In this sermon, we look at Jacob’s identity trap: seeking significance through power. Jacob was the grandson of Abraham, and the father of Joseph. His story gives us a powerful look at the deep identity transformation God wants to bring into each one of our lives.


We’ll look at three parts to Jacob’s story:


  1. Jacob’s Upbringing: Jacob’s identity is built around gaining significance through power. He wants to be recognized as the leader of the family, successful and prosperous, favored with the blessing of God. And he pursues this by scheming, controlling, and manipulating others. Jacob grabs significance by the throat and makes sure he gets it, no matter what. He won’t leave it up to chance, and he won’t leave it up to God. He wants to power his way into significance. We see this play out in the story of Esau when Jacobs steals his inheritance and manipulates Isaac into Esau’s birthright.
  2. Jacob’s Sojourning: Having enraged Esau, Jacob flees and seeks refuge in the family of Laban. It is in the care of Laban that Jacob gets a taste of his own medicine: the schemer becomes the scammed. Jacob finds himself insignificant and powerless in the face of Laban’s manipulation and scheming. And it is here that his strategy for identity begins to unravel, because building significance through power only works until someone more powerful comes along. After 20 years living with Laban, God calls Jacob back to the land of his fathers.
  3. Jacob’s Homecoming: At the age of 97, Jacob heads back to Canaan, where tensions mount again with Esau. And in desperation Jacob cries out to God for help for the first time in his life. A wrestling match ensues between Jacob and God, and they wrestle all night, not because Jacob is strong, but because God is wearing him down. God wrestles Jacob to the end of himself. And God wounds Jacob’s body to mend his soul; God wrenches his hip to bring Jacob to the end of himself, to bring him to a place of weakness, of brokenness, of powerlessness. Then, God give Jacob a new name, Israel, which means “God striver.” The name is an invitation: will Jacob keep striving with God, grasping for power, or will he finally surrender and trust God to strive powerfully on his behalf? Jacob ultimately limps into his transformed identity as he now finds significance in surrendering to God. God comes through for Jacob. God strives for Israel. And the miraculous takes place: Esau welcomes Jacob with open arms.


Takeaway: The significance our souls desperately need is found in surrendering ourselves to our Father.


Do you realize that in Jesus Christ your Heavenly Father has crowned you with glory and honor; seated you with Christ in the Heavenly places; and adopted you his forever Son or Daughter with an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade?


You don’t have to scheme, or manipulate, or strive, or endeavor, or grasp after these blessings. In fact, if you do so, they will never be yours, for these blessings can only be received as gifts by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.


The true significance our souls long for comes not through power, but through frailty; not through control, but through surrender; not through strength, but through weakness.


True significance comes through childlike trust.


Genesis 25-32


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