36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 37 For, “In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.” 38 And,“But my righteous one will live by faith.And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.”39 But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved. Hebrews 10:36-39
In this message I want to look at the struggles we all face and possibly the reason why we never seem to get any breakthrough. We will also look at the struggles we often associate with the patriarch Jacob. We will come to realise that although his trials were peculiar to him, we too, sometimes have to wrestle with angels.
Each of us experiences struggles and trials at different levels. For some, small things can be like mountains; for others, big things, though just as serious seem to show very little or no external signs. Whether those trials are little or big they will have eternal consequences. We may not be in the throws of extreme suffering, as some may experience for example, with the loss of family or loved ones, especially during times of war or conflict. We may not be experiencing loss through tragedy or accident, the loss of work or business, and neither may we be experiencing heartache through relational breakdowns and even the trauma felt by families affected by divorce or marital strife. In other ways be may not be experiencing the difficulties that come through infirmity or the results of some dreadful disease. Degrees of suffering, loss and lack, are of course relative. Each of us will respond with different levels of resolve. Some will make it through; others may not. Some will make it through the night; for others it may take several nights. Whatever situation we may find ourselves in, we must know that as believers, God is with us and in Him we put our trust.
Isaiah 53 is called the account of ‘the suffering servant.’ It is a prophetic utterance that foretells the coming Messiah and depicts the sufferings of Christ. It shows us that Jesus was not unfamiliar with our ways and concerns, and that He Himself, suffered as a human being.
It is harder to go through the fog of misfortune and meet God along the way than it is to go through it with Him having prepared already, by our relationship with Him. Our relationship with God brings us the promise that He will never leave us nor forsake us - Hebrews 13:5, Deuteronomy 31:6.
God is not a God who is absent from His creation. He is not a God who is too far off for us to reach, and He is not a God who lacks capacity in understanding the mind and conditions of man. The very fact of the Holy Spirit living in each believer, testifies to this, knowing that God, who hears our cries and responds accordingly, shows us that He is attentive. Jesus, at the time of his birth, survived the cull of the infants, through Herod’s edict. In Jesus’ earthly ministry, He witnessed the suffering of His people under Roman rule. He saw the sickness and depravity of man — He saw death and the lack of faith amongst His dearest and closest friends. But nothing of what He saw had any place or power in His presence. Wherever He went, the darkness was dispelled. We read that the sick and infirm were healed, the hungry were fed, the dead were brought back to life. However, we don’t always have to be in the depth of struggle and suffering to call out, “Jesus, help me!”
We need His help every day. Jesus promises us our daily bread. In this promise, He gives us Himself, because He is the Bread of Life, the Word of God. Just as God provided the needs of the Israelites during their exodus journey, He will do the same for us all. God’s promises for our daily lives include the prosperity of our hands. He makes our paths straight and grants the desires of our heart. He gives His angels charge over us, and protects us from the storm, the fire and the pestilence. When we make Him Lord over our lives, and obey His Word, making Him our Rock, Refuge and Fortress, He dwells with us and walks with us in the valley of shadows, and raises us up to the high places, bringing us through to victory. He promises, and this is the breakthrough key, that when we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us. Ephesians 6:10 tells us about the heavenly armour we should wear during our spiritual battles. We are called to wear it in the power and strength of God, and in doing so, our fight against the powers and principalities in the heavens are defeated. These are the promises and the power that we have.
Life can take us around an unexpected bend, with very little warning. Sometimes the ground will open up unexpectedly and sometimes we might just want the ground to open up and take us with it when all our trials have become too much. However, to be an overcomer, means that you will push through to the end because you believe that all will be better, and brighter. The overcomer also knows that change must take place too, if he is to sustain and benefit from his victory. Change is a future event. It may begin from something in the past, but it begins ultimately on the single moment of realisation that our future is not our past, and that yesterday is gone.
The caveat in moving forward to a positive and victorious result, is that the baggage of the past cannot be allowed to hamper future success. Jesus told us that His yoke is easy and His burden light. It’s simply down to choice. We can choose to have Jesus share our load or we can carry it all ourselves. But remember this, Jesus will not help carry the load we don’t need. Those who make it through the valley, don’t look back. Someone with a rear view focus cannot walk a straight path. They will continue to fall into every ditch and stumble upon every rock along the way. They will never see the light at the end of the tunnel, and for them there will never be breakthrough. Every day will be the same — hopeless.
It was a grey, wet, foggy, cold day for me yesterday, but today as I write this, the sun is shining. It’s a new day and the mercies of God are brand new again. By His grace, I will walk into tomorrow, that is if I survive today. My survival depends on Him. My human state of mind does not depend upon any drug to balance the thousands of chemical responses in my brain, but on the word of God that transforms my mind. I have to rest in the fact that God sees me at every moment of my humanity. He sees me when I am sad. He sees my quirky ways and actions; He knows my every thought, and probably shakes His head at my excuses. I am well aware of my weaknesses and failings, but I can’t keep apologising for them, and neither can you for yours. You see, our humanity is a failing in itself. We are made from the red man, Adam. He is a flawed and sinful creature, but our colour and hue come from the crimson blood of Christ in which we are marked, like sheep. This is the colour and mark that God sees when we come before Him in Jesus’ name.
We overcome by the blood of the lamb, and through our new birth, we are given spiritual power and blessings over the sinful nature.
Now let us turn our thoughts to Jacob. We are told that the very name of Jacob means: supplanter or deceiver. What a name to be born with! His little baby hand, reaching out to grab the heel of Esau, ended up with him receiving a not too delightful beginning. Imagine being called ‘the deceiver’ by his friends and family. We forget the meaning of names, and how they can influence our lives. However, I believe that that little baby had more about him than his name implies. We see that the struggle of Esau and Jacob in Rebekka’s womb would continue even to this day. In Jacob we see two characters fighting for dominance. Inside Jacob was Israel. I believe the name given to him after his struggle with the angel, was the real meaning of his name. Let me show you: this is the pictographic meaning of Jacobs name
It means: the work of the hand , dedicated (worship) to the Lord, is to watch from behind (through time and experience) the house/the family.
The family is the family of God - the flock of Jesus, the sheep of Israel — the House of Israel. The one who struggles with God, will overcome trials. Through time and through much experience, they will overcome and be united as one family again as prophesied through scripture.
25 I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, 26 and in this way all Israel will be saved.
As it is written:
“The deliverer will come from Zion;
He will turn godlessness away from Jacob.
27 And this is my covenant with them
when I take away their sins.”
28 As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies for your sake; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, 29 for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.
Jacob was loved by his mother but not so much, it seems, by his father, Isaac. Isaac loved Esau more, because Esau embodied strength and enjoyed the pursuits of his father. Esau was a man of the field — “ishtzayid [hunter]"and his antics were shown by his physical appearance — his smell and colour. Jacob, on the other hand, was a stay at home kind of guy — “ish ohalim [man of the tents]. He was closer to his mother and preferred to shepherd. But one thing we must see — Esau gave Jacob his birthright. Esau exchanged, in essence, his position. The position Jacob lost during his birth was given back. It may seem that deception played a part in him receiving Esau’s first born blessing from Isaac, but Esau had in effect given it to him and the prophecy that the elder would serve the younger would come to pass. It may also seem that the subsequent years of Jacob’s labour for Rachel in Laban’s house was pay-back time in a way. Jacob, had also been deceived, it would seem, or was he?
God had plans for Jacob who prospered despite Laban’s antics. The years would go by, and Jacob, having once left Laban with his family, would again come face to face with his brother Esau. In Genesis 32 Jacob, on his way from leaving Laban’s house, is met by angels. We are not told what happened at this meeting but it is the prelude to the meeting of the brothers. As the meeting approaches, trepidation and fear come to the fore and Jacob’s faithfulness is brought into question. He suddenly becomes apprehensive and is possibly even prepared for a confrontation which is alluded to in the stance of the brothers and in their brotherly kiss. The word for ‘kiss,’ is vayishakeihu. The word for ‘bite,’ is vayishakheihu. The difference is one letter. This may mean, that if the spelling refers to the latter, Esau would not have been sincere in his greeting. It’s all to do, according to the Midrash, with the jots and tittles in the writing of the Hebrew text.
However, Jacob reminds God of his promise:
9 Then Jacob prayed, “O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, Lord, you who said to me, ‘Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper,’ 10 I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two camps. 11 Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children. 12 But you have said, ‘I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.’”
Prior to the meeting, Jacob would look at dividing his camp in a survival strategy, and hope to find a way to appease his brother in offering him a large portion of his flocks. On their meeting, the brothers seem to unite, putting the years behind them. Esau, now powerful and a tribal leader of kingly status, seems to have forgotten about his birthright. What he has gained from his years in the field, an analogy of the world, has prospered him. The difference between the brothers’ characters is shown clearly in the text. Esau tells Jacob that he has no need for Jacob’s gift; that all he has is enough. Nonetheless, Esau accepts the gift because of Jacob’s persistence.
Jacob, on the other hand, tells Esau that he has plenty. The differences in their response show us that Jacob saw that God had provided and increased his wealth and that Esau obtained his wealth through his own means. This is an insight into Esau’s character and reflects on the little value he gave to his birthright.
To back track a little, we are told that prior to the meeting with Esau, Jacob wrestles with a stranger. We can struggle with this narrative, as we are not sure who the stranger is. Jewish writing depicts the stranger as the territorial angel of Esau. There is a rather confusing note at this point which may seem to add credibility to this notion.
Gen 24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
The question as to why the struggle must end at daybreak, is perplexing. Midrashic and Talmudic writing speaks about the angels assigned over the nations. This may also allude specifically to the 70 nations of Noah. In this context Jacob was meant to struggle with Esau’s angel, and that the dawn represents the finality of Israel’s struggle at the end of time.
Jacob sees the struggle with God. In truth, it is God, for all angels do the ministry assigned to them. Though the spiritual status of the territorial angel has credence, we must notice that the angel had authority to change Jacob’s name to Isra’el. Who would have this power?
The result of Jacob’s wrestling match leaves him with a dislocated hip, leaving him to walk with a limp for the rest of his life. Jacob in this sense comes to symbolise the nature of Isra’el — a nation that remains infirm in itself, still struggling with God, and somewhat separate or dislocated from the rest of the world.
As we conclude this message we must realise, that if we are to receive our blessing, and if we truly believe in the promise given to us by God, we will have to fight for it.
And now, let me say this: there is something so precious and valuable in your life, and even though you have reminded God of it, even though you have prayed for years, perhaps, and believe for it, and still there is no break through, and still it all seems out of reach, then you need to change tactics.
The Lord has shown me this, and I want to share it with you. For something so precious and valuable, you have to be prepared to labour and fight through the dark hours. You will have to stand on the promise and want it so badly that you are prepared to be emptied and have your character changed. You must be prepared to die, or at the very least to emerge from the place of wrestling, carrying the scars of battle. This is the cost Jesus speaks to us about — the price of following Him. The prize at the end of the race is our crowning reward. This is what happened at the river of Jabbok, meaning ‘place of emptying,’ or to ‘empty itself.’ It is here that Jacob became Isra’el. Friends, your breakthrough will come. Though things don’t seem to add up at the moment, and seem somehow dislocated in your thoughts, don’t give up. You are about to enter into the place God has for you. The Bible tells us that those who endure and are willing to change, will receive a new name. God’s favour will last a life time, and though weeping tarries for the night, joy will come in the morning.
Isaiah 62: 2 The nations will see your vindication,
and all kings your glory;
you will be called by a new name
that the mouth of the Lord will bestow
Revelation 2: 12 “To the angel of the church in Pergamum write:
These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. 13 I know where you live—where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, not even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives.
14 Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality. 15 Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16 Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
17 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.
For us to change and comply with God’s will, we have to look at what needs to be changed. We have to repent and turn from our old ways, and from the desires and even our practices to receive our blessings. To breakthrough and walk in the victory, we must put down the baggage of the past and move lightly, step by step, with Jesus into our destiny. That’s what happened to Jacob. Your struggle will end and you will receive your precious hope. If its worth fighting for, then fight!