Why did Jacob wait twenty years to return to his home in Canaan? In part, it was probably because he didn’t want to face Esau. The last words he had heard from his brother’s mouth were threats of murderous revenge. But now the time had come to go home. You can’t run forever. Sooner or later we have to face the difficulties of life.
The first half of Genesis 32 is a “good news,” “bad news” scenario. The good news is that God sent angels at the very outset of Jacob’s journey as a sign of His divine protection. The bad news is that Jacob learned Esau was quickly approaching with four-hundred men.
Hearing about the approaching band, Jacob panicked then flew into action. He prepared a series of gifts hoping to appease his brother’s wrath. In case that didn’t work, Jacob divided his family into two groups - the thought being if one was attacked the other had a chance of escape.
Having done all he could think to do, Jacob sent his family across the ford of Jabbok for the night. That’s when Genesis 32:24 says, “Then Jacob was left alone.” There are experiences in life you face alone. Others may care and pray, but you walk that valley alone. Actually, Jacob wasn’t really alone. The verse goes on to say, “And a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day.” This was no ordinary man. Notice that the word is capitalized. This man was none other than the pre-incarnate Christ.
Alone in his hour of crisis, God came to Jacob. God always draws near when His people are in trouble, “I will be with him in trouble” (Psalm 91:15). God initiated the contact, for it says the Man wrestled with Jacob. There were some major issues in Jacob’s life that needed straightening out. The impending crisis brought Jacob to the breaking point, which is exactly where God wanted him to be.
As the night wore on and the struggles continued, the Man touched Jacob’s thigh, dislocating his hip. Is that fair? I mean, did God cheat? In a modern-day wrestling match the Man might have been disqualified. But God doesn’t play by our rules. Of course, God is always just! But even in those times when it seems He has acted unfairly, you can trust that what God does is always right and for our good.
Jacob knew this was true for by morning he was a crippled man, and yet a changed man. Broken, but blessed. The meeting with Esau would go well, and for the rest of his life Jacob would remember the night he wrestled with God.
Who won the match? God won, and Jacob lost. And yet when you think about it, Jacob won too! At some point in the night, Jacob was no longer fighting. He was just holding on for dear life saying, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!” (v26) Jacob got his blessing and won.
If you are facing a crisis of your own today, learn from Jacob. God can handle the Laban’s and Esau’s of life if we will learn to depend on Him. So maybe it’s time to get alone with God and lay hold of Him until the break-through occurs and the blessing comes. Fight on in the place of prayer and don’t stop until you hear the Spirit say, “You have wrestled with God…and prevailed!”
Pastor Todd Weston