A Battle to a Blessing

A Battle to a Blessing

Genesis Chapter 32 records one of the strangest stories told in the Old Testament, in which Jacob wrestles a mysterious man through an entire night.  Jacob is one of the forefathers of our faith, but prior to this wrestling match he was not much more than a liar and a thief. Remember in Gen 27, where Jacob stole his twin brother Esau’s birthright and blessing.  Jacob later disguised himself as his twin brother and blatantly lied to his dying father in order to steal the largest inheritance.  Esau swore that he would kill his brother after their father died, which caused Jacob to flee his home.  Jacob spent the next 20 years with his father-in-law, Laban, where he continued to be deceitful and self-willed.  Many years pass, and Jacob now is a rich man.  He has a large family and large flocks, and now must flee his father-in-law’s home under command of the Lord.  Jacobdecides to return to his original home where he grew up, but that means he must face his deceit against Esau. As he and his family travel home, Jacob hears that Esau is just across the countryside, heading right to him with 400 men. Jacob fears for his family, so he sends them in separate groups while he stays behind and prays to God. 

Deep into the night, as he is praying his earnest prayer, a Man appears in Jacob’s camp and the two begin a wrestling match that lasts all night. Genesis 32:22-31 records the strange story.  At some point during the wrestling match, Jacob seemed to come to the conclusion that he was not wrestling against an earthly man, but a heavenly being.  And so, Jacob goes from attacking this Man to just clinging to Him and requesting a blessing. The Heavenly being tells Jacob to let go, but Jacob refuses to let go until he receives a blessing. Jacob now sees that what he thought previously was a battle, actually turned out to be an opportunity for a blessing. 

Often times in life we may experience misery, pain, and heartache.  We may feel like we don’t deserve it.  Maybe we ask God “Why is this happening to me?” If you are in this situation, let the strange story of Jacob’s wrestling match be a comfort to you. This story teaches us that many of life’s great trials can turn into blessings if we just hang on and cling to God.  Jacob’s wrestling match started in conflict, but ended in a blessing.  As we know from Biblical example or from experience, all of God’s people will experience hardships. But take faith that sometimes our greatest trials can turn into blessings if we just hang on.  James 1:2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.    

Another verse that helps comfort us in trials is found in Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” This verse promises that, if we remain faithful to God, He will take every event that occurs in our lives, positive and negative, and work them out for our ultimate good. This verse does NOT say that everything in life that happens to us will be positive, happy, and joyous.  What this verse says is that all the events of our life, both good and bad, will work out to our ultimate spiritual good if we remain faithful to God. Many of us have experienced a trial in life that felt nearly impossible to survive.  But later in life, sometimes months or even years later, when we look back at that challenge, test, or trial that we endured, we could clearly see God working it out for our ultimate spiritual good.  Think of Jacob.  During the wrestling match, the heavenly being reached down and removed his hip from its socket, which made Jacob walk with a limp the rest of his life.  And yet that physical trial turned into a blessing for Jacob, because from that wrestling match on, he was no longer self-willed and deceitful.

Jacob was able to recognize that this battle, a trial of his character and strength, was actually an opportunity to grow and be better for God. As Christians today, we can greatly benefit from recognizing that God is always working for our ultimate good, even if times are tough at the moment. We can have great comfort from trusting and clinging to God when we are enduring hardships, trials, and tests, because we know that God is turning our battles into blessings.

Bailey Stephens

Wise Decisions

There is a story of a young man who decided that he wanted to earn a college degree.  He was accepted at a prestigious University and began his studies.  But the night before one of his exams, this young man was invited to a party and he skipped preparing for the test.  Days later, a paper was due.  Instead of working on his assignment, the young man went on a camping trip with friends.  Mid-term studying was put off due to a canoe trip.  And rather than study for finals, he went on a date with his girlfriend.  As you can imagine, this young man flunked out of college.  The young man had made a great decision in life:  To go to college.  But he failed in the goal because of a series of small unwise decisions.  

In a similar way, the same is true for us today.  Our goal is to make Heaven our eternal home, but many fail in that goal not because of a single unwise decision.  Rather people generally lose their faith because of a series of small unwise decisions just like that college student. At the same time, people do not become stronger in the Lord because of a single big decision.  Rather, one becomes stronger in the Lord because they make a series of seemingly small but very wise decisions.

Making wise choices is something the Bible talks a great deal about.   The word wise or wisdom appears 197 in the Bible, 35 of which are in the NT.  But rather than read all of these verses, the conclusion we can reach is that the Bible is rich in offering us advice on how to make wise decisions. You know we can know if we are wise according to the Bible or not. Just like how you can know what sickness you have based on your symtoms, you can know if you are Biblically wise based on symtpoms as well. Here are some of the symptoms of wisdom: 

We can make the small yet wise decision to watch our words. It is estimated that a talkative person speaks over 100,000 words every day. Words have the power to strengthen us spiritually, encourage us to live faithfully, or even to correct us. But words also have the power to destroy souls, damage relationships, and ruin congregations.  Prov. 10:19In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, But he who restrains his lips is wise.      

Prov. 21:23Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles.        

James 3:2For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.  

We can make the small yet wise decision to listen to counsel.  Everyone of us needs some advice and coaching from time to time.  We find ourselves in situations where we need to seek the counsel of someone with more experience, age, and our spiritual elder.  Prov. 13:10By pride comes nothing but strife, But with the well-advised is wisdom. 

We can make the small yet wise decision to be humble.  How many of life’s problems are generated because we think too highly of ourselves and our own opinions, and we begin to think we are better than others around us.  Luke 9:48  “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. For he who is least among you all is the one who is great.”.   The mind of humility is also taught in Phil. 2:5-7

We can make the small yet wise decision to live the life of a New Testament Christian.   If we truly are wise from the Bible’s standards, then it will be evident from the lives we live.  James 3:13-James asks the question that we are considering and then says: Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom.    Eph. 5:15-16See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.     1 Peter 2:12-13-If you are wise, you will understand that you represent Christ and the Church to the world wherever you go, and that people are watching you, the way you act, the way you dress, the way you talk, your attitude, everything about you. 

Solomon, the very man who asked God for that great gift, after all of his wordly experiences and in all his wisdom stated in Eccl. 12:13Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all. 

These are only a few of the symptoms of true wisdom, but there are indeed many more, as James tells us James 3:17But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. 

If you want to reach Heaven as your goal, remember, a person does not fall away from the Lord generally in one giant step.  Rather they fall away by making a series of unwise decisions.  If we want to know if we are wise, let us look into the Bible and see for ourselves.

Carter Stephens

A Warning From God

In the days of Joshua, the Israelites crossed the Jordan river to inherit the Promised Land. Their first big task was to take the fortified city of Jericho with its famed mighty walls. God instructed his people to march around the city for seven days, to shout, to blow their horns, and God himself would cause the walls of Jericho to collapse. Once the walls fell, the Israeliteswere instructed to kill everyone inside and burn the city to the ground. Because the Israelites obeyed God to the letter, they soon stood in the smoking ruins of what was Jericho.  Then God gives them instructions on what NOT to do next. 

Jos 6:26 Then Joshua charged them at that time saying “Cursed be the man before the LORD who rises up and builds this city of Jericho: he shall lay its foundations with its firstborn, and with his youngest he shall set up its gates.” God commanded his children that he never wanted them to build the city that HE, God himself, had destroyed.  While not explained, maybe the ruins were to stand as a monument to God’s people throughout the ages of his faithfulness to them.

An estimated 530 years later, during the reign of King Ahab and Jezebel, a man by the name of Hiel was charged to rebuild the city of Jericho. But remember, God had given a specific warningto the man that rebuilt that city:  his oldest child would die when he began the work and, if he persisted building, he would attend the funeral of the youngest when he finished. 1 Kings 16:34 reads “In his days Heil of Bethel built Jericho. He laid the foundations with Abiram (A-bir-am) firstborn, and with his youngest son Segub (Seg-ub) he set up its gates, according to the word of the LORD, which He had spoken through Joshua the son of Nun. These are the only two verses in the Bible that mention this man Hiel.  But important lessons can be learnedfrom him.

#1 Gods Word is always true– Not one word of this curse passed away in five centuries. The curse was fulfilled exactly as God had said.  Two sons died, they died in the right order, and they died at the right time. The life of Hiel followed the warning of God to the letter. Now we live 200 centuries from when these words were written but Gods word remains ever truthful today. We are foolish to think that the bible is untrustworthy or that its warnings carry no weight. Heb 6:18 says it is impossible for God to lie. Psalm 19:7 “The testimony of the Lord is sure”. Psalm 89:34 God said “My covenant will not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips”

#2 Time does not render a warning void – 500 years passed since Jericho had felled. Surely Hiel thought a law written so long ago could not still be in effect. But it was and Hiel paid the price. Today people say “well the Bible is out of touch with current times. Its teachings do not apply to us today because it is written so long ago.” Time is not marked in Gods eyes the same as mans. Time does not render a warning void. 2 Peter 3:8 One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” 

#3 God means for his warnings to be heeded. God is the full mercy, grace, and love but he still means for his warnings to be followed. Most parenting books would have a parent utilize praise, love, and positive teachings. But, it would be poor parenting to not mix in some warnings. Thru the life of Hiel, I hope we can see that God is a God of love but he is also a God of his Word. If God gives a warning, a negative teaching, a “Do NOT” command, he intends for it to be followed. God is both good and severe. Ro 11:22 Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you,goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cutoff. 

#4 Even a command that seems strange must be obeyed. The location of the original city Jericho was perfect. It was near the River Jordan and had been a bustling city of commerce. I’m sure Hiel eyed the location as prime real estate. Surely Hiel thought to himself, God did not mean what he said.  So he ignored Gods warnings not to rebuild. Isa 55:8-9 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways” says the LORD 9 “For as the heavens are higher than the Earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. There are challenging commands and warnings in the Bible. You nor I might not have written them the way God did.  Sometimes our logic would want some of God’s warnings out of the Bible.  But God has a purpose, a reason for giving us that teaching. While my vision is limited, God sees the value of his teaching from an eternal point of view. I must simply accept that fact that God commands will not steer me wrong no matter how challenging I personally find the verse. 

We ignore Gods warnings at our own peril. I’m sure Hiel thought the warning was outdated, did not apply to his good intentions, or was simply a tradition. But regardless of our intentions, we pay the price when we ignore Gods warnings.

Sterling Stephens