Revive Our Hearts Podcast

The God of Jacob

Leslie Basham: Proverbs chapter 31 lists qualities of a godly woman. For a long time, Carrie Gaul felt like she couldn’t measure up.

Carrie Gaul: My soul cried out almost every day, “Let me out! Let me out! I can’t do this! I can’t do this womanhood thing that Proverbs 31 looks like!”

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Choosing Gratitude, for Thursday, October 20, 2017.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Do you ever feel like you can’t measure up to everything that Scripture calls us to do? I think we all feel that way at times. My friend, Carrie Gaul, has the ability to put that feeling into words, and she knows how to lead us in humility to the foot of the cross to help us deal with discouragement and failure in a way that’s redemptive.

We heard Carrie yesterday reflecting on Jesus’ message to the church in Philadelphia. She serves on the staff of Revive Our Hearts and, not long ago, she shared with our team a meditation on the God of Jacob. I wanted you to have a chance to hear this message as well.

So, here’s Carrie Gaul, talking about what to do with those feelings of inadequacy.

Carrie: My husband, Dennis, and I were driving home from Lansing, Michigan on Monday, and were talking about the fact that next week marks the ten-year anniversary of our being here. Ten years ago, next week, we were arriving in Michiana—settling in, in Indiana—and beginning to work here at Life Action.

It was the teaching. We couldn’t get enough of it! We wanted God. We just wanted God! We were saved, and we wanted more of God. We found a place where there were other people that wanted more of God, and so we just loved to be with them. I guess we kind of became “groupies.”

We drove one time like two-and-a-half hours one way—every night for two weeks—because we wanted to be at a summit where we could hear the truths that were changing us—changing our lives, our marriage, our family, our kids, how we did life. It was just changing us!

Fast-forward to 2004, and we’re coming on staff. We’re just thrilled to be here because we want more of God, but now we get to live and do life with people that want more of God and we just can’t wait. But, to be honest, we would have failed miserably a test about what revival was!

We had no idea what revival was; we just knew what God had done in our lives, and we just knew we wanted more of it. We knew we wanted everybody we knew to know more of it and to experience more of it.

Fast-forward—maybe—to (I don’t know) 2007-ish. I was asked to serve on a panel of ministry wives doing a Q and A for the leadership men during a luncheon one day, and the topic was going to be Proverbs 31.

If I told you that I felt like a tsunami was headed my way, it’s an understatement. I would have been happy to serve on a panel to talk about a thousand things . . . but not Proverbs 31! I’m not overstating this when I tell you I thought I was going to be sick. In fact, I probably was sick.

The night before, I sent an email to Byron [Life Action’s Director] that was entitled: “So I Can Sleep Tonight.” I still have the email, and it said:

While I’m thankful for your invitation to join the discussion on Proverbs 31 tomorrow, I thought it might be good to clear my conscience tonight and give you a few insights on my life . . .

I don’t really like to cook. I gave my sewing machine to your daughter-in-law. I’m not sure that Aldi and Walmart count as being “afar.” I thought flax was something that you eat, and I’m not a fan of snow and cold! 

I couldn’t read Proverbs 31 without feeling like an epic failure!

I loved Jesus; I loved His Word. I loved to encourage women to grow in their walk by God, but almost daily, I was unnerved at the core of who I am by this whole idea of the Proverbs 31 woman. And by 2008, Revive Our Hearts is beginning to talk a lot about biblical womanhood.

And it wasn’t just Proverbs 31. It was just the idea kept coming up. I did not have the courage to say this. My soul cried out almost every day, “Let me out; let me out! I can’t do this! I cannot do this! I came here. We’ve given our lives because we want people to experience Jesus. But I can’t do this womanhood thing that Proverbs 31 looks like!”

Because in my mind, it was this illusive image of a picture-perfect woman. Her life was all together; her home was always together; her relationships were always together. She appeared flawless. So, when I read a passage like,

She looks for wool and flax . . . and she works with her hands in delight . . . and she brings her food from afar . . . and she rises while it is still night . . . and her lamp does not go out at night . . . and she is not afraid of the snow . . . for all her household [is] clothed . . . [in] scarlet. She makes coverings for herself . . . and [she doesn’t] eat the bread of idleness” (excerpts from Proverbs 31:13–27 NASB).

In my mind, this is what I heard: "A godly woman rises long, long before sunup. She spends hours of unhurried, uninterrupted, meaningful time with the Lord before lovingly awaking her adoring husband and her well-behaved children with the enticing aroma of freshly-baked breads and pastries. Garden-fresh, seven-course meals adorn her exquisitely decorated table where she daily welcomes friends and family to enjoy meaningful conversations in a home that’s always immaculate and is inviting because of the beautiful handcrafted décor.”

The reality is, I even imagined that there were women I knew (some of them in this room, some of them your wives) that I thought portrayed that. That’s what I believed in my heart. The problem was, I wasn’t one of them. I wasn’t one of them, and I knew I could never measure up to them. So I hid. Even in that email to Byron, I was hiding behind humor.

I became a master at creating “fig leaves” that cover things like fear of what you’ll think of me, comparison, envy, jealousy, feelings of inadequacy . . . and about a thousand other things. I love people—I love them!—but those fig leaves made me require that I walk this tightrope of trying to do relationship, but keeping people far enough out here that you could never see what was really imperfect—and woefully imperfect—in my heart.

I feared admitting that I didn’t have all of life together, because I thought I was supposed to. I was saved when I was fifteen, my kids are grown—they have families of their own. I work in a ministry, and I’m a missionary, for heaven’s sakes! We’re supposed to have life together, right? I didn’t. My “ducks weren’t in a row” then, and they’re not now.

I’m a child of God. I love Jesus with all of my heart, but my life is messy. Our family is sometimes messy. Our marriage can be incredibly messy. Dennis and I could not be more different. I love the man with all of my heart, soul, and might! But when you put two strong-willed, independent leaders in the same marriage—it’s messy. It’s just messy sometimes.

Some days, the thoughts and attitudes of my heart are ugly messy—and I don’t like it! I don’t want to be messy.

Here’s what I feel like the Lord keeps saying, “Carrie . . .”

I said, “I don’t want to be a sinner—I just don’t want to be! I want to be able to do it right (which really means without Jesus), and then run into God’s throne room and say, “Daddy, look what I did! Look what I did today (without Jesus)!”

I was up at four-o’clock this morning, thinking about this. I really don’t know for sure why that is, but I think that part of it is that I’m not sure how God responds to “messy.” I’m not always sure what He’ll think of me or what He’ll do.

That’s why I cannot tell you how excited I am about what God has been showing me over the last number of months—but really it’s years (and I really don’t have time to tell all of that story!)—about the life of Jacob, the patriarch of the faith.

His daddy’s Isaac, his grandaddy’s Abraham. He’s a patriarch of the faith, but he gives new definition to the word “messy.” He’s messy! He’s self-centered; he’s a conniver; he’s a manipulator; he’s a liar. He’s an “I want it when I want it” kind of man. He’s undeserving, and he’s unworthy . . . and he’s God’s man.

I know I’m a sinner. I think you know you are, too. But I want to be a different kind of sinner than Jacob, you know? Jacob’s a SINNER, and we’re just . . . sinners. But his is a different kind of sin. I don’t often hear moms say, “Baby, go grow up and be like Jacob!”—because he’s messy.

When you get to Genesis 28—and Jacob’s in a mess (one of many that he’s going to face in his life)—he’s running for his life. He’s out in the middle of the wilderness. He’s fleeing from Esau. And in the middle of his mess, in the middle of the ugliness of his sin and his mess, Jesus shows up!—in a vision. He just shows up, in a vision. Let me read it to you.

Genesis chapter 28, and verse 11, the Bible says,

He came [in]to a certain place. . . [he] spent the night there, because the sun had set; and he took one of the stones of the place and [he] put it under his head, and [he laid] down in that place.

[And Jacob] had a dream, and behold [it means, “Pay really close attention! Something incredible is just about to be said.”], a ladder was set on the earth with its top reaching to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.

And behold, the Lord stood above it and [He] said, “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and . . . Isaac; [and] the land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your descendants. Your descendants [shall] also be like the dust of the earth, and you [shall] spread out to the west and to the east and . . . the north and . . . the south; and in you [Jacob—in you!] and in your descendants shall [be] all the families of the earth . . .

[And] behold, I am with you and [I] will keep you wherever you go, and [I] will bring you back to this land. . . [and] I will not leave you until I have done what [I’ve said I’ve] promised . . . [to do] (vv. 11–15). 

Jesus shows up! John 1 tells us that the “ladder” is Jesus. It’s not just a vision about a ladder.

We kind of get enthralled with the angels. It has very little to do with the angels. It has everything to do with Jesus, who shows up in the middle of the man’s mess. He doesn’t distance Himself from Jacob. He didn’t give him the cold shoulder. He didn’t give him the silent treatment.

He didn’t stiff-arm him and say, “You know, buddy, when you get it together, you give Me a call, and then I’ll come and work.” He didn’t do any of that. He entered into the mess. And Jacob says, “How awesome is this place. Surely the Lord is in this place . . . [of messiness!] [Surely] this [place] is the gate[way to] heaven” (from vv. 16–17).

I don’t know all of what that means, but at the very least it means, in the middle of your mess and my mess, this place is where we’re going to see God to do incredible things. It’s where we’re going to experience more of His joy and His freedom and His peace. It’s where we’re going to see Him!

So, in my blonde way of thinking, after Genesis chapter 28, Jacob ought to have his life together, right? He’s encountered Jesus!—in a very dramatic manner. He ought to be fixed—no more wrong thinking; no more wrong believing; no more wrong acting; no more messy. He just gets it together, and then he goes on.

That’s not what Genesis 25 through 50 says. It’s not the picture that it paints of his life at all. In fact, you can’t get very deep into the passage without realizing he’s really messy . . . he’s still really messy! Oh, there’s incredible evidence of the journey of growing, of the journey of getting stronger in his faith.

Remember when he wrestles with God? Remember when he builds the altar at Bethel? He’s growing in his faith, but he’s still messy. And even as an old man, twenty-plus years after Joseph (he thinks) has died. The boys have gone down to Egypt, and they’ve come back. They’ve had to leave Simeon behind. They’ve got to come back and get Benjamin. Remember the story?

If you go and read Genesis 42 and 43, the man is broken. He’s fearful; he’s bitter. He’s in the “Why me? Woe is me; this is all about me!” We’d call him narcissistic at that point. He’s not at all worried about Simeon. He really isn’t worried about Benjamin. He’s worried about Jacob and what’s unfolding in Jacob’s life.

Even as an old man, you can hear the frustration, the threads of questions, of doubts, of fears in the life of Jacob—which is so unbelievable to me! Because, in the NASB, fifteen times the Scripture says, “the God of Jacob.” The God of the universe, the Creator of the universe, the Lover and Redeemer and Deliverer of our souls identifies Himself as “the God of Jacob.”

That’s separate from the times that He says, “I’m the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,” which is—I don’t know how many times, I didn’t count them—probably hundreds, because He’s the covenant God. He’s the faithful God. But individually, fifteen times alone, “the God of Jacob.” Three additional times He says, “the mighty God of Jacob.”

I’m like, “You've got to be kidding me! The God of the universe associates His name? And the names of God are so important. They’re so significant—when He gave them, how He gave them, why He gave them, the place He gave them sometimes. It had meaning. And fifteen times He says, “the God of Jacob.” A messed-up like man—like me, and like you—maybe. Maybe like you.

Psalm 146 and verse 5 says, “How blessed [how happy, what a blissful state] is [the one] whose help is the God of Jacob, [the one] whose hope is in the Lord his God [Jacob’s God].” The God of Jacob is our help? If the God of Jacob is really our hope, then I don’t have to pretend! Then I don’t have to hide behind fig leaves.

I don’t have to wonder how God’s going to respond in the midst of my messiness. I don’t have to feel like an epic failure when I read Proverbs 31. Cooking still isn’t—and probably never will be—my favorite pastime.

Dennis always gets up long before I do. Always! I still don’t have a garden, and our garage-sale-decorated home is never spotless. But the fig leaves are falling off. The fig leaves are falling off. The old, old story—the God of Jacob—of Jesus and His love for us is shattering the mirage of performance and perfectionism and legalism and moralism and whatever-all “isms” reside inside my heart and mind. My hope isn’t found in having a life and a family that appears faultless and perfectly put-together. My hope is found in the God of Jacob! I don’t have to wonder how God is going to respond to the messiness of my life. He’s the God of Jacob!

He redeems; He delivers; He sets free! He does it at Calvary, and then He does it every day of our lives! He’s setting us free from bondage and captivity. He’s bringing us from death into life. We’re already there positionally, but there’s so much more. There’s so much more! And He’s bringing us into that . . . every day.

You don’t have to turn there—you can write it down if you want to—but I’m just fascinated by this. It may really not mean a whole lot; it may for sure not mean what I think it might mean . . . but I’m going to share it with you.

Isaiah chapter 2 and Micah chapter 4 both have almost the exact same passage—they say almost the exact same thing. Isaiah chapter 2 and verses 1–2 says,

The word which Isaiah the son of Amoz. . .[said] concerning Judah and Jerusalem. Now it will come about that in the last days the mountain of the house of the Lord will be established as the chief of the mountains and will be raised above the hills; and all the nations will stream to it. And many peoples will come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that He may teach us concerning His ways and that we may walk in His paths.” 

In the latter days, many will come, weighted down by the burdens of legalism and moralism and perfectionism and performance-ism. They’ll come to the God of Jacob and say, “Teach us Your ways. Help us to walk in Your paths. Take us to the freedom that’s already ours because of Jesus Christ.”

And when that happens, I think the fig leaves will start falling off. I think we’ll begin to believe what we know Scripture says—that Jesus loves us. We’re forgiven. Nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus—nothing! (see Rom. 8:39). Not our sin, not our failure, not the choices of our kids or our husbands, not the fact that hospitality has not worked for me—and I have to cry out to Jesus to give me the desire even to cook. Nothing! Not sin, not cancer, not age, not the unfolding crisis in the world, not ISIS, nothing!

Not economic collapse, not danger, not persecution, not sword. Nothing can separate us from the love of God—the God of Jacob—that is in Christ Jesus our Lord! How blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord, Jacob’s God!

Nancy: That’s my friend Carrie Gaul, long-time staff member here at Revive Our Hearts, helping us take our feelings of discouragement and inadequacy to the God who has everything we need. If you missed any of today’s message, you can hear it again at ReviveOurHearts.com.

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Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants you to experience freedom in Christ. It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the NASB.

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