Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the historic one-year lectionary.
Jacob was terrified, and rightly so. His older brother, Esau, had been robbed of his birthright by Jacob’s deception. Jacob had fled before, had become a wealthy man, also with an element of deception, and was now returning to his homeland. He heard that Esau was coming to meet him. Had Esau’s anger been growing all these years? Did Esau have a bunch of armed men with him? Would this be the end of Jacob? Jacob’s fear was well founded.
We notice that Jacob did what a man of deception and graft would naturally do. He sent gifts ahead of him, then he sent his servants ahead of him, then his family. Are these gifts for Esau? Are they meant to evoke Esau’s pity? Are they human shields? The answer to each question is affirmative. Yes, Jacob is even using his family to protect himself against the possible anger of his brother.
This all ends in the night, when he is confronted by this “man” of verses 24 and following. What kind of a man is it? He wrestles with Jacob all night, never defeating him or being defeated. At last, the “man,” with a touch, takes Jacob’s hip out of joint. This would normally end the conflict instantly. But Jacob continues to wrestle. What manner of man is his opponent? After a while, Jacob asks for a blessing. He knows he is the recipient of a divine visitor, though he doesn’t understand facing God and living.
What is God’s response? He gives the blessing and tells Jacob that he, Jacob, has prevailed. Really? The God of all power, who was able to disjoint Jacob with a touch, could have ended the contest at any point, no fuss, no muss, it would be over. God has all the power needed to end any contest. But God didn’t do it. Why not? He wanted Jacob to prevail. He wanted Jacob to have a new name, Israel, indicating his striving and his overcoming.
Jacob, now Israel, after wrestling with God, is no longer afraid of his brother or of any of the trials life could bring him. He is a partaker of God’s power to strive and overcome. This is not because of Jacob’s ability. He could never have won the wrestling match himself. It is because of God’s gracious decree.
What happens to all the livestock, personnel, and family members Jacob sends ahead? They are received in forgiving love by Esau. They are not in danger from him. Nor is Jacob in danger. All is well.
What do we fear? Are we afraid that God will not graciously remain in control of all our trials? He is the God who has appointed us to our place in this life. He is certainly able to bring those who trust in Him through it to the end. There’s no fear in God.
If this brief meditation was helpful to you, I hope you will check out the other materials on our website at www.WittenbergCoMo.com and consider supporting us.