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Approaching God

By Elie Nessim, September 25 1999 Printer Friendly Version

Then Jacob said, 'O GOD of my father Abraham, and GOD of my father Isaac, the LORD who said to me; 'Return to your country and to your kindred, and I will deal well with you.'  I'm not worthy of the least of all the mercies and of all the truth which You have shown your servant; for I crossed over this Jordan with my staff, and now I have become two companies.  Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother; from the hand of Esau, for I fear him lest he come and attack me and the mother with the children, for you said, 'I will surely treat you well and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.'
Our text is an example of prayer from the life of Jacob. Jacob was facing a supreme crisis in his life and this is how he prays. He doesn't immediately say, 'Help me!'  He begins by worshipping.  He worships GOD; he acknowledges in his confession, 'I'm not worthy of the least of all the mercies and of all the truth which You have shown Your servant.'  This is confession.  He puts himself in the right place; he acknowledges where he is, and then he also acknowledges GOD's goodness to him, and his present crisis, and he pleads GOD's promise.  And, later on, we read that he wrestled with GOD; and the angel that wrestled with him (in verse 26) said, 'Let me go for the day breaks.'  But he said, 'I will not let You go unless You bless me.'   Nobody, ever, asked an angel to bless them!  Jacob was aware that this angelic visitor was not just an angel.  It was the Angel of the LORD!  It was the Son of GOD in the form of a man!  Don't you think this protagonist with Jacob could easily have freed himself from Jacob's clutches?  Why does He say, 'Let me go'?  And the answer is: His love held Him there; His love made Him vulnerable to Jacob.  'Let me go.'

And Jacob's response: 'I will not let you go unless you bless me.' That is prayer.  There are times when we just cling to GOD; we have no strength left.  We are sobbing our hearts out.  But we still say, 'I will not let you go unless you bless me.' That is the essence of prayer.  Steadfast reliance on the mercy of GOD.

Here is another example from the life of Nehemiah.  If we go to the Book of Nehemiah, Chapter 1, verse 4.  After he heard the bad news about the plight of his people back in Jerusalem, he says in verse 4: 'So it was when I heard these words that I sat down and wept and mourned for many days.  I was fasting and praying before the GOD of heaven, and I said, 'I pray LORD GOD of heaven, O great and awesome GOD, You who keep your covenant and mercy with those who love You and observe your commandments, please let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, that You may hear the prayer of your servant which I pray before You now, day and night for the children of Israel, your servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel which we have sinned against You; both my father's house and I have sinned.''

'I don't deserve anything,' says Nehemiah, 'but I'm speaking to the all merciful One, who has said in His Torah, 'If you turn to Me with all your hearts, I will turn back to you.' An offer of mercy for the repentant in the Torah.  He says here, verse 7: 'We have acted very corruptly against You and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, nor the ordinances which You commanded your servant Moses.  Remember, I pray, the word that You commanded your servant Moses saying, 'If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations; but if you return to Me and keep My commandments and do them, though some of you were cast out to the farthest part of the heavens, yet I will gather them from there, and bring them to the place which I have chosen as a dwelling for My Name.''

See what he does!  Confession, first of all.  He puts himselfin the right place.  And then, he comes to GOD as totally unworthy and undeserving, and pleads GOD's promise and grace and mercy.  Did you know that the Torah teaches grace?  So many people go wrong about Law and grace.  They think they are opposites; anti, against each other; opposites.  They will never be reconciled.  No way!  Law has lots of grace in it, and when you look at grace, it has a lot of Law in it.  They are complementary.  What are antithetical to each other; what are contrary and mutually exclusive, are grace and works.  But we are not talking about grace and works.  We are talking about grace and Law.  There's a difference.

So Nehemiah presented himself to GOD.  First of all, he says, 'I am not coming for any imagined merit of my own.'  'No more my GOD, I boast, no more of all the duties that I have done.  I quit the hopes I held before to trust the merits of Thy Son!'  That's our prayer, and that's how Nehemiah prayed. 

And he pleads the promise.  'So I don't deserve anything, but LORD, You are faithful to your Word.  Remember what You said.'  Don't our children tell us that?  'But Daddy!  Remember what you said!  But Mommy!  You said!'  They hold us to what we say.  And they are absolutely right!  And we ought never, to betray their trust in our word.  GOD is wonderfully pleased when His children come to Him and bring up His promise, and say, 'LORD, you promised!'

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