Jabbok, the place where Jacob wrestled with God and made his total surrender, exemplifies the place where Christians fight their private wars. There are no counselors, no friends, no helpers — just you and God. At Jabbok Jacob cast down his last idol and won his greatest victory. And there he received his new character and his new name — Israel.
“And [Jacob] arose that night … and crossed over the ford of Jabbok” (Genesis 32:22). Jabbok means “a place of passing over” but it also stands for struggle; to empty and pour out. The glorious truth revealed in this place has everything to do with us today. It is where God’s people discover the secret of power over every besetting sin. It represents a life-and-death crisis, one that leads to absolute surrender.
We are familiar with two crossings — the Red Sea and the Jordan River. Crossing the Red Sea represents a new start, coming out of the world, “getting saved.” Crossing the Jordan represents a commitment to go on with the Lord, reading the Word, witnessing, growing in Christ, and receiving the fullness of the Holy Spirit.
But there is more — a third crossing, a crossing into a place of true rest in God. There can be no glorious victory over self and sin until you go to your personal Jabbok. Multitudes of Spirit-filled, Spirit-led believers have never known the true rest of God because of secret sin or unbelief. God said of Israel, “They could not enter in because of unbelief” (Hebrews 3:19).
Our Lord wants to change us into new people with pure hearts and clean hands. Our personal Jabbok is the place where the Lord hears our cries of desperation and touches us, just as he touched Jacob. During Jacob’s wrestling with the Lord, his thigh was put out of joint and the Lord purposely weakened him, but he came through in glorious victory. The same may be true with you. He may cripple your human efforts and cause you to hobble away, humbled and crippled. But your surrender will bring you into victory, totally dependent on your Deliverer.
Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus even though he knew he would soon raise him to life again. After all, he had come to Bethany expressly for this purpose. “Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, ‘See how He loved him!’ And some of them said, ‘Could not this Man, who opened the eyes of the blind, also have kept this man from dying?’ Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb” (John 11:35-38).
While Jesus keenly felt the grief of his dear friends Mary and Martha over the death of their brother, his deeper grief was caused by the unbelief of the people who questioned why he had not prevented Lazarus’ death. “Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?’” (11:40).
Just as in Jesus’ day, the heart of God is broken today when Christians question his love for them. How could a God of love not weep when his own children doubt his very nature?
Christians grieve the Lord in matters much worse than those during his time on earth. We stand on a higher mountain and see more then they could ever see. We have a completed Bible with a full and detailed record of God’s trustworthiness. We have the written testimonies of centuries of Christians, generation after generation of godly fathers who have passed down to us unshakable proofs of God’s love. We also have countless personal experiences that testify to God’s tender affection for us.
God reveals his heart for his people in his Word:
Dearly beloved, God’s heart is full of mercy and forgiveness, and his Word is filled with promises of blessing. He declares his love for you over and over again, and he is just waiting to hear from you. Open your heart to him today and experience all that he has for you.
God is not mocking his children when he promises, “All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). And he is not lying when he promises, “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry … The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles” (Psalm 34:15, 17).
When we cry out to God for mercy and help, all heaven goes into motion on our behalf. It would be an incredible sight for our human eyes should the Lord let us see into the spiritual world; to behold the good things he is preparing for those who call on him and trust him.
Yet, when we are overwhelmed by circumstances beyond our control, we too often turn aside from our true Source of peace and victory. We rush to unburden our hearts to friends, pastors, counselors, and family members, searching everywhere for sympathetic advice instead of fleeing to the secret closet of prayer.
Because we do not have patience; because we live and act according to our feelings; because our flesh cannot endure delays; because we can't see visible evidence of the secret workings of God—we do like the Israelites and turn away from Him to make things happen to please our flesh.
Oh, the matchless grace of God - to choose the most unworthy, the weakest of them all—to be His instruments. God’s promises to us are great and precious: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
God is still on the throne waiting for you to call on his name, so do not ignore the majesty and faithfulness of the loving Father. The Word tells us where the victory lies, so believe and take hold of it.
“And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). In Genesis chapters 1 and 2, we read of God’s magnificent creation. Adam and Eve shared sweet communion with their Father in the Garden of Eden — but there was also a snake in the Garden. “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made” (Genesis 3:1). This cunning, deceitful creature tempted Eve, who brought her husband into the scheme, and they yielded to his voice.
When sin and shame entered the world, fellowship with the Father was broken (see Genesis 3:1-19). And from that time to this, there has always been “a snake in the garden” — some sort of challenge, opposition or trial designed to draw us away from our Father. God could have disallowed it from the beginning but it was part of his plan. The familiar phrase “testing your mettle” means to see what you are made of, demonstrating your true character. Unless the testing comes, you will not know how strong you are in Jesus Christ, how much power he has released in you, and the authority you have in his name.
We see this demonstrated when God left enemies in the land of Israel to test them. “Now these are the nations that the Lord left, to test Israel by them, that is, all in Israel who had not experienced all the wars in Canaan. It was only in order that the generations of the people of Israel might know war, to teach war to those who had not known it before” (Judges 3:1-2). God could have empowered the Israelites to destroy the Canaanites so that the other enemies could not come against them, but he left those adversaries in the land to challenge them.
What is the enemy in your life — the snake in your garden? Anxiety and fear? A sense of rejection? Loneliness and isolation? Secret sin? God wants to heal all these things through his unconditional love. Storms may come, enemies may oppose you, snakes may be in your garden, but Jesus will fill you with his love, his peace, his joy, his life and his victory!
After Joshua took over leadership of the children of Israel from Moses, he led them into major victories — notably, Jericho and Ai. As God performed many astounding miracles for the Israelites, Joshua’s leadership was flawless with the exception of one very bad judgment. The crafty Gibeonites connived and manipulated him into making a decision without consulting God about it (see Joshua 9:3-13). “Then the men of Israel took some of their provisions; but they did not ask counsel of the Lord. So Joshua made peace with them, and made a covenant with them” (Joshua 9:14-15).
Joshua was compelled to honor the covenant he had made and the consequences were dire. The Israelites went into battle against the Amorites, but Joshua’s warriors needed more daylight in order to defeat their enemy. Joshua prayed to God and received a miracle that is unparalleled to this day — the sun stood still! “There has never been a day before and there has never been a day since when the Lord stopped the sun, all because of the prayer of one man” (Joshua 10:14).
Many of us have made hasty decisions without consulting the wisdom of the Lord. That is why God urges us: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5). The Word also says, “It is not good for a man to be without knowledge, and he who makes haste with his feet misses his way” (Proverbs 19:2).
So, in chapter 9 Joshua makes a covenant without praying but then in chapter 10 he cries out to God and God answers in spectacular fashion. Why? Because Joshua invited his Father into his bad decision and God had mercy on him and intervened.
God will do the same for you. He will take your bad choices and turn them into something miraculous if you will turn to him and seek his face. If you are being rushed into making a decision, be sure to rush into the presence of God first.
Pastor Tim pastored an inner-city congregation in Detroit for thirty years before serving at Brooklyn Tabernacle in NYC for five years. He and his wife Cindy presently pastor in Lafayette, Louisiana.