This week, we finished the “Grace Foundation” series in examining the significance of Jacob’s wrestling with God in Genesis 32. First, we looked at what happened that made this such a life-changing experience for Jacob, and then we looked at why God interacts with him in this way at this time. Jacob had just sent his family and all his possessions over the river and found himself all alone. Isn’t that what we all need sometimes, especially when we are faced with a highly stressful situation like Jacob was at the time (meeting with his brother, Esau, whom he hadn’t seen in 20 years who wanted to kill him)? Sometimes, we need to get away from all we think we are and all we think we own and just get before God.
We’re told that Jacob wrestles with a man until daybreak. Later, Jacob indicates this “man” was God or at least God in the form of a man. As the sun is rising, the man sees that Jacob will not be overcome, but he strikes Jacob’s hip – injuring him. There is debate about whether the injury was temporary or permanent, but I believe the location of the injury is what is important. We’ll get to that in a few minutes.
I think we have all wrestled with God. Wrestling is not the same as fighting. We shouldn’t fight with God, but wrestling is more a picture of trying to get something away from God. Now, we know that we do not have to wrestle anything away from God. Jesus purchased everything for us, but, in our human soul, we do still tend to think we must wrestle. Let’s relate to that wrestling this way – that we are grabbing onto God’s promises and not letting go until we get what was promised. On this side of the cross, we are not making God give us anything because He already gave it. We ARE wrestling with our own unbelief and inability to receive. Jacob actually says he will not let go until he gets the blessing. Jacob has spent his entire life pursuing and fighting to get the blessing. I believe it is in the wrestling match that he finally understands that it is the blessing of God alone that he really needs.
The “man” then asks Jacob his name. Is it possible that God doesn’t know Jacob’s name? Of course not! Remember what the name Jacob means. It means he who deceives. In essence, God is asking Jacob to admit what he was – confess his sins, if you will. Then God changes Jacob’s name in much the same way he did with Jacob’s grandfather, Abraham. He changes Jacob’s name to
I try not to bore you all with my fascination with Hebrew, but this name change is very significant from a Hebrew standpoint. The actual Hebrew is more like Y’ishra-el. A little Hebrew lesson…. The first Hebrew letter in this name is yod. When yod is used as a prefix on a word it indicates third-person, masculine possessive – which is a fancy way of saying “his.” Ishra means royalty, rulership, princeship, and el means God. Put together,
means His rule with God. God
changes his name from “his way of deception” to “his rulership with God.” It
speaks to the change of heart taking place inside Jacob. In fact, we find
that the deception and the being deceived in Jacob’s life stopped after this
Let’s get back to the “whys” of this story. Why is it time for God to do this in Jacob’s life? In preparation for the potentially tense or even disastrous meeting with Esau, Jacob had sent forth an extravagant gift to his brother. God had not commanded him to do so. He made his own decision to do so. I believe that, when we have a giving heart, we are in alignment with a giving God, and we place ourselves in a position to receive from God. I am not speaking of merely financial or tangible gifts. Just making a personal choice (apart from being commanded to do so) to be a giver will open us up to then be receivers of God’s blessing.
I also want to point out that Jacob’s heart was to bless his brother out of what he had been blessed with. This also reflects the heart of our God. We have previously made the point that Jacob is in some ways a picture of grace – or that he lived under the same grace of Abraham and Isaac. He was blessed not because he had earned it, but simply because God promised it. We have been blessed because of the promise made to us through the blood of Jesus apart from our works.
We have received grace from God apart from our works, and we need to extend to others out of the abundance of that blessing if we want to soften hearts. Law and condemnation did not help us be saved, so why do so many in the Body think that is how we should change the world? In order to have an abundance of grace to extend to the world, we must have that revelation of God’s grace ourselves. Maybe that is the problem. If we ourselves are still struggling to try and live by works, we don’t have grace to extend.