Jacob’s story is quite remarkable. As a baby coming out of his mothers womb, he is grabbing the heel of his brother. He spends most of life scheming and conniving; he gets his brother’s birthright and blessing, his uncle Laban’s daughters (he really only wanted one of them) and now significant possessions of animals, servants, etc. Maybe Jacob is ready to retire and enjoy fishing and playing golf. But God is not finished with him.
In the same way that God called his grandfather Abraham, God now issues instructions to Jacob.
(Genesis 31:3 NIV) Then the LORD said to Jacob, “Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.”
There is some dispute about Jacob’s integrity. Laban’s sons accuse him of cheating his father-in-law. This would not be out of character for Jacob. Perhaps it is all a matter of timing; Jacob decides to follow God’s calling and return to the land of his father Isaac. There is one problem. Esau. The last time they talked, Esau was bitter, angry and ready to kill Jacob. Twenty years have passed; has Esau forgiven Jacob? How will this all work out? Jacob must have been nervous. Yet God promised to be with him.
Along the way, Jacob meets a group of angels.
(Genesis 32:1 NIV) Jacob also went on his way, and the angels of God met him.
They help Jacob scout out the situation with Esau. The initial reports are not good for Jacob. Esau has 400 men and is heading his way. This tension sets the context for this week’s study. Jacob divides his family into two camps and spends the night alone. During the night, he has a personal encounter with God. We are told,
(Genesis 32:24 NIV) a man wrestled with him till daybreak.
As the sun rises, Jacob is sure that this man is God himself. While Jacob’s entire life had been one of wrestling, struggling, this encounter is significant for him. This intimate encounter with God will change everything. He will now have a new name, a new outlook on life. Jacob’s relationship with God has been up and down. We have seen him worship, tithe (Genesis 28). Yet life patterns of deception, trickery often prevail. In this overnight struggle, God subdues Jacob and Jacob is blessed.
Many of us have wrestled with God on some level. We grapple to overcome sin and faithfully follow a God who gave himself for us. Join us on Sunday as we explore the story of Jacob wrestling with God.