SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY
9TH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, AUGUST 6TH, 2017.
Title: “Vetting Ourselves for God’s Blessings”
Text: Genesis 32:22-31 22 ‘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. 23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 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. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 The man asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob”, he answered. 28 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.” 29 Jacob said, please tell me your name.” But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there. 30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.” 31 Then the sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip.”
The text read involves God being revealed in human form through a mysterious incarnation. It also brings to our attention Jacob, the brother of Esau, and the son of Isaac. Here, Jacob is being fearful of his past character of being a supplanter, a deceiver, and his past misdeeds toward his brother. It is a time when Jacob was troubled. He believed that he and his family will be wiped out by his brother Esau. This is evident in the subsequent verse where Jacob prayed to God for deliverance. In his solitude, he struggles with the deity in a wrestling episode that would leave him wounded and bruised. In this wrestling episode, one can see it as a role play of Jacob’s past life, where Jacob had always wrestled with doing the right thing in his life. He had wrestle with God on many instances as it regards situations in his life. In this passage, Jacob request a blessing during the wrestling, but he is being vetted with a question of what his name is, bring into question the meaning of his name as a person of deception. It is interesting to note that despite Jacob’s past, Jacob’s struggle also yields blessings from the God.
Like Jacob, there are many situations in our lives that would present imminent danger. There will be situation that would put us in a position, where we will fear for our lives or leave us bruised and wounded. As a little boy, Thomas Edison got a serious strike to his ear that left him with a hearing impairment. The little Edison was deaf. Thomas Edison’s struggle through deafness propel him to success in inventing many things. Like Jacob and Thomas Edison, have you had a difficult life situation where you are at a crossroad? You are at a place where you do not know which way to go? Let us examine this passage of scripture, as a scenario, where we are at a crossroad not knowing which way to go. We are at a crossroad facing dilemmas, challenges, and opportunities. In such situation, we will need to vet ourselves, acknowledge our character, and embrace God’s blessings.
God’s Children Will Be Faced With the Dilemmas of Life
The story is told about a wonderful Christian family who had a young nineteen-year-old daughter. The girl was bright and first in her class. She received many academic awards and had many offers to attend some of the most reputable universities around the country. She chose one of the best universities and went off to school. On a Sunday morning at the breakfast table, her parents received a phone call from the authorities that there was bad news. The caller informed them that their daughter had collapsed on her way to class and had died. The parents were grief stricken, and question where they had gone wrong with God. No matter where we come from, or where we live, trouble will come our way when we least expect it. There are times bad things will happen to good people, that will lead us to question whether God is a just or fair. In contrast, Jacob in this passage is faced with deep trouble for the life he had lived. Jacob had tricked his brother out of his inheritance. Therefore, Jacob’s name meant, “supplanter,” a person who takes something that rightfully belongs to someone else. He deceived his father Isaac. His character was not of good standing and so trouble was imminent. Whatever, the situation, whether we are good or bad, we will be faced with obstacles that will result in the vetting of ourselves as we seek God’s intervention or deliverance. The Psalmist says in Psalms 46:1, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. A lot of the Psalms are Psalms of lamentations, meaning it was written during trouble times. Paul wrote most of the letters from prisons. One of my favorite books, the Pilgrim’s Progress was written by John Bunyan while he was in prison. The Bible is full great men of God who went through troubled times. When God gets ready to give us the best of our lives, He allows us to go through the storm. God allows us to vet ourselves to remind us of our character, so that He positions us to receive His blessings.
Vetting Ourselves Leads to God’s Blessings
In verses 26, 27, and 28 of Genesis 32, Jacob request a blessing from the one he wrestled with in the passage. Instead of blessing him, the stranger inquired of his name. Before God asks a question, God already knows the answer. In this case, God already knew the name of Jacob, but God asked Jacob of his name to allow Jacob to acknowledged his past life as a deceiver, of the bad character he had assumed. It was a time of retrospection for Jacob. Here, Jacob is bound to articulate that name that bear no good character. Jacob must say that name to allow a time of critical self-examination, a time of scrutiny, a time of evaluation, and time of appraisal. A common term used these day is the verb vet which means to check ourselves. In the noun form, it can mean all that is mentioned above.
In Psalms 139:23-34, the Psalmist puts it this way, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive ways in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
In 2 Samuel 11 and 12, the story is told of David, Bathsheba, and the prophet Nathan. David had murdered Uriah the Hittite, coveted his wife Bathsheba and she bore him a son. David did all this when the Ark of the Covenant of God was in battlefield. Kings were supposed to be on the battle ground. But David remained in the luxury of his palace and sinned against God. David resolved to hide his sin from the prophet Nathan, but the prophet exposed him. When the prophet used the story of a rich man taking the only lamb of a poor man, David was justifiably angry at the injustice of the rich man. But the prophet Nathan told David, “You are the man!” (1 Chronicles 12:7) David was guilty of murder and adultery. But David vetted, examined, evaluated, and appraised his past, and God forgive him and blessed him with a son. We need to always vet ourselves. We need to often search ourselves in the midst of our dark days, so that we prepare ourselves for God’s blessings.
God’s Blessings Sometimes Comes in the Cover of Dark.
Isaiah 48:10 says, “I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.” If you reflect upon how great men of God were blessed, you will know that they were not blessed from the palace, but some of the most difficult of places or situations. Mildred Struven in Bits and Pieces agreed with this assertion, by pointing out that a clay pot that sits in the sun will only become a porcelain when it is put in the white heat of the furnace. Our greatness blessings from God comes often times in the lowest moment of our lives. God’s blessings sometimes come during the darkest moment of our lives. Those who will find the path to God, sometimes find it in the dark. I will compare this with the development of a film. A film is developed in the dark. It is during those dark moments of our lives that God brings out the best in us.
Jacob met God in trouble times. He was faced with imminent danger. He was in solitude having sent his wives away along with all his possessions. He was alone in the dark. It was at the darkest moment of his life, that God appeared and changed his name to Israel. God blessed him. Young Thomas Edison as a boy suffered deafness. In this dark period of his young life, he summed up courage and invented the phonograph (the world’s first method of recording and playing back sound), the light bulb, the kinetoscope, the kinetograph, the kinetophone, the nickel-iron batteries. He invented the carbon microphone. (Science.howstuffworks.com) There is no crippling situation, no bad character, no sin, that God cannot remove. There will always be trouble somewhere, sometimes. God want us to always examine ourselves in the midst of trouble, and God will meet us in the cover of dark to bless us.