Introduction Detlef Stegen
We thank the Lord that we can gather this morning. Thank you for joining us wherever you are. There is so much for which we can thank the Lord. Do you thank Him? Every day is another day with a new reason to thank God. Can you thank the Lord for the past week or are you sorry for the way in which you lived last week?
We are thankful if you have come to the mission recently and we pray that you are blessed in this place where the Lord has chosen to glorify His name. It is wonderful that we can be together and hear God’s word.
I went to a Ballito nursery recently to fetch a very special tree that was about 1,2 metres high. I paid for it and loaded it when I noticed that it protruded half metre or so from the back of the vehicle. I did not even have a rope or strap to tie it. I drove about 100 - 200 metres and found an old strap, just enough to tie it down and ensure that the tree would not be damaged by the canopy. Then I realised that the leaves would be battered by the wind while driving, become dehydrated and affect its regrowth when planted. If only I had something to wrap around the leaves and tender shoots of this tree. I continued driving through the sugar cane from the nursery and when I reached a small road that led to the main road, what did I see? A bunch of old plastic. I believed God rescued me. I used the plastic to wrap the tree. The tree is in good shape because it was cared for by the Lord. This is something so insignificant, but I said, ‘Lord, before we even cry to You, You know what we need.’ As the Bible says in the Psalms – the Lord hears the cry of those who cry out to Him. Psalm 34:17
It is wonderful to see the Lord in small things and praise Him. This is part of our Christian walk, to see God working in the minutest detail. Do not overlook it. If we are not faithful in the small things, how can we be trusted with great things? So, let us not forget to thank Him for His death on the Cross. It was because of His suffering that all of this is at our disposal. Do not be poor but rich in thankfulness to the Lord.
We greet you in the wonderful name of our Lord. There is much to be thankful for and we often miss the small things. Have you noticed the new carpet in front? It may be a small thing to some but we are thankful for everything the Lord does for us. Be faithful even in the smallest things. There are people who faithfully put water at the pulpit for the preacher – thank you. You might do something that nobody sees, but God. May God bless you for it.
It is frightening to think that I can stand here, read God’s word, and try and expound on it - God’s holy inspired word that a wretched man like me, can try and expound on. It feels like an impossible task therefore it is my prayer that God will work, that He will speak, that His Holy Spirit will speak and that we will be attentive to what He says. It is my cry and I hope that it is the cry of everyone present this morning.
This morning I would like to speak about God’s blessing on our lives. What is the dictionary meaning of blessing? ‘God’s favour on a person.’ It is amazing how often the world knows more about God. Some contracts with our suppliers specify an “Act of God” which means a hailstorm, wind, thunderstorm, or something which destroys. But God’s blessing on our lives? Is it a strange thing to say that God’s blessing must be on my life? If I serve Him and I do everything to please Him, if my life is dedicated to Him and then surely if He is pleased with my life, there should be a blessing on my life. If He is pleased with my life, His favour should be on it. It is not possible to say I serve Him, but there is no favour or approval on my life. I am not only talking about material gain or blessing - the Lord can also give us material things - I am talking about a spiritual blessing where I know God approves of my life.
Allow me to read some excerpts from a sermon by Spurgeon.
Dear Hearers, are you blessed in Christ? Will you answer the question personally? Do not pass it around and say to yourself, “No doubt there are many who think that they are blessed who are not.” Never mind about them! For the present moment, ask this question of yourself, “Am I blessed in Christ?” Some people think that they have Christ as their Savior, but their religion brings them no blessedness. (Maybe you say there is no blessing on my life, I just survive, I just hang in there.)
They go to church or to chapel very regularly. They are, apparently, a good sort of people, but a part of their religion consists in being, on the whole, as comfortably miserable as they can! As to anything like blessedness, that does not enter into their minds. (If God approves of our lives, we should be blessed. If we are not blessed, maybe we are missing the mark.) Now, if my religion did not make me really happy, I would seriously question whether I was a possessor of the religion of the happy God, for “Men shall be blessed in Him.”
“Oh,” says one, “but we have so many trials and troubles!” Ah, that we have! Do you know a man or woman who does not have any? … I could get some of you to stand up and testify that though you have very little of this world’s joys, and very little of temporal goods, yet you can say, “Yes, I am blessed, I am blessed indeed– (https://www.thekingdomcollective.com/spurgeon/sermon/2451/)
He continues to say that if you do not know whether you are blessed, you are probably not because a person who is blessed of God will be blessed indeed. I am God’s child, the Father’s love is fixed upon me, I have a part and portion in the covenant of Christ – I am saved – that is a blessed person.
The question I want to ask this morning: Are you blessed in Christ? You must answer honestly. Am I blessed? What am I prepared to do or sacrifice to keep that blessing?
The text for today is found in Genesis 32.
21 So the present passed on ahead of him, and he himself stayed that night in the camp. 22 The same night he arose and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 He took them and sent them across the stream, and everything else that he had. 24 And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. 25 When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob's hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him 26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28 Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” 29 Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. 30 So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” Genesis 32:21 – 30
Jacob wrestled with a being. Some translations say a man, some an angel. He wrestled with a heavenly being. He grabbed hold of him and demanded a blessing. I can honestly say that I never understood this portion, how can a man demand such a blessing from God? How can he go to the extent of forcing a blessing upon himself? Facing death? We know that the Old Testament says that no man who sees the face of God will live. “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” Jacob knew that he could die but he would not leave without God’s blessing. Jacob faced a difficult situation – his brother could kill him – but Jacob knew that if God’s blessing was not on his life, he was as good as dead in any case. If God’s blessing is not on my life, I am as good as dead.
Christian, is God’s blessing on your life or is your Christian life so rotten that there is no blessing on it? Is the spiritual state of your life such that you cannot honestly say, ‘God’s hand is on my life.’ Jacob possibly understood something that few Christians understand – God’s blessing must be on a person’s life.
Let us look at a few aspects of Jacob’s life.
20 and Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah, the daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, the sister of Laban the Aramean, to be his wife. 21 And Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife, because she was barren. And the Lord granted his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived. 22 The children struggled together within her, and she said, “If it is thus, why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the Lord. 23 And the Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger.” 24 When her days to give birth were completed, behold, there were twins in her womb. 25 The first came out red, all his body like a hairy cloak, so they called his name Esau. 26 Afterward his brother came out with his hand holding Esau's heel, so his name was called Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them. Genesis 25:20 – 26
This is the account of the birth of Jacob but even before the birth there was a battle while the twins were in the womb. Matthew Henry says this: Trouble between Jacob and Esau in the womb represents the struggle that is maintained by the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan in this world.
There is a spiritual battle in everything we do. Where I am, where I speak, where I work – there is a spiritual battle. It is a fierce battle and we should be aware of it daily. The devil will grab the opportunity, even if I speak to my friends. Even in a good situation – Rebekah prayed and asked for children. The Lord blessed her and gave her children. But even in that blessing in the womb, there was already a battle between good and evil. If we are not aware of this battle and if it is not top of mind, the devil will catch us unawares. There is a fierce spiritual battle that we must be aware of.
A holy war is better than the peace of the devil's palace. Matthew Henry. You may have peace because you submit to the devil. You may have peace because you have allowed the devil to tell you what to do and you have listened to him but this should not discourage you.
Christ formed in the soul, that immediately begins a conflict between the flesh and the spirit. Matthew Henry When we give our lives to Christ the battle begins.
It is better to have a conflict with sin than to tamely submit to it. Matthew Henry There is a fierce battle which may be fiercer than ever before. We must be aware of it. If I am a soldier at war, would I allow the enemy to sit next to me? Would I allow the enemy to come into my house? Would I want to be close to the enemy? Only a fool would do something like that.
Jacob grabbed Esau’s heel. There was a manifest contest in their births. Esau, the stronger, came forth first; but Jacob's hand took hold of his heel. This signified, (1.) Jacob's pursuit of the birth right and blessing; from the first, he reached forth to catch hold of it…Matthew Henry Even from small before he knew what he was doing, Jacob desired the birth right. Do you have a desire for God’s birth right? Can you say, ‘I need that. I need God’s blessing on my life.’?
Esau returned from the fields and was hungry. Jacob responded, “Sell me your birth right now.” Genesis 25:31
God says that He gives each one of us the birth right which He promises us. If we receive Him, we receive that birth right. Esau sold his birth right for a plate of food. We can sell our birth right for temporary pleasure. When we sin, we sell our birth right like Esau.
16 that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birth right for a single meal. Hebrews 12:16 This text talks about sin, sexual immorality, people who have lost the faith and fallen from grace, people who have a bitter root in their hearts. He says people like that are like Esau who sold his birth right. If you play with sin, you have sold your birth right. Not only did Esau lose his birth right, As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” Romans 9:13 God hated Esau because he took his birth right lightly and yet, we take sin lightly and do the same thing. We play with sin. We know what is right, we know where we should not go and what we should not be busy with – we sell our birth right.
In Hebrews 12:17 For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears. When Esau wanted to repent and ran to his father for the blessing, it was no more because it had been given to Jacob and his father could only give Esau what he had left. Esau cried but it was too late to repent. Do not play with sin until it is too late. The time will come when it is too late. If we are mindful of the spiritual battle and the devil, we will watch every word we speak, every thought we think and everything we are busy with. You will not even venture close in case you slip and fall.
When Esau was told that his father would bless him, Rebekah quickly called Jacob and told him to prepare the meal so that he could be blessed. What an influence a mother has on a child’s life! It can change a child’s future. It was said of Susannah Wesley that she prayed for her 17 children at least one hour every day. She also took each child aside for a full hour every week to discuss spiritual matters with them. Calculate how much time she spent with her children discussing spiritual matters - 17 children, one hour per child. No wonder two of her sons, Charles and John Wesley, were used of God to bring blessing to all of England and much of America. The influence of a mother can change a nation. The influence of a mother can bless a nation. How much time do we spend with our children teaching them God’s ways and talking to them about their spiritual affairs, confronting them about their spiritual lives?
In Genesis 32 Jacob sent his wife, children and all that he owned over the Jabbok. He went back and was alone.
There are two things I would like to say about this: he took his wife and children to the other side. There are some things, husband or wife, that are not for your partner to know. Yes, they are one, they do share and ask things but there are some things that a husband should not take home to his wife. I often think the most gossip happens between a wife and husband. You might have gone somewhere and returned home but not everything you have experienced is for a conversation between you and your wife. You may counsel someone and your wife could possibly ask questions about the session.
Jacob took his children over the Jabbok. We sometimes share too much with our children. We burden them with things they cannot handle. There are some conversations where the children should be asked to leave the room.
Jacob had to wrestle alone. We do not read that he told his family what was going on, that he gossiped about his brother, but the matter was between God and himself. Sometimes it is a matter between me and God. I need to wrestle it out with God alone. Sometimes I need to get direction from God alone.
There is a testimony of a man in whose life the Lord worked. For some time, months, maybe even years, the Lord led him and he made right wherever he went. The Lord took him back many years and he could make right where he had gone wrong. After everything was done, and he knew that his slate was clean, he suddenly he felt lost. Suddenly he realised nothing that he could do could give him salvation. (It does not mean you should not confess and make your life right – that is exactly how God led him. But after he did that, he felt more lost than ever.) He knew this was a matter between him and God and he needed to be alone with God to get His approval on his life. He said there was nothing he could earn, nothing that he did, only God could give him that. He went on his knees and prayed, ‘God, I am lost, I feel more lost than ever before. I need your approval on my life. I did everything you told me to do, but I still need Your grace.’ The first night he did not sleep, he begged for God’s hand on his life. The next day, the next night and even the third night he was before God praying, ‘God, I need Your blessing.’ On the third day, the burden lifted. He said that he felt God lift the burden. He felt God’s favour and His stamp of approval on his life.
Have you been alone with God and wrestled through your problem? Have you been there where you are before God and you know that only He can save you. Have you been there where you realise that by yourself you can do nothing and if you do not get God’s approval on your life, you are as good as dead. If God’s blessing is not on my life, I am as good as dead.
Jacob knew that from that spot he dared not take one step without God’s blessing. I should not dare take one step if I do not know whether God’s hand is on my life.
[The Man] asked him, What is your name? And [in shock of realization, whispering] he said, Jacob [supplanter, schemer, trickster, swindler]! Genesis 32:27 AMPC (Jacob, in shock, suddenly realised something, whispering as if embarrassed.) A supplanter (a person who takes away from someone else, who steals from others) There are verses in the Bible that refer to this e.g. Hosea 12:3-5.
This could be the secret to Jacob’s blessing - he realised that he was a wretched sinner. Jacob in shock said, ‘This is who I am. I am a sinner, a schemer, a trickster.’ God knew his name, the Angel knew who He was wrestling with, and He asked Jacob, ‘Who are you really?’ It could be that this was the point where Jacob realised who he really was. Have we realised who we are? Has it been real to you who you really are in God’s eyes? We were born in sin, we are sinners, and we let Him down. He is faithful but how often don’t we let Him down. That is why God could bless him because Jacob saw himself the way God saw him.
Have you seen yourself through God’s eyes? If you continue to wallow in your sins, have you seen yourself in God’s eyes? If you continue to play with death, have you seen yourself in God’s eyes? Is that why you are not blest - you have never seen yourself in the real light? You have never admitted that you are a poor, wretched sinner. You have never been before God and said, ‘God, I have nothing, I am a poor wretched sinner.’ Maybe it was Jacob’s soft heart that prompted God to give him the blessing. We need to have soft hearts, not hard stony hearts. We need to realise our sin and that we are nothing without God’s grace. If He does not save us, if He does not touch us, we are nothing. Without that, we are doomed for damnation.
Dear Christian, does your life demand a blessing? Does God look at us and say, ‘I can do nothing else but bless these people.’ In whatever I do, even if I am alone, can God say, ‘I cannot but bless this person?’ If our lives are not such, we are as good as dead. If I cannot say God’s blessing is upon my life, then I am missing the mark. Dear Christian, is God’s blessing on your life? Are you prepared to sacrifice that which is between you and God? The Bible said that God touched his thigh and he limped for the rest of his life. Spurgeon said, Jacob would have had God touch every bone in his body lest he missed the blessing. Even if God would have broken every bone in his body, it would not have mattered as long as he got God’s blessing. Is God’s blessing on your life today? If you cannot say that it is, repent today before it is too late.
Conclusion Detlef Stegen
We thank the Lord for Jacob who was prepared to die to everything. He sent it across the river He was prepared to give up everything for what he sought. Is there something you still hold on to, you battle with, and can’t let go of? Once you let it go, God can ask what your name is. Have you told Him what your name is and who you really are? He wants to give you a new name. Everyone in the church should have a new name. You are a shame to Christianity if you still bear your old name. Tell Him your name. Why do you want to hide the truth from God? If you are too ashamed to bear Christ’s name – He will be ashamed of you. Jacob was prepared to die to His own interests, and he sought God’s interests. He did not rest until God had put a mark on him forever – he limped from that day onwards. We thank the Lord for this sermon and may it not be in vain in your life.