I am sure you have heard the statement: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." But God says the opposite: "If it's broke, don't fix it" – meaning our pride and self-sufficiency. God now breaks Jacob in this way. "Jacob also went on his way and the angels of God met him. When Jacob saw them, he said, "This is the camp of God!" So he named that place Mahanaim." As Jacob comes back into the Promised Land, God again surrounds him with angels (a picture of the Real but invisible spiritual world) to encourage him to face Esau. To me this is a picture of our need for a regular time alone with God to experience His Presence (Real but invisible – God is Spirit) and His love to encourage us to face our trials in His strength and not our own. As we read His Word and offer up our honest prayers, He "meets with us" through His Word and by His Spirit. "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Tim. 3:16)
"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." 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. He thought, "If Esau comes and attacks one group, the group that is left may escape." 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,' 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. 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. 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 a great model for prayer: be specific; pray with great faith, fervency, and humility; plead God's promises of love, purpose and His over-riding good even in our confusion and distress; confess our unworthiness and be thankful for the mercy and goodness of God we have already experienced (esp. for New Testament believers -the cross); confess our deep emotions to God – e.g., fear of Esau and concern for family.
Jacob had a high motivation to cry out to God to help him as his brother Esau and 400 men waited on the other side of the river Jabbok and the last thing he had heard Esau say was, "I'm going to kill Jacob." In facing Esau he was in desperation and feared for his very life so he got alone with God and got honest with Him about his sin. When The Man (probably the Pre-incarnate Christ) asked him his name and he replied, "Jacob," it was a confession of what his name and nature had always been – a schemer and grabber trying to make life work in his own steam. Then the Lord touched his thigh and put it out of joint (a picture of breaking his natural strength) and Jacob clung to Him even more strongly (a picture of bold faith) in his now realized weakness and said in so many words: "please bless me and help me, I really need you God." That is when God changed his name and his nature from Jacob, the schemer, to Israel, one who has struggled with God and man and prevailed – in the strength of God. Brokenness does not mean will-less resignation to God's will but willingly yielding our will to His will. This is pictured in Jacob clinging to God to receive His strength to do His will. "He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak (to do His will). Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." (Isa. 40:29-31)
But Jacob goes back and forth between trusting God completely and trying to take care of himself in his own wit and strength. He sent Esau a gift of 550 animals- "For he thought, "I will pacify him with these gifts I am sending on ahead." So he bribes Esau with gifts, flatters him (33:1-11) and then lies to him about meeting him in Seir (33:12-17).
We later see this double-mindedness in the nation of Israel as in many places they trust the Lord completely and He delivers them mightily and in other situations they trust in their own strength and/or human alliances and God has to discipline them all over again (and we must repent of trusting political power more than Jesus). We also see this in our own lives and in so many places in the Scriptures as in Paul's life in both Romans 7:14- 8:4 and then at an even deeper level in 2 Cor.12:7-10: "Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn't get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan's angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn't think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me, My grace is enough; it's all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ's strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size-abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become." (The Message) The blessing of brokenness is that we finally realize (experientially) how desperately we need God, not to make this temporal life work out for our happiness (i.e., be successful, etc.) but to live the life God calls us to live. Jesus begins His longest sermon, the Sermon on the Mount (See Matthew 5-7), by saying that living out the Christian life begins when we realize we can't do it in our own strength: "Blessed are the poor in spirit" (Matt. 5:3) and reminds us again in John 15:5: "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."
God leads us to brokenness even as the horse trainer breaks the wild stallion so it can be useful to its master. A broken stallion is not powerless but its power is now under the control of its master and God wants us submitted to His control and under His power. Watchman Nee says we can't speed up God's breaking process but we can slow it down by continually resisting God's rule over our lives. (Release of the Spirit) Our continual confession needs to be – "I can't do this Lord but You can. I surrender my will to do Your will." Jesus spoke to the "church folks" in Laodicea who said, "I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing." But Jesus said to them and He says to us today, "you do not realize that you are wretched (miserable), pitiful, poor, blind and naked" (Rev. 3:17) as He shows us our spiritual condition apart from His grace as reflected in my poem:
BROKENNESS – Len Sykes – 2008
I'm nothing but emptiness, sadness and sin
Unless I'm abiding in Jesus within
I have nothing to give to serve other men
Until Jesus the King of Glory comes in
The talents and gifts You're giving to me
Lose all their value when separate from Thee
Yet I continue to dig my own cisterns and wells
And offer the world my soul for sale
It profits me nothing and leaves me so dry
Til I feel the sweet pain and hear Your loud cry:
"Come unto me with your thirst and your need
With My water and bread your soul I will feed
And fill you so full that you'll overflow
And out from your belly My rivers will flow
Rivers of truth, rivers of love
Rivers of God from Heaven above."
So look to My Son midst the sin and the strife
And be humble and broken every day of your life."
(See John 15:5; Jer. 2:11-13; Psalm 24:7-10; Isa. 57:15; John 7:37-38)
Jesus wrestled with God in Gethsemane and cried out, "Abba, Father take this cup from Me. Yet not what I will, but what you will." (Mark 14:36) Then we see the greatest example of weakness, the Son of God, humiliated and nailed to a cross, turned to the greatest power and victory this world has ever seen – the resurrection of the King of kings and Lord of lords Who broke the power of Satan, sin, death and the grave and gives us eternal life and His resurrection power over sin.
Questions for reflection/application
What did the Lord say to you through this message?
Jacob's prayer in Gen. 32:9-12 is a great model for prayer. What do you see in these verses to help you in your prayer life?
See Paul's struggle in Romans 7:14- 8:4 and then at an even deeper level in 2 Cor. 12:7-10. What do these two passages say to you about your need for God's strength versus your own?
Until He comes,
Len and Kristen
See the book, They Found the Secret by Raymond Edman for the testimonies of twenty Christian leaders and their experience of finding God's strength in their weakness.