Jacob is still in preparation mode. He is about to encounter Esau after all these years. He is worried about that meeting and needs God’s help with it.
Some of the things Jacob did to get ready for his encounter with Esau are:
- Divide his camp in two
- Send droves of gifts to Esau, separated by some distance between them
- Keep his family in the rear of the procession.
In our reading today he does one more thing; he wrestles a blessing out of one of God’s angels.
Jacob’s night didn’t start out as going to be a wrestling match. It started out as quiet time alone for Jacob. I imagine it was probably going to be time spend in prayer. He put everyone else across the river and he was left alone. He needed peace and quiet to contemplate what lay ahead. He probably needed to “steel his wool.” In his report he wasn’t told what kind of mood Esau was in just that he was bringing 400 men with him. Enough to make me say ‘yipes!’
I have a question here. In verse one we read that “Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. And when Jacob saw them he said, ‘This is God’s camp!’” (verse 1-2). Are one of these angels the one he wrestled with that night? Did they stick around all day while he devised his plans to appease Esau? Or is this angel on who came for this “wrestling match” only?
When I think of angels I don’t think of little wimpy characters you see sitting on people’s shoulders in cartoons. I think of might warriors dressed in armor and ready for battle. We meet warring spiritual bodies several times in scripture. A few popped into my mind and I looked them up. The first one is in Daniel 10. An angel is speaking to Daniel and telling him that there was a delay getting his answer to prayer through because of the spiritual battle raging on over it. It took additional reinforcements to finally break through the line. The second one I thought of is still to come. It is the final battle between Satan’s forces and Gods’ angels. We know which side wins! So to me this means the angels KNOW how to fight and are strong.
Yet Jacob wrestles with one in the flesh and doesn’t get smeared on the ground like a bug. I can’t say that Jacob won this battle but he refused to give in, even when his hip was put out of place. Can you imagine the pain that must have caused and the determination required to fight on through it. Talk about dedication to task!!!
Jacob knew where his blessings came from. He recognized God’s messengers. And he KNEW he needed help for what was facing him. He was DESPERATE!!! This match went on for hours! Neither one took a break or went to their corners for freshening up. They wrestled “until the breaking of the day” (verse 24b). When daybreak came Jacob’s hip was put out of socket to stop the fight but Jacob wrestled on. “’Let me go, for the day has broken.’ But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me’” (verse 27). Jacob would hold on until his dying breath or until blessed by this messenger of God.
I find it interesting that the angel asks Jacob his name. Surely he knew it. Was it for Jacob’s benefit? Was it to illustrate the truth of that name by his current actions? Jacob came into the world hanging on tight and now he was continuing that show of determination. Was that what the angel wanted Jacob to grasp?
Jacob means “that supplants.” I had to look up “supplant” too so I could understand the meat behind the name. Supplant means to “supersede or replace.” Jacob did this with his brother in MANY ways but he was not able to do it with the angel. He didn’t win and he couldn’t claim he did.
After having Jacob state his name, the angel changed it. He changed it to Israel. The meaning of this name is “to prevail with God.” He didn’t have to win, all he had to do was remain in the fight. A new nation would bear that same name. God wants to establish a people who will “strive with Him.”
I’m curious why the angel never answered Jacob when he asked his name in return. Was it because the messenger’s name was not as important as Who sent the messenger? God sent this angel to “test Jacob’s metal” and to give him his new name because of what was found within.
Jacob got his request for the blessing. He also got a permanent reminder of his struggle. I want to say his fear ended that night but we will see it again when he finally meets Esau. What would it take to wipe away all fear for Jacob? He had promises DIRECTLY from the mouth of God. He had evidence of those promises being fulfilled. And he had wrestled with God’s own messenger. What more did he need?
What more do I need? I have all His promises. I have seen His hand at work. I have felt His presence in my life. Yet still sometimes I get scared and doubt. I wonder if my doubts would fade away forever if I had even one of the experiences Jacob had. Probably no more than his did. But I have something that he didn’t have. I have the Holy Spirit living within me reminding me of all God’s promises and handiwork. I just have to remember to ask Him to remind me once again.
Thank You Father God for putting down Your promises AND their fulfillment in one place for me. Thank You for sending Jesus to complete the biggest portion of the work. Thank You Jesus for Your willingness to do Your Father’s will. Thank You Holy Spirit for reminding me daily of ALL God has done and His faithfulness. I can take HIS promises to the bank!!! Remind me again and Again and AGAIN Lord. You know how I forget and get sidetracked.