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While at Bethel God spoke to Jacob again, a fourth time. What he said to Jacob is very revealing in the panorama of Scripture. He said to him, “Be fruitful and multiply.”
That was the command that God gave to Adam and Eve before they sinned. “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth” (not just with human bodies) “but with my presence. As you go, my presence will go with you throughout all the earth.”
God repeated to Jacob the mandate that he gave to Adam and Eve. Jacob was part of the line that God had chosen through whom he would provide his Savior that he promised to Adam and Eve when they sinned. He told Adam and Eve and he told the serpent, “I will provide a Savior. This Savior will come and he will crush the head of the serpent.”
That was the first indication of God’s plan to redeem sinners and to provide relief for them against the evil one. Then he chose Abraham, the family through whom he would ultimately provide his Messiah. Jacob was in that line. It would seem that Jacob didn't belong in that line. He was the second born. As the first born, Esau belonged in the line. It was this birthright that Jacob stole from him and deceived their father to get the blessing.
What did God promise to Jacob at Bethel and then here again at Bethel? The first-born blessing. God had it in mind for him all along. He didn’t have to lie, deceive, scheme, steal, plan, fear, fret, and flee. No, God had it in mind for him all along. Scriptures tell us that God is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Jacob would be in the line of the promised Messiah.
Talk about grace. Talk about mercy. God displayed it to Jacob in bucket loads. After God spoke to Jacob this fourth time, he made a memorial, a marker, a reminder of his meeting and the presence that he enjoyed with God.
Previously, I mentioned to you that one of the times that God appeared to him, God wrestled with him, prior to his coming to Bethel. They wrestled all night. It says that Jacob prevailed. He held his own for a while, until God touched his hip.
Now, some of you know what that is like to have your hip touched. It hurts. God touched Jacob’s hip, and he fell. He limped the rest of his life. Replacement surgery didn’t exist in that day. Jacob leaned on his staff for the rest of his life.
When he wrestled with God and God with him, in the morning Jacob said, “I am not going to let you go until you bless me.”
God said, “I have got to leave. Daylight is coming.”
Jacob cried, “I am not going to let you go until you bless me.”
He wouldn’t let go, but God touched his hip, and, while he was leaning on his staff, God said to him, “What is your name?”
“Jacob,” he replied.
Literally that name means heel grabber, because that is what he did at his birth. It also describes for us a schemer, a planner, someone who works things out to his own benefit. That described Jacob.
God said to him, “Ah, you are not going to be Jacob anymore. Let me give you a new name. Israel. Israel means one who has contested with God and has shown himself strong. Oh, what a name. At Bethel, God reminded him, “Your name used to be Jacob. It is now Israel. You are a new man now, Jacob. You are not the old man anymore. You are now Israel. You have strength with God.”
Why do you think God moved upon Moses to record these events from the life of Jacob? He wanted the children of Israel to know some of their background and history. He also wanted them to know the weakness, frailty, wickedness, hopelessness of mankind without God, and the propensities of mankind without God.
Because of our sinful natures, we scheme, plan, and worship idols. We will do anything other than worship God all by himself. We try to find some other way. Through Moses, God wanted his people to know the truth about themselves.
He also wanted them to know the truth about himself, God, the sovereign God, a God who bows to no one, no other God, a faithful God, a God who keeps his Word. When a promise is given, it is as sure as the person who made the promise. God made this promise, and it is as sure as God himself.
He is a God of grace and mercy. Look what he did for Jacob, that schemer, that scoundrel fleeing for his life. God was gracious and merciful to him. He brought him back to a place of remembrance, renewal, and revival. It was a place where he could begin anew. Jacob found himself in a place where he could enjoy the glorious presence of God, Himself.
Another reason why God moved Moses to write it is that this was presented to the children of Israel while on the way to the Promised Land. God knew what awaited his children in the Promised Land: multitudes of gods, thousands of gods, and millions of godless people. God promised them that when they got to the Promised Land, He would be their God. He would order them to destroy all of the other gods that were there and even to destroy the peoples that inhabited that land. He wanted to prepare his people for the entrance into that Promised Land, to remember that God was sovereign, that God was faithful, that God was all-powerful, that God was gracious and merciful, and that he would provide for them everything that he promised he would.
So God moved upon Moses to write this record of Jacob and God’s dealings with him so that it might encourage them as they went into the Promised Land.
Now, how does that fit in with us in our day? To see how it fits in, we have to go back to the beginning, to God in creation. Why did God speak creation into existence? He did it to display his glory. Why did he create mankind, Adam and Eve? He created them to oversee the land that he had created.
He also created them to fellowship with him and he with them. He manifested himself to them. They enjoyed that presence. They knew God. They walked with him. They talked with him. He taught them. He gave them what is called in theological terms the creation mandate. He said, “Go throughout all the earth, be fruitful, multiply, replenish the earth, subdue it.” His presence would go with them.
Ah, then came that day when Adam and Eve yielded to the temptation of the evil serpent. They ate of the fruit that God had forbidden and sinned. Everything changed. God had told them, “In the day that you eat, dying you will die.” They died that day.
You say, “Oh, but they lived.” Let me count for you some of the ways they died: no more fellowship with God, no more free access to God, no more glorious presence of God walking with them in the cool of the day, no more guiltlessness. They now feared God, and they hid from him.
God made the promise to Adam and Eve. “I will bring a champion.” In time, he revealed that he would do that through Abraham, through Isaac and then through Jacob. If you follow the line through Jacob, through his children, through Judah and down through David and down through the history of time you will come to Jesus.
Jesus is of the line of Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham. He is the one foretold by Scriptures. He fulfills every single one of those descriptions to the minutest detail, to the place of his birth, to the time of his birth, to the year of his birth, to his parents.
Jesus fulfilled it all. We see that this scene in the life of Jacob merely provides a glimpse of the progression of God’s plan of redemption, now seen fulfilled in Christ. For what did Christ come to do? He brought the presence of God again. He brought the glory of God. We read in the first chapter of John God’s word, “that we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten Son of God, full of grace and truth” (John 1.14). Not a god, as many people try to call him today. No. God. There is no “a” in there. God.
“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God”(John 1.1).
He took on human flesh. The glory of God once again shown on earth, once again inhabiting human flesh. Jesus, though his life, his death, and his resurrection provided the means of reconciliation for sinners like you and like me.
Jesus then prayed, “Father, send your Spirit. Send your Spirit to come and live within them. Live within all those who love me and who obey my commandments. Send your Spirit to live within them.” The very presence of God now living within sinners like you and me comes to pass because of the work of Christ and what he did on the cross.
Jesus himself said, “I came from the Father, the Father sent me, that whoever believes on me shall not perish, but have everlasting life. I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father but by me. There is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.”
You and I can experience a revival, a spiritual renewal. We can experience the living reality of God’s glorious presence in our lives on a day-to-day basis. Collectively, as the people of God gather together, God says to us that he will be with us, and he will manifest himself among us.
How can the Holy Spirit use these truths in your life today? He can refute error. There are not many ways to God. There is one way to God, through Jesus Christ his Son and him alone.
He reveals to you the truth. Open your eyes to see the truth about yourself. Do you have some idols you need to bury? Do you cherish some things in your life that you hope are pleasing to God, but in reality interfere and intrude into your relationship with God? You need to bury them.
He can reassure you. He can remind you of the day as he did Jacob where he reminded him of when he spoke to him. He can remind you of when he spoke to you and when he called out to you and how you responded to him, and he can reassure you. He can also rebuke you because of your failure to trust in him alone.
What changes do you need to make in your life today? You can reject. You can put off those changes until tomorrow. Tomorrow never comes, you know. You only have today. Reexamine yourself in the light of the truth. Rely and trust on God and his provision in Jesus Christ on behalf of people like you and like me.