The patriarch Jacob, son of Abraham and Isaac – the man whom God re-named Israel – was a manipulator who went out of his way to take care of his own interests. Although Jacob knew God, and was blessed by God, he was always scheming to his own ends, until God dealt with him. When Jacob was in great danger, the Bible records that he spent a night wrestling with God, and God wrenched his hip so that ever after he walked with a limp ( Genesis 32:22-32 ).
The Bible says that God does not delight in man’s strength or cleverness, but in those who fear Him and put their hope in His unfailing love ( Psalm 147:10-11 ).
God called the Babylonians “guilty men, whose own strength is their god” and people who promoted “their own honour” ( Habakkuk 1:6-11 ). They succeeded for a while but later were destroyed.
For a person, or a group, or a nation like Israel, to be used for the high spiritual purposes of God, they must first be “broken”. They must be made to “walk with a limp”, so to speak.
This was true of all the heroes of faith in the Bible. For example, Moses had to spend 40 years in the wilderness. King David spent years in the desert running from his enemies. And the apostle Peter, who said that he would lay down his life for Jesus ( John 13:36-38 ), ended up being humbled.
Learning to not trust in self, and to be dependent on God, is an important aspect of Christian “growth”.
This principle can be observed on a sweeping scale as we note what God is doing as He restores the nation of Israel – in fulfillment of prophecy and of His promises.
Every year Israel gets stronger, economically and militarily, but every year God allows her enemies to get stronger still. At the same time, more and more of Israel’s friends are abandoning her. God will let Israel get to a place where she is in such mortal danger, and where there will be nowhere else to turn but to Him, and then, as we read in the closing chapters of Zechariah, the nation will recognise their Messiah, Jesus, and will be saved.
I dare say that this same principle is at work in you and me. God is dealing with His people. Judgment begins in the house of God ( 1 Peter 4:17 ).
It is pointless trying to escape. God is relentless. It is best to yield. It is best not to rely on intellect or connections or past successes, but to let God unfold His plans in His own way.
There are many self-proclaimed spiritual leaders. Some have public profiles. God bless them. May their faith never fail. But it is a good idea to quietly watch whether they strut, figuratively speaking, or whether they walk with a spiritual limp.
It’s not their following or quick words or material displays of success that should impress. It’s their personal impotence, and leaning on the supernatural power of Christ, that determines whether they will bear fruit that will last.