GENESIS 32 – JACOB WRESTLES WITH GOD
Bible Background: Jacob and Esau are the twin sons of Isaac and Rebecca, and they never got along! Mom favored Jacob, Dad favored Esau. As a young man, Jacob had to leave home. He moves in with his Uncle Laban in Haran, marries his two wives there; and eventually needs to get of town. He’s on his way back ‘home’ to Canaan, where he knows he has to face his brother. He’s scared stiff!
Digging Deeper: 1. Jacob has a reputation as a manipulator. He’s gotten away with it-for the most part. On the last night of his journey ‘home’, to ‘face the music’, he camps by himself next to a river. All night he wrestles with a strange figure. Is it a man? Is it an angel? Is it God? Is he also wrestling with his past? With the kind of person he has been? With his future? We give Jacob credit for wrestling well! He insists on a blessing. He gets it.
2. Jacob also gets a new name. In scripture, a new name signifies a new person. His new name is Israel, meaning “one who strives with God”. “Israel” also becomes the name of the new nation God is forming. Jacob/Israel is one of the forefathers, like Isaac and Jacob before him. What’s “new” about Jacob from here on?
3. One consistent puzzle in scripture is Why does God choose some flawed character like Jacob to bear the promises God has made? God does make odd choices, for reasons that only God knows! The good thing for us is that “if God can use someone like Jacob, God can probably use us too!”
4. A question this scene raises is: How close of an encounter will we dare to have with God? Jacob hasn’t led the most godly life. Yet he doesn’t seem afraid of God. Maybe he knows he has to take God seriously. This mysterious wrestling match invites us to take God seriously too. Is it possible that God welcomes such a contest? Though Jacob walks away with a limp (perhaps a sign that this proud guy has been humbled and changed?), he also goes with a blessing. Can we see that wrestling with God is a win-win?
5. By the way, Jacob’s ‘homecoming’ with Esau turns out very well. There’s no animosity or revenge. Jacob’s family troubles are not over, as he will have problems with his children too. But somehow, God’s story continues to unfold through these imperfect persons and families! That’s good news!