Crooked Sticks: Genesis 32:1-32

Crooked Sticks: Genesis 32:1-32
Pastor John Weathersby
Sunday September 17, 20

Notes, not at Transcript:

It is a great blessing by God to have encouraged in the word and traced the line through the patriarchs.

  • “God can strike a straight stroke by a crooked stick.” — Thomas Watson, English Puritan
  • “God can draw a straight line with a crooked stick.” — Martin Luther, German Reformer
  • “God uses crooked sticks to draw straight lines.” — Ignatius Loyola, Founder of the Jesuit Order
  • “God writes straight with crooked lines.” — Spanish/Portuguese proverb

We’ll see that clearly in Jacob; despite his many inadequacies, he is how God ushers in the nation of Israel.  This is God drawing a straight line with the crooked sticks of men.

Genesis 31:55 (ESV)
55  Early in the morning Laban arose and kissed his grandchildren and his daughters and blessed them. Then Laban departed and returned home.

Genesis 32:1-32 (ESV)
Jacob Fears Esau
1 Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him.
2 And when Jacob saw them he said, “This is God’s camp!” So he called the name of that place Mahanaim.

If we take Genesis 31:55 together with 32:1-2, we have a transition from a narrative about Jacob and Laban to Jacob and Esau. We will see evidence of the simmering feud never dealt with since Jacobs’s 20-plus years with Laban. However, his calling to return was given in Genesis. 31:3

Genesis 31:3 (ESV)
3 Then the Lord said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your fathers and to your kindred, and I will be with you.”

God promised, “and I will be with you.” we see the encouragement of that in Genesis 32:1, where “the angels of God met him.”  Jacob recognizes this, fearful of returning to his homeland, turned now in obedience to Genesis 31:3, rattled at the thought of his brother, the goings on with Laban but now encouraged by God.

3 And Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau, his brother in the land of Seir, the country of Edom, 4 instructing them, “Thus you shall say to my lord Esau: Thus says your servant Jacob, ‘I have sojourned with Laban and stayed until now.
5 I have oxen, donkeys, flocks, male servants, and female servants. I have sent to tell my lord, in order that I may find favor in your sight.’ ”

We won’t get to the meet-up between Jacob and Esau today, but spoiler alert: he WILL find favor because God is with him.  The counsel of God tells us that in the story of the patriarchs, God is about building nations who will bring the proclamation about Him to the world.  In Jacob, we see the fulfillment of Genesis 27:29

Genesis 27:29 (ESV)
29    Let peoples serve you,
and nations bow down to you.
       Be lord over your brothers,
and may your mother’s sons bow down to you.
       Cursed be everyone who curses you,
and blessed be everyone who blesses you!”

We’re here by God’s will through Abraham, chosen by God.  Isaac, chosen by God.  Now, Jacob was chosen by God. So, in verse 3, Jacob sends messengers to announce to Esau that he is on his way – polite, it’s like calling before showing up.  By the way, brother, I’m going to land with the equivalent people and positions of a small town also. We didn’t part on the best terms, so I’m checking in.
He contends in verse 5 with his brother through the messenger, saying – I have these possessions and am telling you to find favor.

6 And the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, “We came to your brother Esau, and he is coming to meet you, and there are four hundred men with him.”

That is nerve-racking, but – Jacob must remember the revelation in the first two verses as he transitioned away from Laban and would need to lean on the faith that his experience of walking with God has built up in him. We would do well to do the same.

Maybe you’re early in your walk. Be ready to have your faith built through trials and temptations; don’t be dismayed. Know that your faith grows when tried; we’re seeing that result in Jacob now.

7 Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed. He divided the people who were with him, and the flocks and herds and camels, into two camps,
8 thinking, “If Esau comes to the one camp and attacks it, then the camp that is left will escape.”

Think back to:

Genesis 27:39–43 (ESV)
39 Then Isaac his father answered and said to him: “Behold, away from the fatness of the earth shall your dwelling be, and away from the dew of heaven on high.
40 By your sword you shall live, and you shall serve your brother; but when you grow restless you shall break his yoke from your neck.”
41 Now Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him, and Esau said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are approaching; then I will kill my brother Jacob.”
42 But the words of Esau her older son were told to Rebekah. So she sent and called Jacob her younger son and said to him, “Behold, your brother Esau comforts himself about you by planning to kill you.
43 Now therefore, my son, obey my voice. Arise, flee to Laban my brother in Hara

This must be top of mind for Jacob, but God is with him, and so he’ll trust God’s will, and we find him driven to prayer.

9 And 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 kindred, that I may do you good,’
10 I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds of steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant, for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps.
11 Please deliver me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I fear him, that he may come and attack me, the mothers with the children.
12 But you said, ‘I will surely do you good, and make your offspring as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.’ ”

Jacob’s prayer claims a lack of worthiness of even the LEAST of the deeds of love that God bestowed on him.  Do we feel that God’s mercy so greatly dwarfs and makes nothing our merit – it should blow us away, make us feel light and free?  Have you ever felt the experience of wearing ankle weights for a day, then taking them off – you feel like you can jump off the face of the earth and keep going?  Grace and mercy from God are the same.  Jacob is praising and glorying in God in those feelings as he prays.

13 So he stayed there that night, and from what he had with him, he took a present for his brother Esau,
14 two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams,
15 thirty milking camels and their calves, forty cows and ten bulls, twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys.
16 These he handed over to his servants, everyone drove by itself, and said to his servants, “Pass on ahead of me and put a space between drove and drove.”
17 He instructed the first, “When Esau my brother meets you and asks you, ‘To whom do you belong? Where are you going? And whose are these ahead of you?’
18 then you shall say, ‘They belong to your servant Jacob. They are a present sent to my lord Esau. And moreover, he is behind us.’ ”
19 He likewise instructed the second and the third and all who followed the droves, “You shall say the same thing to Esau when you find him,
20 and you shall say, ‘Moreover, your servant Jacob is behind us.’ ” For he thought, “I may appease him with the present that goes ahead of me, and afterward I shall see his face. Perhaps he will accept me.”
21 So the present passed on ahead of him, and he himself stayed that night in the camp.

Here, we get an image of the vast possessions God has bestowed on Jacob in spite of Laban.  Recall Laban did everything he could to keep Jacob from growing in possessions, taking the animals to be his and hiding them days away.  However, God had come to Jacob in a dream and given him an approach that would frankly mock Laban’s trickery and produce mass possessions.  This is how we’ve seen God provide for Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham all their lives. He directs their ways and lives, all for the purpose of His will.

Ephesians 1:11 (ESV)
1 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,

Isaiah 5:19 (ESV)
            19    who say: “Let him be quick,
      let him speed his work
      that we may see it;
                  let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw near,
      and let it come, that we may know it!”

This is how God will leave behind a testimony of Himself to separate humankind, pave the way to Grace, create the God Man’s path to glory, and establish His Church, tearing the vale he established in Israel as he bestows the Spirit of God to be the one who enters each believer for conviction of Sin and sealing in God.
This is a great reminder when anxiousness about a decision or a direction comes upon us.  Where we aren’t sure of God’s will, we go to Him in prayer.  So frequently, I’ll hear people say they want to know God’s will for their lives and are ready to execute when He reveals it to them.  However, we don’t get to hold those terms over God.  Knowing the end is secure before you, God isn’t necessarily faith.

Hebrews 11:1–3 (ESV)
1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
2 For by it the people of old received their commendation.
3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

What was Abraham’s faith:

Romans 4:16–22 (ESV)
16 That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all,
17 as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.
18 In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.”
19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb.
20 No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God,
21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.
22 That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.”

Genesis 15:6 (ESV)
6 And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.

I used to be hindered by this last part, but time in the Lord has helped me better understand it:

Jacob Wrestles with God
22 The same night he arose and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok.
23 He took them and sent them across the stream, and everything else that he had.
24 And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day.
25 When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him.
26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
27 And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.”
28 Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.”
29 Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him.
30 So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.”
31 The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.
32 Therefore to this day the people of Israel do not eat the sinew of the thigh that is on the hip socket because he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip on the
sinew of the thigh.

This is the point of it all: it’s all about God.  God is again growing Jacob’s faith.
In the end, Jacob is left with a limp; never will he question, “maybe it was all a dream”.  He came out of this with assurance, saying I’ve seen God face to face, and I was delivered”.

So, Jacob has turned from Laban, in obedience, responded to God’s call to return, was encouraged by the meeting of the angles that surrounded him in 32:1/2, prayed to God, and remembered God’s goodness in 32:9-12, wrestled with the angel, see’s God and is no longer called Jacob but Israel – God is at work drawing a straight line to Christ through the crooked sticks of men.

Pray, Observe, Apply.

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