Rev. Toh Nee Lim | On 24, Oct 2017
Title: Divine wounding
Scripture Reading; Genesis 25:21-22; 27:41; 31:2; 32:24-27; 31:2; 47:9
And Isaac intreated the Lord for his wife, because she was barren: and the Lord was intreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived. And the children struggled together within her; and she said, If it be so, why am I thus? And she went to enquire of the Lord.
And Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing wherewith his father blessed him: and Esau said in his heart, The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then will I slay my brother Jacob.
And Jacob beheld the countenance of Laban, and, behold, it was not toward him as before.
And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. 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. And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. Therefore the children of Israel eat not of the sinew which shrank, which is upon the hollow of the thigh, unto this day: because he touched the hollow of Jacob’s thigh in the sinew that shrank.
And Jacob said unto Pharaoh, The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage.
What I have just read to you is the chronological life of Jacob from birth till his death. It is one of struggle. Actually when he was already inside his mother’s womb, the bible tells me that he struggled. Jacob’s life is such a contrast to that of Isaac, his father. Isaac’s life was peaceful, with no strivings. For Isaac everything went easily. But for Jacob it was the opposite. It was a long struggle throughout his life. It was never quiet. There was striving (go-getting). Even the simplest of things for Jacob was met with difficulties. Yet God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (included), all three. Jacob was a patriarch. Yet Jacob struggles not only with man and with God himself.
I have two daughters; joy and Jan. What I observe about their lives is a revelation. They are so different from each other even though both came from Pastor Lily’s womb. Joy is more like Isaac; carefree and peaceful, with not much striving and everything went easily. Jan is the total opposite. Her way is a long struggle throughout, even until today, she is still harassed and besieged. Even the simplest of things will find Jan faced with many difficulties. For some of us, we have both the seasons of Isaac and the season of Jacob. For others, we have more of Jacob for God to deal with. And for some we are very Jacob. Let’s learn a few things about divine wounding.
1. The Transgressions of Jacob
Why are there so many difficulties in Jacob’s life? Proverbs 13:15 says ‘the way of transgressors is hard’. The word translated hard means permanent, enduring and perennial. To make sense of it, it has to be taken to mean hard, tougher or rugged. Jacob’s way is tougher or more rugged because he was like that; his ways are so entrenched that he finds it hard to turn from it. The word ‘hard’ also means ‘a constant strife.’ That is definitely Jacob. The hard, rugged Jacob requires a lot of time for God to deal with. Like Jacob, we will be of little use unless God has taken that time to handle us. Jacob’s problem is a lifelong thing. The character of Jacob is that of a usurper, and a cheat. He schemes, plans, cheat which is all a part of him. Well God will not let such a man escape. God has to come in and uses what I call divine wounding.
2. The Meaning of Divine Wounding
To have divine wounding is such that God deals with a soul in such a way that He leaves behind a sign as a reminder. God has pierced that soul and make that soul so intensely aware of who he or she is. I mean the wounding of Jacob was found everywhere; his favorite wife Rachel died after giving birth to Benjamin. Dinah, his only daughter was raped. His uncle cheated him in his wages a number of times. Practically all his children are a thorn in his flesh. He thought his beloved son; Joseph was killed by a wild animal. But God’s ultimate wounding was that He literally gives Jacob a divine wound that physically dislocated his thigh. I look at my daughter Jan. She too has a permament wound. On her head right now, she has a horse shoe scar that is permanent. It is covered by her long hair. But hair cannot grow on that spot until today. She got this wound because she was insistent on having her way. She wanted to go the Philippines Science but we told her that it is not possible because she is not a local and Philippines Science only accepts locals. Well she refused and wanted to try. As we were so busy entertaining our Pastor at that time, she took a Jeepney (first time she took a Jeep) to go to the city and she had an accident. She nearly died but God preserved her life. Out of it she has a permanent wound. Pastor Lily always reminds her of her craniotomy and freely lectures her that she is hard headed. Well many of us are so hard headed, stubborn, stiff-necked concerning our way of life.
Let’s look at Jacob’s divine wounding. Jacob is returning back to the land of his father and he remembers the last time he saw Esau twenty years ago, Esau was breathing out threatening against him. He was more alarmed when he heard that Esau is coming with 400 men to meet him. With his coming he divides up his group. He is being clever that if his brother strikes one group, then the other can escape. Then he appealed to God. In Genesis 32:10 he says to God, ‘I am not worthy of the least of all mercies.’ For the first time, he acknowledges that he might be a sinner in God’s sight. That night is probably the greatest experience of his life. Jacob is the ultimate example of a person touched by divine wounding. I mean he is a swindler. He cheats his brother Esau out of his rightful inheritance, and later becomes convinced his brother will kill him. The ultimate wounding for Jacob is God wrestling with him. The bible says in Genesis 32:24 ‘there wrestled a man with him.’ This man is termed ‘the angel.’ He is actually the ‘Angel of the Covenant’ and therefore a theophanic manifestation. Wrestling is about forcing a man down until he can no longer move, until he must claim utter surrender and submission at the hands of a much worthier opponent. Our worthier opponent is God. What is the purpose of this wrestling? It is to gain something from Jacob; to reduce Jacob to a sense of his nothingness, to cause him to see what a poor, helpless and worthless creature he was. It was to teach us through him the all important lesson that what a hopeless creature we are and to recognize that in weakness lies our strength. It is also to bring us to the end of our own resources, to bring us to the end of ourselves. And finally it is to force us to cling to God. That is what divine wounding does to us.
The thigh is the strongest part of the body. And yet there must come a day when God dislocates that thigh, totally undermining and undoing our source of strength. That dislocating of the thigh is a definite crisis of experience. I mean in life Jacob has contended for the birthright and had succeeded. He had contended for the blessing and had succeeded. He had contended with Laban and had succeeded. He had contended with men and had succeeded. Now he is contending with God (the Wrestler) and fails. Divine wounding is painful. It forces you to confront your own sins and imperfections. Divine wounding hurts because you realize you don’t deserve it and yet you are being granted grace anyway. One touch is enough and Jacob was lame. Jacob could no longer wrestle and he was powerless. God will always bring us to that point or moment. Jacob has no other sources now except to depend on God. Of course God himself a wrestler will not leave him. It is when our thigh has been touched that we can hold God the closest. We are strongest when we are weakest.
3. Wounded by God
Deuteronomy 32:39, ‘See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand. God is saying that He is Jehovah, the Great I AM THAT I AM. There is no other god besides him and He is able to do and will do what he wants to do. And in this verse Jehovah proclaims that He wounds. What a strong statement. He smites people with war and other scourges. He is the sovereign disposer of sickness and health, of life and death; and even leaves a scar. There are two personalities in the bible see God directly wounding the subjects; Jacob’s thigh and Paul blinded by God. Blessed is the man that experiences divine wounding and not human wounding.
There are 2 kinds of wounding; human woundedness and divine woudedness. The perspective, discerning and understanding mind can easily detect by the spirit the source of the woundedness. Human wounding is the fruit of its own fallenness. Human wounding takes us down rather than raises us up. The wound which is borne in the world’s way brings death. There are people who wound themselves and because these wounds aren’t from God, so true healing can never happen. The perfect example is Cain. Cain killed his brother Abel. It is the fruit of his own fallenness. His own human wounding takes him down rather than raises him up. Cain wounds himself and this wound isn’t from God, so true healing can never happen. Actually it brings forth death.
Divine woundedness on the other hand which you bear in God’s way brings a change of heart too good to regret. Divine wounding is painful, but it is also liberating. It is joyous and healing. And it is only through divine wounding that we are able to be healed. A man who went through a divine wounding shared this experience: ‘Physically, I carry reminders of divine wounding. My colitis (inflammation of the colon) reminds me that I need to slow down, that I have to stop controlling every details of my life. It reminds me that I am lame and weak, and thus need to depend on the Lord more than ever. But divine wounding goes much deeper than that. The real wounds strikes into your innermost being. Visible wounds are only a symbol of the invisible wound of the soul. Sadly some people’s souls are so wounded that it leaves track marks, self inflicted cuts, self burns; these become the physical wounds that manifest themselves.
As I was preparing this message, I recollect my 2012 experiences and I must declare it is a divine wounding. I began to understand 2 Corinthians 12:10 better. It says, ‘Therefore I take pleasures in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distress for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.’ Look at the order here: infirmities, reproaches, necessities, persecutions, distress. Of course I didn’t take pleasures in infirmities at that time but right now I appreciate the infirmities. I have always acknowledgment that it is our wrong to keep the purchase of this land from our superior a secret. That is our infirmities; our mistakes, our wrong, our sins. We bore the reproaches, the shame. We were shamed literally both here and in Singapore. How about necessities. At the moment, we have no finances. This church in 2012 had the possibilities of closing down. Personally, we have no salaries. I wonder how we pull through. Then persecutions. The persecutions in the years after 2012 never stop. They made statement like, ‘Something is going to happen to them. Just watch out’. Or even the chairs is owned by them in this church is owned by them. I am considered a fake; my degree is a fake, this church is a fake. Finally distress. I remember the years of distress and sleepless night. I remember when I conducted Joy’s wedding in Singapore, Sis Cheng said she has never seen me that distressed because I was conducting Joy’s wedding in the presence of all my enemies. But how true is the last part. ‘For when I am weak, then I am strong.’ It was at our church weakest moment and at my weakest moment that I became strong. The same goes with Jacob. The same will go with any one of us who is experiencing divine wounding.
But I have to say that all this is a divine wounding. God did not allow us to die. God raises us up. God brings back his presences to this church. And honestly it is liberating. This divine wounding I must say have a permanent scar upon us. Joy just recently that we still have the traumas of the 2012 experiences until today.
4. After the Divine Wounding
What is the purpose of divine wounding? As I said, the thigh is our greatest strength. It represents our ambition, boasting, emotion, self-love. All our works, life and conduct and even the fruits are brought to the surface and displayed. We are exposed.
God told Jacob, ‘Return unto the land of thy fathers and to thy kindred and I will be with you. Divine wounding is to return us back to YHWH. Before this Jacob was in Haran, which we learn last Sunday is an immoral city and he was a man of the flesh. Here we see him in Peniel, seeing the face of God. Before a man of the flesh, now a man of faith. There is such a great transformation of Jacob from that day onwards and you can see his personality totally changed, a man of faith. Look at his humility and his maturity when Pharaoh was admiring him because of Joseph. Pharaoh thought that Jacob must be quite a guy because his son Joseph is amazing. Well Jacob said, ‘And Jacob said unto Pharaoh, The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage.’ What a changed man and what great humility. But also see how Jacob has arrived at the twilight of his journey on earth. The fact that Jacob blessed Pharaoh means that this aged, obscure Jew was greater than the potentate of Egypt; because the lesser is blessed by the greater.
God did not ask Jacob just to return to him but more specifically to return to Bethel. In Genesis 35:2-33 it says, ‘Put away the strange gods that are among you, and purify yourselves, and change your garments: and let us arise, and go up to Bethel.’ Bethel is God’s house. Bethel is the place where divine power is manifested through the body of Christ. It is a place into which we dare not bring anything that is not of God. God is the God of Bethel. God wanted a house, a people for a vessel. He cannot fulfill his purpose without a corporate witness. We are the body of Christ. It is very funny. People say, they like Christ but don’t like His body. In the Church, God is the God of Bethel, not just my God.
Maybe some of you have stop coming to church and has become very inconsistent. God allows wounding so that you can return to God. This divine wounding is to cause you to return to seeking his face again. Return to spending time reading carefully and mediating the word of God and listen to him speaking to you again. He is the God of Bethel. The house of God. Jacob was willing to return. How about you?
Jacob for the first time has learned to recognize God’s voice. In our early years we only want God to fit our desires but now we only want God.
Jacob called that place penile or ‘the face of God’. It was the divine wounding that would literally bring down the face of God to meet you personally. And from that day onwards, God changes his name from Jacob to Israel. Name changes are significant; Jacob the cunning deceiver to Israel becomes a prince with God. The old has gone and the new has come for Jacob. Because you have finally yielded, God has started to give us a new leaf, a new life and a new inheritance and a new future.
The struggling and striving are not totally over as long as you are still on planet earth but from here on Jacob is going to manifest a spiritual nature, dependence upon God. Psychologists tell us that certain synaptic connections are set up in our nervous system so that we do things by habit. We are creatures of habit. Here we begin to see something different in him now. He will start the habit of a new spiritual nature and in dependence on God. Before God is through with him, we will find that he is a real man of God now. Peniel is a new start. Peniel is a turning point. When you see the face of God you will see a turning point in your life.
In conclusion, there is a contemporary book written by John Firman and Ann Gila, entitled ‘Primal wounding.’ In the book both argues that a primal wounding of the human spirit affects fundamental relationships and leads to anxiety, loneliness, and alienation, and shows how the wounding can be redeemed through therapy and through living one’s life differently. Well, for the divine wounding, it is redeemed by the Spirit of God and fundamentally changes one’s life from that day onwards. We praise God, who can wound and heal the wounded spirit; who can bind up the broken heart. Maybe you say your wound is too fresh, your sore too tender and your sorrow too deep. The Balm of Gilead will bring solace to any troubled spirit.
Maybe perhaps there are some here who had sadly departed from God, have willfully sinned against conviction and against conscience and even against so much divine love experienced and so much covenant mercy received. Even so, the language of God is ‘And I said after she had done all these things, turn unto me. “I will heal their backslidings, I will love them freely, for my anger is turned away from him. Bring your wounds to Jesus. Just know that there is no wound too deep or too desperate for Christ’ healing and loving touch.