It’s not until Laban’s sons got jealous of Jacob that Jacob decides to return home. He’s known it was God’s plan since he left, since he spent the night on the stone pillow and heard from God. But he’s been busy in the “east,” having children with wives and servants, raising livestock, trying to stay out of trouble with his faither-in-law who keeps on deceiving him. All the time, learning lessons from God.
Sometimes we don’t obey until we get between a hard place and a rock. Laban’s jealous sons are behind him; Esau and his hatred are before him. Which is worse?
God’s promise is before him, so that is the direction Jacob decides to go. Tricking Laban one last time, he takes off into an uncertain future with his wealth and his wives. Hearing Esau was headed towards him with 400 men, he tries to make as many sound decisions as he can, separating his caravan to cut his losses if Esau attacks. Lastly, he sends presents ahead for Esau, hoping to appease him.
And then he was alone…and wrestles with God.
“And Jacob was left alone.
And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day.
When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob,
he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint
as he wrestled with him.
Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.”
But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
And he said to him, “What is your name?”
And he said, “Jacob.”
Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob,
but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.”
Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.”
But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?”
And there he blessed him.
So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel saying,
“For I have seen God face to face,
and yet my life has been delivered.”
Sometimes obedience is not easy. In fact, it usually isn’t. It comes in the face of fear, life controlling fear, that makes us want to run from obedience.
But Jacob stood alone and wrestled with his fear. His fear of Esau was secondary only to his fear of God, of not receiving God’s blessing. He wrestled all night, until the break of day, when God overpowered him by simply “touching” his hip, causing it to come out of joint.
Why didn’t God “touch” him sooner?
Because it’s through the wrestling, we learn how much we want God in our lives. Jacob would not let go until he knew he had God’s blessing once again, the affirmation of who he was in God’s eyes, “face to face.”
How much do I want God’s blessing? Am I willing to sell my birthright as his daughter for a bowl of stew, as Esau was willing? Am I willing to struggle and even endure pain for it? Or do I quit when it gets tough to follow God?
Jacob found new identity with God, a new name, as a result of that wrestling match. And I have a new identity as well, in the salvation of Jesus Christ.