Study Guide: Life Without Walls

Sunday June 12, 2016 | Seth McCoy

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

In this, the third message in our Flesh and Blood series, we focus on Jacob's story in Genesis. His story is a great illustration of how we build walls inside ourselves, and it brings to light who we are really protecting ourselves from.

Extended Summary:

The story of Jacob in Genesis is a perfect example of how we build walls to protect ourselves from others and the world. When Jacob was young, his older brother Esau was his dad’s favorite and got all the blessings. This hurt Jacob, and that wound never fully left him. From then on he adopted a mentality that said “if I can’t get my needs met by my family, I will take care of myself.” So he went through life having to rely on his own wits to get his needs met. He became a masterful deceiver, in fact this is what his name Jacob means — literally it means one who grabs and will not let go of one’s leg– the phrase “pulling my leg” to mean fooling someone comes from this story. He was a deceiver. In a sense he “stole” every blessing he had in his life.

His older brother Esau wanted to kill him because of this (and all his past deceptions). Eventually Jacob had to run away because his family was so dysfunctional. The irony though is that his grandfather was Abraham– His whole family supposed to be blessed! (But more in that later)

When he was 100 years old, God called him to go back to his homeland and face his brother. He was scared, because his brother has wanted to kill him all these years and was bringing a small army of 400 men with him. So the night before, he sent his wife and children away and stayed by himself. A man appeared at night, who he thinks is Esau. They wrestled all night (Jacob is nothing if not perseverant). But by the time morning came, he realized to his shock that it hadn’t been his brother that he had been fighting — it was God he had been fighting.

The first wall that has to come down — our first fight — is between us and God.

To end the fight the previous night, God wounded Jacob’s hip so that he now had a limp. This gave him vulnerability, which was what he most needed after a whole life of “scrapping” with strength and deceiving for all that he had. This allowed Jacob to confront his brother not with strength but with vulnerability, which Esau reacted to by forgiving him.

After the night’s fight, God changed Jacob’s name to mean one who struggles and clings, but not to one’s leg– to God. Israel was Jacob’s new name. He learned not to struggle against others, but to wrestle with and cling to God.

In Matthew 18:15-22 … Jesus teaches that if a brother sins against you, go privately to them and point out the offense. If that doesn’t work, bring a neutral third party to join you, and if that doesn’t work, bring it to the church. If all that does not solve it, we are to treat them as a pagan or tax collector. (Ouch! This seems like a condemnation, except that we all know how Jesus treated pagans and tax collectors!)

When asked how many times we should go back and forgive a brother, we are told to back “70 x 7” times. We are to continue and not stop fighting for reconciliation.

The thing that Jacob missed in coveting all his brother’s gifts and family favor is that God blessed Abraham’s family not for itself, but SO THAT they could bless whole world. This ultimately is the purpose of the church, too, and to do that most effectively, we need to be in right relationship with each other and God. To do this, we need to be vulnerable with each other and with God, which starts by tearing down our internal walls.

Reflection Questions:

  1. What walls do you surround your heart with? Who or what do you feel you most need to protect yourself from?
  2. In what way do these struggles really represent you struggling against God? In what way do these walls also seal you off from God?
  3. What would vulnerability look like in these struggles? What would happen if these walls were to come down?