Thursday 5th January 2023
Unfinished Business: Jacob vs Esau
Audio / Teaching

Unfinished Business: Jacob vs Esau

Adrian Holloway on June 10, 2008 with 0 Comments

Genesis: 32:1–21, Genesis: 33:1-20 – Preaching from ChristChurch London’s Sunday Service

OK, this is week 4 of a series of 5 consecutive talks on the life of Jacob. We’re going to pick up in Genesis 32, which is our text for tonight. Rather alarmingly we’ve skipped Genesis chapters 30 and 31, so my job is to fill you in on what happened, and if you’re joining us tonight for the first time, and feeling confused already, then let’s recap the story so far:

Genesis Chapter 25:

We meet two twin brothers:

Esau is hairy, hunts and kills wild animals, likes wrestling naked by the fire, gargles rat poison, listens to thrash metal, wears a Megadeth T shirt, hasn’t washed since he was 10 years old.

Esau’s younger twin brother Jacob is a mummy’s boy. Smooth skinned, hangs around the tents. Jacob listens to S Club 7 and Steps. Has been to see Mariah Carey in concert twice. Drinks fruit tea. (Incidentally, the main thing I learnt from preaching on Jacob here last month, is that there is an alarming number of men, sorry, so-called men, in this church who confessed afterwards to being fruit tea drinkers.)

So you can picture Jacob in Genesis 25 letting his lentil stew simmer on the stove as he settles down to watch Deal or no Deal on TV. Jacob’s got a cup of chamomile tea in one hand and a limp digestive biscuit in the other. But Jacob is also a schemer, so when . . . Esau, his furry, crazy brother bursts in from the country starving hungry shouting: “Hey Jacob. Give me some of your stew.”

Jacob, the schemer, replies: “First sell me your birthright.”

Esau says: “I’m so hungry I’m going to die anyway. What good is the birthright to me? You can have my birthright. Now give me some stew.”

Jacob replies: “Swear to me first.” In other words, make it official.

So Esau sells his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of soup. Esau trades his birthright for soup. He trades the promises of God for lentils.

Don’t do that by the way. If your ever given a choice between Jesus and lentils. Choose Jesus. Lentils are over-rated.

So Esau despised his birthright. That’s Genesis 25

Chapter 27

More Hebrew comedy with Isaac and his dysfunctional family . . . Isaac and Rebekah each have favourite sons. Isaac loves Esau, Rebekah loves Jacob. In fact Rebekah is desperate to get her favourite little Jacob Wacob-Poos Daddy’s special blessing. So Rebekah decides to deceive her own husband.

Meanwhile, Isaac’s gone blind and is about to die. So Isaac thinks, “Oh, I’m getting really old. I might die. I’d better give my official blessing to my oldest and favourite son Esau.”

So he sends Esau out to hunt down and kill some wild game for father and son to eat together as part of the official blessing ceremony.

Rebekah, his wife, thinks: “Jacob, this is your chance. Esau’s gone off into the woods to hunt down dinner. While he’s gone, here Jacob, come over to the dressing up box. You dress up as Esau. Nip in to the tent and trick the old man into thinking you’re Esau. Deceive your Dad. Make sure he prays for you. And Bob’s your uncle, you’ll get the blessing of God.”

So Rebekah tricks and deceives her husband.

She dresses smooth skinned Jacob up as a sort of hairy monster. Jacob, the deceiver, of course is more than willing to agree to the plan. So Jacob dresses up as Esau.

Jacob walks in with the food.

Isaac says: “Grief alive, that was quick. How did you kill the wild game and cook it so quickly my son.”

Jacob says, verse 20: “the Lord your God gave me success.” Yeah right.

So Jacob, having stolen the birthright with the lentils, now steals the blessing by dressing up in a gorilla suit.

Isaac, who’s blind, lays hands on Jacob and pronounces the blessing. Jacob exits stage left.

Seconds later, Esau enters stage right on his Harley Davidson with a massive deer on the back that he’s just killed with his bare hands. But he’s too late. Jacob’s stolen the blessing. Isaac’s only got one blessing. So Esau can’t get the blessing, even though he sought it with tears.

Esau is furious with rage, AAGH, like the Incredible Hulk, and begins to plot his revenge against Jacob. Esau vows to kill Jacob. Esau says: verse 41 “I will kill my brother Jacob.”

Esau storms off to his bedroom, slams the door really hard, turns up his Megadeth CD really loud, gets out a photo of Jacob, pins it on the middle of his dart board, and Esau just spends all day throwing darts at his Jacob photo, waiting for his moment to kill Jacob.

When Rebekah finds out what Esau’s planning, she tells Jacob, verse 42: “Jacob, your brother Esau is consoling himself with the thought of killing you.”

In other words, every time Esau’s feeling a bit low, he cheers himself by thinking, “Soon, I’ll kill Jacob, and then I’ll feel so much better.”

Rebekah says to Jacob: “Now then, my son, do what I say: “Flee at once to my brother Laban in Haran. Stay with him.” (vs 44)

Yeah, good idea Rebekah. Clap. Clap. Clap. Send Jacob to Laban. Laban, the biggest control freak in the book of Genesis.

Well done Rebekah, you’ve deceived your husband. You’ve turned your oldest son Esau into a crazed would-be assassin. And now you’re sending Jacob to Laban, who’s the Genesis equivalent of a New York mafia boss. So Jacob goes out of the frying pan into the fire. Jacob gets up to leave for Paddan Aram and the nightmarish world of Laban, but on the way, God comes to comfort, re-assure and encourage Jacob in a dream.

Chapter 28

God appears and demonstrates his compassion and mercy and faithfulness to Jacob. God shows Jacob a stairway to heaven.

Which is amazing, because so far in the story, Jacob’s done nothing right. Jacob is a cowardly, godless, schemer who’s just out for himself. Jacob is a spineless weakling who just does whatever his conniving mother tells him to, as long as it’s to his own advantage.

You might think that God would be well advised to bin Jacob and choose someone else.

But the reason why the story of Jacob is so encouraging to me, is that God doesn’t give up on Jacob. God isn’t put off by Jacob’s sin. Jacob can’t shake off the fact that he’s been chosen by God. And that is true of you! “Yeah, but Adrian, I’m not living a holy life. I am what you’d call a worldly Christian.” That’s pretty much what Jacob looks like, Jacob looks like a worldly Christian, but Jacob’s still chosen. God still loves him.

No the amazing thing about Jacob is that God chose Jacob, even before Jacob was born. The same is true of you. (Romans chapter 9, Ephesians chapter 1) And no matter how godless and carnal Jacob is, God doesn’t leave Jacob. Even when we are faithless, God remains faithful to us. And when Jacob’s running for his life, running like a coward from Esau, Jacob lays down his head on a stone for the night at Bethel, and the Lord gives Jacob the most amazing God encounter. Jacob sees a stairway to heaven. Jacob sees heaven linked to earth, with the angels of God going up and down the stairway. Jacob sees that his life is linked to the activity of heaven. And amazingly God gifts to Jacob all the promises that God had previously given to his grandfather Abraham. Abraham remember, was a mighty man of God. Abraham did amazing feats of faith, that Jacob so far has fallen woefully short of, but God says to Jacob: “Jacob, I am giving you the same promise I gave Abraham.”

That’s exactly what God’s says about you (Romans chapter 4, Galatians chapter 3). You have inherited by faith in Christ the promises given to Abraham. Hallelujah!

God says: “Jacob, I am the Lord your God. All the peoples of the earth will be blessed through you Jacob. Jacob I am with you and I will watch over you wherever you go. And Jacob, I’ll never leave you.”

You’d think Jacob would be transformed by this experience, but he’s not. Because even though he’s got the call of God on his life, even though he’s a man of destiny, he’s still not tackled his character flaws. Jacob at this stage of his life is like a Christian for whom Jesus is saviour but not yet Lord. Jacob’s will has not yet been broken. Does that sound like you? His self-reliance hasn’t yet been wrestled out of him. Jacob believes the promises of God on one level, but Jacob falls down when it comes to actually trusting God to deliver in daily life. Is that you?

So even after seeing the stairway to heaven, Jacob’s still scheming. This time, Jacob tries to get God to sign a contract. Jacob offers God a deal on Jacob’s terms (vs 20-22). Jacob says: “God, if you’ll do X, Y and Z for me. God if you’ll give me food to eat, and clothes to wear, and if you’ll bring me back here to Bethel safely, then I, Jacob, hereby promise that I’ll tithe.” As if God’s going to say: “Oh Jacob, wow that’s really heroic, because I am rather short of cash at the moment. Jacob how very kind of you to offer a deal to me.” So Jacob’s vow is not really a prayer, it’s more of a business proposal that Jacob faxes to God’s office.

Chapter 29

Jacob arrives in Paddan Aran and falls in love with Laban’s daughter Rachel. Jacob disobeys the golden rule: ‘don’t get mixed up with the daughter of a mafia mobster.’ Laban’s whole philosophy is “Jacob, you mess with my family, you mess with me.”

And Jacob’s not big on courtship and romance by the way. In chapter 29 he sees Rachel, thinks “she’s nice”, and without even speaking to her, he just goes over, gives her a kiss and then bursts into tears. Guys, don’t try that in the stalls bar afterwards. If you see someone you like the look of, don’t walk over, say nothing, kiss her, and then bursts into tears. Don’t do that. “Why not, nothing else is working?” Yeah, I know it worked for Jacob, but Jacob’s not really much of a role model until after chapter 33 and kissing total strangers, it’s not what most girls are looking for. Girls like conversation. OK{writes} girls like conversation.

Jacob says to Laban: “I love Rachel. I want to marry Rachel.”

Laban says: “OK, you want to marry my goil. You work for me for seven years. Deal or no Deal?”

Jacob says: “It’s a deal!”

Seven years later, Jacob says to Laban: “Time’s up. Time for me to marry Rachel.”

Laban says: “No problem.”

But then as Rachel and Jacob go into the bedroom for their wedding night, Laban switches in Leah, Rachel’s older sister. Laban says: “Psst, Hey Rachel, don’t go in the bedroom, come over here. Now Leah, you get in that bedroom with Jacob, and remember, don’t turn on the light.”

Jacob, who as we’ve already seen is not big on romance, gets into bed with the wrong sister and doesn’t even notice. Which is just shocking manners apart from anything else.

Jacob wakes up the following morning, with his lovely wife Rachel, but no it’s Leah, the older sister. He’s married the wrong sister. And it’s hard to feel sorry for him. Because he’s just getting a taste of his own medicine. Laban One – Jacob Nil.

Jacob says to Laban: “Referee! That’s not fair! You brought in Leah from an offside position”

Laban says: “No if you look at the TV replay, you’ll see that Leah was not interfering with play when the bedroom door was opened. She only became active later. Because the rules say that the oldest girl gets married first, and then the younger. But because I’m kind,” Laban says, “you can have Rachel next week, but you have to promise to work for me another seven years.”

Jacob, the deceiver has now met his match. He got tricked on the firstborn child thing just like he tricked his brother Esau. What goes around comes around. Jacob’s sin finds him out. Jacob does marry Rachel, but he’s now got to work another 7 years for Laban, making 14 in total.

Jacob’s now married to both sisters. But he doesn’t love Leah. Nevertheless Jacob has 4 children with her. Meanwhile Rachel can’t get pregnant.

Chapter 30

So Rachel thinks: “This is a disaster. I’m 4 – 0 down here. My ugly sister’s having all these kids with my husband. And that really makes me feel jealous. So I know what, I’ll get Jacob to sleep with my maidservant Bilhah, and I’ll try and pop out a few kids through Bilhah and see if we can’t even up the scores on the doors.”

So Jacob sleeps with Bilhal. Bilhal has two boys: Dan and Naphtali, making the half-time score: Leah 4, Rachel 2.

Leah’s had her 4 son advantage pegged back by 2, so Leah has a half-time team talk with her maidservant Zilpah, and says, ‘Rachel’s catching me up. She’s using the old having kids through the maidservant routine.’ Zilpah you’re my maidservant, why don’t you sleep with Jacob and see if you can’t restore our advantage.

Zilpah sleeps with Jacob. So Zilpah has two sons Gad and Asher, making it Leah 6 Rachel 2.

And all through this Jacob’s like: “Whatever, who am I sleeping with tonight? Just tell me which tent it is. Point me in the right direction. I get so confused. Who’s Tuesday? Zilphah, are you Tuesday? No, you’re Wednesday. Hey Bilhal, are you Tuesday?” You know Jacob is not exactly God’s man of holiness and power.

Then there’s some weird stuff with some mandrakes, which we don’t have time for. Leah has two more sons and a daughter and then finally Rachel does give birth herself and it’s worth waiting for because she has Joseph.

So Jacob’s now got 11 sons and 1 daughter through his 2 wives and two maidservants.

Then Jacob says to Laban. “Please let me go, I’ve been working for you for years,’ Laban says: “OK, but first, let’s do a business deal to decide who gets to keep which animals.”

But Jacob, the deceiver comes up with an extremely ingenious miracle with the speckled or spotted sheep, which leaves Jacob, literally cashing in on the blessing of God, becoming enormously wealthy.

Jacob becomes exceedingly prosperous with huge flocks. But Jacob’s still a coward. So after 20 years working for Laban . . .

Chapter 31

Jacob just gathers up his wives, girlfriends and cattle one night and runs away. And just before sneeking out, Rachel steals Laban’s household gods as a sort of lucky charm.

Rachel, Jacob’s wife, steals Laban’s God for good luck, so Rachel, is clearly not yet ready to be an Alpha table leader,

And incidentally, if your God can be stolen that’s not very impressive.

Laban’s like, “Oh no, I’ve lost God. Where did I leave him? I’m sure I put him down somewhere in the kitchen.”

So just as an aside, if your God is so small that you sometimes lose your God down the back of the sofa, then that’s a clue that you may not have yet found the real God. You need to get on your knees and call out to the real God, because you’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere along the way.

So Jacob, as per usual, does his usual routine of running away from trouble.

Laban chases after Jacob. Eventually Laban catches up and says: “Jacob, you deceived me.”

Jacob says: “I deceived you. You’ve got to be kidding. All I wanted was Rachel, but you made me work 20 years, and you changed my wages 10 times. You ripped me off again and again.”

Laban says: “OK, just give me back my household gods.”

Jacob says: “I don’t have them. I promise. You can search everywhere and everyone.”

Unbeknowns to Jacob, Rachel has the gods. Rachel is hiding the gods by sitting on the gods. Why is she sitting on them? Trust me. You don’t want to know why! Go read it for yourself! Laban can’t find them. Eventually Laban says: “OK, Jacob, I give up. The war is over. Let’s make a truce. I’ll let you go. You go your way. I’ll go my way.”

So at the start of chapter 32, Jacob is finally free from the grip of Laban. Laban, the Godfather, is finally gone. Jacob’s loaded, he’s got a huge family of his own. But he still doesn’t really trust God.

Now the reason for that unfeasibly long introduction, before we come to our text in chapter 32, is that to understand what follows, you’ve got to see that Jacob is someone who, like many of us, has got a chequered past. Jacob’s made a series of mistakes. He’s a believer, but he’s not been living a godly lifestyle. He’s been selfish and cowardly. Jacob has been messed up and messed with. As we’ve seen, Jacob came from a less than perfect family. Maybe that’s like you?

I remember two churches back, there was this one woman in the church who seemed to be continually defeated in the Christian life. She had a great husband. She had a good job. She came from a very solid Christian family. But she seemed continually forlorn and downcast. And I could not work out why? Then one day I found out why. Her parents had wanted her to be a boy. So the fact she’s grown up and married with a great career didn’t change that.

Is that you?

Jacob wasn’t much better off than that. All through Jacob’s life he knew his father Isaac didn’t really love him. That must be tough! Don’t you think? Isaac did not show love to his son Jacob. And that caused cataclysmic devastation in Jacob’s life.

Maybe that’s true of you. Maybe growing up your relationship with your Dad was like standing under an emotional cold shower. Maybe you feel like you’ve been messed up before you even had a chance in life.

Maybe your life has been one of family conflict. Maybe you’re in it right now. Maybe you’re here tonight with unresolved conflict with your mum, your dad, or like Jacob, with your brother. Or with someone else? Deal with it tonight.

The great news is, that in the story of Jacob, like no other story in the entire bible, we find out that God is sovereign and can over-rule and over-ride both family chaos and your mistakes. Amazingly, God doesn’t quit on Jacob. In fact God sends his angels to Jacob to give Jacob another re-assuring God encounter.

Chapter 32

1 Jacob also went on his way, and the angels of God met him. 2 When Jacob saw them, he said, “This is the camp of God!” So he named that place Mahanaim.

But then Jacob has to face his past. Remember Esau. Esau, the brother he deceived. Esau who when we last heard from him was cheering himself up by thinking: “One day, I’ll kill Jacob and then I’ll feel so much better.”

Esau who’s had 20 years to stew over the injustice done to him. Esau is coming to meet Jacob. It’s payback time. Jacob panics and tries to placate Esau’s fury.

3 Jacob sent messengers ahead of him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom. 4 He instructed them: “This is what you are to say to my master Esau: ‘Your servant Jacob says, I have been staying with Laban and have remained there till now. 5 I have cattle and donkeys, sheep and goats, menservants and maidservants. Now I am sending this message to my lord, that I may find favor in your eyes.’ ”

In other words, “Esau, your servant Jacob has a lot of stuff. And if you don’t kill me my Lord Esau, I will give you lots of presents. In fact I have a got an entire Celine Dion CD collection, and a new car, and year’s subscription to “Deceiver” magazine, and a set of saucepans. Esau, I can offer you a deal.

Now actually if Jacob had believed the promises God had made him, he would have known that God would protect him from Esau. Jacob had a promise from God, that God would protect him from all harm. But Jacob doesn’t really trust God to deliver on God’s promises. Jacob doesn’t trust God to pull through for him when push comes to shove in real life. Is that like you?

6 When the messengers returned to Jacob, they said, “We went to your brother Esau, and now he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.”

Now Jacob is really really scared. 400 men.

“What did they look like?”

“Er . . . Well they were on motorbikes, riding in formation, with like these really high handle bars.

And they were listening to Slayer, Anthrax and Napalm Death. And some of them were drinking blood, and they all had the words “Jacob must die!” tattooed on their foreheads. Apart from that they looked harmless.

7 In great fear and distress Jacob divided the people who were with him into two groups, and the flocks and herds and camels as well. 8 He thought, “If Esau comes and attacks one group, the group that is left may escape.”

OK, so here’s Jacob’s new self-preservation strategy. Split my family in two, then maybe while Esau and his biker friends are killing one half of my family, maybe me and the other half can run away. Jacob’s terrified. And so now when Jacob gets really really scared, finally, he prays.

Isn’t that like us?

And actually when he finally does pray, Jacob’s prayer is really good:

9 Then Jacob prayed, “O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, O LORD, who said to me, ‘Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper,’ 10 I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two groups.

11 Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children. 12 But you have said, ‘I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.’ ”

This is the first time Jacob shows us that some of what God’s done for him has penetrated. Because when he’s at rock bottom, Jacob doesn’t just panic, he goes back to the word of God. He goes back to what God has actually said. And this is the way to pray. Yes, he tells God how he’s feeling. He tells God that he’s afraid (verse 11) but he holds onto what God has already said. “God: you said that my descendants would be as many as the grains of sand at the bottom of the sea, which are too numerous to count, so please honour your own promise and save me from the hand of my brother Esau.”

But of course, being Jacob, he still can’t completely trust God. So

13 He spent the night there, and from what he had with him he selected a gift for his brother Esau: 14 two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, 15 thirty female camels with their young, forty cows and ten bulls, and twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys.

OK, Jacob’s strategy is “Esau don’t kill me, because I’m actually a really nice brother, and to prove it, have two hundred video games, and twenty Alpine stereos, and forty toasters and ten laptops, and a signed photo of H from Steps. So Esau, I must be a good guy after all.”

16 He put them in the care of his servants, each herd by itself, and said to his servants, “Go ahead of me, and keep some space between the herds.”
17 He instructed the one in the lead: “When my brother Esau meets you and asks, ‘To whom do you belong, and where are you going, and who owns all these animals in front of you?’ 18 then you are to say, ‘They belong to your servant Jacob. They are a gift sent to my lord Esau, and he is coming behind us.’ ”

19 He also instructed the second, the third and all the others who followed the herds: “You are to say the same thing to Esau when you meet him. 20 And be sure to say, ‘Your servant Jacob is coming behind us.’ ” For he thought, “I will pacify him with these gifts I am sending on ahead; later, when I see him, perhaps he will receive me. 21 So Jacob’s gifts went on ahead of him, but he himself spent the night in the camp.”

And that night was the most important night in Jacob’s life. That night was the turning point. That night, God came down in person and wrestled with Jacob in the dark. God wanted to wrestle out of Jacob, all the self-reliance, to get Jacob to a point where Jacob totally surrendered his will to God. Now for you and I to reach a place of complete brokenness before God, where we have died to our own ambition is so important, that we want to spend a whole sermon on that one incident, and that’s what Dave’s going to do next Sunday.

But here’s the lesson of Jacob’s life. Submit to God now, because if you don’t you’ll have your self-reliance and self-will wrestled out of you later, and it’s going to hurt. If you want less pain, if you want to be happier earlier. It’ll still hurt, but repent now. Submit to God. Trust God, and give up trusting in your own abilities. Because if you don’t, God’s so chosen you, that he won’t let your silent rebellion continue forever. I know he’s already your saviour, but I’m asking you tonight, make him, really truly the Lord of your life as well.

You know what, when you totally submit, we find out that a lot of the years we’ve spent worrying and fretting, were actually totally unnecessary. Jacob found that the thing he worried about most, the thing he most feared, never happened.

1 Jacob looked up and there was Esau, coming with his four hundred men; so he divided the children among Leah, Rachel and the two maidservants. 2 He put the maidservants and their children in front, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph in the rear. 3 He himself went on ahead and bowed down to the ground seven times as he approached his brother.

And did Esau run over, get out a dagger and stab Jacob to death? No . . .

4 But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept. 5 Then Esau looked up and saw the women and children. “Who are these with you?” he asked. Jacob answered, “They are the children God has graciously given your servant.”
6 Then the maidservants and their children approached and bowed down. 7 Next, Leah and her children came and bowed down. Last of all came Joseph and Rachel, and they too bowed down.

8 Esau asked, “What do you mean by all these droves I met?” “To find favor in your eyes, my lord,” he said.
9 But Esau said, “I already have plenty, my brother. Keep what you have for yourself.”
10 “No, please!” said Jacob. “If I have found favor in your eyes, accept this gift from me. For to see your face is like seeing the face of God, now that you have received me favorably.

11 Please accept the present that was brought to you, for God has been gracious to me and I have all I need.” And because Jacob insisted, Esau accepted it. 12 Then Esau said, “Let us be on our way; I’ll accompany you.” 13 But Jacob said to him, “My lord knows that the children are tender and that I must care for the ewes and cows that are nursing their young. If they are driven hard just one day, all the animals will die.

14 So let my lord go on ahead of his servant, while I move along slowly at the pace of the droves before me and that of the children, until I come to my lord in Seir.”
15 Esau said, “Then let me leave some of my men with you.” “But why do that?” Jacob asked. “Just let me find favor in the eyes of my lord.”16 So that day Esau started on his way back to Seir.

17 Jacob, however, went to Succoth, where he built a place for himself and made shelters for his livestock. That is why the place is called Succoth. 18 After Jacob came from Paddan Aram, he arrived safely at the city of Shechem in Canaan and camped within sight of the city. 19 For a hundred pieces of silver, he bought from the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem, the plot of ground where he pitched his tent. 20 There he set up an altar and called it El Elohe Israel.

Which means “the God of Israel is mighty.” It all ends happily. Esau, even though he’s still not a believer, doesn’t exact revenge. Maybe God changed his heart. We don’t know. All we do know is that the terrible thing that you so dread happening, doesn’t ever actually happen. It’s all OK.

So what have we learned today?

You may say: “my family situation has messed me up. I’ll never recover.” Or “I’ve made so many mistakes. I’ve sinned so much against God even as a believer. How can God use me now.” Or “I’m sure God will choose someone else. I must be such a disappointment to him.”

No, you know what? you’re not. You’re not a disappointment to God. God knew what he’d got in Jacob. You know Jacob’s twelve sons? They founded the twelve tribes of Israel.

You know Laban’s trick whereby he married off Leah to Jacob. What a huge disappointment that was to Jacob, after working 7 years to marry someone else. What came out of that? Well Leah gave birth to four boys, and the fourth of those was called Judah, and Judah became the ancestor of Jesus Christ! God used Leah, the ugly sister to bring Jesus Christ into this world. And maybe tonight, someone needed to get on the tube and come here just to hear that one fact. God used Leah, to bring Jesus to people. That’s priceless! And so are you!

But Leah didn’t know that at the time! How come my sister’s so much prettier than me? How come my younger sister’s getting married before I am? How come my Dad’s a control freak? No answer. Why couldn’t I have grown up in a different family? What is God doing in the crazy sinful world of Laban? Answer: redeeming it. Answer: Building a new spiritual nation, that will change the world forever. Answer: Building Israel. Answer: Preparing the way for Jesus Christ, the King of Kings to enter world history and save billions of souls.

You may have been messed up by your family or messed with by your family, but don’t you dare say: that’s all there is to it, because God hasn’t finished with you yet.

God don’t make no junk, and even if you, have lived all your life with the knowledge that you were supposed to be a boy, but you’re a girl, or vice-versa. And even if your whole life you’ve stood under the emotional cold shower of a father who never expressed love to you, or wasn’t even there, the story of Jacob shows you that God isn’t finished with you yet.

And in chapter 33, God’s only just started with Jacob. Jacob’s best years are ahead of him, and so are yours, if only tonight, you’ll submit to him.

If you don’t, you can keep on playing games with him, even for decades if you want, just like Jacob did, but eventually God will come down and wrestle you to the ground. He’ll bring you down. He’ll pin you to the mat. Here’s the rules of wrestling: To win a wrestling match you need two falls or one submission. When you submit, the fight is over. You give up on your will. You’re broken. You submit. God’s looking for a submission tonight. Let Jesus Christ be Lord of every area of your life.

I’d like everyone to stand
I’d like the band to come forward
Let’s just free up the first four rows.

1. First of all, is there someone you need to be reconciled with? There may not be an Esau plotting to kill you, but there’s someone you have not been reconciled to. Let me make it clear, if you are a Christian, even if the other person is also a Christian, then irrespective of the circumstances, the onus lies with you to go to them, and for you to apologise to them. ‘But they’re the one who needs to apologise!’ That’s Labanesque thinking. We’re no longer in the world of what’s fair here. What’s fair for me, is an eternity in hell. In Christ, you and I got what we don’t deserve thanks to Jesus, and Jesus says that it’s up to us.

You don’t have to try and be their best friend. You don’t have to bake them cakes, and go around in matching outfits, and go on holiday together. You just have to make it right and apologise for the stuff you need to say sorry for. If you need to be reconciled to someone, I want to pray for you tonight.

2. Next, if you think, you’ve blown it as a Christian. If you think, God can’t use me because I’ve sinned too much as a believer, then I insist on praying for you. If God can use Jacob, then God will use you. You are called of God, and nothing will ever change that. Why? Because you did not choose God, but God chose you. You didn’t get yourself into this thing, and you can’t sin your way out. You come too.

3. Next, now I don’t want to over-dramatize this one, but if you identify with the character of Leah in this story, I want to ask you to come also. Just to make it easier, you can be a man and relate to the character of Leah. You can feel left behind, unloved, wondering what is God upto? He’s saving the world through you, the problem is that you don’t really believe that yet. But you need to, and you can. I want to pray for you.

4. Next, maybe, you are from a dysfunctional family, and you feel like you’ve been messed up. You feel like you’re surrounded by all these sorted people here at Christ Church. Hey, God used Isaac and Rebekah, two of the worst parents in the whole bible, to bring Jacob into the world, and God used Jacob and Leah who didn’t even love each other to bring Jesus into the world. If you come from that kind of family I want to pray for you.

5. And finally, you Jacobs. This is me. You have a choice. Submit now, and get the pain over with, or submit later, when God wrestles you to the ground. Come forward tonight, because in the battle of you versus God, sooner or later, God’s going to win. Let God win in your life tonight. Submit your personal agenda to him tonight. Give up your self-reliance once and for all.

Let’s stand.

So I’m going to ask 5 groups of you to come:
1. Firstly, if you know there someone you need to be reconciled with. You come.
2. You think, you’ve blown it as a Christian. If you think, God can’t use me because I’ve sinned too much as a believer. You come.
3. Like Leah, you feel left behind, unloved, wondering what is God upto? You come.
4. You’re from a dysfunctional family, and you feel like you’ve been messed up. You come.
5. And then fifthly, you Jacobs in your self-reliance. Come and submit now and you might never have to be wrestled to the ground later.