In Abraham we see God’s justification, in Isaac we see God’s grace, and in Jacob we see transformation. Abraham lived in fellowship with God and was justified by God, Isaac enjoyed God’s grace throughout his life, and Jacob lived a life under God’s transforming hand for God’s building.
God gave Jacob a dream at Bethel, and from then on His hand was upon him to transform him. For twenty years, however, Jacob was under Laban and he experienced a lot of dealings from God through his uncle. This period of 20 years was a period of dealings (Gen. 25-32) followed by a period of transformation (Gen. 32-36) and then a period of maturity (Gen. 37-50).
After Jacob left Laban, met God, and wrestled with Him, the process of his transformation begun. Everything that happened to Jacob was for his transformation; everything that happens to us is for our transformation.
God allows certain situations to happen, He brings certain people into our life, and He arranges certain environments for us – all for our transformation. Because we are so free and loose to decide things apart from God and do things without Him, God wants to deal with us and break us so that we may depend on Him and be one with Him.
The situations around us are not accidental, and nothing happens at random in our life. Everything and everyone is arranged by God in a sovereign way to deal with us, break us, and press us, so that we may be transformed.
Jacob’s history is also our biography, and Jacob’s God is our God.
Just as a good painter first “roughens up the wall” and then paints something beautiful on top of it, so is with God as the best artist and painter of all time and eternity, He first “roughens us up”, allowing us to have some failures and make mistakes, and then comes in and transforms us for His building so that He may obtain His masterpiece, the church as the Body of Christ!
What a wise and skillful God we have! How we love Him and adore Him, fearing Him in a respectful and awe-filled way for His marvelous ways, grandeous design, and perfect sovereignty!
Everything that Happened to Jacob was for His Transformation into Israel
Jacob was a man under God’s transforming hand, and everything that happened to Jacob was for his transformation into Israel, one who wrestles with man and with God, the prince of God (Gen. 32:28; 35:10, 15). There are three distinct periods in Jacob’s life: the period of dealings, the period of transformation, and the period of maturity.
He went through a lot of dealings in the first period, especially under Laban and with his family – but these did not yet transform him. It was after God came to Jacob as a man in Peniel at night, wrestled with him, and touched him that Jacob began to limp and his transformation process begun.
First he underwent dealings, but after chapter 32 in Genesis he was touched by God (both physically and inwardly), having something that is very subjective to him touched by God, and transformation began. Whenever God touches us, transformation begins.
In Jacob’s case, everything that happened to him was for his transformation, that is, all that happened to him pressed him and gave him no choice but to undergo an inward change, a metabolic change.
God took Jacob through some situations and some things that pressed him and changed him, emptying him from anything that preoccupied him and increasing his capacity to be filled with God. Everything that happens to us is for our transformation, and God arranges all things, persons, and situations around us to empty us from anything apart from God that preoccupies us so that we may have an increased capacity to be filled with God.
In Jacob’s case, since God touched Jacob’s strongest part – his thigh – the process of transformation began, and he underwent breaking and sufferings that changed his inner being.
Simeon and Levi, for example, made him shameful in front of the people of that country by killing the people of Shechem after tricking them into being circumcised if the son of the ruler of that city were to marry Dinah, their sister (after he humiliated her). Jacob could not forget that; he was made odious in front of the people in that country, and he had to leave in shame.
All the things, all the persons, and all the situations in Jacob’s life were sovereignly arranged by God for Jacob’s transformation into Israel, the prince of God.
Everything that Happens to us is Under God’s Sovereignty for our Transformation
From Jacob’s experience in Gen. 32-36 we can see that everything that happens to us is under God’s sovereignty for our transformation. For those who love God, He arranges all things, matters, and situations in a sovereign way to work together for good, for their transformation (see Rom. 8:28-29; 12:2).
God sovereignly arranges into which family we are born, the parents we have, our siblings, our family situation, our schooling and education, our work environment, our family life, our children, and all situations for our transformation.
We may want to take a break or even “jump out of the frying pan” of God’s transformation, but we will jump yet in another frying pan, even in the fire sometimes. In His sovereignty God allows sufferings and situations to limit us, press us, and break us; the mere presence of sufferings and hardships doesn’t guarantee we will be transformed, but if we are open to the Lord and willing, He can transform us inwardly.
Watchman Nee wrote a song on this matter, saying,
Olives that have known no pressure
No oil can bestow;
If the grapes escape the winepress,
Cheering wine can never flow;
Spikenard only through the crushing,
Fragrance can diffuse.
Shall I then, Lord, shrink from suff’ring
Which Thy love for me would choose?
Chorus: Each blow I suffer
Is true gain to me.
In the place of what Thou takest
Thou dost give Thyself to me. (Hymns #626)
For our transformation we need to be pressed. As young adults we learn to bear responsibility, and God may increase the responsibilities, pressures, and situations we are in. Don’t try to escape the pressure, and don’t run away from responsibilities. Be willing to be pressed, so that the oil would flow and Christ would be manifested in you.
God is sitting on the throne administrating not only the whole universe but also our personal life so that all the situations, things, people, and environments would work together for our transformation. We need to recognize God’s sovereignty and not run from the situations He put us in to press us and transform us.
God never makes mistakes; things never happen at random in our life, and in everything God is sovereign. Once He touches “our thigh” – our strong spot, be it our cleverness, strong opinions, preciseness and accuracy yet without God, or anything that is strong in us of our natural man yet without God – transformation begins.
When the Lord touches us and begins His transformation work in us, we need to be open to Him, pray, not compare “our thigh” to others, but allow the Lord to deal with us. The Lord may allow things to be “messed up” a little in our life, and He may cut us through our most loved ones, even the ones in our family.
We may think that once we get to a certain level of spirituality, everything is alright; but when we get there, the breaking is there, leading to transformation. Our hard shell needs to be broken in order for the oil to flow and transformation to take place. God allowed shameful things to happen in Jacob’s life, and He allows many sufferings and things to happen in the lives of His beloved so that they would be transformed.
We don’t ask for troubles and we don’t like mistakes and hardships, but many times it is through these mishaps that our being is humbled and open, and God can come in. Sometimes God may “mess things up” a little in our life and break our perfectness and wholesomeness so that He may break us and transform us.
When we are transformed by God for His building, we can bear His image and exercise His dominion on earth as Jacob did at the end of his life. By being transformed by God we can become a prince of God, one who struggles and wrestles with God and yet is transformed into a prince of God!
Lord, keep us open to You as we go through hardships and sufferings. We believe that You are arranging all things, persons, and situations for our transformation. Lord, transform us in our inner being from a supplanter into a prince of God. We don’t ask for breaking: we ask for more supply of life, more oil in our vessel, and more of Christ to be manifested through us. Lord, keep us open to You and make us willing to allow You to deal with us, break us, transform us, and make us the prince of God, the Israel of God today that expresses You and represents You!
References and Hymns on this Topic
- Inspiration: the Word of God, my Christian experience, bro. James Lee’s sharing in the message for this week, and portions from, Life-study of Genesis, msgs. 71, 75-76, 93-94, as quoted in, the Holy Word for Morning Revival on, Crystallization-Study of Genesis (3), week 3 / msg 3, Transformation for God’s Building (you can buy this morning revival book here).
- Hymns on this topic:
# Not by gain our life is measured, / But by what we’ve lost ‘tis scored; / ’Tis not how much wine is drunken, / But how much has been outpoured. / For the strength of love e’er standeth / In the sacrifice we bear; / He who has the greatest suff’ring / Ever has the most to share. (Hymns #635 by Watchman Nee)
# Pressed out of measure, pressed beyond all length; / Pressed so intensely, seeming beyond strength; / Pressed in the body, pressed within the soul, / Pressed in the mind till darksome surges roll. / God is my hope and God is my joy; / He is the resurrection life I enjoy. (Hymns #730)
# Lord, transform us to Thine image / In emotion, mind, and will; / Saturate us with Thy Spirit, / All our being wholly fill. (Hymns #750 by Witness Lee)
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