1. When you think of the word “transformed” what comes to your mind?
2. What is perhaps the most graphic illustration of transformation we find in nature? (The caterpillar to the butterfly. Others may be suggested as well.)
Caterpillars must go through a process of great struggle before turning into a butterfly, but the end result is a beautiful creature.
We have graphic examples of individuals who have gone through a spiritual transformation that was not easy for them but the end result is a beautiful life lived out for God.
One of the best I know is the life of Sterling Eggleston. When he and his wife, Bennie Faye married he was not a Christian but she was a committed Christian and faithfully attended church each week. He testifies that each Sunday the last thing he said as she went out the door to church was, “Don’t you give that preacher any of my money.”
He finally gave in and went to church with her and, through the life she lived before him and the message of God’s Word to him, he was saved. The transformation that God did in Sterling’s life is truly beautiful. But while salvation happens at one point in time, transformation (sanctification) is a life-long process molding us into the image of Christ! Transformation requires ongoing, steady, and sometimes difficult steps. In today’s study, we will see how God transformed Jacob.
God used a variety of circumstances to soften Jacob’s heart. Listen to the prayer he prays in Gen. 32:9-12.
We pick up the narrative when Jacob is spending the night alone, consumed with thoughts of fear, not only for his life, but for the lives of all those he loved.
The Match! Read Genesis 32:24-26
1. How does this passage characterize Jacob’s life?
Think for a moment about Jacob’s relationship with Esau, Isaac, Laban, Leah, and Rachel. With each of these Jacob had encounters that were challenging to say the least!
Because Jacob spent most of his life wrestling with people, God came that lonely night in the form of a wrestler. Note: Don’t spend a lot of time trying to figure out the identity of the person God sent to wrestle with Jacob, it isn’t important who it was but what this individual’s message delivered from God is important. This “man” was clearly the Lord or one of His angels.
Jacob was absolutely determined to receive a blessing, even if it meant deceiving his father and wrestling with God.
Recall Jacob’s experience at Bethel, then God promised Jacob His blessings. The promise was fulfilled from a material perspective because Jacob was wealthy with flocks, herds, and servants. After wrestling with the Lord all night, Jacob discovered he needed more than material wealth. He needed God and His transforming work in his life!
2. How do we know Jacob was determined to receive God’s blessing on his life? (Even though his hip was dislocated, he refused to let go. Jacob asked for a blessing. True transformation leads believers to value and seek God’s blessing above all else.)
3. What keeps people from being desperate for God’s blessing?
4. How does an encounter with God foster a desire for His blessing?
Evidence of true transformation occurs in our lives as we continue to follow the Lord and seek Him, even in the midst of difficult situations.
I read the following excerpt from a prayer voiced by David Brainerd: “When I really enjoy God I feel my desire for Him more insatiable, and my thirsting after holiness the more unquenchable…”
The more we get the more we desire. But we will never plumb the depth of God’s love for us.
Before Jacob’s transformation could continue, a painful but key element was required: honesty.
5. When have you wrestled with God? (Most likely it was a spiritual wrestling match.)
The Title! Read Genesis 32:27-29
Throughout the Bible a person’s name often identified his character and the giving of a new name meant either a change in nature or a change in relationship.
1. Why do you think the man asked Jacob what his name was? (The man already knew Jacob’s name. He wanted Jacob to own up to who he really was. Jacob’s name meant “he cheats” or “he supplants.” The reality of who Jacob really was came into focus in his eyes now. Jacob’s problem was his sinful character!)
2. What was significant about the name change to Israel? (The name means “he struggled with God.” And it can mean “God rules.”)
3. What does the fact that the man changed Jacob’s name mean? (The man had power or authority over Jacob.)
Notice that when Jacob asked the man his name he wasn’t told his name. Jacob had no power or authority over this man.
4. Jacob would no longer be identified as the “deceiver” but rather the “one who wrestled God.” What comes to a person’s mind when they hear your name mentioned?
5. How can difficult circumstances help believers mature? (Jacob learned the value of working hard for something, as he had to do to maintain the flocks with Laban. He couldn’t take shortcuts to accumulate his wealth in animals.)
Jacob learned the necessity of facing struggles rather than running away from them. He essentially ran away from Esau after stealing Esau’s blessing, yet many years late, Jacob prepared to face Esau upon returning home!
While transformation is a lifelong process, Jacob successfully completed the two major steps. He desperately sought God’s blessings, and then he submitted himself before the Lord in humility.
1. What does a surrendered life look like from God’s perspective?
2. What does a surrendered life look like from a human perspective?
The Venue! Read Genesis 32:30-32
Not eating the meat from the thigh muscle is not a commandment; it is more like a tradition among the Jews.
Notice that before wrestling with God, Jacob’s world was dark—both literally and figuratively. In these verses “The sun shone on him.” Jacob experienced a new day, and a new beginning by God’s design.
Peniel or Penuel is Jacob’s third spiritual landmark and means “face of God.” Jacob’s first spiritual landmark was Bethel and his second was Mahanaim or “This is God’s camp.”—Gen. 32:1-2.
With each heavenly visitation, Jacob renamed the meeting place, acknowledging God’s presence and transformation in his life.
3. What are some life markers for believers?
4. How can a person’s spiritual lessons be memorialized so the insight gained will not be forgotten?
Summarize and Challenge!
I will admit that it is difficult to see a quick transformation in Jacob. But from now on the Bible uses the phrase “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob…” about a dozen times. To me, this says that spiritual transformation is slow in some of us, but God can and does use us for His glory and purposes.
1. How has God transformed your life?
2. Who would share with us at least one way in which God has brought about visible change through your journey?
This week, reflect on where God has led you in the last few years. Record any markers or turning points in your relationship with God. Thank God for His amazing work of transformation.