There’s a discernible path of transformation in biblical story of Jacob’s life. His story is a story of conflict and struggle. Isn’t that how God does most of His transforming work in our lives? Through struggle, conflict, pain. Jacob’s struggle actually began in his mother’s womb as, the Bible says, he and his twin brother Esau “jostled” with one another. When they were born, Esau came out first with Jacob right behind, grasping onto Esau’s heel. Jacob- which means, “heel-grabber;” and figuratively; “he deceives.”
That was, of course, just the beginning of Jacob’s struggles with his brother, Esau. You remember how their conflict greatly intensified. Two of the most significant privileges of the firstborn son were the birthright and the blessing of the father. Jacob, in essence, finagled both of those away from Esau. He stole the birthright when he caught Esau in a week moment and he stole the blessing by conspiring with his mother to deceive his father, Isaac. But after his blessing was stolen, Esau was so angry that he swore he would kill Jacob the moment their father died. Momma Rebekah got wind of Esau’s plan and sent Jacob off to live with her brother, Laban- far, far away.
There’s a lot to the story, but for the 20 years that Jacob is with his Uncle he becomes a wealthy man but ultimately ends up in more conflict and stuggle… this time with his cousins and with Laban himself to the point that Jacob finally decides to run away from there, too, and go back home. However, there’s one big problem with going back home… his brother, Esau, who had sworn to kill him.
This is where the story, as it is told, really slows down. In ch. 32, Jacob learns that Esau is on his way to meet him- and bringing along 400 of his closest friends- an army! Jacob is scared to death. That’s when we hear Jacob pray as he’s never prayed before. “Then Jacob prayed, ‘…O Lord… I am not worthy of all the unfailing love and faithfulness you have shown to me… please rescue me… I am afraid.’” Genesis 32:9-11 (NLT) What you hear echoed in his prayer is where genuine transformation begins. It’s the starting point for recovery- recovering the image of Christ that has been lost in our sinful hurts, habits, and hangups. Realize I’m not God. I admit that I am powerless to control my tendency to do the wrong thing and that my life is unmanageable. “Blessed are the poor in spirit…(those who realize their need for God)”
Until we get to that point in life, transformation will not take place. Jacob is finally realizing as never before that God is God and he is not. There is no way he can deceive his way out of this situation. There is no amount of self-sufficiency with which he can weasel his way out. All his years of conflict and struggle have finally brought him to a place where he is ready to admit- “I am completely powerless here, I really have no control over this, my life is unmanageable right now…”
This is the starting point- to come to God like Jacob, poor in spirit, fully ready to admit, “I cannot solve life on my own, I cannot resolve this struggle on my own, I can’t make this relationship right, I can’t make this marriage right, I can’t make it right at work- I can’t set my life right on my own. God, I desperately need YOU!”
Pastor Hess Hester