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defeated boxer

January 25 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading: Genesis 31:1- 33:15

The End of Struggling

The end of a contest or the end of a family or job relationship is not usually easy. We struggle until all seems useless. We may get bitter. We make get vengeful. It may seem futile, but the end does not have to leave us hopeless.

Jacob was a deceiver. He had deceived Esau and his father Isaac. Under the threat of being killed by his brother for cheating him out of his birthright inheritance, he fled to the household of his uncle Laban. There he worked for Laban seven years to marry his daughter Rachel. However, Jacob was deceived by his father-in-law into taking Leah as his first wife and then working seven more years in exchange for Rachel. As we stated in our last lesson, what goes around comes around. As his employer, his father-in-law was cheating him of his profits and wages. Laban’s sons were also jealous of how the LORD had blessed Jacob and accused him of stealing from their father. Things were not going well. He saw no good end to it, and he wanted to get away. His wives agreed that they no longer had any inheritance with their father and, in fact, he was alienating his daughters from him (Genesis 31:15).

Jacob poorly handled the departure of his family. He deceived his Uncle Laban by secretly stealing away without letting him have the opportunity of bidding his family a proper goodbye. Once again, Jacob did the right thing but in the wrong way. Whether we have to part from family members or employers because of abuse, we must do things graciously and not vindictively. Vindictiveness leads to more problems. Sometimes it may lead to violence and sometimes, in our day, it could lead to lawsuits. Added to Jacob’s problems was the fact that he also taught his family to be deceitful and vindictive. Since Rachel’s father had wasted their inheritance, she stole her father’s precious idols of worship. Jacob did not know this and was enraged that his father accused him of stealing them. Jacob vowed that if Laban found any of them in his possession, whoever had them would die. Had Rachel, his favorite wife, not hid them she would have died. Nevertheless, though she got away with it, it was wrong to steal from her father. Stealing from one’s family members or employers could lead to serious repercussions.

When Laban found that Jacob and his family, flocks, and herds had fled, he and his family chased after him. When he met up with Jacob, it was not a happy reunion. Finally, because of the discord and bad feelings, Jacob and Laban set up a heap of stones as a border that both agreed not to cross. This was a visual testament to stay away from each other and do no more harm to each other. Laban was then allowed to kiss his family goodbye and send them away in peace.

Leaving the problem of his relative Laban, however, did not end Jacob’s troubles. For what was he to do now? By the direction of God he was to return to his own family…and Esau, who had threatened his life because Jacob stole his birthright. God does not want us to escape the problems we cause; he wants us to face them. Jacob came to the end of himself. Like many of us who struggle and come to the end of our own devices, he pleaded with God for help. How did that help come?

Jacob had to wrestle with God. Jacob physically wrestled with an unidentified man all night till the break of dawn. It seems that Jacob fought with a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ. It appeared the struggle was a stalemate until the man supernaturally crippled him. Realizing that he was not fighting just a man but God, Jacob clung to him and asked this supernatural man to bless him. We do not fight physically with God, but there is often a spiritual wrestling within us and with God when we come to the end of our resources. When we realize we cannot save ourselves, we cling in desperation to God and ask him to bless us.

How did God bless Jacob? God changed his name. No longer would Jacob be Jacob the deceiver and supplanter, but because he clung to God and asked for his blessing, his name was change to Israel, which means “God fights.” This was probably the time of Jacob’s conversion to faith in God. Now God would help fight for Jacob and his family. Have you come to the end of yourself? Have you clung to God in desperation and asked him to save you? God offers us deliverance from our sins and our own devices if we trust him, and then he changes our name from sinner to saint. Saint is a Biblical name for those who trust in Christ for their salvation. We call saints “Christians” in today’s vernacular.

It was now time to face Esau. He was coming with an entourage of 400 men. Would Esau finally get his revenge or would God defend Jacob? Jacob did some wise things to soften any animosity that Esau might feel. In
Genesis 32:3-5,13-18 it is recorded that Jacob sent a messenger ahead to prepare Esau for his visit, asking for his favor. He also prepared his family for a possible attack from Esau. He asked God for help. He sent gifts to his brother. He gave honor to his brother, referring to himself as Esau’s servant and to Esau as “my lord” (Genesis 32:4,18, NIV). This true story gives us some clues on how we might heal offenses to family members. We need to set the stage for asking for forgiveness and prove that we really do value those whom we have offended. Things may not work out as well for us as they did for Jacob. Resentment, hatred and bitterness are hard to overcome. Time is a healer of wounds, however, and if we trust God to help us, and we exercise lots of patience, love and forbearance, our relationships may be restored.

Lessons to live by:

  • Vindictiveness leads to more problems and more struggles. Sometimes it may lead to violence and sometimes, in our day, it could lead to lawsuits.
  • It is wrong to steal from one’s family members or employers, and it could lead to serious repercussions.
  • God does not want us to escape the problems we cause; he wants us to face them.
  • There is often a spiritual wrestling within us and with God when we come to the end of our resources. When we realize we cannot save ourselves then we cling in desperation to God and ask him to bless us. (more...)
  • God offers us deliverance from our sins and our own devices if we trust him for our salvation. He then changes our name from sinner to saint.
  • If we trust God to help us, and we exercise lots of patience, love and forbearance, our relationships may be restored.

Today’s Bible memory verse:

Psalm 135:14 “For the LORD will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants.” (NIV)

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