Have you ever seen the portrayal of a shepard carrying a lamb upon his shoulders? Typically, tender hands are seen fixed upon front and hind legs with the animal positioned around his neck as a stoll. What you might not know is that in reality the scene depicts a shepard carrying the lamb of whose legs he has just purposely broken. That lamb was a habitual wanderer and for his own good he was afflicted. The seemingly brutal shepard will now carry the lamb until he is fully healed and in so doing the lamb will come to love his caretaker and never leave his side.
The Lamb Afflicts the Lamb
In this saga from Genesis we see Jacob grappling with a Man, and that Man is Jesus. Ultimately, Jesus will inflict an injury so severe upon Jacob; he will carry the scar and the limb for the rest of his life. It might cause us to ask the questions, “If God is love (and He is), why would He purposely hurt Jacob? And why does God purposely bring pain into my life?” Thes story of the shepard and the lamb only scratches the surface.
Sanctification is nothing more than a fancy word which describes the refining process we go through so that we might be set apart for God’s good pleasure and purpose. God has specific intentions for us that align with His plan and here in our story he has similar purpose for Jacob. But first some things are going to have to change.
What is Your Name?
That’s the question God asks of Jacob—it is confession time. God knows with whom He is wrestling, but before the blessing is bestowed Jacob must take ownership of his offenses. If you recall, the last time Jacob was asked his name was when his blind father Isaac posed the question. At that time Jacob lied and said he was Esau so that he might steal the blessing. When Jacob tells God (here) that his name is Jacob, he is essentially confessing that he is a liar and a thief. As a result Jesus pronounces that his new name will be Israel; or ‘governed by God.’
So Why the Busted Leg?
A combination of reasons come to mind. First, Jacob was a runner (like the lamb) and as a result of this encounter, his running-away days are over—thanks be to God. Secondly, his limb will now serve as a reminder of his life up unto this event—Jacob now has a testimony that he will recall with every hobbled step he takes. Thirdly, like the Apostle Paul he will possess an infirmity effecting remembrance of the Father’s truth, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
The reality is that God purposely inflicts or knowingly allows affliction because it is a part of the sanctification process. 1 Kings 6:7 provides a wonderful picture that facilitates much hope. It reads, “And the temple, when it was being built, was built with stone finished at the quarry, so that no hammer or chisel or any iron tool was heard in the temple while it was being built.”
That passage is an illustration of the sanctification process. The Bible tells us we are the stones in the walls of the His temple. We are being prepared currently in an earthly quarry with the promise that hammering and chiseling, the sounds of the refining process will not be heard in Heaven.
For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:17-18
If you are still struggling with the notion of a loving and hurting God, then perhaps you should go have something to eat—understanding and insight can be had at the Lord’s Table in Communion.
…And when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 1 Corinthians 11:24