Category Archives: forgiveness

The Day The Lord Wrestled A Man

Jacob was alone and afraid and distressed (Gen. 32:24-32). He had sent his family on before him to safety. All of his possessions he had divided into two camps so that at least one group might survive. The desperate sound of his prayer to God had earlier ascended up before Jehovah’s Throne as he beseeched the Almighty for deliverance from the hand of his brother. Soon, he would face his brother, from whom he had taken birthright and blessing, and offer himself upon his mercy and God’s. But before this, Jacob was left alone. Almost alone.

We are not privy to the circumstances initiating the encounter, but sometime during that night before Jacob would meet his estranged brother, Jacob encountered a mysterious figure, “a man.” This was not a quiet encounter for the Sacred Record tells us that Jacob wrestled with this “man” until the breaking of day. This scuffle was fairly equal until the stranger “touched” Jacob’s thigh and it came out of joint. He demanded to be let go before day break but Jacob, even though he must have been in pain and very much afraid, refused to set the “man” free until he blessed him.

It seems fairly certain that Jacob, by this point, must have recognized that his opponent was more than a mere man, otherwise he would not have sought a blessing from Him (Heb. 7:7). This “man” then lifted the veil from Jacob’s bewildered mind when He told him that his name would be changed from Jacob to Israel, because, “as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed” (Gen. 32:28). His opponent was no mere man but was, in fact, God in the form of a man. Jacob realized in all this, “I have seen God face to face” (32:30).

This was not the first time the Lord had appeared to man as a man. He had so appeared to Abraham, Jacob’s grandfather, in the plains of Mamre (Gen. 18:1,22,23, 33). It would not be the last time He appeared. One like the Son of man appeared to Daniel and the three Hebrew children in the fiery furnace (Dan. 3:25). Of course, God was with us in the flesh (Is. 7:14; Matt. 1:23). But this was the only time a man literally wrestled the Lord!

This encounter gave Israel new hope. Not only had he seen God face to face, he had wrestled Him all night and his life was preserved (Gen. 32:30). Now he was prepared to face his brother, Esau, who was coming to meet him with four hundred men. But instead of confrontation, Jacob found reconciliation, for Esau “ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him: and they wept” (Gen. 33:4). Esau had apparently forgiven and forgotten his brother’s affronts and perhaps had seen the hand of God in them all.

He did not leave the night without scars. He halted upon his thigh, the one which had been touched and came out of joint. Who knows if this lameness followed him all the rest of the days of his life, but it is possible. It is certain, however, when we face spiritual battles in this life, we do not come out of them without wounds. Paul stated, “From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus” (Gal. 6:17). After Paul had faced opposition in Athens he came into Corinth “in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling” (I Corinthians 2:3). But the Lord told Paul, “in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city” (Acts 18:9,10).

There may be times in our lives when we feel alone and afraid and distressed. Sometimes we are seemingly left alone to face great problems in life. We need to know that it is the Lord who will make us stronger and better prepared for the uncertainties of life. The Lord “hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (Heb. 13:5-6).

Eric L. Padgett
* The following hymn, written by Charles Wesley, describes the encounter of Jacob with God. I offer it for your consideration.
Come, O thou Traveler unknown,
Whom still I hold, but cannot see!
My company before is gone,
And I am left alone with Thee;
With Thee all night I mean to stay,
And wrestle till the break of day.

I need not tell Thee who I am,
My misery and sin declare;
Thyself hast called me by my name,
Look on Thy hands, and read it there;
But who, I ask Thee, who art Thou?
Tell me Thy name, and tell me now.

In vain Thou strugglest to get free,
I never will unloose my hold!
Art Thou the Man that died for me?
The secret of Thy love unfold;
Wrestling, I will not let Thee go,
Till I Thy name, Thy nature know.

Wilt Thou not yet to me reveal
Thy new, unutterable Name?
Tell me, I still beseech Thee, tell;
To know it now resolved I am;
Wrestling, I will not let Thee go,
Till I Thy Name, Thy nature know.

’Tis all in vain to hold Thy tongue
Or touch the hollow of my thigh;
Though every sinew be unstrung,
Out of my arms Thou shalt not fly;
Wrestling I will not let Thee go
Till I Thy name, Thy nature know.

What though my shrinking flesh complain,
And murmur to contend so long?
I rise superior to my pain,
When I am weak, then I am strong
And when my all of strength shall fail,
I shall with the God-man prevail.

My strength is gone, my nature dies,
I sink beneath Thy weighty hand,
Faint to revive, and fall to rise;
I fall, and yet by faith I stand;
I stand and will not let Thee go
Till I Thy Name, Thy nature know.

Yield to me now, for I am weak,
But confident in self-despair;
Speak to my heart, in blessings speak,
Be conquered by my instant prayer;
Speak, or Thou never hence shalt move,
And tell me if Thy Name is Love.

’Tis Love! ’tis Love! Thou diedst for me!
I hear Thy whisper in my heart;
The morning breaks, the shadows flee,
Pure, universal love Thou art;
To me, to all, Thy bowels move;
Thy nature and Thy Name is Love.

My prayer hath power with God; the grace
Unspeakable I now receive;
Through faith I see Thee face to face,
I see Thee face to face, and live!
In vain I have not wept and strove;
Thy nature and Thy Name is Love.

I know Thee, Savior, who Thou art.
Jesus, the feeble sinner’s friend;
Nor wilt Thou with the night depart.
But stay and love me to the end,
Thy mercies never shall remove;
Thy nature and Thy Name is Love.

The Sun of righteousness on me
Hath rose with healing in His wings,
Withered my nature’s strength; from Thee
My soul its life and succor brings;
My help is all laid up above;
Thy nature and Thy Name is Love.

Contented now upon my thigh
I halt, till life’s short journey end;
All helplessness, all weakness I
On Thee alone for strength depend;
Nor have I power from Thee to move:
Thy nature, and Thy name is Love.

Lame as I am, I take the prey,
Hell, earth, and sin, with ease o’ercome;
I leap for joy, pursue my way,
And as a bounding hart fly home,
Through all eternity to prove
Thy nature and Thy Name is Love.

“Forgive me”

Every so often you see a news item in which a person, usually famous, is caught doing something wrong. The person may be cheating on their spouse, using words that are deemed offensive, physically abusing someone else, or something else distasteful or wrong. This gets the media’s full attention for quite a while until the guilty party eventually does a “mea culpa,” i.e., claims responsibility for the act and says “I’m sorry.” The carefully worded and orchestrated confession may be accompanied with tears and appropriate promises of penance. It is great theater!

I cannot read the hearts of men, but I suspect that on many of these occasions played out so often in the media the profession of sorrow is feigned. The person may be sorry they were discovered, they may be sorry that they are being maligned in the media, they may be sorry that all the attention is hurting their career, but they are not genuinely sorry that they did something wrong. The show is only for the purpose of getting back in the good graces of the politically correct and powerful minority. Paul the apostle described this kind of attitude when he wrote: “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death” (II Corinthians 7:10).

Some people may be able to fool some other people into thinking they have truly changed, but rest assured no one will ever fool God (Gal. 6:7)! If the repentance isn’t genuine, no media production will ever move God to forgive that person for the sin. But if the repentance is genuine, and God knows whether it is or not because God knows the heart, then it doesn’t really matter what men may say or do.

The great assurance we have from God is that if we truly repent of our sins, God will forgive (Heb. 8:10-12). Peter denied the Lord, and he was forgiven (Matt. 26:75; John 21:15-19). Great king David committed adultery, lied, and murdered and was able to receive forgiveness (II Sam. 12:13; Psalm 51). Saul of Tarsus blasphemed Christ, hurt people and killed Christians, and received forgiveness (I Tim. 1:13). The woman caught in the act of adultery was forgiven by the Lord (John 8:1-11). The thief on the cross was forgiven (Luke 23:43). Jesus was willing to forgive those who were complicit in His crucifixion (Luke 23:34). Simon the sorcerer was forgiven if he truly repented (Acts 8:22). You and I can also be forgiven if we truly repent (Acts 3:19).

When the repentance of an individual is genuine, it is a very wonderful thing. Jesus said there is joy in heaven when a sinner repents of his or her sin or wrong (Luke 15:7,10). When someone says “forgive me,” and means it, really means it, it is the indication of a heart that is softened and pliable and reconcilable to the will of God (or someone else, as the case may be). It is also the acknowledgment that there is an objective right and wrong; it is an acknowledgment of a personal violation of that standard. It indicates a meekness of heart that is very rare in our society. It manifests a beauty of character that the Lord desires in His children (Deut. 10:12-16).

“Forgive me.” These words can either be both the most powerful and humble words a man can utter or they can be the most distasteful and hypocritical. How will use them?

Eric L. Padgett

FORGIVENESS

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (I John 1:9)

One of the many things which so moves me about the teaching of Christ is the promise of forgiveness. Watching the response of those who have stood at the bar of human justice waiting for a verdict to be announced, proves just how powerful the concept of forgiveness is. If your life hangs in the balance (and you have any kind of regard for it), the announcement “Not Guilty” is overwhelming. We have seen it many times on our television sets. The jubilation, the joy of acquittal (whether deserved or not)! But if human forgiveness is so precious, how much more precious is the forgiveness of the Lord!

Of course, unless you believe and feel that you are guilty in the sight of God, such a promise holds very little meaning. Apparently, many in our society do not have a sense of guiltiness in their lives regarding sin. To them, there is no such thing as sin, mainly because they do not believe in an objective standard of right and wrong. Perhaps they do not even believe in God. And if they do not believe in an objective, metaphysical standard of right and wrong, then they will also see no value in forgiving one another. In fact, such an action as forgiveness might even be perceived as weakness. How tragic and how meaningless such a life must be, to never feel the rapture of redemption.

But for those of us who painfully realize our own faults and transgressions against the Divine Will, who hurt and despair over offending the righteousness and holiness of God, the knowledge that the Lord in His mercy and grace has forgiven us and will continue to forgive us as long as we walk in the light and confess our sins, is too wonderful to fully describe (I John 1:7-9). It is truly amazing to know that He left the glories of heaven to die on the cruel and thankless cross so that we might be able to hear from Heaven’s Bar of Justice those precious words “Forgiven.”

Incredibly, the Bible tells us when we are forgiven by God that all our prior sins and transgression are forgiven (Col. 2:13), completely wiped clean from His Book of Remembrance. They will never be brought up against us again! Never! We know this forgiveness comes at a very high price, indeed, the price of unthinkable humiliation and the shedding of Holy and Innocent Blood (Phil. 2:5-8; Acts 20:28; Col. 1:14) through the riches of His grace (Eph. 1:7). The knowledge of this great forgiveness should bring even greater joy (Mark 9:2).

Because He has forgiven us so much, not because we deserve it, but for Christ’s name sake (Eph. 4:32; I John 2:12), we should love greatly, as well (Luke 7:47). We also know that humility, repentance and obedience precede forgiveness (II Chron. 7:14; Acts 8:22). When Jesus spoke from the cross and said “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34), this could not be accomplished until there was repentance on the part of those about whom He spoke. His prayer was answered on the day of Pentecost when three thousand were pricked in their heart by the words spoken by Peter and repented and were baptized (Acts 2:38). What a day of rejoicing that must have been when so many enjoyed so great a salvation!

It follows that because we have been forgiven, we should be able to forgive others also (Col. 3:13). The simple law of Christ is, Forgive and ye shall be forgiven (Luke 6:36). We should forgive whenever there is forgiveness sought, as many times as it takes (Luke 17:3; Matt. 18:21,22). If we are not willing to forgive others, then surely we cannot expect the Lord to forgive us (Mark 11:25). So let us preach the forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ to the world that they too might know the joys of salvation and let us practice forgiveness in our own lives!

I am so grateful to God to know confidently that He forgives me when I sin. He forgives me often. I hope and pray and strive so that one day I might hear Him say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

Eric L. Padgett