The Old Jacob and the New Israel
May 31st, 1989 @ 7:30 PM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-31-89 7:30 p.m.
Once again we welcome the throngs of you who are sharing this hour on radio. You’re a part now of our beloved First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Old Jacob and the New Israel. In a moment we’re going to look carefully at the thirty-second chapter of the Book of Genesis. So if you’ll turn to that chapter, we’re going to follow it and the Spirit of the Lord as He transformed – made anew – one of the great saints and patriarchs of the Old Covenant.
First, we speak of the old Jacob. At his home in Canaan, he was the part of a trick, a deception, and in it he stole the birthright from his elder brother Esau [Genesis 25:29-34, 27:1-40; Hebrews 12:14-17]; and Esau hated his brother and said in his heart that when Isaac, the father, was dead that he would slay his brother Jacob [Genesis 27:41]. Thus, before the threat of a certain death, his mother sent the younger son, Jacob, away, and he fled from the face of the wrath of Esau [Genesis 27:42-45].
The next twenty years, he lived in Haran up there at the head of the Mesopotamian Valley [Genesis 28:1-31:55]. In the generation immediately before, the family of Terah moved to the northern part of Mesopotamia and settled in a place named Haran [Genesis 11:27-32]. And while they were there, Terah, the father, died [Genesis 11:32]; and God sent Abraham away and said, "I’m sending you to a land that you will afterward receive for an inheritance" [Genesis 12:1-3]. And as the Book of Hebrews describes, Abraham went out not knowing whither he went – just following the plan and promise of God [Hebrews 11:8]. But when Abraham left, Nahor, his brother, stayed [Genesis 12:5]; and Nahor was the father of Bethuel [Genesis 22:20-22], and Bethuel was the father of Laban and Rebekah [Genesis 22:23, 24:29]. And Laban, in the providences of God, had two daughters named Leah and Rachel [Genesis 29:16]. So Jacob, in fleeing from his brother Esau, comes to the home of Nahor where Rebekah and Laban were born [Genesis 29:1-14]; and Rebekah, of course, was chosen by Eliezer upon the commission of Abraham to be the wife of Isaac [Genesis 24:1-67]. So Jacob is there in the home of the generations of Abraham, and for twenty years he is there with Laban [Genesis 31:38; 41], his mother’s brother and the father of Leah and Rachel.
And those twenty years were filled with all kinds of tricks. Laban tricked Jacob himself in his marriage [Genesis 29:15-25]. Instead of giving to him Rachel whom he loved, he substituted in the nighttime her sister Leah; and it was not until the morning sun arose, and he looked to see the wife that he was to spend the rest of his days with, and it wasn’t Rachel. It was Leah. When I get to heaven, I’m going to ask Jacob, "How under high heaven could you spend the night with a woman and not know who she was, thinking she’s somebody else?" Anyway, there was that trick and that deception.
And after that, all of those twenty years, all of them, were filled with trickery, and in it Jacob survived and prospered [Genesis 29:1-30:43]. It was then, after those years, that God commanded Jacob to return back to his homeland in [Canaan] [Genesis 31:1-3].
Before we leave this, could I speak for just a moment that those twenty years that Jacob spent up there in Haran are so typical of the Christian pilgrimage. You know, between the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt, the tribes of the people of God, and their entrance into the Promised Land, there were forty years of wandering in the wilderness [Deuteronomy 2:7; 8:2, 4; 29:5]; and our lives are somewhat like that. Between the time of our conversion and the time of our entrance into heaven, there are all kinds of experiences and providences of our brokenness, and of our weakness, and of our restlessness. The life of Jacob is so typical of the pilgrimage of all of us who have been touched by the hand of God.
Now let’s start at chapter 32. God means something good for us in all of the providences of life. If you are a Christian, if you’ve been converted, if you are a child of God, the providences of life God intends for the enrichment of your soul and for the blessing of your pilgrim way. Here it starts. Genesis 32: "And Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. And when Jacob saw them, he said, ‘This is God’s host.’ And he called the name of that place Mahanaim" [Genesis 32:1-2]. Literally, that means "two bands" or "two hosts."
The bright procession, as Jacob looked at it, the bright procession was in two companies – two bands, two hosts – the angels of God meeting him [Genesis 32:1]. If we had eyes to see, the angels of God are with you, and they come to meet you, and they encourage you. They bless you. They enrich you. Our problem is like the problem of Gehazi. We can’t see. You remember when Elisha was in Dothan and the [Aramean] army surrounded him [2 Kings 6:15-17]. And Gehazi the servant said, "Oh, my master, what shall we do, surrounded completely by the [Aramean] army?" And Elisha says, "They that are with us are more than they that be with them. Don’t be afraid" [2 Kings 6:16]. Then Elisha prayed, "Lord, open his eyes that he can see" [2 Kings 6:17]. And God heard the request of the Prophet Elisha and opened the eyes of Gehazi, and behold, he was surrounded by the angels of God [2 Kings 6:17].
We are like that. We just can’t see. But if you are a child of the King, if you’re a Christian, there are angels that surround you, that meet you, that accompany you [Psalm 34:7, 91:11; Matthew 18:10; 1 Corinthians 11:10; Hebrews 1:13-14, 13:2]. What a marvelous and wonderful realization that I am not alone in this earthly pilgrimage; but God is as close as a prayer, and the angels of the Lord are always with us – these messengers from heaven whom God sends to guide and to help us and encourage us in the way.
That’s what the Lord Jesus meant when He said, "These little children, their angels do always behold the face of the Father which is in heaven" [Matthew 18:10]. What that means is that there is an angel, a guardian angel, that watches over every one of these little ones; the angels of God.
If you would sit down sometime and think through the providences of God in your life, there are things that have happened to you that are miraculous. How should they have happened just the way that they did? It is because of the guardianship of the angels of heaven who are watching over you – God’s angels. Thus it was in the life of Jacob. Mahanaim: two bands of those bright emissaries from heaven sent to meet him and to encourage him and to help him [Genesis 32:1-2].
Now, what happened, of course, was the messengers that Jacob had sent to Esau to prepare for their meeting, they came back, and they said, "ʽWe came to thy brother Esau, and he is coming to meet thee with four hundred armed men’ . . . and Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed" [Genesis 32:3-7]. Well, that’s understandable. He had fled from the wrath of Esau who had said, "I’m going to kill – I shall slay my brother" [Genesis 27:41-28:5]; and now that God is sending him back to the homeland in Canaan, he is met with the announcement that, "Esau, your brother, is coming to meet you, and he has with him four hundred armed men" [Genesis 32:6].
So Jacob prays, and I want you to look at that prayer. It begins and ends with a promise from God. Verse 9:
Jacob said, "O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, the Lord who said to me, ‘Return unto thy country and to thy kindred.’ He said also, ‘I will be with thee. I will deal well for thee.’"
And look again at the end of the prayer, verse 12: "Thou saidst, ‘I will surely do thee good, and I’ll make thy seed as the sand of the sea . . . without number.’" When we pray and ask of God, it is a wonderful thing if we will claim a promise. "Lord, You said . . ." and then quote the promise. Build your prayer upon a promise of God, the Lord God, who cannot lie: "Lord, You said . . ." and then quote the promise in the prayer and make your supplication on the basis of the promise of God. That’s what Jacob did.
Look again at the spirit of his prayer in verse 10: "I am not worthy of the least of all of thy mercies . . . which Thou hast showed unto Thy servant" [Genesis 32:10]. That reminds me of Abraham when he stood before the Lord, and he said, "I who am but dust and ashes, I have taken upon myself to speak unto Thee, Thou great and mighty God" [Genesis 18:27]. That’s the way we ought to approach our Lord. "Lord, I am nothing. I’m a child of the dust of the ground. I am the least of all of Thy children, but, Lord, You said . . . " and then quote the promise and build your petition upon the promise. And that’s what he did.
"Deliver me," in verse 11, "I pray Thee, from the hand of my brother Esau; for I fear him, lest he come and slay me, smite me" [Genesis 32:11]. Once again, remember the angels are for you and with you. They’re there. "Remember, O God, the promise that You made;" and in deepest humility, "I’m not worthy, Lord, of Thy remembrance, but . . . " and then on the basis of the promise, plead your case before God. That’s the way to pray.
Now, we begin in verse 24. All of the family, now, have crossed the River Jabbok. All of his herds and all of his cattle have been sent over. "And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a Man with him until the breaking of the day" [Genesis 32:24]. Do you notice He’s called here "a man"? In Hosea chapter 12, verse , he’s called "an angel," and down here in verse 30 Jacob calls him "God." "I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved" [Genesis 32:30]. Who was that? That was the Logos. That was the pre-incarnate Christ. All through the Old Testament that glorious figure appears again and again and again [Genesis 16:6-13, 18:1-33, 22:11-15; Exodus 3:2-4; Numbers 22:22-35; Joshua 5:13-15; Judges 2:1-3, 6:11-23, 13:1-25; Daniel 3:25]. That is our Lord Jesus Christ in the days of His flesh named Jesus; but throughout all of the revelation of God in the Old Testament, He appears again and again and again. That’s the Lord Jesus. That’s our Savior, and that’s the One who was wrestling with Jacob all night long until the breaking of the morning. Well, why the wrestling? Why the contest? That’s because of our old nature. The old nature resists the will of God for our lives [Romans 7:14-24; Galatians 5:17].
Verse 25: "And when he saw that he prevailed not" this Angel, this Lord Christ, "touched the hollow of his thigh, and Jacob was crippled" [Genesis 32:25]. That is the experience of all of us. It is not easy for any one of us just to lay our lives completely in submission to the will of God. The reason is very human. "I got things I want to do. I have places I want to go. I have things I want to achieve." And on the throne of our lives is ourselves: "I want to be king and lord of my life, and I want to do what I want to do," and that’s the old nature; and we’re all like that – every one of us.
Man, how many times do I meet that among our people? "I want to marry so-and-so," when God says you’re not to marry an unbeliever [1 Corinthians 7:39, 9:5; 2 Corinthians 6:14]. "But I want to marry so-and-so." "I," "I." When God’s will for us is something else and something different, we rebel, and we wrestle against the will of God for our lives.
Well, that’s the old nature. That’s our humanity. We want to do it our way. But when you are converted – when you turn – you look at verse 26. Crippled, he pleads with the angel and says, "I will not let Thee go until You bless me" [Genesis 32:26]. The old nature resists, and the new nature clings. That’s the difference. In the flesh, and in our own choice, and in our own outline of life for ourselves we resist what God wills; but the new nature bows in deepest humility and clings to God asking for His blessing.
Oh, dear. What does God will for you? Whatever that will is, God chooses what is best always. God may not choose for you that you be affluent. God may choose for you that you wrestle with poverty all the days of your life. "Wonderful, then, Lord. If Your choice for me is that I be poor and have nothing, then may God’s name be honored and glorified in my need, and in my necessity, and in my poverty."
What if God chooses for you that you not be well? What if God chooses for you that you endure illness and sickness? Maybe invalidism? What if that is God’s choice for you? "Then, Lord, give me grace, Thy blessing, that in my illness I may bow in Thy will, accept what is good and best, and magnify God in my invalidism."
You know, I think one of the sweetest little stories I ever heard in my life – the streetcar was going down the street; and a little crippled boy raised his voice and said, "O, Mr. Conductor, wait up. Wait up. Wait up." And the conductor stopped the streetcar, and the little crippled boy clambered on, and he sat down by a man there in the streetcar; and the streetcar, as it went on, that man by whom the little boy was seated, that man said to the little fellow, he said to him, "You seem to be so happy. How is it that you can be so happy and be so crippled as you are?" And the little crippled boy answered the man and said, "My father says that God always gives us what is best, and don’t you think I ought to be happy with what is best?" Dear me, that we could be like that little crippled boy!
"What is best for me, Lord? I will receive it with gladness and joy and thanksgiving and gratitude to God." In everything, be grateful and thankful to the Lord [1 Thessalonians 5:18], and that includes the hurts, and the tears, and the sorrows, and the heartaches of life. God purposes some blessed thing for us.
Could I read it as Paul wrote it?
Lest I be exalted . . . through the abundance of God’s blessings, there was given me a thorn in the flesh . . .
For this I besought the Lord that it might depart from me.
And He said, "My grace is sufficient for thee, for My strength is made perfect in weakness."
– Not in our strength! –
"My grace is sufficient for thee, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, will I glory – thank God – for my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
I take pleasure, therefore, in infirmities, in reproaches, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then am I strong.
[2 Corinthians 12:7-10]
What an amazing acceptance of the will of God! "For when I am weak, then am I strong" [2 Corinthians 12:10].
Now I must close. There was a three-fold blessing given to Jacob as he wrestled with that Angel, then as he clung to Him. Number one, he had a change in name and character. Though broken in self-surrender, he is now a prince: "Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel" [Genesis 32:28] – a prince of God. That’s the first blessing.
The second one: "For thou hast prevailed and hast power with God and with men" [Genesis 32:28]. The second blessing. O Lord, isn’t it a wonderful thing to have God with us? In what we’re doing, we’re doing in the power and blessing of the Lord God! That’s the second blessing.
The first one: As a prince, as a prince, he is now in the will and work of our Lord. The second blessing: [he] has power with God and with men. And the third one, the vision beatific: "And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel" [Genesis 32:30]. Peniel means "the face of God." "For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved" [Genesis 32:30]. And he passed over the River Jabbok.
And the story of the next chapter: he lifted up his eyes, and Esau was there with four hundred armed men [Genesis 33:1]. And instead of the vicious hatred by which Esau thought to slay his brother Jacob, Esau, looking upon him, embraced him and kissed him and welcomed him back home [Genesis 33:4]. That’s God, and that’s what God is always able to do – make every providence for us a precious blessing. Lord, that I could bow in self-surrender always and just look to God for what is best!
Now we’re going to sing us a song, and while we sing the hymn, I’ll be standing right here. A family to come into the fellowship of our church, a couple, a somebody you, to take Jesus as your Savior, make that decision now in your heart. And in this moment when we sing our song of appeal, on the first note of the first stanza, come, and a thousand times welcome, while we stand and while we sing.
THE OLD JACOB AND THE NEW ISRAEL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
May 31, 1989
Old Jacob – supplanter
1. Stole Esau’s
2. Stole blessing
3. Fourteen years
of trickery from Laban
descending and ascending, Jacob’s promise
3. New name, Israel
4. Jacob’s fear of
5. Twelve sons,
children of Israel
Weakness gives opportunity for God’s power