Jacob reminds me of a new Christian. He wanted to obey God and did on occasion. But there was enough of the old Jacob still in him that sometimes he made rash decisions, and really bad choices.
Like running away from Laban. Hadn’t God told him to go, that He would be with him? Yet Jacob packed up and snuck out like a thief in the night.
God told Jacob He would be with him, yet without consulting God Jacob sent one peace offering to Esau, then another, and another. He divided his entourage and figured Esau would only be able to destroy half of them that way.
Did you forget, Jacob? God said He’d be with you. Esau has no power over God. Dividing your stuff might make you feel in control, or self-sufficient, or that somehow you are giving God a hand. But you are wasting your time.
So here is Jacob, torn between trusting and obeying God, and the need to do things his own way (like he’d always done). It’s hard for most of us to let go of the wheel.
Jacob laid down to get some sleep, but ended up wrestling all night. A man – was it an incarnation of Jesus or an angel? – attacked Jacob and physically wrestled with him for hours. Tossing, lunging, pinning, grasping, knocking each other down, and rolling around in the dirt all night!
The result? Jacob got a name change. He had seen God and didn’t die. Warren Wiersbe says, “Jacob was broken to be healed, and weakened to be strengthened.” (With The Word, p. 38; Oliver-Nelson Books, Nashville, TN, 1991) Jacob got up from that wrestling match bruised, limping, and strengthened to meet his brother.
I said Jacob reminds me of a new Christian. But he reminds me of me sometimes, too, and I’ve been following Jesus for decades. Sometimes I have my own wrestling matches with God late at night, staring wide-eyed at the ceiling when I should be sleeping, thoughts and doubts and struggles lunging at me, pinning me down, grasping at my heart. I feel like I’ve been rolling around in the dirt trying to get the best of my struggle.
And I am reminded it’s at those times God is breaking me in order to heal me. He is revealing my weakness so He can be my strength.
Oh that I would learn to throw in the towel, to quit fighting a losing battle, and let God have His way in every detail of my life. I wouldn’t feel so beaten up in the morning. I might actually get some peaceful sleep.
And I would be ready to face the challenges of the day, knowing God’s a lot stronger than me or my problems.