Jacob is a blessed man. His family grows with children, his wealth dramatically increases, and he is assured that God will bless him and his family with countless offspring. Overall, he has succeeded. Yet the ghosts in our closets, that aren’t addressed, come back to haunt us. Jacob has one major ghost of his past that he must rectify…his brother Esau. Read Genesis 32:3-12.
Though Jacob has encountered God in a dream, has seen his family and wealth increase, he still has a bit of that deceiver in him. Splitting his assets in half to minimize the potential damage; pleading with God’s faithfulness to his promise in order to save him from his brother’s wrath…Jacob is still living halfway between his old ways and the new.
This, if we are honest, is the story of our faith. It isn’t until fear or uncertainty arise that we are faced with our ‘coping’ mechanisms. Jacob used deception to get ahead and, in a real sense, is deploying that trickery with God. He wants to meet his brother but needs to have not just plan A, but plan B as well.
It is in that space of in-between that God again appears to him. The great tale of Jacob, wrestling with God through the night, lives in infamy. In wrestling with God, he is renamed. Genesis 32:27-28 say,
The man asked him, ‘What is your name?’ ‘Jacob,’ he answered. Then the man said, ‘Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.’
He moves from ‘heel grabber/deceiver’ to ‘one who struggles with God.’ Is this any better of a name? Yes, for it is in his struggle with God that God is able to shower grace upon grace. He is not only renamed but leaves the encounter different. His path ahead won’t be the path behind. He will no longer wrestle with people but now will wrestle, or better yet, engage with God. And this man becomes the father of a people, the Israelites, who show a profound proclivity to wrestling with God! Can I get an amen?!