I have had my struggles with God over the years. Actually, as I think about it – these tiffs were really His struggles with me. By nature, I am stubborn and fearful. I don’t like stepping into new situations, or putting my reputation and plans at risk. The problem is – the Lord seems to delight in putting us into those situations. That is why I find the story of Jacob at Peniel so engaging.
Jacob had sailed through a lot of rough water after he cheated Esau out of his birthright. Isaac had to command Jacob to flee to Pandanaram (a region of Syria) to escape his brother’s anger. It was there he met Laban, his uncle, who deceived the deceiver into working seven years to marry Leah (his older daughter) when Jacob thought he was marrying his younger daughter, Rachel. After Jacob complained, the shrewd Laban informed Jacob he had to work another seven years to marry her.
Once married to Rachel, Jacob hatched a scheme to cheat Laban out of the wages he should have paid him. Jacob soon became much wealthier than Laban with large flocks of sheep and goats, servants, camels and donkeys. Because Laban and his sons were furious at losing much of their fortune to Jacob, he had to flee again, this time back to his father, Isaac.
Laban and his band soon caught up with them on the way and would have done them some serious harm except for God’s intervention. Jacob and Laban exchanged some angry words, but all ended well, with the two parties setting up some stones as a boundary neither one would maliciously cross. Both groups had a meal together and, on the next day, Laban blessed his daughters, kissed them and their children, and returned home with his men.
“And Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him” (Genesis 32:1). The Bible does not exactly say why they met him – just that they did. What we do know is this meeting must have changed Jacob. He stopped running from Esau and sent a message asking for a meeting. Jacob’s servants quickly returned with the news that Esau was coming to meet him with 400 men.
Jacob was terrified. After dividing his band into two groups for protection, he prayed to Yahweh for the first time since Bethel, many years before. He acknowledged his unworthiness and begged God to deliver him and his family from the hand of his angry brother. Jacob also “reminded” God (actually he was reminding himself) of His promise to bless him and his descendants.
Jacob then divided up his livestock in to several herds and put each into the care of some servants. He instructed the servants to drive each individual herd over the river Jabbok, leaving a space between each group. Leah, Rachael, and his children crossed the river also, bringing up the rear of the procession.
“And Jacob was left alone” (Genesis 32:24). Jacob was left in a lonely place. It was night. He no longer had his possessions. His family was not around. He wasn’t even sure if they were safe. All he knew was he was where God wanted him to be.
Then the “man” came. I have heard it often preached that Jacob wrestled with the man. It was the other way around at the start – the man (actually an angel – Hosea 12:4) wrestled with Jacob. The angel initiated the encounter. He had Jacob where He wanted him and they wrestled until dawn. Eventually, the angel realized he could not overcome Jacob’s strong will so the angel put Jacob’s hip out of joint.
Then the fight changed. Up to that point, it was Jacob who was trying to get away. After the hip incident, it was the angel. The angel had been wrestling with Jacob – now Jacob was wrestling with the angel. The angel had to ask (or command?) Jacob to let him go. Jacob’s response?
“I will not let thee go except you bless me.”
The Lord finally heard what He needed to hear from Jacob. The man who had spent his life running – from Esau, from Laban, and from Him– could no longer run any more. The self-sufficient cheat became the beggar.
So who won the fight?
Jacob did. The angel changed Jacob’s name from Jacob (“Supplanter”) to Israel (“God Prevails”.) The angel told Jacob “As a prince thou hast power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.”
How did he win?
Jacob won by surrendering. He prevailed by yielding. He overcame by submitting. He gained power with God by deeply and truly realizing his need.
It is the same with us. While we may not be deceivers running from an angry brother or a furious uncle, the same God has a plan for each of us. That plan is a part of God’s master plan for the world. Our part in His plan will not be as pivotal in history as Jacob’s, but it will be pivotal for somebody, or a group of somebodies, somewhere.
As with Jacob, God’s plan for you will face resistance and, like Jacob, the fiercest resistance may come from you.
And that’s when God sends His “angel” who will not let you go until you win by yielding to His will instead of yours. Unlike Jacob, however, we can walk away from the fight by avoiding prayer, neglecting the Word, or staying away from church – trying to “plug our ears” to God’s call. Please remember – that “angel” can still land some disabling blows to your plans, your psyche, your will, or even your body to bring you back into the match. He loves you (and those He has planned for you to reach) too much to let the match end before you win by letting Him win in your life.
For more details read: (Genesis 27:1 – 32:32)