Who Will Ascend? …The Jacob Generation

The Jacob GenerationAs we now approach the end of this series entitled “Who Will Ascend?” we must look back to our foundational passage of Psalm 24:3–6 once more. To refresh our memories, let’s now read it again together:

Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation. This is Jacob, the generation of those who seek Him, who seek Your face. Selah.

We have talked extensively about verse three (who may ascend) and verses four and five (qualifications of those who may ascend and resulting blessings). Now, before concluding this series, one more crucial aspect must be discussed: verse six. At first glance, verse six may actually seem sort of out-of-place with respect to the rest of this passage. What does Jacob have to do with anything? Where does he come into play? Well, my friends, of course you know that nothing in the Bible is there randomly or by chance, but each passage is God-inspired and God-ordained. It is no accident at all that David refers to the generation of people who seek the Lord as the generation of Jacob.

Before discussing why Jacob is mentioned here, let’s first examine David’s main point. David was describing a generation, or a group of people, who would seek the Lord with all their hearts. I believe that this generation refers not to a specific age group in a specific era, but rather, this generation refers to all people who are willing to ascend the mountain of God at all costs. The Jacob Generation consists of those people who—regardless of age, culture, or chronological placement—intentionally live their lives abandoned to the cause of Christ, cleansing their hands and purifying their hearts. It is easy to sign up to be part of the Jacob Generation, but it is difficult to stay committed. Climbing a mountain may seem easy at the bottom, where the climb is gradual. But the closer one gets to the top, the steeper the mountain becomes, and the fewer exist who are still willing to make the effort to reach the peak. Will you be numbered among the Jacob Generation?

You may say, “Yes, I want to be part of that generation, but I still don’t understand why it is called the Jacob Generation!” Well, I’m glad you brought that up. After all, Jacob didn’t climb the Mountain of God. Why didn’t David say, “This is Moses”? Why didn’t he even prophetically say, “This is Elijah,” or, “This is Jesus”? I believe there is one reason for this. Jacob did something that neither Moses nor Elijah nor Jesus did: Jacob wrestled with God.

Jacob is, by far, one of my favorite people in the Bible. His life was so radical, and his faith was so real. He was the ultimate model of God’s keen ability to change lives, and his testimony can encourage many people who think they are not worthy of God’s best. Let’s backtrack through his life a bit so that we can then discuss the story of his wrestling with God in its proper context.

It all started with a name: a simple, innocent name. Yet, that name caused more grief in Jacob’s life than anything else ever did. When he was born, because he grasped the heel of his twin brother Esau, his parents called him Jacob, which literally has the meaning of “deceiver,” “one who supplants,” and “one who grabs the heel.” Remember, in Bible times, a name played a huge role in a person’s life. And so it was with Jacob, who spent the first part of his life living according to his name, rather than his true identity in God. As his name suggested, Jacob deceived his brother and father into getting both the birthright and the official blessing that rightly belonged to Esau, the firstborn.

This deception caused a problem for Jacob because his brother became enraged with him, to the point of death. So, Jacob did what all good deceivers do: he fled! Jacob was beginning to take on the very characteristics of the devil himself; however, the Lord had too huge of a destiny in store for him to allow that to happen. Consequently, as Jacob fled, God met him right where he was, at a place he later named Bethel, and gave him his first encounter. Through a dream, He showed Jacob the reality of heaven and the reality of his calling on earth. It was then that Jacob was met with God’s promise, and it was then that Jacob began to live according to his calling, rather than his name.

Life went on for Jacob, who had fled to his relative Laban’s home to find shelter. He spent fourteen years of labor there so he could marry Laban’s two daughters, Leah and Rachel. Yet, those fourteen years flew by like a split second for Jacob because he had such desire for his ultimate bride Rachel. At some point, Jacob decided it was time to get out of Laban’s turf. So he rounded up his troops, and they all left for a more suitable dwelling place. On his way, Jacob heard that Esau was coming with many men to meet him. Filled with fear for his life, Jacob ordered his people to split up so that if Esau captured Jacob’s group, he would not capture all the groups. The one thing Jacob did not do was flee. No, Jacob faced his fear this time, even if it meant death. It was then that Jacob had his second encounter. Before going any further, let’s read the account of this encounter in Genesis 32:22–32:

And he arose that night and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven sons, and crossed over the ford of Jabbok. He took them, sent them over the brook, and sent over what he had. Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him. And He said, “Let me go, for the day breaks.”

But he said, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!”

So He said to him, “What is your name?”

He said, “Jacob.”

And He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.”

Then Jacob asked, saying, “Tell me Your name, I pray.”

And He said, “Why is it that you ask about My name?” And He blessed him there.

So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: “For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.”

Just as he crossed over Penuel the sun rose on him, and he limped on his hip. Therefore to this day the children of Israel do not eat the muscle that shrank, which is on the hip socket, because He touched the socket of Jacob’s hip in the muscle that shrank.

This is one of my favorite stories in the entire Bible. Let’s recap it a bit. The night before Jacob met Esau, God literally came down to him in the form of a Man and wrestled with him until daybreak, even allowing Jacob to prevail. Ironically, Jacob would not let Him go until He blessed him. Jacob was not satisfied with the blessing he received from his father through sin. He wanted a pure blessing without the strings attached.

Now, this is the crucial part to understand: The Man then asked his name, forcing him once more to identify his past. Given the insurmountable power contained in a biblical name, it probably was extremely shameful for Jacob to have to tell his name to this Man. By saying a simple word, Jacob was once more dealing with a reminder of his past, despite his desire to live a changed life. “My name is Jacob,” he said.

At that moment, everything broke.

“No longer will you be called Jacob,” said the Man, “but Israel, for you have struggled with God.” Israel had to face his fears and live contrary to his name before the Lord could give him a new one. But the breakthrough came with the arrival of his new name. No longer was Israel an image of the devil—a deceiver—but rather, one who sought the Lord with his all. The Lord then gave Israel favor with Esau, and restoration was made.

If you do not like the label that has been placed over you, you must learn to live contrary to that label. Israel learned this through and through. In fact, as his wife Rachel bore their last son on her deathbed, she named him Ben-Oni, which basically means “troublemaker.” However, Israel would not allow his son to go through another identity crisis like he himself did. He renamed his son Benjamin, which basically means “my right-hand man.” He put his son in a place of honor, right from the start.

Later on, Israel made one final statement before his death. When he blessed his son Joseph’s two sons, he purposely gave the younger son the greater blessing. Joseph tried to correct him, but Israel knowingly said, “No, I know exactly what I am doing.” Israel was not going to let names or physical positions interfere with his descendants’ relationships with God. He had been down that road, and he had no desire to make his successors return to his past mistakes. Israel went through a lot, but he overcame, and God honored that by giving him an encounter with his true destiny: the name-bearer and third founding father of God’s chosen people Israel, the nation that struggled with God and overcame.

“Your old reality has an expiration date. Your new reality has a gestational period.”[1] Many of us today are faced with learning to live life in-between the conception and the birth of a new reality. Essentially, this process can be modeled by the following diagram:

Old New Reality

Jacob’s old reality was his life of deception under his old name. His new reality came to its fullness at the time his new name Israel was given to him. However, there was a period of time in-between during which Jacob was trying to live according to his future new name, yet was still dealing with the effects of his old name upon him. His life can be modeled as follows:

Jacob's Old and New Reality

Between Jacob’s first encounter with God at Bethel and his second encounter with God at Peniel, Jacob went through a life-changing season of growth and preparation. During this time, Jacob lived at Laban’s house and essentially got a taste of his own medicine. For years, Jacob had been the deceiver, but now, Jacob was the one being deceived. Laban tricked him into marrying Leah after Jacob already worked seven years to marry Rachel. I have to believe that, due to his encounter with God and the trying circumstances he endured thereafter, Jacob was learning how to live according to his new name before he even received it. I have to believe that Jacob was tired of being viewed as the deceiver, and once he realized the effects of Laban’s deceitful actions, he all the more desired to get out.

Many of you reading this right now are in a similar place to that of Jacob. God has encountered you in a magnificent way, and now you are faced with living during this gestational period between the death of your old reality and the birth of your new reality. The Lord has showed you the perils of living according to your old way of life, and you want no part of that. You have transitioned from living a deceitful life for your own gain to living a God-seeking life for His glory. Yet, because of your past, people still label you according to your old reality instead of your new reality in Christ. Many of you are tired of constantly being labeled, criticized, and judged by those around you who see you from a worldly perspective, rather than through God’s eyes.

To anyone for whom this resonates, I am writing to you right now. Today, I declare over you prophetically that now is the time for the birth of your new reality. No longer will you live under the burden of your past and your old reality. A new day has come. Say that out loud right now: “A new day has come!” You are not Jacob. You are Israel! You are a God seeker. You are numbered among those who are in the generation of those who seek the face of God.

This article is entitled “The Jacob Generation.” However, this is really a faulty title. More accurately, I am talking about “The Israel Generation,” for those who are part of this generation certainly are living according to the Israel aspect of seeking God, rather than the Jacob aspect of deceit and selfishness.

Let me conclude by asking the question likened unto the one I asked at the beginning: Will you be numbered among those in the Jacob (or Israel) Generation? Those in the Jacob Generation seek God at all costs. They are not afraid to wrestle with Him for their breakthrough and blessing. They are the abandoned-to-self God seekers.

The man Israel may not have ascended the Mountain of God, but he definitely had one up on those who did: He wrestled with God and would not let Him go until he received his blessing. Israel demonstrated the embodiment of the Psalm 24 description of an intercessor and one who ascends the Mountain of God. His past reality was full of living with soiled hands, a dirty heart, idolatry, and deception. However, his new reality lined up perfectly with the qualifications of Psalm 24:4: Clean hands (reserved for touching what was holy), a pure heart (seeking God for His blessing, not on the basis of his own achievement, but for the purpose of right-standing with God), no idolatry (he sought God alone), and no deceit (his days of deception were history). With this in mind, let’s read Psalm 24:3–6 one more time to conclude this series:

Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation. This is Jacob, the generation of those who seek Him, who seek Your face. Selah.

Practically Speaking…

What labels have you been living underneath? What burdens have you been carrying? Your past has the potential to become a burden upon your back, making it difficult or perhaps impossible to climb the Mountain of God. Yet, if your new reality has been conceived in Christ, your old reality has no choice but to expire. When someone asks you who you are, does your mind go to your past mistakes or to your current and future standing with God? I can declare over you freedom from the bondage of your past all I want, just like I did earlier in this blog; however, there comes a point when you must pull yourself up by the boot straps and wrestle with God yourself. I cannot wrestle with Him for you.

I believe God wants to encounter you like never before and bring you out of the dire circumstances you are facing. Remember, before God encountered Jacob at Peniel, he was at his wit’s end, having no idea what to do. He thought he was going to die. Yet, after his encounter, he met Esau, and the only thing that died was his old reality. Esau did not kill him; their relationship was completely restored. One encounter with God has the power to change a life or death situation into a powerful restoration. Do you believe this? Choose this day, and every day, to live according to your new reality in Christ. You are no longer who you were. You are a new creation.

[1] Quoted from Pastor Lonnie Parton of Victory Fellowship Church in Council Bluffs, Iowa


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