Sunday, March 07, 2010


I used to not like Jacob.  He was a momma's boy.  He was a deceiver (his name actually means this).  He blackmailed his starving brother into handing over his birthright.  He lied and schemed his way with the help of his mother into his older brother's blessing.  The 'black and white' person in me just didn't like that he a lot of what he got the way he got it.  I never thought this was fair. 

However, after all of this, Jacob receives a little bit of payback.  He has to flee because his older, bigger brother finds out what he's done.  He spends 14 years working for his father-in-law because he himself is deceived by this man into marrying the wrong woman.  (I wonder how in the world Jacob could possibly NOT know who he was marrying!!??) Jacob agrees to stay another six years working for this father-in-law.  He builds up his own herds and then suddenly decides to deceive his father-in-law by leaving with his family in the dead of the night. (Even one of his wives gets in on the deception game by stealing her father's idols and lying about it when confronted.)

At this point in Jacob's life, he's at a bit of a cross-roads.  He's been a deceiver and run away when times have gotten tough, but now he's headed back to his home town to try to reconcile with his brother.  His whole life has been about deception.

So, Jacob leaves his father-in-law and it is during the journey back home, that he meets the Lord at a stream.  He has sent his family on ahead and and remains alone at the side of the river.  We are told that he encounters a man who wrestles with him.   A lot of biblical scholars believe that this was the pre-incarnate Jesus or an angel. 

I have heard a lot of sermons interpret this wrestling match as a wrestle over Jacob's identity.  They point to the fact that his name is changed after this match is over.  I believe, however, that the wrestle is not just over WHO Jacob was, but it was also about HOW Jacob was going to walk into his identity....his way or the Lord's?

Jacob loses this wrestling match. This man allows Jacob to wrestle with him all night until finally, Jacob is exhausted.  The man simply touches Jacob's hip to end the match, perhaps as a permanent reminder of what he's been through.  Smart man that Jacob is, he seems to know just who it is that he's been wrestling and asks for a blessing.  Jacob is, in my opinion, exactly where the Lord wanted him: at a cross-roads, alone, wrestled to the point of exhaustion, hurt, and with no where else to turn.  Jacob is truly at a crisis point in his life. 

The Lord then asks Jacob his name, as though to remind Jacob who he has been: a deceiver (because of course the Lord knows Jacob's name already).  He wants Jacob to acknowledge who has has been.  He wants to see if like the last time Jacob received a blessing and was asked this question, he'll lie.  Jacob simply humbly acknowledges his name.

The Lord then changes Jacob's name as an even more permanent reminder of who it is that Jacob serves and blesses him.  Jacob is radically changed from this encounter with the Lord in every way. He no longer lives a life of a deceiver, but walks into his calling and identity submitted to God.

I know, like Jacob, I cannot win my own wrestle with the Lord.  I know, like Jacob, the Lord will allow the wrestling only long enough to get me to a point of exhaustion.  I know, like Jacob, the end result is a permanent change within me.  I know, like Jacob, the Lord ultimately wants me to see that it is not my doing that will get me where I desire in life, but it is only Him.


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