The Old Jacob and the New Israel
June 11th, 1995
Sunday School Class Special
THE OLD JACOB AND THE NEW ISRAEL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
We are going to expound the thirty-second chapter of Genesis, and the title of the study is The Old Jacob and the New Israel. Genesis 32:
So Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him.
And when Jacob saw them, he said, This is God’s camp: and
he called the name of that place Mahanaim.
Then Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother in
the land of Seir, the country of Edom.
And he commanded them, saying, Speak thus to my lord Esau; Thus your servant Jacob says, I have dwelt with Laban, and stayed there until now…
Then the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, We came to
your brother Esau, and he is coming to meet you, with four hundred men with him.
So Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed . . .
Then Jacob said, O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, the Lord who said to me, Return to your country,
and to your family, and I will deal well with you:
I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which You have shown Your servant; for I crossed over this
Jordan with my staff; and now I have become two companies.
Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear him, lest he come and attack me, and the mother with the children.
For You said, I will surely treat you well, and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.
And Jacob arose that night, and took his two wives, his two
female servants, and his eleven sons, and crossed over the
ford of Jabbok.
He took them, and sent them over the brook, and sent over
what he had.
Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until
the breaking of day.
Now, when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint, as He wrestled with him.
And the Man said, Let Me go, for the day breaks. But Jacob said,
I will not let You go unless You bless me.
So the Man said to him, What is your name? And he said, Jacob.
And He said, Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel: for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.
Then Jacob answered saying, Tell me Your name, I pray. And the Man said, Why is it that you ask about My name? And He blessed him there.
So Jacob called the name of the place, “The Face of God,” Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.
Just as he crossed over Penuel the sun rose on him, and he
Therefore, to this day, the children of Israel do not eat the muscle that shrank, which is on the hip socket, because that Man touched the socket of Jacob’s hip and the muscle that shrank.
[Genesis 32: 22-32]
Prevailing with God; I have carefully prepared the lesson today, and I pray that it will be so meaningful to you: The Old Jacob and the New Israel. The old Jacob: at his home in Canaan, he lived, and was born, and was brought up with his father Isaac and his mother Rebekah. He was born holding the heel of his twin brother Esau [Genesis 25:26], so they named him Jacob, which by interpretation would mean “He grasps the heel”; and thus it came to mean “the deceiver, the cheater, the supplanter” [Genesis 27:36].
And the early part of his life was so reflective of that name that was given him. He takes advantage of the hunger of his brother Esau, and he buys the birthright. He became the heir, the firstborn, when actually it was Esau firstborn—that is in Genesis 25: 27-34. And with his mother Rebekah, he deceives Isaac and receives the blessing [Genesis 27:1-29]. That is, he is to be the inheritor, the receiver of God’s blessing upon Abraham, and Isaac, and now upon Jacob. That is in Genesis 27 [Genesis 27:41]. And in the providence of those deceptions, he flees from the hatred of Esau, who takes an oath to slay him. That is in Genesis 27. So his father Isaac and his mother Rebekah resolve to send him to their family in Haran [Genesis 27:42-28:4], and Jacob leaves [Genesis 28:5-7], and his mother Rebekah never sees him again.
Now we come to the twenty years in Haran [Genesis 28:11]. That is at the top of the Mesopotamian Valley. He is there with the people of his father and his mother. When Abraham left for Canaan [Genesis 11:31], his brother Nahor stayed there in Mesopotamia, and Nahor has a son, Bethuel, and Bethuel has two children, Laban and Rebekah [Genesis 24:29]. You remember that Abraham sends his servant Eliezer to Haran to seek a wife for his son Isaac, and Eliezer returns with Rebekah, who marries Isaac [Genesis 24:1-61]. So Jacob is in the home of Bethuel [Genesis 28:2, 5] with his son Laban, and Laban has two daughters, Leah and Rachel [Genesis 29:16]. And Jacob falls in love with Rachel and works seven years to receive her as his wife, but [Laban] deceives him and gives him Leah instead, so Jacob works seven more years for Rachel [Genesis 29:15-28].
And blessed now with those two wives and with a vast array of flocks and herds, he is commanded by God to return to Canaan [Genesis 31:3]. So let me remark here on Jacob’s years of waiting here; twenty years, and look upon it as typical of the life of the children of God that we all experience. For example, the children of Israel: between their Egyptian deliverance on that Passover night [Exodus 12:1-42] and their final entrance across Jordan into the Promised Land [Joshua 3:1-4:24] was first filled with forty years of waiting and wandering [Numbers 14:26-34]. Our lives are like that; between the day of our conversion and the day of our final rest, it is so full of wandering and waiting, full of failure and weakness and disappointment. But God’s presence and purpose for good never ever fails the child of the Lord.
Look at chapter 32, how it begins. He sees a company of angels. That Mahanaim means, “two bands, two hosts” [Genesis 32:1-2]. There is a bright procession of angels before him. And the angel bands are always passing before us and around us. That never ever fails. All of us experience the eras in our lives of waiting and wandering, and in those days of waiting, God sends His angels.
I do not think there is a more pertinent incident in the Bible than is found in 2 Kings chapter 6. Elisha the prophet of God is surrounded by the army of Syria, whose king, Ben-Hadad, has resolved to take him, and, of course, to slay him [2 Kings 6:8-14]. But Elisha is perfectly quiet and at rest, and his servant Gehazi says, “How is it that you can be so quiet and so peaceful and so at rest, when the army is around the whole city of Dothan in which you are staying?” [2 Kings 6:15-16].
And Elisha prays, saying, “Lord, open his eyes. Open his eyes” [2 Kings 6:17]. And when that prayer is answered, Gehazi looks, and the whole heavens are surrounding Elisha with the armies and the angels and the glories of God [2 Kings 6:17]. That is our lives. We all experience these times of weakness, waiting, wandering, but always the child of God sees the passing of the hosts of the angels who come to deliver and to help [Hebrews 1:14].
So we come to the second part of this wonderful thirty-second chapter, the new Israel. Esau is coming to meet him with four hundred men, and they look like four thousand men to Jacob, and he is indescribably full of fear and trouble [Genesis 32:6-7]. Well, it is typical of our lives. We have this experience of the coming of the angels, Mahanaim [Genesis 32:1-2]. Then, always, it is followed by the armed men of Esau. It is so often that way in our lives. The good is followed by the bad.
Look at the forty days at Sinai with God [Exodus 24:15-18], then the judgments of the golden calf [Exodus 32:1-35]. Look at the triumph over Baal in Mt. Carmel [1 Kings 18:15-40], and Elijah—ah! He ran all the way from Mt. Carmel down to Jezreel, the capital of the country of Israel [1 Kings 18:46]. I can’t imagine. He ran before the chariot of Ahab in exultation [1 Kings 18:44]. He ran about twenty miles. Then, the next word: Jezebel, the queen, threatens him, and Elijah is under a juniper tree praying to die [1 Kings 19:1-4].
So Daniel is the first prince in the land [Daniel 2:48]; and now he is in the lion’s den [Daniel 6:16]. Jesus is transfigured on the Mount of Transfiguration [Matthew 17:1-5]; then He is crucified on the Mount of Golgotha [Matthew 27:32-50]. Paul is received in Asia Minor as the presence of the god Mercurius [Acts 14:11-12]; then he is stoned at Lystra [Acts 14:19]. And John’s vision on Patmos is incomparable [Revelation 1:1-2]; then the old, cold, gray rocks of exile and loneliness finally take his life. That is the experience of our earthly pilgrimage. However the marvelous conversion we have experienced through the wonderful call of God in our lives or the marvelous open doors God has set before us, always there will follow those days of hurt, and heartache, and weakness.
Well here Jacob’s fear of Esau was deep and terrible and indescribable [Genesis 32:11]. It is spoken of in that next chapter of Genesis 33:1. It starts off like that. But, but, in spite of the terrible fear that overwhelmed Jacob, he needed not to be afraid. There are those who have been called of God who need not fear the approach of men. Compare those women who were worrying about the stone that covered the grave of our Lord, but when they got there the stone had been rolled away [Mark 16:3-4].
So when Peter was delivered from prison, he passed through the fist and the second prison gates, and he came to the great iron gate, an insurmountable obstacle! But when he got there, it opened of its own accord [Acts 12:8-10]. So Jacob, for the fear of meeting Esau, was filled with consternation and dread and trembling [Genesis 32:6-7]. Then he made, you remember, all those arrangements that are described in chapter . Good night alive, the whole chapter is how Jacob arranged his flocks, and arranged his herds, and arranged his family, and arranged his wives to meet Esau in great dread [Genesis 32:12-23].
And when he meets Esau, Esau puts his arm around him, and kisses him, and weeps for joy and gladness and welcome [Genesis 33:1-4]. I just can’t imagine a thing like that except I see it in our own lives. We worry and worry and are filled with trembling and fear, and absolutely no reason ever to have worried at all, or to have feared at all.
I have here a poem: “What Can Worry Do?”
Worry, why worry?
What can worry do?
It never keeps a trouble
From overtaking you.
It puts a frown upon your face
And sharpness in your tone;
We’re unfit to live with others,
And unfit to live alone.
Worry, why worry?
What can worry do?
It never keeps a trouble
From overtaking you.
Pray, why pray?
What can praying do?
Praying really changes things,
Arranges life anew.
It puts a smile upon your face,
The love note in your tone,
Makes you fit to live with others,
And makes you fit to live alone.
Pray, why pray?
What can praying do?
It brings God down from heaven
To live and work with you.
Oh! How pertinent that is. Don’t be afraid. Don’t worry. God has a beautiful promise just waiting to be fulfilled in you.
I have copied this from a doctor. He was a physician, Dr. [Theodore B.] Hyslop, and
he was one of Great Britain’s greatest physicians. And he is speaking to a British medical society, and here is what I have copied that he said:
The best medicine which my practice has discovered
is prayer. As one whose life has been concerned with the
sufferings of the mind, I would state that of all hygienic
measures to counteract disturbed sleep, depression of spirit,
and all the miserable sequels of a distressed mind, I would undoubtedly give first place to the simple habit of prayer. It is
of the highest importance, merely from a physical point of view,
to teach children to hold daily communion with God. Such a
habit does more to quiet the spirit and strengthen the soul
to overcome mere incidental emotionalism than any other
therapeutic agency known to man. It is a new life, absolutely,
when we take away from us this human weakness to worry
and to be afraid and to tremble, and just look to God and see
the marvelous answer of God in our day of need and necessity.
Now we have here in the thirty-second chapter of Genesis the prayer of Jacob [Genesis 32:9-12]. And you notice in Genesis 32: 9 and 12, he begins and he ends with the promise of God. Then do you notice in the next verse, 10, he speaks in deepest humility? [Genesis 32:10]. It’s like Abraham in the eighteenth chapter of Genesis. Abraham says, “I who am but dust and ashes have taken upon myself to speak unto Thee, the Most High God” [Genesis 18:27]. That ought to characterize all of us in approaching the great Lord God in heaven. We confess, “I, Lord, am but dust and ashes.”
Then, in the eleventh verse, he pleads for deliverance as he faces the terrible prospect of meeting Esau with four hundred armed men [Genesis 32:11, 6].
Now, we follow in Genesis 32 the unbelievable story of the conflict that Jacob had with God. And there is a reason for that, and we are going to look at it. The midnight wrestling at the River Jabbok between Jacob and this capital M “Man” is one of the most amazing stories in all the Word of God. Who is this Man that Jacob is wrestling with? In Genesis 32: 24, he is called a “Man,” and in my Bible, the Man, as I say, is with a capital “M.”
In Hosea chapter 12 verse 4, the prophet there refers to this wrestling between Jacob and this Man, and he calls the Man an Angel [Hosea 12:4]. And in the thirty-second chapter of Genesis, verse 30, Jacob calls Him “God” [Genesis 32:30], and that means that this Man that Jacob is wrestling with is the incarnate Logos. It is the preincarnate Christ of God [Genesis 32:30]. And I want to point out to you—if you will listen—I want to point out to you that from the beginning to the end, Jesus, whom we know in the flesh, the incarnate Son of God [Matthew 1:20-25; John 1:1, 14] in His preincarnate appearance and in His post-incarnate appearance, is always present and always vital and active in our human lives.
Now I’m going to take just a few. When our first parents fell, Adam and Eve [Genesis 3:1-6], there is an Angel who guides them out of the Garden of Eden from whence they are expelled and who teaches them how to approach God with sacrifice [Genesis 3:22-24]. How did they know to approach God with sacrifice? The Angel of the Lord taught them. Who is that Angel of God? It is the preincarnate Christ. Now you look again. There is a story of Abraham on Mt. Moriah, and there is an Angel of the Lord who points out to him the sacrifice, instead of taking the life of his son, Isaac [Genesis 22:11-13]. Who is that Angel of the Lord? It is the preincarnate Christ. You look again. It is an Angel of the Lord that speaks to Moses on the back side of the desert [Exodus 3:1-2]. Who is that Angel of the Lord? It is the preincarnate Christ. You look again in Joshua chapter 5. That is one of the most amazing revelations, when Joshua sees this glorious Somebody, and He tells him to take off his shoes: the place that he is standing on is holy ground [Joshua 5:13-15]. Who is that glorious Somebody that appears to Joshua? It is the preincarnate Christ. There is an Angel that directs Samuel to anoint David [1 Samuel 16:12-13, Psalm 89:20]. Who is that Angel? It is the preincarnate Lord God. In the sixth chapter of Isaiah, he sees a glorious vision of the marvelous Somebody on the throne of heaven [Isaiah 6:1]. Who is that Somebody? That is the preincarnate Christ [Isaiah 6:1]. When, when the three Hebrew children, Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego, are thrown into the fiery furnace [Daniel 3:19-23], Nebuchadnezzar looks into the burning, and there is a fourth Somebody [Daniel 3:24]. And Nebuchadnezzar looks and says, “He looks like somebody you would call the Son of God” [Daniel 3:25]. Who is that fourth Person walking with the other three in the fiery furnace? That is the preincarnate Christ.
Then you meet it again after His incarnation [Matthew 1:20-25; John 1:1, 14]. Saul says, “Who art Thou, Lord?” And the Lord replies, “I am Jesus whom you persecute” [Acts 9:5]. And the Bible closes with the Book of the Revelation, and in the first chapter is the most marvelous description of that glorious Somebody. And who is that Somebody?
I am Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End,
the First and the Last: I am He that liveth, and was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore, and I, I have the keys of the gates of Hell and of Death.
[Revelation 1:11, 17-18]
All the way through there is no exception. The Lord is working with His people, present with His people, guiding, blessing, and that’s with us today. And someday—I was asked yesterday, “What are we going to see when we get to heaven? What—God, what is—what are we going to see of God when we get to heaven?” And my reply is very simple. “The only God you will ever see is Jesus, the only God you will ever feel is the Holy Spirit, and the only God that there is, is God, called the Father.” And this Lord Jesus is all the way through, all the way through, all the way through, and He is with us now and to the end of our days.
Now to return to this resisting, this wrestling with God [Genesis 32:24]; the truth that lies back of what we read is that Jacob was full of himself. He represents the enthronement of self, wrestling with God; my way, my interests, my choice, my will, and my wants. So Jacob, the deceiver and the schemer and the crafter, he’s wrestling all night with the Angel of God [Genesis 32:24]. He employs in that wrestling every trick he knows; tugging, straining. He does not give in.
The Angel at last sees He will not prevail against him, so the Angel turns to superhuman resources, and He touches his thigh, and the wrestling is over [Genesis 32:25]. The limb began to shrink and to wither, and the strong iron sinews collapse, and Jacob is helpless. His own strength and will are gone.
Now, does God leave him helpless and limping? No, He does not! The encounter is not over. We come to the clinging to God on the part of Jacob, the prevailing with God. The contest grows more wonderful. Out of the defeat comes a greater, nobler victory. The old life of self dies. The old nature is utterly destroyed, and Jacob is changed.
The Angel says, “Let Me go.” Jacob clings to Him and replies, “I cannot. I will not let You go until You bless me” [Genesis 32:26]. There’s no more wrestling. There’s no more striving. There’s no more refusing. There is just a helpless clinging, a holding on. The strong man Jacob is at the end of his tricks and his scheming. He is helpless before God. He is humble and yielded.
So the Angel asks as he clings, “What is your name?” [Genesis 32:27]. And Jacob is honest. “My name is Cunning, Crafty, Cheater, Deceiver, Supplanter, Trickster. I am of the earth, earthy. My name is Jacob” [Genesis 32:26]. And the Angel responds, “Jacob, Supplanter, Deceiver, no more: as a prince thou has prevailed with God; thy name now is Israel, the ‘Prince of God’” [Genesis 32: 28].
All his cleverness, his craftiness, his cunning, all of it is over. His life is humbly plain, easily seen, read like a leaf in a book. The sanctification of his inner life took away all his old nature. His old prayer, “Deliver me from the hand of my brother Esau” [Genesis 32:11], is changed to “O God, thank Thee for delivering me from my own deceitful self.”
So the blessing came when wrestling was over, when Jacob ceases to strive, and when Jacob is broken with tears, and weeping, and clinging [Genesis 32:24-30]. His weakness gave opportunity for God’s power to be exhibited in him. He is a new being; halting, limping, weak. He is a new somebody never before seen: Jacob with a halt, with a limp, Jacob with a bowed head [Genesis 32:31].
And then you have, in Genesis 33, the next chapter, Esau sees him. They meet, four hundred armed men with Esau [Genesis 33:1], and he meets the old Jacob that he knew and looks at him in amazement, overwhelmed by what he sees. He sees Jacob limping, broken, halting, walking with difficulties. And the Book says when Esau saw him, he burst into tears, and kissed him, and embraced him, and hugged him [Genesis 33:4]. It is a new and different Jacob. He is now the “Prince of God” [Genesis 32:27-28].
Oh! What brokenness can do for us! I read in history and become aware of it. Say in a visit to England, in London, and there is the Broad Street that runs into Oxford University, and you walk down that street entering the university and there, there is a tremendous monument to Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley. They were bishops in the church. They were advanced and exalted under Henry VIII. They were the leaders of the Reformation. We are blessed today, we are, as Baptists, and there’s that monument.
They are burned at the stake. And as the fire was kindled, Ridley began to cringe, and Latimer said to him, “Be of good cheer, Master Ridley. We will this today set a fire in England that will never go out.” Think of the great Reformation and what it has meant, great God in heaven, even to us Baptists. And they paid for it with their lives, but out of the sacrifice of their lives, out of their burning, came the incomparable blessing.
Right down and next to it is Archbishop Cranmer, Thomas Cranmer. The other two were burned in 1555, Cranmer in 1556. In his dread before the awfulness of Queen Mary seeking to destroy the Reformation, Cranmer recounted, then gave his life again and anew to the true purpose of God and rebuked in his own heart his recantation. And as they burned him, he put forth his right hand and said, “Let this hand that signed the recantation burn first.” Great God, I stand there and think of the sacrifice of those great men of the faith who gave their lives for the Reformation; the liberty of faith and exposition and preaching that we enjoy today as Baptist people.
I am just pointing out in conclusion that in the limping of Jacob, in the touching of his thigh, in the weakness that fell upon his life, came the new Israel. “What is your name? It was full of self and programming and seizing, but now, as you bow, as you limp, as you hurt, your name is going to be changed to the Prince of God, to Israel” [Genesis 32:28].
So in our lives, the sorrows that come, the weaknesses that we know, the tears that follow after, they are the instruments of heaven teaching us to deny self and to look to God for the strength and the help that we need [Romans 10:9-10]. God bless you, sweet people. It is a privilege to study and to have the opportunity to be with you, and I love you with all my heart.