08 Aug 2021

When Breaking Point Becomes Blessing Point [Genesis 32]


God never wastes our pain. Everything is allowed for His sovereign purposes. And when we are at Breaking Point, it may be that He wants it to become your Blessing Point. 1. God's Heart for us. God wants to bless Jacob, and He wants to bless His people today. He brings us to Jabbok not to crush us, but to bless us. But sometimes, the blessings come only after prayer. 2. God's Humbling of us. If the blessings are only available to us when we pray, then God brings us to Jabbok so that we will learn to pray. This is because we learn to really pray only at the breaking point. We learn to pray when God strips us of all our strength, resources, connections, and schemes. We learn to pray when He thus humbles us. 3. God's Help for us. When we are at Breaking Point, and when we now learn to truly pray, God pours His blessings upon us. The man who meets with God may now walk with a limp like Jacob did. There may be a pain, a handicap, a weakness in your life that reminds you of your need for God. It is not a shame, for the man of God often walks with a limp. God did not bring Jacob to the Breaking Point to harm him, but to bless him. And God may very well be leading you to Breaking Point so that it will become your Blessing Point.


Sermon Transcript

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Well, this morning, we are going back to our journey through the book of Genesis, and in particular looking at the story of Jacob.

I must say that these 18, 20 months in COVID has been very very difficult. We live in very stressful times and COVID has turned our lives upside down, isn't it? Many people have lost their jobs, and some have to quickly pivot to entirely new industries, just to make ends meet. People are stressed out and fearful because of the fear of catching the virus, if not for themselves but for their family members as well.

Fault lines are happening in marriages and in homes because of the stresses put upon it. People are feeling socially disconnected, because they're not meeting up as they used to. They are not able to meet even their relatives living overseas because flights are very very controlled right now.

And people struggle mentally as well, so there are people who are struggling physically, emotionally, socially, financially, mentally and it's not an easy time for many many people. And maybe in your life on top of COVID you're struggling with trials and tribulations, challenges, difficulties that have really brought you to a point where you want to give up.

Well, this morning in Genesis 32, we are looking at a story of how someone got to breaking point. Jacob is brought to breaking point. This is a very stressful story for himself, but I want to tell you that this is not a depressing message at all. But this story is really encouraging because we're going to see how Jacob when brought to breaking point, realizes that this is really a blessing point, as well.

So, the title of this sermon is "When Breaking Point Becomes Blessing Point". And I hope that this would be something that would speak to you and encourage you in a difficult time, such as ours today.

So the story is about Jacob, you'll recall that Jacob had been a fugitive. He had been running away from home because he had just swindled and cheated his brother Esau of his birth rights. When he thought that he will run away for a few days, he didn't realize that it would be for 20 years.

He would stay away from his family for two decades - 14 years having to work for his two wives, and another six years just for his father-in-law. And so a total of 20 years! And it was a difficult 20 years, because he had been cheated by his own father-in-law at least 10 times.

But finally Jacob decided it was time to go home, it was time to face the music, it was time to face the wrath of Esau. He can't be running away forever! And so in order to soften the blow, he decided to send his servants as messengers to Esau, first of all. The Bible tells us, "He sent the messengers before him to Esau, saying, "I have sojourned with Laban and stayed until now, I've oxen and donkeys and flocks and male servants and female servants. I have sent to tell my lord, in order that I may find favor in your sight." [Gen 32:3-5]

So, Jacob wanted to do the right thing. If I may say this in Hokkien vernacular, "He knows how to 'zho lang'. He knows what it means to appease someone who has been offended by him." So he wanted to make restitution. He wanted to show with tangible gifts and sacrifices, that he really is sorry for what he has, he has done, and wanted to make things right by his brother.

So the servants went on this journey ahead of Jacob, and soon enough they came back and they brought news to Jacob, saying, "We came to your brother Esau, and he is coming to meet you, and there are 400 men with him." [Gen 32:6-7] Now, when ... when Jacob heard that Esau is coming with 400 men, I am sure the very first assumption he jumped to is that, "Esau is here to wage war against me! Esau is out for blood! He wants to take revenge!"

And so in order to minimize loss, Jacob who is actually a very smart man decided to cut loss. He decided to split his camp into two camps. He decided to split it in two parts, so that if Esau comes against one, at least the other survives. And now he begins to pray, we read in verses 9 to 13 that Jacob would humble himself and pray to God. You can read his prayer, it's pretty good prayer! A prayer that is anchored in the promise that God has given to Jacob himself.

He prays and then he takes action by sending what he said will be sent to Esau, wave after wave. So he sent a lot of things, he sent in summary - 200 female goats, 20 male goats and so on. And he sent them in droves, not all at once, but in droves, I believe for maximum impact. It's just, I think more impactful to receive gifts, one after another rather than all at once.

So, he was strategic in all these things. So after he had sent these gifts and offerings of appeasement, he then brought his family across the river Jabbok. And at night, it was finally time for him to also send his last people and gifts, and he sent his family across to meet with Esau. And he would now be left all alone at the river Jabbok.

He is now left with nothing! He's all by himself! Everything is gone! Everyone has gone! He is now left all alone. So when we think that this story is going to quieten out, well, there's a super surprise, a twist in the plot, when the Bible tells us, "A man appeared and wrestled with Jacob. And he wrestled with Jacob until the breaking of the day." [Gen 32:24]

Now, when I think about wrestling, I think about World Wrestling Federation - WWF. Now, I may be very outdated because I know that they may have updated their names, to or their name to WWE - World Wrestling Entertainment. When I think about wrestling, I think about WWE, I think about the ultimate warrior, I think about Hulk Hogan. Now, these are names that are very old, if you're old like myself, you may know them but if you're not old like myself, maybe you won't know. But that's the image I have.

But I also know that WWE is all a show, it's not real wrestling, it's all put up for entertainment. Real wrestling is very different from the kind of wrestling that maybe you have seen. Because real wrestling I think is extremely strenuous and tiring, isn't it? Maybe you're watching MMA or whatever, maybe that's more like it. But wrestling is very tiring, if you fight with someone, maybe of equal strength and ability as yourself, you will be exhausted in minutes, because you're using every muscle and strength you have.

You .... to wrestle from night to the breaking of the day for hours is extremely exhausting! And so I want you to realize that Jacob with all these stress and fear and anxiety, now wrestles with this man until the breaking of the day, he must be super-duper tired, exhausted.

So, it is at this point of time, "When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, that he touched Jacob's hip socket and Jacob's hip was put out of joint, as he wrestled with him." [Gen 32:25] So, I imagine that this man who wrestled with Jacob is like a super kung-fu master. He just, if I may say play around with Jacob for a while for hours, and when he notices that Jacob is probably exhausted and tired, he just takes his master stroke, and touch Jacob's hip and it immediately dislocates.

Wow, what a touch! It's like that whoop ... he's gone! I mean a hip is a super strong joint, very very powerful muscles all around it. And to dislocate someone's hip, requires amazing strength and power. Now, Jacob has a dislocated hip. If you are anyone who has fought before, you would know that if you have a dislocated hip, you are a goner. To be honest, if you have a dislocated shoulder, you are already a goner, what more a dislocated hip! There's no way Jacob could prevail, no way Jacob could win this wrestling match anymore.

So we read the man then say, "Since you already have a dislocated hip, and since we've fought all night, and there's no way you can win, let me go, the day has broken. It's time for me to leave." [Gen 32:26] But you know this Jacob, he's a super tenacious guy, even after he knew that there is no way he's going to win this fight anymore, "He said, "I will not let you go until you bless me."' [Gen 32:26]

Now, Jacob knows something throughout these hours of wrestling, that the person is wrestling with is no ordinary man but God. He knows it! I'll tell you why a little while also, but you know that he knows because he's saying, "Please bless me, don't go until you bless me."

"And this man said to him, "What is your name?"' [Gen 32:27] What an interesting question! But he asked, "What is your name?" as if he doesn't know! He knows, but he asks this. "And Jacob replied, "Jacob."' I'll tell you why he asked this later on. "But this man now says to Jacob, "Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed." [Gen 32:28]

The name, 'Israel' can actually mean both striven with God or struggled with God or prevailed with God. It could also mean God rules, depends on the verb, or the way you phrase it. But it's a very appropriate name, probably here - striven with God, struggled with God or prevailed with God because that's the story we see here.

"And then Jacob asked him, "Please tell me your name?" But he said, "Why is it that you asked my name? And there he blessed him."'[Gen 32:29] Jacob was blessed. And verse 30, "Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, "For I have seen ..." what? "... God face to face and yet my life has been delivered." [Gen 32:30]

So, Jacob knew that the person he's wrestling with is no ordinary man but God Himself. And if you have been following us since Genesis 18 and so on, we are saying that the appearance of God or the angel of the LORD in the Old Testament is probably not the Father but the Son - the Lord Jesus Christ before He came into this world to be born as our Savior.

Now, the question is, "What is this wrestling story all about?" Okay, we must not only know what happened but we must know what is the lesson behind what happened. What is God's intent in this story for us? What's the spiritual lesson we should learn? Well, in order to get to that, I want you to maybe consider with me that this story really consists of two wrestling matches.

Yes, I know it's one battle that you see but it's actually two wrestling matches. Let me try to show you what I mean. There are two wrestling matches. The first wrestling match is a physical match, where Jacob fought with God with his bare hands. It was a physical battle! But after he was exhausted, after he was dislocated, the wrestling matches is now not so much a physical one, but a spiritual one where Jacob is really begging God for blessing.

He says, "I will not let you go until you bless me." It's a kind of wrestling match, but it's not the physical one, because it's a ... he's a no hoper now, but it's a spiritual one where he begs for God's hand upon his life.

So if the first match is one where he relies on his natural strength, the second match where ... is where he realizes he has no more strength. He's kaput! [done for in Malay] He's zero! He's wiped out! But he's still wrestling with God, begging God, saying, I will not let you go until you bless me.

So if the first wrestling match is one when he is strong, the second one is when he realizes he is absolutely weak. But this is what is amazing, whilst the first wrestling match was one that was absolutely futile, when he fought God in his own strength, he got nothing. But when he humbled himself and begged God, he had everything, he was fruitful.

So in the first one Jacob failed, in the second wrestling match Jacob prevailed. So here we see that in the first wrestling match, God brought Jacob to breaking point. But it is only when Jacob arrived at his breaking point, when he was stripped of everything, when he was exhausted, when he was broken and dislocated and desperate, and that's where Jacob arrived at his blessing point. So this is how I think I got to the title this morning, "When Breaking Point Becomes Blessing Point".

You see, the blessing of God is not for those who think that they can deal with the trials and tribulations and stresses of life. We are too strong! We are too resourceful! We are too connected! And so God brings us intentionally to the river Jabbok, where we are stripped of every connection, network, resource, scheme, and power, so that we are humbled, so that we are desperate, so that we have nothing to cling on, but God alone and it is at that point of time where God blesses His people.

That's what I think this story is all about! That's the big idea - "When Breaking Point Is Really Blessing Point".

[1] God's Heart for Us

Now, I'd like us to consider a few things. Number one, I like us to see in this story - God's heart for us. I see God's heart for us, because I see God's heart for Jacob. Now, you know that Jacob has been chosen by God, and God has chosen to set His love upon Jacob, not because of who Jacob is, not because Jacob deserves it - Jacob is a rascal, Jacob is a swindler, Jacob is a con man, Jacob ... Jacob is a cheat. But that is the magnificent magnanimous love of God, for those who are absolutely undeserving.

And we see in this story, God's love for Jacob in spite of Jacob. And that's I think the lesson we've been saying here at Gospel Light, "God loves us not because of us, but in spite of us. God loves us not because we are good people, not because we are moral people, not because we are people who will bring tremendous benefit to God, but God loves us in spite of who we are."

We are sinful like Jacob. We are cheats like Jacob. We are people who would sin like Jacob. But God is so gracious and magnanimous that He would set His love upon some of us for his own name’s sake.

And so in this story, we see God's heart for Jacob, He loved Jacob. And ... and we see a hint of that even right at the beginning of this story, when as Jacob was heading back to home, God met him in the form of the angels. "The angels of God met him. And Jacob saw this and he said, "This is God's camp!" So he called the name of the place, Mahanaim," [Gen 32:1-2] which means two camps. He's saying that, "I have my camp and I see God's camp."

So God is in a very concrete way revealing to Jacob, "Jacob, I know you're going to have difficulties, I know you're going to face your brother Esau, I know you're stricken with fear and anxiety but I want you to know that I'm with you."

This is very déjà vu by the way, because remember in Genesis 28, when Jacob was running away from home, heading towards Haran, God met with him in a dream. And in that dream Jacob saw a ladder, a stairway that reaches to heaven, and he saw angels ascending and descending. Now, on his way back from Haran to his hometown, he sees now not a dream but a real appearance of the angels of God.

So God clearly is preparing Jacob, that even as he's going to the river Jabbok, even as he's going to face Esau his brother in very difficult times, "I am with you, I've sent My angels to be with you." And God's heart is revealed here. But more than that, God's heart for us is seen in the way he wants to bless us. And I think this is a key point in first, ... in our first header and that is this - He wants to bless us through prayer.

God's heart is to bless Jacob, and He wants to bless Jacob when Jacob prays. Think about that for your own life. God wants to bless you, and He wants to bless you through prayer. Now, I want to acknowledge that there are many, many, many blessings in my life that I fail to pray for. This is how amazing God is, that even when I do not ask, because He's my Father, He gives me many, many blessings that I did not ask for.

But there are some things in life that He wants to give to you only when you pray. Now, there are many things I didn't pray for, like I didn't quite pray for COVID vaccine but I got my COVID vaccine. I think that's a blessing! But there are many things in life that God does not give, because you did not ask but His heart is to bless us through prayer.

Now, you say, "Are you sure?" Yes, because James 4:2 tells us, "You do not have because you do not ask." There are blessings that He wants to shower upon you, that you do not have because you did not ask.

Now, of course, James 4, verse 3 goes on to say, "You ... you ask, and have not because you're asked to consume it upon your own lust." So it doesn't mean that everything you asked for will be given to you, because there are things that should not be given to you, if it's for self-centered reasons. Nevertheless, it is clear that God, our Father does want to give us things when we ask for them.

And again, in Matthew 7:7, "Ask, and it shall be given; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it would be opened to you." Why? Because our God is our Heavenly Father who wants to bless us through prayer.

And again in verse, 11 we see, "If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!" So you see, your Father in Heaven wants to bless you, but He would use the means called prayer.

So, we see God's heart for His people. God wants to bless Jacob, and He wants to bless Jacob through prayer. Think about it for those who know the love of God and who are loved by God, God ... God wants to bless you, and He wants to bless you through prayer.

So maybe today, it would encourage you to pray more. Prayer is not just informing ourselves. Prayer does make a difference! And prayer is the means by which God would bless His children. Many a times!

[2] God's Humbling of Us

But secondly, let's move quickly, because we don't only see God's heart for us, in that He wants to bless us through prayer, but that we see God's humbling of us.

You see, if God wants to bless us through prayer, then we really need to pray. And we cannot really pray until we realize how desperate we are. And we won't recognize how desperate we are until God humbles us. So they are very interconnected! And I'm saying here, "We don't really pray until we are at breaking point." So God humbles us, God brings us to breaking point, so that we are really desperate, so that we are really helpless and that we may look to God alone in prayer.

That's the story of Jacob! Like I said, Jacob is a very smart guy. He's very resourceful, he has lots of ideas. And that's why God deliberately I believe leads him to Jabbok. By the way, that's where he is emptied of self. Jabbok can mean emptying. So it's very poetical there, it's very interesting that God brings him to the river of emptying, to the river Jabbok, that he might be emptied of all his resources, where he has sent everything.

He is left with nothing by himself, he has no family, no connections, no resources. And now all alone in fear, God meets with him and God not only meets with him, but God breaks him, God dislocates him. Wow! You say, "Why?" Not only that but God in this wrestling match with Jacob, asked him about his name. You say, "Why did He ask his name?" Well, "Jacob says, "My name is Jacob."'

I think the clue to why lies in the meaning of the name, Jacob. Jacob means heel grabber, someone who trips up another person with his own hands. Jacob had always throughout his life tried to do things his own way. He is always dependent on his own wits.

And you know the last time he was asked, "What's your name was in Genesis 28 [sic: Gen 27]?" When he replied, "I am Esau. " So now, when God meets him at Jabbok and asks him, "What's your name?" You know, I think Jacob is confronted with the reality, "I am a heel grabber, and the last time I replied I cheated my brother. But what's the good of all that - I ended up 20 years in Haran, 20 years of misery, 20 years of being cheated. What's the use of being a Jacob!"

I think that's what God is doing here, when He asked Jacob for his name. He wants Jacob to realize that all that he has done in his own power and strength and wit, ends up with nothing. And so God humbles him and God breaks him.

So maybe in your life, that's what God is doing. God is breaking you not because He hates you, God is breaking you not because He wants to crush you, but He wants to break you, so that we may learn to follow in the footsteps of Jacob, that we know that in and of ourselves we are helpless and hopeless, so that now at the lowest pit of our lives, we learn to look to God alone. Now, when you're desperate enough, now, when you're cut off from all your resources, you are ready to pray! And when you really pray, God will bless you.

You see, this is the commentary given by Hosea 12. This is a little text that many people don't remember or realize even! But in Hosea 12:3, "In the womb ..." this is talking about Jacob, "In the womb he took his brother by the heel ..." "Jacob, you're the heel grabber! You wanted to pull your brother back so that you can go out first." That's Jacob's life, even from the day he was born.

" ... And in his manhood he strove with God, he wrestled with God. [Hosea 12:3] Remember, "From the night to the breaking of the day." [Gen 32:24] And then we see in verse 4, Hosea continues to say, "He strove with the angel and prevailed. He wept, and sought his favor." [Hosea 12:4]

Now, I believe, the best way to look at these two verses is to understand it from the two wrestling passages or two wrestling scenarios. The first wrestling is a physical wrestling - all about Jacob's strength. The second wrestling is all about - Jacob's weakness, when he did not really wrestle physically but spiritually, he prayed, he begged, he asked, he implored.

So if the first story is how we understand Jacob coming to breaking point, the second part is how Jacob now arrives at the blessing point. And it is here that the Bible tells us, "Jacob was absolutely desperate, he wept." Now, you don't have that detail in Genesis 32, but Hosea under the inspiration of God, tells us that, "Jacob was so desperate he wept." [Hosea 12:4]

He realized that he is nothing! He is finally humbled and broken in spirit, and he prayed. The question is, "Why did Hosea give the story in the middle of his book in Hosea, chapter 12?" Now, I believe the reason is this - Israel, in those days, during Hosea's days, were trusting in idols, trusting in the works of their own hands. And Israel was trusting even in foreign nations, we read in verse 1 of chapter 12.

This is the context in chapter 12, verse 1. Israel is being rebuked, that they were making covenants with other countries like Assyria and Egypt instead of looking to God, they were looking to other nations. And so Hosea by the inspiration of God, is saying, "Come back, to who you really are, Israel! You are not a people who prosper and thrive because you were depending on other people, but you were a people blessed because your father Jacob learned to pray in desperation. Your father Jacob wept and humbled himself before God, when he wrestled with God, he got nothing, but when he humbled himself before God, he got everything. So come back to that state, O Israel!"

But it comes back to the story here, that God's heart is to bless His people through prayer. And so God will do a humbling work in us, so that we may really pray. Why? Because it's when He humbles us to the breaking point that we will now look to God alone, and enter into that blessing point.

[3] God's Help For Us

Finally, I think the story shows us - God's help for us. And a very simple statement is that - prayer gets us to the blessing point. So God wants us to be blessed through prayer, but we will not really pray until we arrive at breaking point. So when He brings us there, and we get to breaking point, well, that's where we really pray and prayer will lead us to the blessing point.

So we read therefore in verse 28, "Your Name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed." [Gen 32:28] "You fought with all your might in the earlier portion, you got nothing, but now when you are crying, when you're crushed, when you're broken, when you're helpless, when you're left with nothing, and you learn to ask, you learn to beg, you learn to pray, you prevail; you got the blessing there."

"And there, God blessed him." [Gen 32:29] That's what Jacob wanted all along, but he couldn't have it until he was broken and all alone with God! So ever since then the Bible tells us, "The sun rose upon him, as he passed Peniel, limping because of his hip." [Gen 32:31] He would leave this place with a permanent limp. He's handicapped!

"And 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." [Gen 32:32]

It's ... and it's a memorial for the people of Israel. And I say to you, "This memorial is not a story of shame, alright." I think this is a story of fame, this is not something that is disgraceful. I think this is a secret that Israel needs to remember, that the only way to prevail with God is in our brokenness and in our desperation, and in our humility. That's the only way to have blessing! And this is immortalized in this simple memorial.

Martyn Lloyd Jones was once asked, "How does a man of ... man of God look like?" To which he replied, "He walks with a limp." So, it's a good response. So often in our modern day and age, we think that a man who walks with God is someone who is famous and powerful and eloquent and rich and so on and so forth. But don't we see over and over and over again in the Bible, that the people God would bless and use are people who walk with a limp, including Apostle Paul, maybe.

There are people who have gone through humbling and brokenness, not because God hates them, but because you see we are too sinful, too proud in and of ourselves to really look to God. And so God brings us through breaking points, so that He may bring us to the blessing point.

My friends, maybe today you are going through a very stressful time, and you feel absolutely tired and broken. And you almost want to cry out, "Why God are You doing this?" Let me say this, "Maybe God is bringing you through the valley of the shadow of death, maybe God is bringing you through tremendous hardship, so that maybe today you may humble yourself and acknowledge your need for God in your life?"

Maybe you're a seeker, you're lost in life, you're wondering what life is all about, you're wondering what is the purpose and meaning of life? Maybe He brings you through all these things, so that maybe today you can turn from your sin and look to Jesus Christ to save you from your sins. You see, God wants to bless you, and I know that God wants to bless you, because He gave His Son Jesus Christ to die on the cross to pay for our sins, so that if you today are willing to humble yourself and look to Jesus alone, you may be saved.

So maybe God has a plan and purpose in all the hardships and all the pains you are going through. He has a purpose and plan for you to tune in right now this morning, that you may be able to believe in Jesus Christ and be beautifully saved.

Or maybe today, I'm speaking to my brothers and sisters in Christ in church, you feel like a Jacob, you have been running away from your problems for 20 years, and now it's crunch time. It's coming back to you, and you're tired, you're exhausted, you're broken. You feel like your hips are dislocated, and you're crying out to God, "Why?"' Maybe this is the reason why - He wants you to come to this breaking point, that you may really pray, and arrive at blessing point.

My friends, God loves you and He's not here to crush you because He delights to see you suffer, but maybe that is what we need, so that we may now prevail with God and obtain blessings that He wants to give from His heart when we pray. Maybe the thorn in the flesh is what God has beautifully arranged for the ultimate blessing in your life.

I pray today ... it's a simple look at this story, but I pray all of us, some point in our life would come to this Jabbok, this place of emptying, that we might be broken, that we might be blessed, for His glory and for your eternal joy.

Let's bow for a word of prayer together.

Father, we thank You for this morning. Thank You that you're not looking for impressive people to come to You, but you're looking for humble, broken people who would look only to You.

Too many of us are too strong, too connected, too resourceful, too capable to come to You for blessing. We seem to think we can control life, we can get our life in order without God. But thank You over and over again, You bring us to Jabbok, You bring us to the place of emptying, You place ... You bring us to the place of exhaustion. You bring us to the place of dislocation, so that there we may then learn what prayer and desperate-looking to God is all about. Bring us to our breaking point, but don't let us stay there, lead us to prayer, lead us to true dependence and cry before God, so that Lord, You may bless us for Your own glory.

I want to pray again for friends who are tuning in for the first time. Would You bless them with an understanding of the Gospel, would You bless them with a belief in the Lord Jesus Christ. And I pray for my brothers and sisters in Christ, some are struggling, some are suffering, but all ... but O God, we pray that all will be rejoicing, as they hear Your Word this morning. Bless each one! May we come to You just as we are, we pray in Jesus' Name. Amen.

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