Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” The man asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob,” he answered. Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.” – Genesis 32:26–28
Today’s Devotional was written by: Steven Smith
I love the mountains. I love the big beautiful vistas and sweeping views. I love going places that are difficult to reach. The harder it is to get to a place the better. For me its one thing to drive up to a panoramic overlook, get out of the car and snap a few pictures. That will do in a pinch. But if you really want to see the true beauty of the mountains, you have to go to places that cars can’t reach. You have to walk. I have found the longer you walk, the better the views. There is something different about the view that comes at the end of a long day’s hike. When you sit down on a jagged rock and it feels like a lazy boy recliner. Take off your boots, rub your tired feet, and partake in nature the way God intended it. There is something about the struggle that makes a view that much more beautiful.
It reminds me of one of my favorite passages. In Genesis 32 we find Jacob in a very difficult situation. If you will recall, back at the beginning of their story, Jacob and Esau had their differences. Esau was a manly man who thought more about hunting and being outside than he did about God. Jacob was a Godly man, but didn’t always go about seeking God in very Christian ways. Jacob actually ends up stealing Esau’s birthright and lying to his father to receive a blessing intended for his brother. This doesn’t make Esau very happy. In fact, Esau feels a little murderous and Jacob ends up running from him for a good portion of his life.
It all comes to a head in Genesis 32 when Jacob gets word that Esau is coming for him with an army of 400 men. Jacob is worried and starts sending bribes trying to appease his brother’s anger. He ends up giving Esau just about everything he owns, sends his family away for their own protection, and then sits and waits alone.
That night, the Bible says, a man began wrestling with Jacob. They end up wrestling all night long, and soon discover neither of them can overpower the other. So the man disables Jacob’s hip causing him immense pain. But Jacob doesn’t give up, he just hangs on to the man refusing to let go until the man will bless him.
The Bible says:
“I will not let you go unless you bless me.” The man asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob,” he answered. Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.” (Genesis 32:26–28)
It’s such a strange story. Jacob wrestles with a man, who is actually God, and ends up with a different name. A name that literally means “struggles with God.”
Have you ever struggled with God? Have you ever struggled with your faith or with doubt? How did you feel about it? A lot of people feel guilty about their struggles. When things are hard they feel like they are doing something wrong, or that they have taken a wrong turn somewhere, or even turned away from God. Is that what struggling signifies?
It’s interesting to me, because when I hike, I expect to struggle. I know that I can’t get to the places I truly want to be without struggling. Usually the harder the struggle, the better the payoff.
I can’t help but think that life is the same way. I can’t help but think that struggling is a necessity of life. That there are parts of life—good, worthwhile, beautiful parts of life—that only come after an intense struggle. If this is true about life shouldn’t it also be true about faith? Could it be that there are aspects of faith—good, worthwhile, beautiful aspects of faith—that only come after an intense struggle?
Did you notice anything else about Jacob? He didn’t win his little wrestling match with God. At least not in the traditional sense. Yet God says “you have struggled with God and with man and have overcome.”
So how did Jacob overcome? He refused to let go. Through all his struggles with God—through painful injury and overwhelming exhaustion—Jacob never let go.
That is my prayer for you. No matter how you are struggling with God, my prayer is that you will hang on. That even when the struggling is the hardest, and you feel the exhaustion of life and faith crumbling around you, cling to God and you will overcome.
Read this verse in context: Genesis 32
Jacob went on his way, and God’s messengers approached him. 2 When Jacob saw them, he said, “This is God’s camp,” and he named that sacred place Mahanaim.[a] 3 Jacob sent messengers ahead of him to his brother Esau, toward the land of Seir, the open country of Edom. 4 He gave them these orders: “Say this to my master Esau. This is the message of your servant Jacob: ‘I’ve lived as an immigrant with Laban, where I’ve stayed till now. 5 I own cattle, donkeys, flocks, men servants, and women servants. I’m sending this message to my master now to ask that he[b] be kind.’”
6 The messengers returned to Jacob and said, “We went out to your brother Esau, and he’s coming to meet you with four hundred men.”
7 Jacob was terrified and felt trapped, so he divided the people with him, and the flocks, cattle, and camels, into two camps. 8 He thought, If Esau meets the first camp and attacks it, at least one camp will be left to escape.
9 Jacob said, “Lord, God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, who said to me, ‘Go back to your country and your relatives, and I’ll make sure things go well for you,’ 10 I don’t deserve how loyal and truthful you’ve been to your servant. I went away across the Jordan with just my staff, but now I’ve become two camps. 11 Save me from my brother Esau! I’m afraid he will come and kill me, the mothers, and their children. 12 You were the one who told me, ‘I will make sure things go well for you, and I will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, so many you won’t be able to count them.’”
13 Jacob spent that night there. From what he had acquired, he set aside a gift for his brother Esau: 14 two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, 15 thirty nursing camels with their young, forty cows and ten bulls, and twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys. 16 He separated these herds and gave them to his servants. He said to them, “Go ahead of me and put some distance between each of the herds.” 17 He ordered the first group, “When my brother Esau meets you and asks you, ‘Who are you with? Where are you going? And whose herds are these in front of you?’ 18 say, ‘They are your servant Jacob’s, a gift sent to my master Esau. And Jacob is actually right behind us.’” 19 He also ordered the second group, the third group, and everybody following the herds, “Say exactly the same thing to Esau when you find him. 20 Say also, ‘Your servant Jacob is right behind us.’” Jacob thought, I may be able to pacify Esau with the gift I’m sending ahead. When I meet him, perhaps he will be kind to me. 21 So Jacob sent the gift ahead of him, but he spent that night in the camp.
Jacob wrestles with God
22 Jacob got up during the night, took his two wives, his two women servants, and his eleven sons, and crossed the Jabbok River’s shallow water. 23 He took them and everything that belonged to him, and he helped them cross the river. 24 But Jacob stayed apart by himself, and a man wrestled with him until dawn broke. 25 When the man saw that he couldn’t defeat Jacob, he grabbed Jacob’s thigh and tore a muscle in Jacob’s thigh as he wrestled with him. 26 The man said, “Let me go because the dawn is breaking.”
But Jacob said, “I won’t let you go until you bless me.”
27 He said to Jacob, “What’s your name?” and he said, “Jacob.” 28 Then he said, “Your name won’t be Jacob any longer, but Israel,[c] because you struggled with God and with men and won.”
29 Jacob also asked and said, “Tell me your name.”
But he said, “Why do you ask for my name?” and he blessed Jacob there. 30 Jacob named the place Peniel,[d] “because I’ve seen God face-to-face, and my life has been saved.” 31 The sun rose as Jacob passed Penuel, limping because of his thigh. 32 Therefore, Israelites don’t eat the tendon attached to the thigh muscle to this day, because he grabbed Jacob’s thigh muscle at the tendon.
Common English Bible (CEB)
Copyright © 2011 by Common English Bible