As Jacob was preparing to cross into the land of Canaan to face his brother and chief nemesis, Esau, the Bible tells us that he was greatly distressed and afraid. In his defense, there was ample reason to be concerned; Esau was bringing 400, presumably armed, men with him to meet Jacob, After petitioning God to deliver him from Esau, Jacob suddenly found himself alone. The Bible records that:
“Then Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him.” (Genesis 32:24-25)
The text doesn’t plainly tell us who or what the man was. Some people believe it was an angel; some believe it describes a dream. My opinion is that this man was a manifestation of the Creator, in all probability, the pre-incarnate Messiah. The main point, though, is that Jacob wrestled with God and prevailed, prompting the “man” to say, “Let me go.” Jacob refused to do this until he had obtained a blessing from the man.
Is the fact that Jacob “prevailed” intended to suggest that Jacob, somehow or another, overpowered God even though he was a mere man? That’s hard to accept, so perhaps it’s speaks to the notion that Jacob was tenacious. He wasn’t going to let go of God until he got a reaffirmation that God was going to, indeed, deliver him from his enemies. Some 20 years before at Bethel (Gen. 28), Jacob was promised prosperity and protection. But that was 20 years ago. On this day, the man that had sworn to kill him was marching toward him with a small army of 400 men. So again, perhaps this wrestling match was about Jacob’s determination to get an answer from God. “Did you really mean what you said? Are you really going to do what you promised me? You see, I’m scared and feeling threatened by my enemy. So, I need to hear again, are you going to do what you said you were going to do?”
The Scripture records that, at this point, the man changed Jacob’s name from Ya’akov to Israel, saying:
“Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.” (Gen. 32:28)
It’s easy for us to see how Jacob, or for that matter you and I, struggle with men. Jacob had already struggled with Esau and his uncle, Laban and had escaped their snares. But how does one struggle with God – and prevail, no less? Is it suggesting that there will be times in everyone’s life when we have to face our greatest test? In that critical moment, our trust and confidence in what the Creator has already told us will be put to the test. I’m certain that all of us have experienced this and asked, “God, are you really going to do what you said?”
Over the past 20 years of my life, there are things I thought would have gone differently and, frankly at times, I was very disappointed in the way they turned out. We all know that God can do anything, at anytime and in any way He wants. He is the sovereign Lord. I know that He did great things for Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David and for so many others. Knowing He can do it is not the struggle; the struggle for me, and I believe for so many others, is, “Will You do it for me?”
What I’m saying is, my lack of confidence is not in the Creator’s ability and authority to act on my behalf. My lack of confidence is in me. Consequently doubt, as to whether or not He will do in my life what He’s promised, enters in. This is especially true when faced with those circumstances that have the potential to overwhelm me. Doubts and fears can arise within any of us when we’re feeling threatened by those who wish to destroy us. So, its important for us to remember that God did, in fact, deliver Jacob from Esau and, maybe, that is because Jacob first struggled with God, and refusing to let go, prevailed.
Yeshua demonstrated a similar struggle before He fulfilled His purpose. Luke’s gospel records that:
“And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed, saying, ‘Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.’ Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him.” (Luke 22:41-43)
The angel strengthened Him to go forward and face what was before Him. Many of us, if not presently, will come to this place in our lives. Our human tendencies will rise up within us and we’ll look for another way that seems safe. We’ll wonder, because we know us, “Are You going to do what You promised You would do? I’m afraid and Esau is coming with 400 men to attack me.” If you find yourself in this place, remember that He is faithful even when we haven’t been faithful. He’s true to His Word and He’s true to His promises.
If we are to endure these last days, we must be willing to hang on until we know in our heart He has reaffirmed to us that He will do everything that He has promised. I have no doubt that this means we will find ourselves wrestling with God and our fears; but with His help, we can prevail. Don’t be fainthearted and don’t turn back; go forward knowing that the Lord has already gone before you.