In Genesis 32:24, we have one of the more perplexing stories of the Old Testament in which Jacob wrestles with a messenger of the Lord. Jacob has been living in Haran for the last fifteen years after cheating Esau out of his birthright. He will soon encounter his brother, and he is not sure what to expect, and he undertakes preparations to die at his brother’s hand. In this context, this strange turn of events takes place.
In this, the messenger comes to a draw with Jacob until he dislocates Jacob’s hip. The messenger changes Jacob’s name and declares him the victor of the struggle. In scripture, whenever God and man confront one another, there is a lesson for us to take.
Three Lessons from Jacob’s Stuggle
A relationship with God is challenging.
We don’t often think of our relationship with God as being challenging, but that is the way Jesus portrayed this relationship. For example, see Matthew 19:16 where a young ruler comes to Jesus, and Jesus issues him a challenge: give up material possessions. Luke 9:57-62 records Jesus issuing challenging statements toward individuals hesitant to follow Him. Planning a relationship with God takes forethought and preparation, and, to maintain this relationship, I have to change some things about myself.
“How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?Know you not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” – Romans 6:2-4
What is the point of this challenge? We are reminded that we need God rather than our feeling that God needs us.
A relationship with God brings true blessings.
How do we try to get ahead in life? By lying, cutting corners, stepping on others? How can we hope for anything but enmity and jealousy as a result? This is how Jacob initially gained Esau’s birthright. He manipulated.
However, by humbling ourselves, by asking of God, we receive more permanent and wholesome blessings. James 1:5-6 encourages us to ask God what we need in faith, and God will provide. We often try to do things our own way, and we use God as a last resort, but James says this method is faulty. Also, Matthew 7:7-11 explains and illustrates this point to His audience.
“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asks receives; and he that seeks finds; and to him that knocks it shall be opened.” – Matthew 7:7-8
A relationship with God changes us.
This event in Genesis 32 fundamentally changes Jacob. His faith becomes his own. As an illustration, Jacob’s name meant (in Hebrew) “cheater” or “scoundrel,” However, God changes that name to Israel, “one who contends with God” or “prince of God.” This leads to God finally blessing Jacob in Genesis 35: 9-12. Likewise, we fundamentally change when we choose to follow God. Our nature changes, and we create a new pattern of life in Him.
“Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.” – James 4:10
Our relationship with God is not dependent on others, nor is it a passive experience. This relationship takes effort, and we will have to undergo change to remain in that relationship, but true blessings come with it. Matthew 11:28-30 serves as an invitation to that relationship – it may be a relationship that takes effort, but it offers more than anything this world has to offer.
lesson by Tim Smelser