The Bible tells about an experience the patriarch Jacob had when he and his household were returning to his father’s land. Although I have never wrestled with an Angel of God in the desert as did Jacob, I have struggled with my flesh and been convicted of sin.
Years earlier, Jacob’s brother Esau sold his birthright to him (Genesis 25:29-34 NKJV). Then Jacob—not willing to wait on the Lord—had deceived Isaac, their father, to receive the blessing reserved for his brother (Genesis 27). When Esau found this out, he was enraged and vowed to kill him. Jacob fled and stayed with his uncle, Laban. While there he married Laban’s daughters and had children. He served his father-in-law for many years and made him prosperous. Still, Laban took advantage of him, and the situation became a crisis (Genesis 31:36-42).
Now twenty years later, Jacob is again fleeing—this time from Laban—and about to come face to face with Esau in the desert (Genesis 32). He sent messengers ahead (verse 5) to greet his brother and to see if he still wanted to kill him. On the day before their encounter, the situation didn’t look suitable for Jacob and his family. In verse 6, the messengers returned to Jacob saying, “We came to your brother Esau, and he also is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.”
Jacob, much distressed, prays and places his hope in God to deliver him (verses 9-12). He recognizes he deserves no special favors, pleads for mercy and credits God with his prosperity. Then Jacob reminds God of His promise to bless him. Once more God will show grace to Jacob.
Some ways God extends His grace to Jacob and to us.
We often fail to recognize that God is in control even when bad things happen.
“The Angel of God spoke to Jacob in a dream reassuring him that He had seen all that Laban was doing to him.” In Genesis 31:13 we read, “I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed the pillar and where you made a vow to Me. Now arise, get out of this land, and return to the land of your family.” When confronted with a situation that causes us to question our faith in the promises of God we have received, we need to turn to God for guidance as did Jacob.
God’s grace is dynamic and active and has always been a part of His revealed character. While we are responsible for what we do with the unmerited favor He extends to us, we are also to look for His leading in our circumstances, obey His Word and seek to live godly lives.
Our response should be one of gratitude for His guidance and obedience to His leading.
Like Jacob, we may wrestle with circumstances that cause us to attempt to battle and win by our own strength. It seems all his life Jacob was in a struggle beginning at birth when he held onto the heel of Esau and late when he tricks their father because of his envy.
That night in the desert, while Jacob was alone, a Man came and wrestled with him (Genesis 32:24-31). Jacob may have thought he was being attacked by one of Esau’s men. Dawn’s light disclosed that he was struggling with God. Jacob would not let go until he received a blessing. Then the Man said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed” (Genesis 32: 28). And He blessed him there (verse 29). God grants his favor to Jacob only when he is finally broken.
Jacob is first reconciled to God before being reconciled to his brother. He goes out to meet Esau, alone. “Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept (Genesis 33:4).
Struggles with our own flesh can become a battle that causes us to focus on our internal war more than on our Heavenly Father. God spotlighted my sin toward a family member by convicting me
of an unloving attitude. Through His grace God enabled me to ask for forgiveness and then to change my behavior.
Are you struggling? Come to Jesus. He is the fulfillment of all the Old Testament prophecies. Later, Jacob in speaking to his son Judah says, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor a lawgiver from between his feet. Until Shiloh come. . .” (Genesis 49:10).
Our reconciliation with our Heavenly Father comes through Jesus. Jesus reassures us by saying, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Remember that the battle is the Lord’s. We have a gospel of grace and faith (Hebrews 4 and 11). We have a kingdom prepared for us from the foundation of the world (Luke 12:32). As Christians we rest in and live for Him, while we look forward to the blessed hope that is ours both now and always in Christ alone.
This struggle with the Angel of God brings to a head Jacob’s lifetime of conflict.
Then Jacob asked, saying, “Tell me Your name, I pray.” And He said, “Why is it that you ask about my name?” And He blessed him there. So Jacob called the place Peniel, For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved” (Genesis 32:29, 30). Jacob became a conqueror in a spiritual sense.
Christians have a great High Priest (Hebrews 2:16-18). We can come to the Throne of Grace and find mercy and grace to help in every time of need. Jesus said, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
Our response should be to acknowledge that all good comes from God. Freely by His grace the gift of Christ’s righteousness is given to us. We have but to accept this gift through faith in Christ alone.
God saw that Jacob was determined with all of his heart and all of his strength to hold on to Him. Jacob begs for God’s favor. God injures him. Why?
“Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him” (Genesis 32:25).
Jacob was injured so that God could humble him and then bless him. When day breaks, the Stranger is gone. Jacob learned that God’s blessings are granted not by grabbing but through grace. His transformation is complete, and Jacob becomes Israel.
God may send affliction as chastisement. Only when we are humbled can God trust us with His strength and His blessing. Cling to God and his Word no matter how dark, and no matter how hopeless the situation seems.
As did Jacob, we too may face situations that bring us great fear.
With a hip out of socket, Jacob was easy prey without God’s help. Now Jacob was ready to receive the blessing. He was ready to trust in God to fight his battles fully. Still, Jacob limped for the rest of his life. This encounter with God became a turning point in Jacob’s life. The father of the tribes of Israel prevailed by submitting himself to the Lord. God, then, paved the way for Jacob to return to the promised land.
Sometimes God puts a scar on our flesh so we might change and to remind us what our lives are without His abiding presence. While the Lord often needs to break us down, He can use a willing heart desiring to bring glory to Him alone. The Apostle Paul learned this lesson (2 Corinthians. 4:6-12; 12:7, 8). Jesus said, “My grace is sufficient for you . . .” (verses 9, 10).
Perhaps your body presents a challenge with ailments that slow you down. Maybe your emotional and mental energy is failing as you battle to keep a biblical outlook on life and truly trust God. Please acknowledge your weaknesses and total dependence upon Him.
The Christian life is a matter of difficulty and endurance. Avoiding the difficult is never good spiritually and is a hindrance to our growth in grace. Perseverance requires a particular mindset and a willingness to push past the pain. Charles Spurgeon once said, “By perseverance the snail reached the ark.” The grace of God enables us to fulfill His plans for our individual lives. The Apostle Peter tells us to be steadfast and to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18).
We too must endure because of the grace of God. Only then will we be able to say with Jacob when reunited with Esau, “God has dealt graciously with me . . .” (Genesis 33:11).