Encounters With God

This morning at church my Pastor preached out of Genesis 32. He read verses 24-29.

24And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. 25And 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. 26And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. 27And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. 28And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.  29And Jacob asked him, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, thy name. And he said, Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name? And he blessed him there.

As I was following along, my eyes were drawn to the next verse.

30And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.

I was particularly drawn to the last half of the verse where Jacob says he saw God face to face. I’ve read this account many times and had never noticed that before. It struck me as odd because I recalled another verse that says no one can see God’s face and live. I wasn’t sure of the exact wording but I looked it up when I got home. It was part of the interaction between God and Moses in Exodus 33 when Moses said to God, “Show me your glory.” Here is God’s response:

19 And the LORD said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” 21 Then the LORD said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. 22 When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.””

Did you catch that? God tells Moses that he can’t see His face, for no one may see Him and live. He reiterates it in the latter part of verse 23 by saying “but my face must not be seen.” But in Genesis, Jacob says that he saw God face to face. How can that be?

I’m not a Bible scholar nor am I a theologian but I do hear from God and I believe He revealed something to me through these verses. The key for me was back in Genesis 32:28. God says to Jacob, “Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel”. After Jacob’s encounter with God, Jacob died to his old self and became a new person. I believe the point that God was trying to show me was that anytime you have an encounter with God, you’re going to come away changed. You’re going to walk away from that encounter a different person. Of course, one of the most dramatic examples of this is when a unsaved person encounters God, becomes born again and is a new creation. They are dead in their sins and are reborn as a child of God. But I believe that even believers walk away from encounters with God as a new person. I believe that each time we have an experience with God, something dies in us. It could be part of our flesh dies, maybe it is wrong mindsets or negative thought patterns. It could be that our doubts are laid to rest. Perhaps we die to the pull of the world on us. I believe with each encounter there is a death but with each death comes new life. Every time we crucify our flesh, our spirit man grow a little stronger. When we put away wrong mindsets or negative thought patterns, we open the door to right thinking which results in new attitudes and actions. When we let go of our doubts it is replaced with renewed hope and faith. Each time we die to the pull of the world, we reposition ourselves to hear from God.

We can tell people about God all day long and they might believe us. But when someone has an encounter with God, they know without a doubt He is real and they walk away from that experience a different person. I pray that each and every one of you who comes across this post will encounter God like never before and walk away forever changed.

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