Genesis 29 - 31
We last left Jacob fleeing for his life from his brother. He goes to his uncle’s home. In these passages Jacob gets married – two wives (Rachel & Leah) and He was tricked and deceived into marrying Leah. The deceiver is deceived. He ultimately ends up working 14 years for two wives.
Chapter 30 gives account of Jacobs 11 sons and one daughter from four different mothers (Rachel, Leah, their servants Bilhah and Zilpah). Not only did Jacob grow in size of family but also he began to prosper.
He desires to leave and go back to his home country but Laban tells him he should stay because success is coming to Laban as a result of Jacob. Jacob’s prosperity eventually puts him at odds with his brother-in-laws and his deception gets him in trouble with his father-in-law. Fearing for his life Jacob takes his family undercover of the night and leaves his father-in-laws household. Laban notices they left and he pursues Jacob and catches up with him. They talk to each other and eventually make a covenant. Laban is able to see his daughters and grand children off properly.
Jacob can be considered many things (a scoundrel, a mama’s boy, a deceiver, etc.) but in this account he is seen as a man of persistent prayer… Or as I call it Jacob is a stubborn pray-er.
Vs 1 - 5: It has been 20 years since Jacob’s last encounter with God (Ladder). He is in a situation where God has told him to go back to his homeland. Jacob meets with God’s angels… This is to show that God is with him. We are not told what they talked about.
He sends messengers to his brother Esau in the land of Seir and essentially sends him gifts. He tells his brother he is wealthy and he is willing to consider everything that has happened as water under the bridge. The messengers inform Jacob that Esau is coming with 400 men.
Vs 6 - 8: Naturally upon hearing this Jacob is freaked out. He is scared. He is unsure what his brother is going to do. He is fearful that he may come and try to kill Jacob and his wives and children. He comes up with a plan to divide his camp in two. This way if one camp is destroyed there will still be another one left. His memory may have failed him as just moments before the Angels were assuring him that they would be with him.
Jacob’s response is fairly typical. He does what we humans do best in desperate times. He goes into defense mode and devises a plan on his own and then eventually goes to God in prayer. I am so much like Jacob – how often I forget that prayer should always be my first response, not my second, third or last resort. This is how the process goes...
1. Oh no, there's a problem... Ok, I have everything under control God.
2. Oh wait, maybe I don’t… help!
3. God this is what I want to do so PLEASE bless it!
This is pretty much what Jacob's prayer looked like. However, his prayer may have come out of desperation; it is a persistent prayer nonetheless.
Vs 9 - 12: Jacob reminds God of his promises. This wasn’t because God forgot about it. I like what George Mueller wrote, “I argue with God not to convince him but to convince me.” Wherever we may be in our lives (desperate, scared, needy, hopeless, helpless, or uncertain) we need to be reminded of the necessity of prayer… More so the need for persistent prayer. Jacob was desperate but God eventually met with him. God will always meet you if you take the time to meet with him.
Jacob asks to be delivered from the hand of his brother. He admits his vulnerability and fear. After sending a large gift to his brother, Jacob sent his families away and he was left alone.
Vs 22 – 31: That evening a man comes and wrestles with Jacob all night long. We find out a little later that this man was indeed the Lord himself. Was it Jesus? Probably. Why were they wrestling? We are not told. All we know is Jacob wrestles with God until the morning.
Some may look at this wrestling match as pointless because we all know, one can never win when he fights God. But I challenge you to question that logic. Can someone truly prevail when fighting God? The answer is yes! Jacob did. But his victory may not look like the victory we are used to seeing.
In the midst of the struggle (hours of grueling and sweaty grappling) the Lord pulls an “uncle” move on Jacob’s by simply touching his hip and putting it out of its joint. God did this not because he was tired and couldn’t win but so Jacob could finish victorious. This is how Jacob was victorious.
a. Once his hip was dislocated Jacob clung all the tighter to the Lord.
b. The Lord tells him to let go. Jacob refuses and hold on tighter.
c. He refuses to let go unless the Lord blesses him.
d. Jacob is not going to leave empty handed. He knows God has promised victory. He has promised offspring. He has promised land and blessings. Jacob knew what God had promised him and he was not going to give up the fight. He knew the promises of God were worth fighting for. Does this ring true in your life? Do you believe God’s promises to you are worth fighting for? I do.
This is a major turning point in the life of Jacob. He lived a life of lies. He tricked people. He deceived people. He lied and cheated his way in life. In fact his name was, “Jacob” AKA “deceiver”. He tells God that this is his name. He confesses who he is. He says, I am not Esau, I am Jacob. Jacob confesses his true nature to God. He is deception, trickery and a liar. Everything he has and done up to this point was received or done by deception and trickery. He confesses and repents of his past.
God responds, “You are no longer ‘deceiver’, you are now Israel” which means “God fights”. Blessing usually comes in the form of name change… Abram & Sarai. Jacob is no longer the deceiver; he is now a humbled man who allows God to fight his fights… He will no longer fight his own battles. He will no longer deceive and trick. He will be a man who is dependant on God. He is the man who has humbled or submitted himself to God and in this submission and humility there is victory.
In his fight with God Jacob won by losing or submitting. This rings true for all of us today. Jesus tells us that if we want life we must lose life. Jesus conquered death by allowing himself to be defeated by it. This fight between man and God has a wonderful picture of grace. In this fight I see three acts of God’s grace.
- First act of grace… God allows (and welcomes) Jacob’s fight. God could have easily been angered by Jacob’s stubborn spirit and smote him dead if he so chose. God did not; he welcomed the fight. He engaged in the fight. He loved Jacob enough to wrestle with him. How true is this? God is not insecure that he cannot handle our criticisms, complaints, anger etc. He isn’t angry with you when you are at odds with him. He will let you wrestle with him and he will wrestle all night long.
- Second act of grace… God dislocates Jacob’s hip. The Lord purposely injures Jacob so he can no longer do what he does best… Run. The limp was a constant reminder of his encounter with God. Jacob would no longer be able to physically AND spiritually walk the same ever again. With each and every step Jacob is reminded of his dependency on God. He was a changed man. He was transformed in his encounter with God.
- Third act of grace… The Lord honored Jacob’s stubborn prayer. Jacob would not let go until he was blessed. This is one stubborn man. In his persistence I realize I am not persistent enough in my prayers. I need to become more like Jacob in my prayer. I pray and nothing happens and then I quit. Shame on me. These past couple of months I have been pleading with God to speak to me and share his heart with me. I have been encouraged as I read this account that I need to pray persistently; not so I can change God but so I may be changed and conformed. May we all become known as stubborn pray-ers?
After Jacob received his blessing he called the place Peniel – which means “face of God”. Jacob met face to face with God and lived to tell about it. He wrestled God and he prevailed by losing. In his Spiritual grudge match Jacob was ensured safety and blessing and his limp would be a constant reminder that he was a blessed man.
What is our take away for today?
- Where ever you are in your life today God will hear your cries of desperation, anger, need, hopelessness, and helplessness. God is compassionate and merciful. He hears the cries of his children.
- Don’t be afraid to wrestle with God. God is a big God. There is so much about Him we cannot understand. Often we have “issues” with Him because we may not understand why He does what he does or even why He allows bad things to happen in this world and in our lives. He is not afraid of our questions. I used to be a wrestler in high school. I detested every moment I did it but I am glad I did. Wrestling another person is very tiring, messy (Sweat, smelly and your face in someone’s armpit), it’s intimate (you need to know your opponent… If you don’t you will) and you eventually understand (when you are on the losing end) what it feels like to be put into a place of submission.
- Cling to Jesus. I am holding on to Jesus more than I ever have. I am clutching to the cloak of Jesus and begging him to bless me, bless my family and bless my ministry. I am clinging to him until he makes his will known to me so I (through the power of the Holy Spirit) may be able to lead this congregation. I pray that you could be led to the place where God and you can truly know him, experience him and witness his power as you see people come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ. I am desperately clinging and my prayer is that when I have been blessed by God that I too may be able to proclaim that I have seen the face of God and prevailed by submitting.