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The Lord's Fellowship with Abraham and Jacob

Genesis 12:1, 2  The LORD had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. [2] "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. [3] I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."

The accounts of Abraham and eventually, his grandson Jacob are really remarkable.  I think we tend to make the patriarchs of the Old Testament supermen - the fact was that they suffered from the same weaknesses that we encounter today.   Yet, Jehovah sought them out and enjoyed fellowship with them - each at their own level.  Let's look at some Christophanies and appearances through visions that Jehovah had with these two men and see if we can learn something from the fellowship He had with them.

Abram - the man who dared to believe Jehovah.

We do not know what transpired between the LORD and Abram before this account - my suspicion is that there was some fellowship before this encounter.  There is no mention of any personal relationship between a man and the LORD after Noah except that Nimrod was a mighty hunter before the LORD.[1]  I think that might have some significance but am not willing to speculate.  One commentator thought that it meant that Nimrod was in opposition before the LORD.  At any rate, Nimrod was a very influential person with great potential for blessing from the LORD but apparently missed out for we see no other mention other than he built some great cities - end of case, as they say.  Abram, on the other hand, was of no particular influence but Jehovah took special interest in him and as a result of their fellowship, Abram became a friend of the LORD.[2]

Some personal character traits of Abram

Question:  How old was Abram when he left the land of Ur?                               .   Note that the promise of Ch. 15 was initially given at least in part in Ch 12.

Question:  What lesson can we learn from God's original command in Gen 12:1 and the events that transpired Gen 1:31, 32.  See also Acts 7:1-4.  Note the location of the town of Haran with relationship of Ur and Canaan.

abram-map.jpg (45669 bytes)

Class comments about apparent detour.

Question:  Why didn't Abram take a direct route toward Canaan?

Question: Read the account in Genesis 12:10:20; 20:17.  Class comments about Abraham's character.

Abram Believes God that he is going to father nations.

Genesis 15:5-7  He took him outside and said, "Look up at the heavens and count the stars--if indeed you can count them." Then he said to him, "So shall your offspring be." [6] Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness. [7] He also said to him, "I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it."

Question:  What were the circumstances prior to Jehovah's visit via a vision?  Why the repeat of the promise (besides more detail). What doubts were in Abram's mind?  Who did he offer as heirs to his possessions on two different occasions?  How did Abram think Jehovah was going to fulfill His promise (hint - there are two occasions where this "substitution" happened - what was the other one?).  Abraham was offering a work-around Jehovah's supernatural answer to His Promise.  Is there a lesson here for us today?

The simple reality was that Abram was plagued with the same weaknesses and questions about his circumstances, setbacks as we often do.  Yet, we see that Jehovah treated Abram / Abraham as a friend.  Read the fascinating account that follows:

Genesis 18:1-14  The LORD appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. [2] Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground. [3] He said, "If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by. [4] Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. [5] Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way--now that you have come to your servant." "Very well," they answered, "do as you say." [6] So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. "Quick," he said, "get three seahs of fine flour and knead it and bake some bread." [7] Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it. [8] He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them. While they ate, he stood near them under a tree. [9] "Where is your wife Sarah?" they asked him."There, in the tent," he said. [10] Then the LORD said, "I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son."  Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. [11] Abraham and Sarah were already old and well advanced in years, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. [12] So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, "After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?" [13] Then the LORD said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh and say, 'Will I really have a child, now that I am old?' [14] Is anything too hard for the LORD? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son."

This was not a vision - it was a "Christophany."  Why is it so-called?  Note the conclusion of the visit:

Genesis 18:33 And the LORD went his way, as soon as he had left communing with Abraham: and Abraham returned unto his place.

The Hebrew for "communing" is ledaber a compound word that carries along with it special meaning.  Daber normally is associated with giving a command or perhaps even a monologue such as giving instructions.  The inclusion of le indicates a face-to-face conversation between The LORD and Abraham.  This is the kind of friendship Jehovah had with Abraham in spite of his character flaws.  What are the implications for us today?

Jacob - the man who wrestled with Jehovah

Genesis 28:11-15
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. [12] 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. [13] 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. [14] 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. [15] 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."


Read Genesis 31:13.  How does this passage relate to Jacob's relationship with the LORD?

Read Genesis 32:1, 2; What do you suppose was the purpose of this angelic visit?  What was Jacob facing upon his return to his home?  He called this place Mahanaim which means "two camps."  Why did he call the place a place of two camps?

Jacob wrestles with the LORD.

Genesis 32:24-30  And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. [25] And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob's thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him. [26] And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. [27] And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. [28] And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed. [29] And Jacob asked him, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, thy name. And he said, Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name? And he blessed him there. [30] And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.

Here are some excerpts from a previous lesson that applies to this lesson:

"A lot had happened to Jacob in the intervening years - 20 years of humiliating employment to Laban his uncle had taught him many lessons - He was married now - with the responsibility of two wives.  The LORD had blessed him with some prosperity but Jehovah had some more work to do in his life.   It's interesting that the LORD has allowed many years to pass for His children in a seeming "holding pattern" before He allows the child to take the next significant step in spiritual maturity.  For Jacob it was 20 years.  For Moses it was 40 years in Midian in the employment of a Midianite priest.  God knows how long it takes for His children to "grow up"   there are no wasted years for His child who desires to do His will.

"Jacob had two areas of his life to square away.  First, as an estranged brother, he had to face Esau.  What he had done was treachery and Esau had vowed to kill Jacob for it.  Yes, it was in the plan of God for Jacob to take the place of Esau as the progenitor of the Seed of Woman, the lineage of Jesus Christ but he had to be reconciled with Esau.  Then there were some struggles that Jacob had with Jehovah.  All these things weighed heavily on Jacob's mind - he did the one important thing - he sought Jehovah - his God.  Jehovah met him in a very unusual way - as a Theophany (perhaps Christophany) - God revealing Himself to man in the form of a man - there have been several instances of this in the Old Testament. 

"Jacob was to meet the LORD again but this time it was to be in a most unusual way.  He was challenged by this man which resulted in a wrestling match.   We do not know what provoked it but I am going to guess that the LORD challenged Jacob and Jacob - a man of pride, replied in rebellion.  Thus the fight.  This encounter is very much like the one that Jehovah had with Joshua just before the defeat of Jericho but the difference was Joshua was already right with Jehovah - the moment that Joshua knew who He was there was no need for further challenge from him.  He was ready to receive the instructions of Jehovah.  No so with Jacob.  All night long Jacob wrestled with the LORD in a desperate struggle - in a metaphorical way representing his life up until now.  As time went on I'm sure that there was a most intense dialogue between the two.  As the night developed, Jacob realized that this was no ordinary man - it was the LORD Himself.  Now the wrestling match took on a different purpose - not to defeat the Man but to prevail in such a way as to receive His blessing.  In a sense this was a struggle in  prayer to the LORD.  The dialogue (that we do not have recorded) must have very gut retching - Jacob expressing all the frustrations - the loneliness - the remorse - the full spectrum of his spiritual desires and disappointments.   Face to face with the LORD - he would not let go until the LORD blessed him.  He had to be sure that the LORD was going to bless him - be with him the rest of his life in spite of Jacob's personal difficulties.   Finally the LORD stopped the fight by touching his hip and Jacob was a defeated, humbled, broken man - right where the LORD wanted him.

"All the fight was gone out of Jacob - the LORD  gently promises to him:

[27] And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. [28] And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.

We have seen two men who, in spite of their character flaws, were sought out by Jehovah for fellowship.  What were the two criteria for this fellowship to occur between the LORD and Abraham and Jacob?[3]

1. Gen 10:8-12

2.  James 2:23  And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called God's friend. (NIV)

3.  First, God took an interest in Abram and Jacob because He knew that they would respond to His call to fellowship.  Then He met with them in fellowship and through a series of events and gently taught them that He was their sovereign God and yet, their Friend.  There was a stark honesty between the patriarchs and the LORD - a lesson we would do well to learn.