jesus and these disciples sang a hymn together.

Take a good look at Matthew 26:29 and Matthew 26:30. What do you see? You should see a small bit of white space. In that small bit of white space is fit all the words of John 14 and John 15 and John 16 and John 17. In that bit of white space fits Jesus’ prayer for these men. I like knowing that in between Matthew 26:29 and Matthew 26:30, Jesus prayed for these men. And after praying for these men, together with Jesus they all sang one glorious hymn.

But Matthew and Mark do not record for us that Jesus prayed for these men and then they sang together. Instead, Mark records what Matthew records in verse twenty-nine. “I tell you I will not [the strongest form of a negative; no! I will not] drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

At the cross Jesus would be offered wine to drink. Listen to Mark 15:23. “And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it.” It was said that this wine “was designed to dull Jesus’ pain, to keep him from having to endure the cross with full consciousness. This wine he refused.”[1] Then listen to Mark 15:36. “And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, ‘Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.’” This wine “was given to keep him “conscious for as long as possible,” and thus have the effect of prolonging his pain. This is the wine Jesus drank.”[2]

But on Thursday evening, Jesus with these men looks forward to a day beyond Thursday night and Friday and Saturday and Sunday morning when he sits with you in his Father’s kingdom and drinks a cup new with you! Do you get it? For all those whose sins are forgiven at the cross and whose hope is in Sunday morning, Jesus is alive, he is looking forward to sitting down with you in his Father’s kingdom drinking a new cup with you!

Why is it new? Why is drinking this cup new? It is that day in which “He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken” (Isaiah 25:8). This is part of what makes this cup so new.

On Sunday, I need the enormous preciousness of Thursday.

[1] https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-wine-jesus-drank

[2] Ibid.