Recently, I started a character study. I’m continuing with Jacob as he is a fascinating one. The Bible has a wonderful way of presenting all the heroes of the faith—flaws and all. Jacob is, in many ways, the father of Israel (his sons are the heads of the 12 tribes).
Jacob Wrestles God — Genesis 32 One of my favorite Scriptures is Proverbs 3:5-6. It exhorts us to trust in the Lord and not to lean on our own understanding. This is a constant battle for us, and certainly for Jacob. God delights in taking the self-reliant (Moses, Peter, Paul, etc., etc.) and humbling them (us) so they (we) could be of greater use.
Genesis 32 is Jacob’s greatest struggle and his finest hour. He begins the chapter as Jacob, the self-reliant schemer facing a return to his homeland and a confrontation with Esau. He ends the chapter with a new name, a new limp, and a greater understanding of dependence on God.
At the beginning of the chapter, Jacob ignores an early sign from God (v1), prays to God out of fear (“save me…for I am afraid, v 11), and implements a plan to pacify Esau. This plan leaves him alone, separated from his family and his possessions. (v 24).
At his darkest hour, he begins a lengthy wrestling match with “a man.” Jacob holds on for dear life, asking for a Blessing. He is asked his name. This is basically a confession, because Jacob means “heel catcher, deceiver” Now, Jacob cries out for a change. And he gets it. His name is changed to Israel, “God’s fighter,” or “He struggles with God.” Really, God would now fight for Israel. The new nation that Jacob heads must also rely on God to fight for them.
Jacob names the place Peniel, because he had seen the face of God and been spared. His limp would be a constant reminder to trust in the Lord, and not to lean on his own understanding. How are you doing with that struggle? Trust God with your situation, whatever it is.