Rev Dr Edgar Mayer – Living Grace Lutheran Church, Toowoomba – Date: 5 June 2015

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Leaving a Legacy (Jacob)


For a long time, God was known foremost by his dealings with three men and their families. Before his people even knew his name – Yahweh – or heard a single prophecy about Jesus, God – for centuries – was simply known as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.


Exodus 3:1-6 / Acts 3:13-16: The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus …


For centuries, there was not too much known about God except that he was the God with whom Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had a history and the history with God of these men and their families set the course for all of their descendants and the world. What happened? What were the lessons for the generations to come?



Revision from last Sunday:


Last week, we had a look how everything began with God making promises to Abraham whom he plucked from a foreign country, seventy-five years of age, married but with no children. God said to him:


Genesis 12:1-9: The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.

Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him.

From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord.

Then Abram set out and continued toward the Negev.


These promises were repeated to Isaac and Jacob and God never retracted anything but expanded the promised blessings:


Genesis 26:2-5 / Genesis 26:23-24 / Genesis 27:26-29 / Genesis 28:10-15


God promised Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that a) they would have descendants b) who would become a great nation c) through whom all nations would be blessed. God promised e) land f) which would produce an abundance of grain and new wine. God promised to make them a magnet and multiplier of blessings. Nothing could harm them and any curses spoken against them would simply bounce back on those that cursed them. As far as promises of God go, this is hitting the jackpot. What more can you want?

The promises were great but, as with promises that we may have received, God is patient in making them come to pass. Neither Abraham nor Isaac nor Jacob would possess any land [Abraham managed to purchase his burial plot in the Promised Land] or an abundance of crops [they would remain nomads]. None of them got glimpses of a great nation forming and there was stuff happening all of the time – betrayal and famines, lives on the run and conflict. Yet, God did not waste a single generation but established legacies for his people through the lives of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and we are still being touched by them today.

What was the legacy of Abraham? As we said last week, his life’s work was to believe for a son.


Romans 4:18-25: Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.


He never saw countless descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and he never saw his descendants live in the Promised Land. He never himself enjoyed the land flowing with milk and honey but this was okay. It was not about him. God’s plan of choosing a man and a nation to bless all nations was not for Abraham’s personal enjoyment on earth. God made Abraham live for one son – all these painful years of waiting and almost despairing – and then leave a legacy of believing for children. God gave Abraham a breakthrough when Isaac was born – a breakthrough against barrenness – and what Abraham attained by faith was then available to the next generation – even to us. God made sure that the breakthrough would be passed on, as we can pass on our breakthroughs.

Isaac married Rebekah and she was also barren which meant that he had to face the same obstacle as his dad, Abraham. How can the promises of God – about becoming a great nation – come true when there are no children? Yet, Isaac did not have to struggle like his dad but, having been blessed by his dad and inheriting his breakthrough, he simply prayed for his wife and the barrenness was broken. She fell pregnant and even had twins.


Genesis 25:19-21: This is the account of the family line of Abraham’s son Isaac.

Abraham became the father of Isaac, and Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah daughter of Bethuel the Aramean from Paddan Aram and sister of Laban the Aramean.

Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was childless. The Lord answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant. [V26: Isaac was sixty years old when Rebekah gave birth to them.]


Abraham passed on his breakthrough to Isaac and this is an important lesson because it is often hard to gain a breakthrough but easy to pass on to the next generation and others. At the end of his life, Abraham seemed to fall short of possessing many children by Sarah and he possessed no land but, look at it differently, he had gained a breakthrough which immediately blessed Isaac, the next generation, and was laying a foundation for all of God’s promises to come true. It’s worth spending a life on gaining a breakthrough for your children and their children.

This is what God told Abraham after he had passed the biggest test of his faith (when he was prepared to sacrifice his son and trust God with the future):


Luke 22:18-22: The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”


And God also explained the abiding significance of Abraham to his son, Isaac:


Genesis 26:2-5: The Lord appeared to Isaac and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live. Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you. For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham. I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because Abraham obeyed me and did everything I required of him, keeping my commands, my decrees and my instructions.”


Genesis 26:23-24: From there he went up to Beersheba. That night the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bless you and will increase the number of your descendants for the sake of my servant Abraham.”


For Abraham’s sake, God blessed his son Isaac and gave him descendants. For Abraham’s sake, barrenness was not going to stand in Isaac’s way. The breakthrough of Abraham, his dad, had become his own.


Exodus 20:5-6: … I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.


I encourage you to make this perspective your own. Your life matters. Your breakthroughs matter. Our breakthroughs in this church in this generation matter for the next. It’s worthwhile to exercise faith, contend for the promises and go through testing times because nothing is wasted and can be passed on to the next generation. [Wouldn’t it be nice, if God said one day: For Edgar’s sake, for Gary’s sake, for Amy’s sake, for your sake, I will bless the next generation?]

With God, Abraham overcame the curse of barrenness but the broader legacy was his faith – the faith that keeps believing God regardless of the obstacles to God’s promises (and barrenness was only one obstacle among many). Faith is the foundation for everything in God and Abraham established the legacy – also for us who exercise the same kind of faith for God’s promises (faith for a child to be born – to be born again as a child of God):


Romans 4:16-24: Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.


Galatians 3:6-9: So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.


Galatians 3:14: He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.


[Did you notice that faith like Abraham is so much bigger, more daring and existential than a mere notional version of faith?]


For centuries, there was not too much known about God except that he was the God with whom Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had a history and the history with God of these men and their families set the course for all of their descendants and the world. It all began with Abraham and the legacy that he left was the legacy of faith – believing God in any crisis. He received a son according to his faith and God was so incredibly pleased with his faith – his trust in him – that he made him the father of faith for us all. We are still receiving the promises of God in the same way as this man. By faith we are being saved and this is the gift of God to us.



Abraham left a legacy of faith – believing God to overcome any barrenness that stand in the way of his promises. What legacy did Isaac leave? What was it about his sons? My sense is that the stories around Isaac and his children are all about desiring God. How do you value and pursue and enjoy the blessings of God? For Abraham, his son Isaac became the breakthrough of faith. For Isaac, his son Jacob – the younger son – the life story of his younger son – (it was not so much even about Isaac’s life story) – would come to embody the breakthrough of stepping into the blessings of God and abiding in them.

Even before the birth of Isaac’s sons – (his wife was carrying twins) – God decreed that, against ancient tradition, the younger son would be favoured against the older son and would receive the line of blessings that was flowing from Abraham his grand-father. Somehow the younger son sensed his calling even in the womb; therefore, right from the beginning, fought his brother for the traditional birthright of the oldest son, the inheritance of the blessing that was on the family.


Genesis 25:22-26: The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, “Why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the Lord. The Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.” When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb. The first to come out was red, and his whole body was like a hairy garment; so they named him Esau. After this, his brother came out, with his hand grasping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when Rebekah gave birth to them.


God had a calling for Jacob – he would be the one carrying the inheritance of blessing – but, from the womb, even at the point of birth (trying to hold his brother back by the heel), Jacob went after the blessing with all the human ugliness of sibling rivalry. Jacob tried to gain divine favour in his own human strength and, for a chosen vessel of God (a church father), his character was a disappointment for many years of his life. His dad, Isaac, was determined, according to tradition, to pass on the family’s blessing to the older brother (his personal favourite). But when the time came, Jacob – colluding with his mother – disguised himself as his brother and tricked his father into blessing him, rather than the first born. He was blessed then but the betrayal of his father (interestingly the father expected foul play all along) and brother cost him. He had to run for his life – (escape the vengeance of his brother) – and became a refugee with his uncle whose daughters he would marry.


Genesis 27:18-29: He went to his father and said, “My father.” “Yes, my son,” he answered. “Who is it?”

Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your firstborn. I have done as you told me. Please sit up and eat some of my game, so that you may give me your blessing.”

Isaac asked his son, “How did you find it so quickly, my son?” “The Lord your God gave me success,” he replied.

Then Isaac said to Jacob, “Come near so I can touch you, my son, to know whether you really are my son Esau or not.”

Jacob went close to his father Isaac, who touched him and said, “The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” He did not recognize him, for his hands were hairy like those of his brother Esau; so he proceeded to bless him. “Are you really my son Esau?” he asked. “I am,” he replied.

Then he said, “My son, bring me some of your game to eat, so that I may give you my blessing.” Jacob brought it to him and he ate; and he brought some wine and he drank. Then his father Isaac said to him, “Come here, my son, and kiss me.”

So he went to him and kissed him. When Isaac caught the smell of his clothes, he blessed him and said, “Ah, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field that the Lord has blessed. May God give you heaven’s dew and earth’s richness—an abundance of grain and new wine. May nations serve you and peoples bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may the sons of your mother bow down to you. May those who curse you be cursed and those who bless you be blessed.”


Genesis 27:41-43: Esau held a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him. He said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.”

When Rebekah was told what her older son Esau had said, she sent for her younger son Jacob and said to him, “Your brother Esau is planning to avenge himself by killing you. Now then, my son, do what I say: Flee at once to my brother Laban in Harran.


On the way to his uncle – according to his nature – Jacob seemed to bargain with God even though God promised him favour unconditionally:


Genesis 28:10-22: Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran. When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the Lord, and he said: “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.”

Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it. He called that place Bethel, though the city used to be called Luz.

Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the Lord will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.”


God made promises of land and countless descendants but Jacob, coming out of the encounter with God, relying again on his bargaining power, offered his allegiance to God and a tithe from his income in return for food, clothes and a safe return. Jacob turned the promises of God into a deal – certainly advantageous to himself – and, keeping up his human striving, he sought refuge with his uncle only to cheat him, making sure that, in the breeding of their life stock, the weak offspring would belong to his uncle but the healthy and strong offspring would be his.


Genesis 30:37-43: Jacob, however, took fresh-cut branches from poplar, almond and plane trees and made white stripes on them by peeling the bark and exposing the white inner wood of the branches. Then he placed the peeled branches in all the watering troughs, so that they would be directly in front of the flocks when they came to drink. When the flocks were in heat and came to drink, they mated in front of the branches. And they bore young that were streaked or speckled or spotted. Jacob set apart the young of the flock by themselves, but made the rest face the streaked and dark-coloured animals that belonged to Laban. Thus he made separate flocks for himself and did not put them with Laban’s animals. Whenever the stronger females were in heat, Jacob would place the branches in the troughs in front of the animals so they would mate near the branches, but if the animals were weak, he would not place them there. So the weak animals went to Laban and the strong ones to Jacob. In this way the man grew exceedingly prosperous and came to own large flocks, and female and male servants, and camels and donkeys.


Jacob grew rich but life was not good. He was banished and his uncle was not fair to him – (there was a lot of heartache because of mistreatment). His uncle tricked him into marrying one of his daughters, whom Jacob neither wanted nor loved – ever, and then made Jacob labour seven years for her. And there was more trickery used against him. (Maybe he reaped what he sowed. It certainly stayed in the family.)


Genesis 31:6-7: You know that I’ve worked for your father with all my strength, yet your father has cheated me by changing my wages ten times. However, God has not allowed him to harm me.


Genesis 31:38-42: “I have been with you for twenty years now. Your sheep and goats have not miscarried, nor have I eaten rams from your flocks. I did not bring you animals torn by wild beasts; I bore the loss myself. And you demanded payment from me for whatever was stolen by day or night. This was my situation: The heat consumed me in the daytime and the cold at night, and sleep fled from my eyes. It was like this for the twenty years I was in your household. I worked for you fourteen years for your two daughters and six years for your flocks, and you changed my wages ten times. If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been with me, you would surely have sent me away empty-handed. But God has seen my hardship and the toil of my hands, and last night he rebuked you.


Life was tough with his uncle in a foreign land but Jacob, with all of the human strength available to him, kept scheming, manipulating and tricking his way into the riches of a blessed life. Every fibre in his body and mind – his entire soul – wanted what God could give in terms of blessings even though – judging by all of his actions – he never trusted God to give it to him without scheming for it.

Do you know about striving? Do you know about desiring the promises of God but, at the same time, not trusting him to make them true without you giving God a helping human hand? The most basic promise of God is the promise of salvation:


John 1:11-13: He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.


John 3:16: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.


Ephesians 2:4-10: But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.


Building on the inheritance which was established by Abraham, we are receiving the breakthrough of salvation by faith – by believing God – by trusting God’s free offer of salvation through the sacrifice of his Son, Jesus Christ – not by works. Yet, many of us – if not most of us – are hearing this life promise but then continue to strive for the very salvation which is offered to us freely. Maybe if I pray more, give more, help out more at the church, read the Bible more, fast more, then I will be okay before God. No – this leads to a miserable life. Trusting in your own human striving is trusting in yourself and is that enough before God? Isn’t there always the uncertainty whether we have done enough and – by the standards of God’s perfection – none of us will ever have done enough to be acceptable before him in our own strength.

Human striving for salvation just sets up misery. For instance, you may get into religious practices that you find boring and burdensome – they leave you cold and irritable – [you can include here fasting, children’s ministry, morning tea, mission trips] – but you do them out of sense of duty and striving to be loved by God who, in your own mind, does not seem that generous with his favours. Yet, many of these practices that you do – as good as they otherwise may be – are not what God has ordained for you. For instance, fasting is great spiritual discipline but God sets the fast, not your own human striving.

There is a difference between human striving and obeying God. One makes you miserable; the other makes you joyful as God makes you do – forms discipline in you to do – what he has placed in your heart.

Jacob’s character was deeply flawed – he certainly did not earn God’s blessings by being a good person – but there was something about him that was extremely pleasing to God. He hungered after him and what he could give him. God released enormous blessings to Abraham and his descendants and Jacob valued these above all.

His brother was the opposite:


Genesis 25:29-34: Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. He said to Jacob, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!” (That is why he was also called Edom.)

Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright.” “Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?” But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob. 

Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left. So Esau despised his birthright.


Hebrews 12:16: See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son.


Romans 9:13: Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”


For a simply meal, Esau was prepared to give up the blessings of God but Jacob was consumed by the thought of attaining favour with God. God loved that and, throughout the Bible, those most desperate and desirous of God received from him:


Mark 10:46-52: Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”

So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.

 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.


Matthew 15:21-28: Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”

Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”

He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”

The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.

He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”

 “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”

Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.


Galatians 1:14-16: I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles … / Philippians 3:3-7: For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh—though I myself have reasons for such confidence.

If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.


How hungry and desirous are you for God? Can you distracted by a simply meal when you are famished for some other basic needs? How certain are you of the value of God’s blessings? How long would you cry out for Jesus regardless of the scene that you may be causing with your neighbours? If we are in this church stir up our hunger for more God, is this making you uncomfortable or are you joining in? God’s blessings are bigger than can be comprehended and we want them. We honour God by desiring them.


Ephesians 3:20-21: Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.


After twenty years with his uncle – on his way home – facing the crisis of meeting the brother whom he had wronged – in fear of his life – Jacob had another encounter with God and, once again, his heart for God showed and, finally, God dealt with his human striving.


Genesis 32:22-32: That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”

But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

The man asked him, “What is your name?”

“Jacob,” he answered.

Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”

Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”

But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.

 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”

 The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip. Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip, because the socket of Jacob’s hip was touched near the tendon.


No matter what the cost – no matter what the risk – Jacob would not let go of God unless he blessed him. So God blessed him but, in the battle of wills between God and Jacob, God finally delivered a blow against Jacob’s human strength which, from then on, would force him to rely on God rather than his own human powers. God put out his hip and Jacob came out of his encounter with God blessed but limping.

And immediately Jacob experienced that God’s blessings could be trusted. When he was at his most vulnerable – limping – facing the brother whom he had wronged and who had wanted him dead – God made everything come good:


Genesis 33:1-20: Jacob looked up and there was Esau, coming with his four hundred men; so he divided the children among Leah, Rachel and the two female servants. He put the female servants and their children in front, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph in the rear. He himself went on ahead and bowed down to the ground seven times as he approached his brother.

But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept. 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.”

Then the female servants and their children approached and bowed down. Next, Leah and her children came and bowed down. Last of all came Joseph and Rachel, and they too bowed down.

Esau asked, “What’s the meaning of all these flocks and herds I met?”

“To find favour in your eyes, my lord,” he said.

But Esau said, “I already have plenty, my brother. Keep what you have for yourself.”

“No, please!” said Jacob. “If I have found favour 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 favourably. 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.

Then Esau said, “Let us be on our way; I’ll accompany you.”

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. So let my lord go on ahead of his servant, while I move along slowly at the pace of the flocks and herds before me and the pace of the children, until I come to my lord in Seir.”

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.”

So that day Esau started on his way back to Seir. Jacob, however, went to Sukkoth, where he built a place for himself and made shelters for his livestock. That is why the place is called Sukkoth.

After Jacob came from Paddan Aram, he arrived safely at the city of Shechem in Canaan and camped within sight of the city. 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. There he set up an altar and called it El Elohe Israel.


How does this apply to us? A friend of mine sat in my office and said something I’ll never forget. He leaned forward in his chair and said with intense feeling, “Don’t follow a leader without a limp.” For months I have been reflecting on the implications of his powerful statement.

The analogy of leading with a limp comes from the life of Jacob who spent a night wrestling with God (Genesis 32). God touched him on his hip and from that point on Jacob walked with a limp, a visible sign of a spiritual encounter with God that transformed his life and changed his name to Israel.  

My friend’s statement indicated that it is dangerous to follow a leader who has not had such an encounter with God. He recognized that leaders without a limp can do a lot of damage to those they lead. As servant leaders, what are the marks that show we are leaders with a limp?

Leaders with a limp acknowledge their deep need of God. Before Jacob wrestled with God he found ways to do everything on his own.  He had little need of God’s daily guidance in his life. But after meeting God his agenda changed. He recognized in a new way that God’s plans were bigger than his schemes. He recognized that his own strength was not enough for the challenges ahead. He desperately wanted to know God and begged to hear God’s name. Leaders are usually seen as strong self-sufficient persons who are lifted high in the eyes of others. But leaders with a limp recognize their own humanity and admit their deep need for God. They are able to acknowledge that they also need a team of others around them to help carry out the vision.  

Leaders with a limp live their lives on God’s agenda.  Jacob, prior to wrestling with God, was a self-sufficient leader filled with his own schemes and plans to achieve his own purposes. He was in charge of his own agenda. But the night with God changed all that as Jacob recognized that God’s purposes for him were bigger than he had imagined. He recognized that his life was a gift from God and God’s plan was far greater than the flocks of sheep Jacob had obtained. Leaders who lead with a limp have surrendered their own ambitions and dreams to the role God has for them. They have surrendered selfish ambitions to live for God’s purposes. They recognize that the influence God has given them in their business, church, family and community is a gift for which they will be held accountable.

Leaders with a limp seek the approval of God, not the applause of men. As Jacob wrestled, he insisted that God would bless him before the night was over. He desperately sought God’s blessing on his life. His heart had turned from the applause of self and others to the affirmation of God. Every leader will struggle with the desire for affirmation and we all are human enough to enjoy praise from others. But servant leaders lead seeking only God’s approval.

Leaders with a limp extend grace to others. After Jacob walked with a limp he showed greater compassion to others. As he met his brother Esau, he took the lead and allowed others to follow in a safer and easier position. Leaders who have not wrestled with God look down on weaknesses in others and treat those who make mistakes as failures. Their arrogance often comes out in harsh words that tear others down. But servant leaders who walk with a limp are able to show grace to others on the journey.

Wherever you are in your leadership journey, take a few minutes to reflect on Jacob’s story and ask God to make you a leader with a limp!

Until next time, yours on the journey, Jon Byler.


I will tell a testimony of Bill Johnson. Notice how his hunger for the blessings of God reminds us of Jacob and then God also draws his attention to a possible limb.


From the book “HEALING: unplugged – Conversations and Insights from Two Veteran Healing Leaders” by BILL JOHNSON and RANDY CLARK:


Bill Johnson: Our church had been involved in the renewal, and we were starting to experience new things. We had a weekly Friday night prayer meeting where a lot of stuff was happening and we learned a lot about how the Holy Spirit moves, so we kind of turned that into a prayer/renewal meeting. And we brought Dick in. He had been with us in Toronto in February, and he had already been ministering in power and seeing stuff happen. For years, people would fall when he prayed for them.

Toronto had impacted me internally, although I didn’t walk out with the kind of breakthrough anointing I now realize you can get in those kinds of gatherings. But we started getting a measure of breakthrough, and in October we had these meetings with Dick that were electric. During that time, I prophesied to a friend who was struggling that God was going to touch him, maybe at 3:00 in the morning. I went home late – you know all these meetings run late, so you get to bed in the wee hours. At 3:00 A.M. exactly, the electricity of God hit me [October 1995]. I was at a dead sleep; I was exhausted. Dead sleep. And I was instantly awake as I could be, and there wasn’t but a millisecond in between those two realities. I was completely awake. I knew it. I could move my head and I knew enough to look at the clock – 3:00 A.M. And God reminded me of my prophecy to my friend. As I was lying in bed, I said out loud, “You set me up, Lord.” Because my arms were shooting up, my legs were shooting up, and I had no control of my body. This went on for several minutes. I kept thinking, “It’s going to lift.” It didn’t lift. Finally, I pulled my arms next to my side, and my legs got more violent. It was as though power was flowing through me at such a high level that if I tried to control one thing, another thing got worse. And so I realized, “It’s God. I don’t know what He’s doing!”

It wasn’t comfortable at all. It wasn’t pleasant. Honestly, it was somewhat miserable in the way it felt. It was aggravating in one sense. But at the same time, I had such an awareness of God’s presence that there wasn’t even the slightest temptation to want it to go away, because I knew this was my moment. This power was going through me. I laid there wondering, “What’s going on?”

Beni didn’t wake up. We were in a water bed, and I thought it was a miracle all by itself that she wasn’t tidal waved out of the bed! As this was going on, God reminded me that I had been praying nonstop day and night for more. I would wake up praying. Or rather, I wouldn’t wake up to pray – I would wake up because I was praying in my sleep. And I’d be praying for more: “God, you’ve got to give me more. I’ve got to have more. I will pay any price. I’ve got to have more.”

You’ve been praying for more at any price, God said, and then scenes started going through my mind. I saw myself trying to teach in front of the church in Weaverville; I love to teach the Word. And I saw people reacting to my physical manifestation. They were going to think I was crazy! Nobody in their right minds would think this was God, because it wasn’t stopping. 

Then I saw myself in front of my favourite restaurant in town, reacting physically like this. And I realized, I’m going to be a laughingstock not only to the church, but to the entire city. I’m going to look as if I need to be locked up.

I remembered Jacob wrestling with the angel and how he walked with a limp the rest of his life. I remembered how Mary was accused of being “the mother of an illegitimate child.” That was her label the rest of her life. And after all those thoughts had gone through my mind, I realized what God was after. He wanted to know if He could have my dignity.

There wasn’t a moment’s hesitation in me. I said, “You can have it. Just give me more.” That’s what I told Him. “You can have it, if I get you in the exchange.”

The other crazy thought going on in my mind was, “I don’t know how I will ever get out of bed.” It’s hard to explain moments like that; it doesn’t make any sense to just talk about them. But that’s what was going on in my mind: If this keeps on, I don’t know if I’ll ever get out of bed because it feels as if it’s blowing circuits where I’m going to lose the physical capacity to function normally as a husband, as a father, as a pastor.

I saw these scenes and I realized I might never get out of bed again, and I said to the Lord, “All right – if I get you in the exchange, your presence, if that’s what I get. You take away my capacity to function, but give me more of you. I’ll do it.” And then all night long, I just lay there praying, “Just increase it, just go deeper. Don’t stop, just go deeper, increase it.”

It lasted until 6:38. At that time, I got out of bed. Almost any day that I see 6:38 on a clock, I give thanks now. It’s a trigger for me to know that God deposited something. I can’t trace back what; all I know is that there has been continuous breakthrough since that week and since that night – continuous breakthrough. I got out of bed and went about the day as if I’d had eight hours of sleep, though I slept hardly at all. I’d been wide awake. And it started again the moment I got in bed the next night, and then on a third night. It actually happened for three nights.


Randy Clark: How long did it last the second and third nights?


Bill: I don’t even know because I just lay there praying, “Increase it!” The third night it hit Beni, too. So we both were laying there just absolutely being electrocuted. And it went on for quite a while. Not all night; we did get some sleep. But it lasted a significant amount of time. When morning came, I was glad I was able to get up and function, the same as I had been at 6:38 the first morning. 

It was as if God were roto-rootering us, Randy. He was doing something to clean us out and get us ready for a Holy Spirit lifestyle that I quite frankly only knew through worship. I knew the presence in worship, but I didn’t know it in an anointing and I didn’t know it in ministry. I had inspired thought in my teaching – I knew that world. But I didn’t know the presence in any kind of power ministry. So that connected me.


By Eryn Sun, Christian Post Reporter / February 23, 2011 / LAKE FOREST, Calif. – Texas megachurch pastor Matt Carter told the crowd at the Radicalis Conference on Tuesday to “never trust a man of God that doesn’t walk with a limp.”

“I want to share with you today how I got my limp… when my wrestling match with God started,” said Carter, who gave a message about absolute surrender.

Basing his message on Genesis 32, Carter noted that when Jacob wrestled with God in order to reconcile with Esau, his name changed to Israel and he suffered a permanent limp.

Carter confessed that looking back on his life there were some things that he did not surrender to God even though he was walking with the Lord.

Pornography and gluttony were amongst the things Carter had struggled with. Consequently, he was overweight and watched pornography one or two days a year. Each time, Carter said, he would hear a voice telling him, “this is not who you [were] created to be.”

But in 2005, Carter began his personal metaphorical wrestling with God. After having his appendix removed, Carter said that doctors found a rare malignant tumour near his appendix. They were not sure whether his lymph nodes were affected, but knew the cancer had spread outside of his appendix. Only a series of tests would confirm whether Carter would live.

“I fell on the ground. The first thing out of my mouth was ‘God, I need you to speak to me… I don’t understand,’” shared Carter.

He turned to his Bible for comfort but found no such thing after reading a few passages.

But then he came across Jeremiah 2:13: “My people have committed two sins: they have forsaken me, the spring of living water and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”

Another verse he read was Jeremiah 2:5: “What fault did your ancestors find in me, that they strayed so far from me? They followed worthless idols and became worthless themselves.”

Carter recalled, “In that moment, I realized that the Lord was trying to change me…that the Lord was disciplining me.”

He continued by telling the audience to remember their identity as sons and daughters of God, and that “God disciplines those He loves” and “He disciplines us for our good so that we might share in His holiness.”

“All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful but sorrowful, but to those who have been trained by it afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness,” the Texas pastor said. “The reason that you’ve gotten this far in your faith is because God is behind you, making sure you’re getting there, disciplining you as you go.”

Carter then listed three things he learned from his ordeal: surrender when God asks for surrender; live with a holy urgency; and trust in God.

Later, the 31-year-old pastor recounted an experience he had dining with Minnesota pastor John Piper. All throughout the evening, Carter recalled, Piper did not smile. Piper then asked Carter how he felt about living with cancer.

“Cancer might be one of the best things that happened to me as far as my walk with Jesus,” Carter had replied.

Finally Piper smiled and said, “Suffering is a beautiful hermeneutic.”

To which Carter responded, “Absolutely,” not knowing what Piper meant at the time. He later learned that Piper himself had been diagnosed with cancer.

As he underwent testing for cancer, Carter came upon an epiphany. “When Jesus was on the cross, he was trusting God,” he shared. “For Jesus, to trust God in that moment meant that he had to stay on the cross, not get off the cross.”

He felt that the Holy Spirit was speaking to him and telling him to trust in God even if it means to not get off the cross.

“I went back to the office, got on my knees, and this was my prayer. ‘Lord, if you want to take my life, for your glory, I trust you,’” he recalled praying in surrender.

Three days later, and much to his relief, Carter tested negative for cancer. But the trial allowed him to learn a valuable lesson.

“The point was not that God will cure you if you’re obedient,” he maintained. “The point is that God is going to complete the good work [in you].”

Referring to the conference theme, Carter said he learned to surrender in order to truly say “yes” to God. Only then, he added, was he able to live radically and with a holy urgency for Christ.

Carter concluded with a call to prayer amongst conference participants.

“God, I’m yours. In your strength, in your power, I don’t know how, I just want to give all of me for your glory,” he prayed.

Matt Carter is currently the senior pastor of The Austin Stone Community Church, which has 6,000 people in attendance every Sunday. He helped create For the City network, which spreads the gospel through community outreach. He is also co-author for the upcoming book For the City.



2 Corinthians 12:7-10: … because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.


The limp was a blessing and – for Jacob at least – it remained. (Not all sickness is removed with prayer.) The limp may have also helped Jacob shift his focus from the blessings of God to God himself because he would learn to worship God leaning on the top of his staff: “By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshipped as he leaned on the top of his staff” (Hebrews 11:21).

What keeps you humble? What is the possible limp of a businessman? A failed venture – losses – bankruptcy – which are taking away the swagger and replacing it with humility and dependency on God? What is the possible limp of a preacher? A lisp (cf. TD Jakes, Moses)? What is the possible limp of a mother? A difficult child? What is your limp? Do you still want God if it means that you will be limping? We trust leaders that are limping. Jacob did.

This concluded the life of Jacob and established his legacy. After wrestling with God and prevailing with a damaged hip, God changed the name of Jacob to Israel:


Genesis 32:28: The man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob. You have wrestled with God and with men, and you have won. That’s why your name will be Israel.”


Genesis 35:9-10: After Jacob returned from Paddan Aram, God appeared to him again and blessed him. God said to him, “Your name is Jacob, but you will no longer be called Jacob; your name will be Israel.” So he named him Israel.


When born, Jacob is given the name “Jacob” meaning, “trickster, supplanter, heel grabber.” After he wrestles at Jabbok, he is renamed “Israel” meaning “Who prevails with God”.


Jacob finally received what he had wanted all of his life. He had prevailed with God and received his blessings. [There was another stage when Jacob ultimately purged his household of all idols and subsequently received further confirmation of his name change and the blessings of God – Genesis 35:1-15.] [And he also experienced how God could pass on the blessings of the first-born to the second son despite the parents’ original intentions – Genesis 48:1-22.]

When I was writing this message, I had planned to move on to Jacob’s sons but there is no time. I sum up what we have so far.

For centuries, there was not too much known about God except that he was the God with whom Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had a history and the history with God of these men and their families set the course for all of their descendants and the world. It all began with Abraham and the legacy that he left was the legacy of faith – believing God in any crisis. He received a son according to his faith and God was so incredibly pleased with his faith – his trust in him – that he made him the father of faith for us all. We are still receiving the promises of God in the same way as this man. By faith we are being saved and this is the gift of God to us.

Abraham left a legacy of faith – believing God to overcome any barrenness that stand in the way of his promises. Isaac’s legacy is that the stories around Isaac and his children are all about desiring God. How do you value and pursue and enjoy the blessings of God? For Abraham, his son Isaac became the breakthrough of faith. For Isaac, his son Jacob – the younger son – the life story of his younger son – (it was not so much even about Isaac’s life story) – would come to embody the breakthrough of prevailing with God and coming into the blessings of God.

There was something about Jacob – despite his flawed character, human striving and distrust of God – that touched God and please God immensely. Jacob was hungry for the blessings which God had designed for his family. He wrestled with God and, in this contest, ended up limping but it was a glorious limp that allowed him to let go of human striving and in weakness surrender to God’s strength and good will.

Before the history of God with his people would unfold in establishing a great nation, God established the key foundations of any relationship with him – faith and desiring God. Abraham with his son Isaac was about believing God – trust – and Isaac with his sons – especially Jacob – was about desiring God – prevailing with him in your pursuit and appreciation of his blessings. Believe God and want him. Amen.