Jacob (Ya’aqob) is my father’s grandfather’s name. I often joke that Ya’aqob means “swindler,” but actually it does not. It could be translated “supplanter,” but it really has to do with “heel.” Jacob grabbed his brother’s heel.
The story of Jacob has a dual format all the way through. There is a personal story of Jacob which teaches very important things for us as believers—how God perfects us. Something for every believer is taught in the story, life and experience of Jacob. On the other side we are going to look at how Jacob personifies Israel and the Jewish people. In Scriptures whenever it specifies “Israel” or “Jacob,” it does so for a reason. “Israel” has the language of incorporation; Gentiles could be grafted into Israel. “Israel” has already wrestled with God and is broken, “Jacob” has not. The Jewish people, because they are not broken, are personified by “Jacob.” The Great Tribulation is called “the time of Jacob’s trouble” and has a meaning for Israel and the Jews. We will begin by looking at the first aspect of Jacob, how Jacob teaches about you, how Jacob teaches about me; how Jacob behaves is the how we tend to behave, and the way God deals with Jacob to perfect him teaches an awful lot about the way God is going to perfect us. Jacob often did not have a very easy life, even up to the end of his life. Similar to Abraham, and certainly to a degree to Isaac, even to his very old age God was working out some very basic things in his life and in his character. Forget this idea, “I’m old, I’m retired, I’ve had it”—we have not “had it” until we go home. God is working out things in our life until we get there. My personal, favorite verse in the Bible is Philippians 1:6:
For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
But the way He is going to do it is the way He did it with Jacob.
“Fallen” vs. “Natural”
The God of Abraham is very much the God of promise, the God of Isaac is the God who gives the son of promise, but the God of Jacob is the God who perfects the son of promise. All those who are in the Messiah Yeshua are sons of promise. Jacob represents the natural man; not simply the fallen man, but the natural man—there is a difference. When Adam was created he had no imperfections, but he was not perfected. Imperfection comes because of the Fall. After we become born-again, God gets rid of the fallen man by faith. The fallen man or fallen woman is crucified by faith at the cross of Jesus and they are born-again—they become a new creation. However, God deals with the natural man after we are born-again. “Pick up your cross daily and follow Me” (Lk. 9:23). The fallen man is one thing, the natural man is another. It is so easy for us as Christians to be motivated by good intentions. I know people who have gone to mission fields with good intentions. They saw pagan peoples perishing because they were without the Gospel, they saw people in sub-human poverty, and being teachers or medical doctors they wanted to introduce the Gospel to people who were suffering in the developing world. Their motives were right. Praise God for good motives. Before they were saved they just wanted to build a career and make money just like anyone else, but then they put that on the altar and said they wanted to go to a mission field. These are good motives. We, as believers, have a natural tendency to be motivated by good motives. However, in God’s economy new motives and good motives are simply the first step—we have to be motivated to missions by the Holy Spirit. Jacob was somebody who attempted to achieve the purposes and blessings of God in his own sense. His motives were right, but he wound up with a “the ends justify the means” mentality.
I have seen so many big missions organizations and church organizations that began with the right motives, but they eventually adopted “the ends justify the means” mentality, and the natural man took over. I have been at meetings where big Christian businessmen want to finance missions, I have been at meetings with missions boards, I have been at meetings with executives of denominations, all of which had two minutes of perfunctory prayer and then began negotiating the same as secular businessmen would in the world. Their motives are right, but in their way of thinking the end—the target, always justifies the way they act. That is the natural man; that is Jacob. Jacob is in them, Jacob is in me. It is easy for me to criticize these big wheels on missions boards, except that if I were a big wheel on a missions board, I might not be any better. It is so easy for the natural man to take over. When we are born-again, God deals with the fallen man or the fallen woman, but then He begins to deal with the natural man or the natural woman.
Look at all the trouble Jacob had. Every trial he went through was designed by God to deal with his natural man. And the kinds of trials that we go through will be trials that God has designed to deal with our natural man or natural woman. What we like to say is, “This is a financial attack of the enemy.” There are three kinds of trouble. There is the kind of trouble that does come directly from the enemy. Paul says, “Satan hindered us” (1 Th. 2:18). Then there is the kind of trouble that God is prepared to save us from that we otherwise bring upon ourselves. We have enough trouble in this world, yet we stray from God’s will and we bring upon ourselves trouble God does not want us to have. But then there is the kind that God does want us to have. Even in Isaiah Satan is called God’s servant. But even though it may be an attack of the enemy, “All things work together for good” (Rom. 8:28). Just think of persecution. Persecution cleans up lukewarmness and fear within the Church—it gets rid of nominal believers. It is a thing from the enemy—I do not pray to God for persecution. I have seen persecution in Israel and it is not nice. We lived in Israel in the 80’s when the Likud was in power with the religious party, and the religious party was doing terrible things. There was burning of Messianic synagogues. I have seen what persecution is somewhat like, although it is not nearly as bad as what persecution in Muslim countries is like. Of course it is the enemy, but God has a purpose. God had a purpose in Israel. When I first immigrated to Israel in the 70s, believers were afraid to evangelize publicly. But after their meeting places began to get burned down in Jerusalem, Tiberias, Ashdod and elsewhere, they said, “What is the difference? Why should we be afraid?” The trials we have as believers are designed by God to deal with the natural man.
A Life Replayed
So much of Jacob’s life replays that of his father and his grandfather. Jacob came looking for a bride from among his own people, and he preferred Rachel. But only after he learned to love Leah as much as he loved Rachel did he get Rachel. In the beginning Leah has all the children, but in the end Rachel has all the children. All the great men of the Bible prefigure the Messiah in some way. In the beginning the Gentile Church is the most fruitful, but then in the end Rachel’s the most fruitful—the Jews. The Jewish people as a nation begin with Jacob: the twelve sons of Jacob—the tribes and patriarchs of Israel. He replays the experiences, and even some of the trials, of his father and grandfather. When we go through trials in our lives as believers, we do not think about it, but other believers before us—in a spiritual sense, our fathers and grandfathers—have gone through those same kinds of trials. The Church itself has to learn the same lessons over and over. Just look at the history of the Church. It begins to compromise, it goes away from the Bible, it backslides, God raises something new, it is good for a time and it goes through the same process again. It is just like the kings in Chronicles. The history of the Church undergoes the same kind of phenomena as in Judges, Kings and Chronicles for Israel. The history of the Church tells the same thing. Jacob replays the experiences of his father and grandfather. Jacob represents the natural man.
…and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons,
“MY SON, DO NOT REGARD LIGHTLY THE
DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD,
NOR FAINT WHEN YOU ARE REPROVED BY HIM;
FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE
AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE
(He obviously did not believe the lies of prosperity theology.
It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. (Hebrews 12:5-11)
When we go through trials it is pretty miserable, but in retrospect when we come out of them we see that it was God’s hand. We might say we could not go through that again, but we are glad we went through it the first time, even though while we were going through it we did not want it. Jacob is a perfect illustration of that process. Isaac typifies the new creation the most—he is put on the altar; Jacob is the son of the new creation, as it were.
The Character of Jacob & Esau
Let us look at what happens for this natural man, and what happens for this fallen man, as the story of Jacob continues.
The LORD said to her,
“Two nations are in your womb; And two peoples will be separated from your body; And one people shall be stronger than the other; And the older shall serve the younger.”
When her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb. Now the first came forth red, all over like a hairy garment; and they named him Esau. Afterward his brother came forth with his hand holding on to Esau’s heel, so his name was called Jacob; and Isaac was sixty years old when she gave birth to them. (Genesis 25:23-26a)
The character of the Jews as a nation and the character of the Arabs as a nation replay the characters of Jacob and Esau. Esau despised his birthright (Gen. 25:34). To this day, because of the rise of Islam, the Arab peoples despise their birthright. On the other hand there is no doubt that Arabs have been mistreated by Jews. It is not nearly as bad as what Arabs do to each other, but there have been injustices. The character of the Jewish people and the Arabs in these two brothers is personified in that of the patriarchs. Right from the beginning he is grabbing his brother’s heel. Let us look further at when it came time to give the blessing. Some people postulate that when the hands of Isaac were put on these sons they may have been 70 years old or so. In this story his mother puts him up to something.
But his mother said to him, “Your curse be on me, my son; only obey my voice, and go, get them for me.” So he went and got them, and brought them to his mother; and his mother made savory food such as his father loved. Then Rebekah took the best garments of Esau her elder son, which were with her in the house, and put them on Jacob her younger son. And she put the skins of the young goats on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck. She also gave the savory food and the bread, which she had made, to her son Jacob. Then he came to his father and said, “My father.” And he said, “Here I am. Who are you, my son?” Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your firstborn; I have done as you told me. Get up, please, sit and eat of my game, that you may bless me.” Isaac said to his son, “How is it that you have it so quickly, my son?” And he said, “Because the LORD your God caused it to happen to me.” Then Isaac said to Jacob, “Please come close, that I may feel you, my son, whether you are really my son Esau or not.” So Jacob came close to Isaac his father, and he felt him and said, “The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” He did not recognize him, because his hands were hairy like his brother Esau’s hands; so he blessed him. (Genesis 27:13-23)
On one hand Esau was getting what he deserved because he despised his birthright; on the other hand look at Jacob. The promise of God was there from the moment of conception that the younger shall be preeminent over the older—not “better” or not “greater,” but the salvific purposes of God would go through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. (Islam, of course, teaches it goes through Ibrahim, Ishmael and Esau.) Jacob tries to achieve the purposes of God by his human conniving, and that is so much like the Jewish people. They know, somehow, they have the Torah and the covenant purpose, but it is always in their way of thinking. Notice that it was his mother who put him up to this. We get our fallen nature from the womb, but we also get it from the environment which reinforces it. If parents have an anger problem it is going to be reflected in their children. We get our nature from conception, but it is reinforced by our childhood environment. So many times I see that as a parent I pass on my negative traits by my example; I tell my children one thing but I do another. We are all like that to a degree, some of us worse than others. A child gets it from his parents and it is reinforced in the home environment. When we get saved, God begins to deal with that stuff, and He deals with it along the same lines as He did in Jacob.
Achieving God’s Purposes
Again, I would point out that God blessed Esau as well. I do not suggest God loves Jews more than Arabs. I am just talking about the election of God as His instrument of salvation—that is all.
“I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. (John 5:30)
Jesus said He did nothing on His own initiative. Jesus could have fed the five thousand because He was God, Jesus could have walked on the water because He was God, He could have healed people because He was God, and there are Christians who make the mistake of thinking He did those things because He was God, but He did not—He did them by the power of the Holy Spirit. He took up the form of a servant, not considering equality with God as something to be grasped (Philip. 2:6). He emptied Himself of the privilege of His deity and never used His divine power. If Jesus used His divine power He would have acted in the flesh. His motives would have been right, but His actions would not have been initiated by the Holy Spirit. In Luke 5:17, “the power (dunamis) of the Lord was present for Him to perform healing.” Why is that if we pray for someone to get out of a wheelchair (if we have the gift of healing), only some will while some will not? We can always pray for sick people, anoint them with oil and ask God to heal them, but if we are going to say, “In the name of Jesus, get out of that wheelchair,” the same dunamis—“power” that was there for Jesus in Luke 5:17 had better be there for us. The Father, by the power of the Spirit, must be initiating it; otherwise we are acting in the flesh. We can pray for the person, but when we command them to get up and get out of the wheelchair in that situation, we are acting in the flesh. We will invent all kinds of excuses to put condemnation on people: “You have no faith,” “You have sin in your life.” It may be true, but more often than not it is a Christian acting in the flesh and putting condemnation on people. Jesus did not use His divine power. He could have, but He did not. “I do nothing by My own initiative,” He said. Israel as a mission field is a good example. There are believers coming from all over the world who love Israel, love the Jewish people, and have a sense of romance and attraction to it because they like the idea of prophecy being fulfilled, so they go there with high expectations. But I would gather that the majority of these people last six months to a year. Some of them go there Philo-Semites and come back Anti-Semites. That society will really test your love of the Jews. The arrogance of the people can really get to you. There are reasons for that sociologically: the Israelis are not more arrogant than anyone else, they were born with socialist values which consider good manners to be bourgeois. Jews were always members of the diasporic upper-middle class and the professional business classes, and they wanted to be the people of the land. So the Israelis who founded the kibbutzes and similar socialistic things tried to be the opposite of the Jews in the Diaspora. They threw good manners out the window and helped form the social mold, and that accounts for why they are so arrogant (although when you get beneath that arrogance you can find a very warm people). If you hang out there for a few years then you will begin to see, but if you just go there for a year, what you see is going to revolt you. I do not mean just Gentiles, I mean even other Jews go there and can’t stand it. When we try to achieve the purposes of God—even if it is His purpose, even if it is His calling—in our own human strength, it is not going to work. God gave us human strength, but as we will see, our human strength cannot come into play until God deals with something in our life called the “natural man.”
“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)
It is only by abiding in Jesus that we can achieve the true purposes of God, but the natural man is like Jacob: he always wants to achieve it on his own intellect, his own enthusiasm and his own ideas. Praise God for good motives, but that is not good enough. Only by abiding in Him can you do it. Not only that, but very often Christians cannot tell the difference between the natural man and what God is initiating. They do not understand the difference between what the Holy Spirit is leading them to do, and what they think is good. Think of the times in the Book of Acts where it says they were out witnessing and evangelizing and the Spirit of Jesus forbade them to preach there (Acts 16:7). If someone tries to go to a mission field God did not send them to, they are not going to get anywhere, and Israel is a beautiful example. So many people come back. I know people who were missionaries to head hunters in New Guinea for 15-16 years, but who left Israel as broken people. I know a Jewish lady—a Holocaust survivor who survived with one little brother and sister, who gets saved in Switzerland and spends 20 or more years as a missionary to the Bantu tribe in Angola. She was probably the only person who ever spoke Yiddish and Swahili (or whatever they spoke there). She was a beautiful believer who said she would rather go back to the jungle to these bushmen in Africa than her own people in Israel because they were so hard. Praise God things are changing in Israel—God is plainly doing something. But if someone goes to a mission field to which God has not called them, no matter what it is, they will not survive. We have to abide in Him. We can much try, like Jacob did, to do it in our own strength.
The Typology of Precious Stones and Metals
Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. (1 Corinthians 3:12-15)
We have organizations in Israel, as an example, which have right motives, and in some way are even doing right things, but it is according to their ideas and not God’s. So they will sign an agreement with the Israeli government and say they will not evangelize Russian Jews, they will not give them New Testaments, they are just going to bring them to Israel. (They did that and got into a big fight with Jews for Jesus and others.) One boat had ten Jews on it; another had none, so they began carrying tourists. Although they received millions in contributions to do this, God did not bless it because it was man’s idea. These are good people who loved the Lord and had good intentions, but why did God not bless it? They were people trying to do things in the strength of their own ideas. Sooner or later it is going to be tested with fire (1 Co. 3:13), and only the things God has ordained will survive that fire. Many of the things we do in our lives as believers we do with the right motives, and maybe even to a degree God will use it, but He is not going to bless it and prosper it, nor will He reward us for it. It talks about these materials which will be burned up. Somehow the fall of man and the Gospel of Jesus are parenthetical. God foreknows what happens, but we are not born to be born-again; we are born to go to heaven to be God’s children—His friends. We are His creation to love Him, to serve Him, to worship Him, to share in His blessings. The Fall is somehow parenthetical. The premise of the Gospel is to restore, in a sense, the things lost because of the Fall.
The gold of that land is good; the bdellium and the onyx stone are there. (Genesis 2:12)
This is before the Fall—gold and precious stones. In 1 Corinthians 3:12 we have silver. Jesus was betrayed for silver; Joseph was betrayed for silver; “For iron I will give you silver” (Is. 60:17). Silver always represents the price of salvation in some way. In the typology of the Temple, the further one went from the Holy of Holies, the value of the minerals proportionately decreased. Silver was in the middle. It began with bronze, then silver, but in the Holy of Holies it was gold. The closer one approached God, the more valuable the minerals. They did not have platinum in those days (they probably did not know about it—metallurgy did not even know how to produce it) so gold was the most precious thing they knew about in the times of the Bible. Look at what happens after salvation.
The foundation stones of the city wall were adorned with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation stone was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, chalcedony; the fourth, emerald; the fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, topaz; the tenth, chrysoprase; the eleventh, jacinth; the twelfth, amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; each one of the gates was a single pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass. (Revelation 21:19-21)
The streets of the city are pure gold. Before the Fall we have precious stones in settings of gold; after the redemption process is complete we have precious stones in settings of gold. There is no silver, as silver is of temporal value. Silver will oxidize, gold will not. But silver is at least of some temporal value; the wood and straw are of no value. In the High Priest’s garments there was the breastplate like righteousness and the shoulder pads with precious stones corresponding to the tribes of Israel, which in turn correspond to those precious stones in Revelation. The High Priest had to carry the burden of Israel on his heart and shoulders. He could not take the ephod off. When we pray for somebody we intercede for them—we carry the burden on our heart and shoulders. We do not take it off. The High Priest, we are told in Hebrews, is the Lord Jesus who carries the burden for Israel on His heart and shoulders—He does not take it off. But those are precious stones in a setting of gold. Peter says the same thing: “Your faith refined by fire” (1 Pe. 1:7).
How are diamonds formed? Pressure and fire. How is God going to make you and me something that is a precious stone in a setting of gold—godly? Pressure and fire.
Who wants pressure? Who wants fire? Not me! But once we get that beautiful diamond, we are sure glad we went through it. When we get to heaven we are not going to regret a single trial that God was in because we are going to be a precious stone in a setting of gold; the other stuff will be burned up. Unsaved people, of course, do not even figure into the equation. The fruit of the Spirit in Galatians is God’s nature, and in the Greek it gives the idea that the fruit is first of all love. The fruit of the Spirit is first love—all the other fruits proceed from the love. We usually say the fruit of the Spirit is joy, peace, patience, kindness and all that other stuff (Gal. 5:22-23), but no, the fruit is love; the other things are a result of the love, perfecting the love of Christ in us.
Not the Sin, but the Sinner
The way God gets rid of sin is first by getting rid of the sinner. God does not take away your anger problem, or my anger problem, or your resentment problem, or my resentment problem, He takes away you; He takes away me. The Lord Jesus never said while on the cross, “I am dying for your sins,” full stop. He said, “I am dying for your sins so you better get up here with Me.” That is the way it is. God does not get rid of the sin; He gets rid of the sinner. The problem is that the natural man is a sinner. The devil does not have to get us to lose our temper, or to lust after someone other than our wife or husband, or to get us to do whatever—all he has to do is to get us into the natural man or the natural woman, then we are going to sin anyway. The rest is easy. Once he gets us to do that, we are a pushover. God has to get rid of the natural man. I have seen this. When Christians get into serving God in the natural man like Jacob did, what happens? They actually sin and lie. I can show you actual letters proving that leaders of major Christian denominations in this country have lied about things they can be sued in court for. The natural man is, naturally, fallen. The devil is not out to get us to sin—that is not his target because we are going to sin anyway. He is going to get us to walk in the flesh instead of the Spirit, and the first way he will try to do that is to get us to be a Christian in our own sense. In the New Testament we have somebody very much like Jacob, and his name is Peter. When that guy came for Jesus, Peter pulled out his sword and chopped his ear off! Peter pulled out his sword: “Where is He? Let me at him!”—just like Jacob. But when the real test came? “Before the cock crows twice, you will deny me thrice” (Mk. 14:29-31).
It is a sure bet that a crisis God is going to allow is a crisis in which we face it as the natural man or the natural woman and we are going to fail miserably. Not until what God did in the life of Peter do we see Peter standing up in boldness at the day of Pentecost. Not long before that, just a few weeks earlier, it was, “I do not know the man” and following at a distance. But at Pentecost with the Holy Spirit, there he was, not afraid of those crowds. Something happened. It was the same person, the same natural ability, but the natural ability had gone to the cross. Jacob is like that.
Natural Ability & God’s Calling
It is a good thing to be a teacher; it is a good thing to be a medical doctor. There are countries which will never allow in missionaries but will allow in teachers or medical doctors. That is how to get the Gospel into certain countries. It is good to be a musician, but it is one thing to be a good musician who plays “Christian music”—it is another thing to lead worship under the anointing of the Holy Spirit. It is one thing to be a good medical doctor, but it is another thing to be anointed by the Holy Spirit as a medical missionary. The natural man and the natural woman have to go to the cross—not just the sinner, not just the drug dealer, not just the fornicator, the whole person has to go to the cross, and then God in the power of the resurrection can use their human ability, their vocation, their background. Jacob had all these things. He was a shrewd, slick person. He was so shrewd and so slick that it kept backfiring on him, which is just what the Jews are like. Jewish people somehow know that they have been forced to be clever and shrewd; that is why they keep winding up in pogroms and inquisitions—it backfires on them, and it will backfire on us. When we rely on the natural person and think, “I’m a good businessman” or whatever abilities we have (which God gave us), God is not going to use them until they have gone to the cross. The natural man has to go. There are four stages in Jacob’s life. Genesis 25-27 is Jacob as he was. It is encouraging when we see the way he was and some of the things he did and yet God loved him and chose him anyway. It gives me a great deal of assurance and solace. Genesis 28-31 is the testing and breaking of Jacob, but then comes the real crisis point in Genesis 32-36, the “Jabbok Experience”—the dislocation of his natural life. And finally in Genesis 37-50 comes the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Yet even then at the end of his life and as an old man, Jacob said, “My life has been difficult” (Gen. 47:9). Not too many of the great men of the Bible died happy, but they were mostly all happy to die! When we have it too good in this world, we all must have a cross. Why? If we do not, we begin to trust in this world and begin to get comfortable in it. The cross is for our own good to keep us out of trouble. We are very good at getting ourselves into trouble because we are new creations living in a natural man. Again, Jacob had the promise of God but was always trying to get it in his own strength. He was clever. He was good at scheming and out-manipulating other people who were themselves clever and good at scheming. The blessings were provided to him in the promise of God, but he felt he had to get them in his own strength. It says in Timothy that there are good works He foreordained for us, and the calling is from eternity (2 Ti. 1:9). We are not simply born-again to go to heaven—that is ultimately true, but we are born-again to do something now. At some point in life God will show us what that is—our gifts, our ministry, etc. But the natural propensity of our human nature is going to be to get it according to our human abilities. “I’m a good businessman,” “I’m a good teacher,” “I’m a good speaker,” “I’m a good organizer,” “I’m a good musician”—the natural propensity is going to be to try to get it according to our own natural devices. That is what goes to the cross.
What happened to Jacob at Bethel? “Bethel” means “the house of God” and it is also where his father had a turning point experience in his walk with God (Gen. 12:8; 13:3-4). Turning point experiences in our walk with God will always happen at Bethel. If we are not in church in fellowship, at least a place of Christians and meetings, we are not going to reach that turning point with God. We have a very big problem now. All over this country, because of the things like the “Toronto Experience” and the “Lakeland Fiasco,” because of financial manipulation and exploitation of Christians, because of false doctrines, there are Christians who have no church, so they are meeting at home. These people in home groups are beginning to meet with other people in home groups in schools and things like that. The point is, the church may not impress us, the church may disappoint us. In fact the church will disappoint us because the church is made up of people just like us. Jacob was bored in church (at Bethel)—he fell asleep (Gen. 28:10-17). But what did he see?
He had a dream, and behold, a ladder was set on the earth with its top reaching to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. (Genesis 28:12)
What do we see in the Gospel of John? Jesus was talking to Nathaniel.
And He said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” (John 1:51)
This is describing “Jacob’s Ladder.” We may not think much of church, but when God lowers the ladder from heaven, that is where its base arrives: it comes to the Body of Christ. That is where the ladder comes to and He climbs down. When we find people who are out of fellowship when they have a viable option to be in fellowship, they have a problem. Today, in this country, we have a crisis. We have received many letters and messages from people being thrown out of their churches because of things like Toronto. We once had a man walk into our office from Lister Hill Baptist Church in Leeds who was very much into Toronto, very much into women leadership, very much into ecumenism, and he was thrown out because he objected to the following: a trans-sexual transvestite had himself castrated, wears women’s clothes and women’s hairstyles, comes to church and breaks the bread in holy communion at an Evangelical, charismatic, Toronto Blessing Baptist church. The people in this church accept “her” as a sister in faith, and her “ministry” is breaking the bread for holy communion even though the DNA in every cell of his body says he is not a “sister” in faith. He is a backslidden brother, if he was a believer to begin with, and he needs to repent. They threw this guy out because he said this is an abomination. People say to me, “What is going to be worse than what took place in Toronto or Lakeland?” Most of us have seen these videos of Rodney Howard-Browne, Kenneth Copeland, Todd Bentley and company, and are absolutely appalled. What is going to be worse? It is going to come to immorality. What we see in Lister Hill Baptist is only a harbinger of what is going to come. The Word of God gives us patterns, and these things are going to come to immorality. So we have people with nowhere to go. Every day we get requests from people, “Where can I go? What can I do?” Jacob does not realize it while he is there, so God shows it to him in a dream.
So Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on its top.
(It was an anointed place.)
He called the name of that place Bethel…
(“The house of God”)
…however, previously the name of the city had been Luz. Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will keep me on this journey that I take, and will give me food to eat and garments to wear,
(He was not asking for much, just his needs.)
and I return to my father’s house in safety, then the LORD will be my God. “This stone, which I have set up as a pillar, will be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.” (Genesis 28:18-22)
The church is an anointed place. One of the problems of the natural man is he thinks he does not need the fellowship of other believers—that he does not have to come to the house of God. I was at a Full Gospel Businessman’s meeting and there were those standing up and saying, “God has shown me to get away from this” and “I’m fulfilled in the Lord so I don’t need this.” That is not God. It is an anointed place. If we want Jesus to come down from heaven and meet with us on that ladder, He is going to do it in the house of God; that is the place He has ordained. That was a turning point, a pivotal place for Abraham as well as Jacob, and it is going to be for us as well. But the natural man thinks he can stand alone. No, the Bible says, “Iron sharpens iron” (Pr. 27:17).
God is sovereign. He did not come to save you, He came to save all of us. Jesus is not coming for you, He is coming for His Bride. You have to be part of it. The natural man thinks he can stand alone, but he cannot. He thinks He can meet with God on his own terms, but he cannot. It is in the house of God that the ladder is going to come down. Again, I feel very sorry for those people whose only choice seems to be between Kenneth Hagin’s church up the street or the ecumenical one around the corner or the Toronto one beneath the bed, but God has a solution for that problem. I do not know what it is yet, but Jesus still wants to come down that ladder and meet with us, and it is going to happen in the house of God.
The Character of a “Shrewdy”
God knew what Jacob was like. Look how Jacob “made a vow” (Gen. 28:20). “If you give me this, I’ll give you that.” Jews love to negotiate. How are we going to negotiate with God? God lays down the terms of the covenant. God knew Jacob wanted to make a deal. God knew that Jacob was going to try to attain these blessings and purposes and callings of God in his own strength. Did God try to rebuke him and say, “Jacob, don’t do that”? No. I could speak until I was blue in the face and try to tell you, “Don’t do that” because I can stand in front of the mirror and tell myself until I am blue in the face, “Don’t do that.” But I am going to do it anyway and so are you. The only question is how long it is going to take for God to work out that breaking in our life? There is nothing we can do to get where God wants us to be any faster, but there is a whole lot we can do to slow it down. Remember the children of Israel going to the Promised Land out of Egypt? This was a small distance. Even by foot one could make it in a couple of weeks and it took them forty years! The second generation entered the Promised Land, not the first. The old creation has to die in this world; only the new creation can go to heaven. There is nothing we can do to make it faster, but there is a whole lot we can do to slow it down, and Jacob could sure slow it down. Jacob gets stuck with Laban for fourteen years. In Genesis 28:20 it is, “You do this and I’ll do that.” Jacob left his wealth to come to poverty for a period and, like Isaac, to Laban’s family. And this all gives the background to the woman at the well, of course, in Genesis 29.
He said, “Behold, it is still high day…
(When he comes to the woman at the well.)
…it is not time for the livestock to be gathered. Water the sheep, and go, pasture them.” But they said, “We cannot, until all the flocks are gathered, and they roll the stone from the mouth of the well; then we water the sheep.” (Genesis 29:7-8)
What kind of water is in the well? Living water—“mayim hayim” (Jn. 4:10). According to John 7:39 what is living water? The Holy Spirit. Rolling away the stone is a picture of what? Resurrection. The Holy Spirit cannot come until Jesus has been resurrected, then the sheep can be gathered. God is working out His purposes all along. Jacob is a “shrewdy”; he is clever. How does God deal with shrewd and clever people? He teams them up with somebody who is more devious and ruthless than they are. Did God ever put you in a relationship with another believer who was more calculating than you are? I am not going to make any jokes about my wife, but the person we marry is the person God is going to use to deal with our flesh. God does not have us in a church just to be a blessing and enjoy the good things of God, he has us in a church to have conflicts with other believers who are going to rub us the wrong way on purpose. Do you think you are shrewd? Do you think you are slick? I was so slick that, just like Jacob, I wound up with years lost to Laban. I travelled all around the world first class, I had friends at the top of the pop music industry, I had tons of money, and I wound up working in a pharmacy in Haifa, Israel in a stetl—an ultra-orthodox ghetto, for years. There I was, on one side of the wall filling prescriptions, and on the other side of the wall were those belonging to the anti-mission organizations. I was spying on them for years. I thought that one of these days these guys are going to find me giving out tracts and that is going to be the end of my job, the end of everything. God always protected me; God always blinded them. When I saw them coming I would hit the road—just pack up my tracts and run. It was terrible to be counting pills. I hated it, it was boring, it was stupid. Not only that, but after I got saved I thought my days of selling drugs were over. Boy, did I have another think coming! God can redeem anything, but it went on for years. But if you use Hebrew every day you learn it a lot better than if you do not have to use it. When I used to eat in New York I was afraid of the Orthodox Jews. I would not run away but I would be nervous when I saw them coming. Working in their neighborhood, and living in their neighborhood, and dealing with them every day, I learned so much about their culture and about the way they are and the secret things in their life. They do not believe in birth control, but their women take the pill. They take a lot of valium because they are neurotic. I learned so much that God brought out of that terrible experience, but that was my place of God’s dealing with me. I do not know what your place is going to be, but God will put you together with a “Laban.” Jacob was a good con-man—he grabbed his brother’s heel. Laban conned him, gave him the wrong girl. Then Jacob conned Laban with the cattle. He is always striving in the flesh—“I’ll get him.”
In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:6-7)
What is more precious than gold? The diamonds that are in it. Jacob’s wages kept changing, he got the wrong girl and he wound up being there something on the order of twenty years instead of the initial seven to which he agreed. But then something else happens with Jacob at the climax, which is the second phase: God’s breaking. Then comes the dark night of the soul. Even the mystical Christians of the Middle Ages knew about it.
Breaking Before Blessing
After twenty years, Jacob did not learn as much as he should have. And after more than twenty years as a Christian, I have not learned as much as I should have. There is a lot more of “Jacob” in some of us than others. But I will tell you that the more intelligent you are, the more educated you are, the more clever you are, the better your business abilities, the more you have going for you humanly speaking, the more difficult God’s breaking is going to be in your life. Think of the little boy who brought Jesus his picnic lunch (Jn. 6:9). The little boy from Galilee takes his picnic lunch and gives it to Jesus, who takes it, blesses it, breaks it, then uses it to feed others. Do we want God to use our natural abilities—whatever we have? “Lord, bless me!” He will bless you. “Lord, use me!” He will use you. But before He can use you, and after He blesses you, there is a hidden ingredient: God does not bless who He does not break, and He does not use who He does not break. This little kid did not have much; it was easy for him to have it broken. “Lord, I have a Ph.D.!” “I spent thirty years building this business!” We can see how hard that person is going to break. They are going to be a “Jacob.” The more someone has going for them the harder God’s breaking is going to be in their life. God’s values are the opposite of the world’s. First of all, it is harder for humanly-advantaged people to be saved than disadvantaged. The simpler one is, the poorer one is, the easier it is to be saved because there is less ground for pride. Secondly, after one gets saved, the less they have going for them the easier it is for God to mold them because the human person is not going to be as strong. Thirdly, the more one has going for them, the more accountable they are. God gave them more natural ability so He expects more out of them. He expects more out of them so they are going to go through worse trials than other people before He can use them. His values are always the opposite. The world says, “I want money, privilege, advantage,” but when God gives those things it is going to be harder to get saved—not by His choice, but according to our fallen nature. God’s breaking is going to be more difficult, but not only that, those He breaks are going to be more accountable. Look at Paul; he was educated, Peter was not. God used Paul more than He used Peter, but look at how the breaking in Paul’s life was worse than Peter’s. The more someone has going for them, the more God’s breaking is going to be and the more He will hold them accountable. It is always the opposite of human values. There is a lot more of “Jacob” in some of us than others. Yet, in spite of his transgressing and scheming, God loved him. There were certain events in Jacob’s life that no matter what he did, he would see God revealing Himself in a personal way, saying, “Jacob, I love you, I chose you, I called you and I have brought you this far, I am going to take you the rest of the way.” The grace of God is marvelous, is it not? No matter how many times we blow it, no matter how many times we fall and goof up, there are going to be times in the life of believers when God is going to reveal Himself to them personally and say, “I love you anyway; I chose you anyway; I called you anyway—I have a place I am taking you and you are going to get there whether you like it or not.”
For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6)
Do not backslide; hang in there—He will get you there. But now we get to the dark night of the soul.
There will come a point in our life as a born-again Christian where if we continue with Jesus we are going to go through a kind of trial different than any other kind of trial we have gone through before or will go through after. We have two kinds of trials in the Bible: “valley” and “wilderness.” A “valley” is a single trial, a “wilderness” is a prolonged period of testing, frequently associated with the number forty in the Bible. This is a valley that is longer than other valleys and a wilderness that is more deadly than other wildernesses. It is a desert among deserts. To Jacob it happened at Peniel, the brook of Jabbok. And what Jacob did is what we would expect Jacob to do.
Early in the morning Laban arose, and kissed his sons and his daughters and blessed them. Then Laban departed and returned to his place. (Genesis 31:55)
Jacob thinks that is the end of his trial. He goes through this for fourteen years. There is the colloquialism, “It is darkest before the dawn.” That is true. The colloquialism that is false is, “There is light at the end of the tunnel.” There is no light at the end of the tunnel. At the end of the tunnel there is the worst darkness of all, then comes the light. After fourteen years of this stuff (seven of them spent for the other girl)—years spent trying to out-manipulate each other, Jacob thinks, “Finally, it’s over! Now I can revert to what God promised me at Bethel, what God promised by parents when I was born! I can go get that blessing now. God has worked these things out in my life after these years of putting up with Laban, of putting up with somebody else like me.”
Notice that the people who revolt us the most humanly are the people who are the most like us. The people we see with our own negative traits and characteristics will be the people we have the most friction with. The people who irk us the most are the people most like us, especially if they are even more like us than we are.
Now as Jacob went on his way, the angels of God met him. Jacob said when he saw them, “This is God’s camp.” So he named that place Mahanaim.
(Meaning “two camps”)
Then Jacob sent messengers before him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom. He also commanded them saying, “Thus you shall say to my lord Esau…
He knew that this guy did not like him, and he knew why he did not like him, and he even knew he ruined this guy in some way.
“Thus says your servant Jacob, ‘I have sojourned with Laban, and stayed until now; I have oxen and donkeys and flocks and male and female servants; and I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find favor in your sight.’” (Genesis 32:1-5)
It is like saying, “I have a car dealership! Go over and pick one! You want an El Dorado? You want a Mercedes? I’ll give you the keys! My brother, I love you! Please take it and leave! Drive out of here!” Why is it called “Mahanaim”—“two camps”? I grew up in New Jersey right across the river from New York City, and in our neighborhood was a close friend of my parents who owned a chain of liquor stores called “Harry’s” but his real name was Haime. People thought it was “Harry” but friends like my parents called him “Haime,” and he was what we called a “good” Jew because even Gentiles liked him. One of his sons was Arthur who managed this chain of liquor stores. What most people did not know is that Arthur was also a dentist. Everybody thought Arthur was a businessman like his father, which he was, but they did not know he was also a dentist. “There might be a depression, there might be prohibition, but people always have toothaches.” He wanted a backup. He was clever that way. Jewish people are clever that way, having a survival mentality as a result of their history, and they go through it that way. So Jacob puts it into two camps. “If my shoe store goes down the tubes, I can always sell roses.” He is always shrewd, always trying to figure out how to survive. My wife is like that. My wife’s parents were Holocaust survivors and then they were Refuseniks under Ceausescu. For my wife, in the way she was brought up, it was not so important to clean the house, cook, or sew—you could always get a shiksa to do that. With her it was different: How many languages do you speak? How educated are you? How clever are you in business? Do you have a profession that will always be needed if you have to run? Everything was survival-oriented. If “this” fails you will still have everything; it is just the mentality. Jacob puts them into two camps; he is always scheming.
I have oxen and donkeys and flocks and male and female servants; and I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find favor in your sight.”’” The messengers returned to Jacob, saying, “We came to your brother Esau, and furthermore he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.” Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed; and he divided the people who were with him, and the flocks and the herds and the camels, into two companies; for he said, “If Esau comes to the one company and attacks it, then the company which is left will escape.” Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O LORD, who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your relatives, and I will prosper you,’ I am unworthy of all the lovingkindness…
(“I know I’m no good—I repent! Please get me out of this!” When we are in trouble, boy, do we get religious.)
…and of all the faithfulness which You have shown to Your servant; for with my staff only I crossed this Jordan, 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, that he will come and attack me and the mothers with the children.
(He is afraid for his family now.)
“For You said, ‘I will surely prosper you and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which is too great to be numbered.’” (Genesis 32:1-12)
He begins to doubt the promises of God so he has to remind God.
The Dark Night of the Soul
When we are in the dark night of the soul, we begin to doubt the promises God gave us and we begin scheming and praying and doing everything we can because now we know it is coming. And then what happens? Jacob schemes further after he prays.
He commanded the one in front, saying, “When my brother Esau meets you and asks you, saying, ‘To whom do you belong, and where are you going, and to whom do these animals in front of you belong?’ then you shall say, ‘These belong to your servant Jacob; it is a present sent to my lord Esau. And behold, he also is behind us.’” (Genesis 32:17-18)
He tries to buy him off. “You got the cash, I’ve got the absolution!” (That is what they say in Ireland: “High money, High Mass; low money, Low Mass; no money, Purgatory.”)
Now he arose that same night and took his two wives and his two maids and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream. And he sent across whatever he had. Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.” But he said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” He said, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him and said, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And he blessed him there. So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved.”
(“No man can see God and live” (Ex. 33:20). That is why, you see, Jesus had to become a man.)
Now the sun rose upon him just as he crossed over Penuel, and he was limping on his thigh. Therefore, to this day the sons of Israel do not eat the sinew of the hip which is on the socket of the thigh, because he touched the socket of Jacob’s thigh in the sinew of the hip. (Genesis 32:22-32)
We see how “Jacob” always has to do with the sons of Israel, specifically the Jews. He is blessed alone. When the dark night of the soul happens in our life we will be left alone. Other Christians will not be able to relate to our trial; not even our family can help us. It is a lonely experience. There is nobody there but us and the Lord, and we think he is against us. We wrestle with God: “Why are You doing this? Why did You bother to save me? Why did You choose me? Why did You give me these promises if You are not going to keep them and destroy me?” All of his scheming would not work anymore—he was in trouble. This angel is called “the angel of the Lord” with a definite article in Hebrew. The Talmud calls Him in Greek the “Metatrone”—“the angel who dwells at the center of the throne.” It is a “Christophany,” an Old Testament manifestation of Jesus. He wrestles with Jesus to the end of the night, the dark night of his soul, and he prevails. How does he prevail? By losing the fight.
Winning by Losing
This is the only way we are going to get God’s blessing and prevail. God’s values are always present within us and we think we have to pin them down and make them say, “Uncle!” God says, “No, you have to lose. I’ll make you say, ‘Uncle!’ and then you’ll win the fight.” Jacob’s femur—the thigh bone, is dislocated. The femur is the strongest bone in the human body. I am told that you can rest a Volkswagen on the femur of an adult male and it will not break. Before I was saved I was a coke dealer. I used to smuggle hash in Africa and dope in South America. I used to go to parties with rock stars. I knew how to manipulate them; I knew how the game was played. I knew how to make money. I used to embezzle money with a computer. I went through a dark night of the soul. For me it was two years and one month. It was terrible. It was not trials, it was not breaking, it was death of the natural man. After that, Jacob walked with a limp. After we have a dark night of the soul, we will walk with a limp. Remember, the femur is the place of greatest human strength. We walk with a limp. What will happen when we come to the Jabbok experience in our walk as a Christian? God will touch your place of greatest human strength. Our personality, our intellect, our good looks—whatever it is, that is what He is going to hit: our place of greatest strength. We are going to walk with a limp and we will never be the same again. How long will it last? Until the end of the night. No one who is really serious about attaining the blessings and purposes of God for their lives will not go through this at some point. How long the night is, how bad that breaking will be is relative to the individual. After it happens they will never be the same, but after it happens, thenGod blesses us. After it happens, then God uses our human abilities. Why? Because we do not rely on them anymore; we walk with a limp. We no longer trust our own sense, we do not trust the natural man, we have learned the hard way what happens when we do that. Then we get that blessing.
A New Name
Jacob prevails and he gets a new name. What does it say in Revelation? “You have a new name” (Rev.2:17). It is interesting that after this, when Jacob behaved in his old nature after Peniel, Genesis calls him “Jacob,” but when he behaves like the new creation it calls him “Israel.” It is the same with us. When we behave like the old natural man or woman, God calls us by our old name, but when we behave like the broken man or woman who prevailed and got the blessing—who behave as spiritual men and women—He calls us by the new name. I have two names, you have two names, we all have two names. We got one when we were born, but we got another when we were born-again. But we have to have that name in the Book of Life, and we have to earn the right to be called by it. We have to wrestle, we have to prevail, we have to get the blessing. We are all “Jacob.” We all have to have that breaking, we all have to have that dark night of the soul, but when it is over we do not regret it. God bless you.