This chapter begins with Jacob moving away from the hostile camp of Laban to the welcoming camp of God.
Jacob also went on his way, and the angels of God met him. When Jacob saw them, he said, “This is the camp of God!” So he named that place Mahanaim.Genesis 32:1-2 ESV
We see in this chapter a growing relationship between Jacob and the Lord and the first recorded prayer since he left Bethel, but we also see fear of the unknown as he anticipates meeting his brother Esau. He had a plan on how to appease his brother, but again, it was done out of fear, not out of trust in the Lord for a peaceful reconciliation. Jacob was struggling. He’s at a spiritual fork in the road, and this is where we find our gem for today.
That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 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 humans and have overcome.” Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.” But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”Genesis 32:22-30
Many of you have heard sermons on this passage, so I will not go on long. I use this as my gem, however, because it is so meaningful to me. Peniel means face of God, and we know that there are many verses where God says man cannot look upon his face and live. So, why does he allow Jacob such an up close and personal view of God, and not just a view of him, but physical contact with him?
Jacob needed to be put in his place physically and spiritually.
In wrestling with God and losing, Jacob is humbled before the Lord. It was only in wrestling with God that Jacob could see him. How many times have you experienced the Lord in an intimate and powerful way because you first struggled with him over an issue or over what he was asking of you? God allows us to see him in the storms of life—think Peter and Jesus walking on the water.
Jacob needed to be humbled in order to be reconciled with Esau.
When we don’t wrestle with God, we end up fighting our brothers. When we’ve met with God, we can be reconciled with our brothers. In wrestling and losing to the Lord, Jacob comes to the realization of who is really in control, and it’s not him. Knowing God is in control of his life, he’s able to move forward in confidence to meet the brother who has had every reason to hate him for the last twenty years.
Jacob had to wrestle before he could embrace.
I love the play on words in Hebrew, as wrestle (abaq) is very similar to embrace (habaq). The one who had wrestled with God was met and embraced (33:4) by the brother who ran to him, fell on his neck and kissed him. As it brought tears to their eyes, it should bring tears to ours.
What will it take in your life to surrender to God in order to reconcile with your brother or sister? I pray it won’t lead to a permanent limp, but sometimes that is what it takes for us to give over to God that which we try to control.
Grace and Peace