Genesis 32:6–12, 24–31comment (0)
March 13, 2008
By Jay T. Robertson
Related Scripture: Genesis 32:6–12, 24–31
GROWING SPIRITUALLY THROUGH CRISES
Genesis 32:6–12, 24–31
Jacob had good reason to be encouraged. Laban and Mesopotamia were history. He was heading home with 11 sons and tremendous wealth. He had also encountered angels as he re-entered his homeland. He named the place Mahanaim (two camps), because there was a camp of angels alongside his camp.
Use Common Sense (6–8)
Encouraged by the angels, Jacob sent messengers ahead of him to let Esau know he was returning. Restoring this broken relationship with his brother must have been a heart necessity, because it was not a geographic one. Esau was not blocking his way. He had settled in the south at Mount Seir in Edom. There must have been a spiritual necessity that motivated Jacob to make things right with his brother. Jacob was prepared to humble himself and make generous reparations. The formerly larcenous Jacob longed to make a generous payback to Esau.
His messengers returned with alarming news. Esau was approaching with 400 men. The last he had heard from Esau was that Esau was planning to kill him. Now he was coming with an army. Jacob was terrified. He divided his people into two camps. He had forgotten about the angels; all that was on his mind was survival. He acted instinctively, increasing the odds that at least half of his camp would survive an attack. While the Bible does not minimize using your head in difficult circumstances, it is clear throughout the account that Jacob’s actions would not have succeeded if not for the presence of God’s camp.
Pray to God (9–12)
Fearing Esau’s arrival, Jacob prayed his first recorded prayer. This was another sign that he was growing spiritually. He included in his prayer the elements of invocation, confession and petition as well as faith in God’s word. Jacob called out to the faithful, covenant-keeping God. He prayed Scripture back to the Lord, remembering God’s command for him to return to Canaan, and God’s promise to prosper him.
He then confessed that he was not worthy of God’s kindness and faithfulness. This type of heartfelt confession had not been characteristic of the old Jacob. But his newfound humility would become the ground for God’s blessing. His opening and concluding thoughts focused on the promises God had made to him. When Jacob concluded his prayer and initiated additional measures to handle the situation, it was not any of those measures that delivered him. Instead, God delivered him.
Learn From God (24–31)
As Jacob sat, reflecting on the past during the darkest night of his life, a hand grabbed him. He could see nothing for the darkness. The unknown attacker seemed intent on taking his life. Jacob wrestled with the man until daybreak. For most of the night, Jacob did not realize that he was wrestling with a divine being, but verses 29–31 clearly make this point. Jacob was wrestling with God.
This wrestling match depicts Jacob’s life. His entire life had been a struggle. He had wrestled with his brother (Gen. 25:22), his father (Gen. 27:19), his father-in-law (Gen. 29–31) and now God. As Jacob wrestled the attacker for hours, he had no idea that he was in the grip of God’s grace.
“When the man saw that He could not defeat him, He struck Jacob’s hip as they wrestled and dislocated his hip socket” (25). Writhing in pain, Jacob hung on to his opponent. With a touch, the attacker had disabled him. Jacob must have wondered what kind of an enemy was after him.
As dawn approached, the man cried out for Jacob to release him, but Jacob would not until he had blessed him. Jacob sensed the divine.
God’s interpretation of this wrestling match in Hosea 12:4 suggests that Jacob asked for blessing, not from proud dominance but from tears. He was at the end of himself.
The man asked Jacob his name. He responded “Jacob.” This was an admission of guilt — “I am a fraud and a deceiver.” Transforming grace was at work as the attacker not only blessed Jacob but also changed his name from Jacob to Israel.