Prevailing With God
May 17th, 1989 @ 7:30 PM
PREVAILING WITH GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-17-89 7:30 p.m.
The title of the message tonight is Prevailing With God. And it, of course, concerns the prayer of Jacob who faced one of the greatest trials of life and out of it became a prince of glory. In Genesis 27, verse 41:
And Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing wherewith his father blessed him; and Esau said in his heart, "The days of mourning for my father are at hand;"
– Father Isaac was soon to die –
"The days of mourning for my father are at hand; and when that comes to pass, then will I slay my brother Jacob."
Now twenty years have passed. Twenty years. In those years, Jacob has fled to Haran where his mother’s brother lived – where Laban lived [Genesis 27:1-31:2]. And in the passing of those twenty years, God has said to Jacob, "The time has come for you to return back to your homeland and back to Canaan" [Genesis 31:3]. So we are reading [chapter] 32, verse 6: "And the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, ‘We came to thy brother Esau, and he cometh to meet him, and with him are four hundred armed men.’ Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed" [Genesis 32:6-7a]." And when I turn to chapter 33, verse 1: "Jacob lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, Esau came, and with him four hundred armed men."
You would expect a massacre. That’s what Esau intended. That’s why those four hundred armed men are with him. He is coming to meet his brother Jacob, and it is his deep intention to slay his brother Jacob and all that belonged to Jacob – his families, all of it. Now, instead, instead this is what happened: verse 4 in chapter : "And Esau ran to meet his brother Jacob, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept together." Expecting a horrible confrontation – death, a slaughter, a massacre – and instead of the blood spilled to the ground, Jacob was kissed; and they wept in joy together, Esau and Jacob. Well, what happened? Something tremendously changing happened. Well, this is what happened:
Jacob was left alone –
chapter 32:24, at the River Jabbok [Genesis 32:22] –
and there wrestled a Man with him until the breaking of the day.
And when that Man saw that He prevailed not against him –
It’s an angel in the form of a man –
He touched the hollow of Jacob’s thigh; and the hollow of his thigh was out of joint as he wrestled.
Then the Angel said, "Let Me go, for the day breaketh." And [Jacob] replied, "I will not let Thee go except Thou bless me!"
And He said unto him, "What is thy name?" And he said, "Jacob."
And the Angel said, "Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel; for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed."
And Jacob asked Him, and said, "Tell me, I pray Thee, Thy name." And the Angel said, "Why do you ask?" And He blessed him there.
And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel – the face of God: "For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved."
And as he passed over [Penuel] the sun rose him, and he halted upon his thigh.
Therefore the children of Israel eat not of the sinew which shrank, which is upon the hollow of the thigh, unto this day because the Angel touched the hollow of Jacob’s thigh in the sinew that shrank.
So the scene that happened is manifest to us all. When Jacob met Esau his brother and the four hundred armed men; he walked like a cripple. He halted upon his thigh. And when Esau saw his brother thus so hurt and so crippled, he wept and put his arms around him and kissed him.
First Jacob prevailed with God. That’s what the Book says. "He prevailed" [Genesis 32:28]. How did he prevail? Not in his wrestling; not in his stubbornness; not in his self-centeredness; not in his own will and strength; not in all of those schemes by which he was preparing to meet Esau which is depicted here in the Word of God [Genesis 33:1-3]. But he prevailed when he was broken, when he was crushed; and that is God’s message for us today. We who could ever prevail with God must do so in our brokenness, in our helplessness – not in our own strength, but in His strength.
You know, I was reading this week of our Protestant faith – where we came from – and in reading of our people, I followed the life of Thomas Cranmer, the first Protestant Archbishop of Canterbury. All of you who have been acquainted with our forefathers in England – when Henry VIII died, followed by King Edward, and he by Queen Mary who was a vicious opponent of the preaching of the gospel, and she forced Cranmer to recant and sign a recantation. It was a vicious massacre of our Protestant forefathers in England. And when Cranmer realized what he had done – in incarceration and in terrible persecution he had signed a recantation – when he realized what he had done, he publicly denounced his recantation; and, of course, Mary seized him and burned him at the stake in a place in Oxford where I have stood and relived what had happened. In the same place where Latimer was burned, and in the same place where Ridley was burned, they burned Thomas Cranmer.
And what is amazing about it, when the flames began to rise, he reached forth his right hand and said, "May this hand burn first that signed that recantation." And standing there in the midst of the flames, he thrust his right hand into the midst of it until it burned and then himself burned to death. That’s where we came from. These are our forefathers.
And as I read the best that I can understand, the great mighty events that changed human life and destiny are not Waterloo, and they’re not Verdun, and they’re not Stalingrad. The great mighty events that changed our lives are at the River Jabbok [Genesis 32:22-32], and on Mount Carmel [1 Kings 18:1-46], and in Gethsemane [Matthew 26:36-46, Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46], and in the Upper Room [Matthew 26:26-44; Mark 14:12-31; Luke 22:7-38, 24:33-; John 13:1-17:26; ], and in the times in your life when you have been crushed before God [2 Corinthians 1:8-11]. Not in our strength, but in His [Acts 1:12-14; 1 Corinthians 2:1-5].
And I suppose I’m not incorrect, or have misjudged, when I say that the best things that can happen to us are things that break our hearts, and break our spirits, and break our lives, and crush us under the providences of God [Romans 5:3-5; James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:6-7, 4:12-19]. Then I conclude as did Paul, "Therefore I take pleasure in persecutions, and in trials, and in hurts, and in sorrows . . . For when I am weak," crushed, "then am I strong" [2 Corinthians 12:10]. That’s when Israel prevailed – in his weakness and his hurt.
Now, good doctor, I want you to come here to the organ. We’re going to sing a verse, a stanza, of a hymn, and, Brother Fred, you don’t need to announce it. You just come up here and lead us in it, and we’ll sing with you.
And while we sing that hymn, if there’s somebody you who’d love to give your heart to Jesus; somebody you who’d love to re-consecrate your life to the Lord; a family you who’d love to come into the church; a couple you – "just want to do God’s will in my life" – as the Spirit shall press the appeal to your heart, I’ll be standing right here. You come and stand by me. We’ll pray together. We’ll give our lives to God together. As the Spirit shall lead, you come, while we stand and while we sing.
PREVAILING WITH GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Jacob’s journey from Haran to Canaan
Fear of Esau from earlier threat
Jacob broken crippled from wrestling with angel
Esau loved Jacob, met him as a loving brother
Prevailing with God requires God, not us
Example – Cranmer