And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha. (II Kings 6:16-17)
What if our eyes were opened? What if we could actually see the spiritual warfare going on around us? This lesson is about Jacob preparing to meet his brother Esau some 20 years after Isaac’s blessing of the younger son over the elder. The last encounter between these twin brothers was that Esau intended to kill Jacob after Isaac’s death. Esau swore that after his father died, he would kill his brother Jacob. As Jacob prepares for Esau’s arrival, we see that despite the years, he is still a schemer. Jacob is busy trying to figure out how to preserve what he loves best, his second wife Rachel and himself, and he arranges his family and possessions from least valued to most valued to prepare for the worst. His reasonable expectation is that Esau means to do him harm.
And he rose up that night, and took his two wives, and his two womenservants, and his eleven sons, and passed over the ford Jabbok. And he took them, and sent them over the brook, and sent over that he had.
For years Jacob lived in exile at his Uncle Laban’s house. The blessing of God was on him, and everything he touched prospered. Prior to this section of scripture, Jacob had determined that things had changed between himself and Laban. Laban was no longer happy with their arrangement, even though he was blessed for Jacob’s sake. This wasn’t where Jacob belonged. Abraham was called out of his homeland, Jacob, because of the trouble he caused, had returned to it. This was not the promised land, this was retreat. And God gave Jacob specific instructions about what to do next. And the Lord said unto Jacob, Return unto the land of thy fathers, and to thy kindred; and I will be with thee (Gen 31:3). Notice that God said He would be with Jacob, and yet as this lesson develops Jacob (like Abraham and Isaac before him) is still leaning on his own understanding, talents, and strengths to make his way. Instead of turning to God to help him heal the problems that he had with his brother, he tries to save himself. Interestingly, at the last encounter with Esau Jacob took the blessing, and here he is sending blessings across the brook to make peace.
24 And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.
The man wrestling with Jacob shows up with a purpose. Jacob should be alone, but there is something God wants. Have you ever wrestled with God? It is a futile endeavor, but it is pretty safe to say we all do it at one time or another. Why does this man want to wrestle? Most likely, just as it is with us, it is to help Jacob see how little he can do on his own. To help him open completely to the God of heaven. Jacob is at the end of his ability to solve this situation. God allows Jacob to realize his dependence and to be blessed despite it. Jacob fears the unknown. He thinks that everything he has came from his wit and cunning, but God blessed him even before he was born. He is being drawn into a personal relationship. It takes a lot of wrestling for us to know God for ourselves. Jacob begins to pray and quotes the word of God back to Him. These promises belong to him. I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast shewed unto thy servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands.Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear him, lest he will come and smite me, and the mother with the children. And thou saidst, I will surely do thee good, and make thy seed as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude. (v10-12). Most commentators agree that Jacob was wrestling with Christ in a pre-incarnate occurrence. When he finally submits to Christ, the Word of God, Jacob’s life is forever changed. He found ways to get around his father, his brother, and Laban, but he is forced to admit that he can’t outmaneuver the God of the universe.
And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob's thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him. And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.
This wrestling match went on all night. When it looks as if no one is going to win, the man does a strange thing and touches the hollow of Jacob’s thigh. Jacob’s dislocated hip will be a constant reminder for the rest of his life that God is in control. God does what He wants. God uses who He will. God shows His authority and power. We should always remember that we are not equally matched with God. His ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. Jacob recognizes this and will not let Him go until he gives a blessing. Although he cannot defeat this man, he can only hold on. Holding on to God always brings blessings.
27 And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob.
God asks “who are you Jacob - what is your name?” Jacob means supplanter, deceiver, someone that is a trickster. Names used in scripture often describe the character of a person. God is asking Jacob, what are you? Jacob answers now knowing that in God’s eyes he is a liar, a deceiver, and all the other things that God already knows that he is. When we come to a place where we know who we really are, then God can do something with us. Preachers often say that before we can get someone saved, we have to help them see that they are lost. This is a necessary step in the plan of salvation. Do you know who you are?
28 And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.
Now that you know who you are, and you have called out to God, you have prevailed. You simply cannot prevail unless you know who you are and how great your God is. His name means to struggle with God and men and to overcome. He was the God of Abraham and Isaac, now He is the God of Jacob. In a similar way, our names are changed from sinner to Christian.
And Jacob asked him, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, thy name. And he said, Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name? And he blessed him there. And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.
Notice a specific name was not given here but it is in the book of Hosea. The Lord hath also a controversy with Judah, and will punish Jacob according to his ways; according to his doings will he recompense him. He took his brother by the heel in the womb, and by his strength he had power with God: Yea, he had power over the angel, and prevailed: he wept, and made supplication unto him: he found him in Bethel, and there he spake with us; Even the Lord God of hosts; the Lord is his memorial (Hosea 12: 2-5).
Jacob knows that he has been in the presence of God. The Lord of Hosts, or armies. As with Jacob, we are blessed by God when we hang on to God with all that we have confessing who He is. We are given His Holy Spirit when we surrender our will, our way, and our lives and give all glory to God.
And as he passed over Penuel the sun rose upon him, and he halted upon his thigh. Therefore the children of Israel eat not of the sinew which shrank, which is upon the hollow of the thigh, unto this day: because he touched the hollow of Jacob's thigh in the sinew that shrank.
We sing a song in our church when someone comes to Christ, “And when the battle is over, we shall wear a crown in that New Jerusalem.” Jacob then walked with a limp, but what a war story to be told! The encounter with God, where God won, but Jacob kept the trophy. His children told the story to their children, keeping sacred at the family table the memory of how God touched Jacob and changed him forever. Of how God came down and reached Jacob in a way that would convince him that He could fully rely on the promises of God. The generations that follow will create a memorial to this event by forbidding the eating of the sinew of the animal thigh. And God’s wondrous plan of salvation continues to be revealed.
Thank you for studying with us! God bless!