I know it has been quite a few days since my last devotional. Since this is the case I am going to quickly touch on Genesis 29 - 31 with a brief overview and spend most of the time in Genesis 32. I would encourage you to take some time today (or this week) and read through these chapters on your own and allow God to speak to you.
Genesis 29 - 31
We last left Jacob fleeing for his life from his brother. He goes to his uncle’s home. In these passages Jacob gets married – two wives (Rachel & Leah) and He was tricked and deceived into marrying Leah. The deceiver is deceived. He ultimately ends up working 14 years for two wives.
Chapter 30 gives account of Jacobs 11 sons and one daughter from four different mothers (Rachel, Leah, their servants Bilhah and Zilpah). Not only did Jacob grow in size of family but also he began to prosper.
He desires to leave and go back to his home country but Laban tells him he should stay because success is coming to Laban as a result of Jacob. Jacob’s prosperity eventually puts him at odds with his brother-in-laws and his deception gets him in trouble with his father-in-law. Fearing for his life Jacob takes his family undercover of the night and leaves his father-in-laws household. Laban notices they left and he pursues Jacob and catches up with him. They talk to each other and eventually make a covenant. Laban is able to see his daughters and grand children off properly.
Jacob can be considered many things (a scoundrel, a mama’s boy, a deceiver, etc.) but in this account he is seen as a man of persistent prayer… Or as I call it Jacob is a stubborn pray-er.
Vs 1 - 5: It has been 20 years since Jacob’s last encounter with God (Ladder). He is in a situation where God has told him to go back to his homeland. Jacob meets with God’s angels… This is to show that God is with him. We are not told what they talked about.
He sends messengers to his brother Esau in the land of Seir and essentially sends him gifts. He tells his brother he is wealthy and he is willing to consider everything that has happened as water under the bridge. The messengers inform Jacob that Esau is coming with 400 men.
Vs 6 - 8: Naturally upon hearing this Jacob is freaked out. He is scared. He is unsure what his brother is going to do. He is fearful that he may come and try to kill Jacob and his wives and children. He comes up with a plan to divide his camp in two. This way if one camp is destroyed there will still be another one left. His memory may have failed him as just moments before the Angels were assuring him that they would be with him.
Jacob’s response is fairly typical. He does what we humans do best in desperate times. He goes into defense mode and devises a plan on his own and then eventually goes to God in prayer. I am so much like Jacob – how often I forget that prayer should always be my first response, not my second, third or last resort. This is how the process goes...
1. Oh no, there's a problem... Ok, I have everything under control God.
2. Oh wait, maybe I don’t… help!
3. God this is what I want to do so PLEASE bless it!
This is pretty much what Jacob's prayer looked like. However, his prayer may have come out of desperation; it is a persistent prayer nonetheless.
Vs 9 - 12: Jacob reminds God of his promises. This wasn’t because God forgot about it. I like what George Mueller wrote, “I argue with God not to convince him but to convince me.” Wherever we may be in our lives (desperate, scared, needy, hopeless, helpless, or uncertain) we need to be reminded of the necessity of prayer… More so the need for persistent prayer. Jacob was desperate but God eventually met with him. God will always meet you if you take the time to meet with him.
Jacob asks to be delivered from the hand of his brother. He admits his vulnerability and fear. After sending a large gift to his brother, Jacob sent his families away and he was left alone.
Vs 22 – 31: That evening a man comes and wrestles with Jacob all night long. We find out a little later that this man was indeed the Lord himself. Was it Jesus? Probably. Why were they wrestling? We are not told. All we know is Jacob wrestles with God until the morning.
Some may look at this wrestling match as pointless because we all know, one can never win when he fights God. But I challenge you to question that logic. Can someone truly prevail when fighting God? The answer is yes! Jacob did. But his victory may not look like the victory we are used to seeing.
In the midst of the struggle (hours of grueling and sweaty grappling) the Lord pulls an “uncle” move on Jacob’s by simply touching his hip and putting it out of its joint. God did this not because he was tired and couldn’t win but so Jacob could finish victorious. This is how Jacob was victorious.
a. Once his hip was dislocated Jacob clung all the tighter to the Lord.
b. The Lord tells him to let go. Jacob refuses and hold on tighter.
c. He refuses to let go unless the Lord blesses him.
d. Jacob is not going to leave empty handed. He knows God has promised victory. He has promised offspring. He has promised land and blessings. Jacob knew what God had promised him and he was not going to give up the fight. He knew the promises of God were worth fighting for. Does this ring true in your life? Do you believe God’s promises to you are worth fighting for? I do.
This is a major turning point in the life of Jacob. He lived a life of lies. He tricked people. He deceived people. He lied and cheated his way in life. In fact his name was, “Jacob” AKA “deceiver”. He tells God that this is his name. He confesses who he is. He says, I am not Esau, I am Jacob. Jacob confesses his true nature to God. He is deception, trickery and a liar. Everything he has and done up to this point was received or done by deception and trickery. He confesses and repents of his past.
God responds, “You are no longer ‘deceiver’, you are now Israel” which means “God fights”. Blessing usually comes in the form of name change… Abram & Sarai. Jacob is no longer the deceiver; he is now a humbled man who allows God to fight his fights… He will no longer fight his own battles. He will no longer deceive and trick. He will be a man who is dependant on God. He is the man who has humbled or submitted himself to God and in this submission and humility there is victory.
In his fight with God Jacob won by losing or submitting. This rings true for all of us today. Jesus tells us that if we want life we must lose life. Jesus conquered death by allowing himself to be defeated by it. This fight between man and God has a wonderful picture of grace. In this fight I see three acts of God’s grace.
After Jacob received his blessing he called the place Peniel – which means “face of God”. Jacob met face to face with God and lived to tell about it. He wrestled God and he prevailed by losing. In his Spiritual grudge match Jacob was ensured safety and blessing and his limp would be a constant reminder that he was a blessed man.
What is our take away for today?
Jeff has been in ministry for well over two decades. He currently serves as Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Southside Campus in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). Both are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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