Jacob Wrestles with God, by Melissa Gibbs
Jacob Wrestles with God, Genesis 32-35


Jacob moves on from his treaty with Laban seeking the same with his brother Esau. He is now sandwiched between the two people he has been most deceitful with, and is filled with fear and anxiety. Even though he recognizes that a band of angels is with him, he is still afraid of what man (Esau) can do to him. After he has appeased Esau by sending lavish gifts ahead of his family, he is still terrified. Alone in the camp the night before he meets his long, lost brother, Jacob learns that his real struggle is not against man (Esau or Laban) but against God. He has been wrestling with everyone, and before God can really use him as the father of the Israelite nation, Jacob must undergo a heart-change.

Enter the odd encounter with the "man" at Peniel. Who was the man? Was he a mere mortal, an angel, or another appearance of a pre-incarnate Jesus? Was the encounter a dream, an allegory for a spiritual battle, or an actual physical encounter? Farther into the Old Testament, the prophet Hosea reflects upon the life of Jacob, saying "Even in the womb Jacob struggled with his brother; when he became a man, he fought with God. Yes, he wrestled an angel and won. There at Bethel he met God face to face, and God spoke to him..." It seems clear from scripture that we are to interpret this "man" as God Himself. Remembering that Jesus has existed since before the creation of the world, why wouldn't this be possible? Maybe we have a hard time with the concept of God physically wrestling with a human. It definitely is strange. But to say that the battle was only spiritual and not physical discounts the fact that Jacob was left with a physical wound...a permanent limp. Did any of you think it weird that God couldn't defeat Jacob, and had to resort to handicapping him in order to get released from the encounter? I read a great commentary on-line that explained that the "man" matched Jacob's strength but did not overpower him, so that the struggle could continue. Though God could obviously defeat Jacob at any time, the extended battle was somehow important to Jacob's spiritual development. When at daybreak the "man" is ready to discontinue the wrestling match, he simply touches Jacob's hip and it is over. How often are we in the midst of a struggle and praying for God to end it, (with "one touch"), only to find that He allows the struggle to continue? If you've been in this kind of a battle, you know that it is in the trenches that the greatest growth occurs and the most fruit is borne. This is why God allowed Jacob to wrestle all night and why He leaves us in our trials, often far beyond what we think we can tolerate. But in His mercy, he does eventually reach down, and with "one touch" end the struggle. The fact that we may bear a scar, as Jacob did in his resulting limp, serves to remind us of His rescue and provision.

When at last the wrestling has subsided, the "man" asks Jacob what his name is. Of course He knew what Jacob's name was, but Jacob needed to come to terms with what his name meant. When he states his name, which means "the grasper" or "the deceiver", he is admitting who he is. His name is then changed to Israel, which means "he struggles with God" or "God prevails". He has had a fundamental shift in his relationship with God and in his concept of himself. He is ready to move into the Promised Land and into his role as the father of God's holy people.

Tomorrow's reading: Genesis 36, 1Chronicles 1:43-2:2

About Melissa Gibbs:


Melissa is the mother of four boys and the wife of her junior high sweetheart, JD.  He is the President of Joe Gibbs Racing and the son of NFL Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs.  JD and Melissa have been married 16 years and are actively involved with Young Life, Motor Racing Outreach, their church, and other ministries.  Their youngest son Taylor is nearing completion of a 3 year treatment protocol for leukemia, which has been a powerful faith walk for their family.  Since his diagnosis, Melissa has been called upon to share their family's testimony with many local churches. Much of her energy is now focused on a huge festival planned for mid May in celebration of Taylor's victory over leukemia and in effort to raise money and awareness for pediatric cancer.  If you'd like to check out what she's up to while not blogging, go to www.finishlinefestival.com.


Visit Melissa at http://chronologicalbiblein2010.blogspot.com/.

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