Our Greatest Struggle
By Dot Bowen
And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. Genesis 32:24 (ESV)
No one is more confused than a first time mother when she sees her body taking on the form of a human basketball. A newly pregnant mom watches every part of her body change, and as the shock of these changes wears off, she might wonder if she will ever look normal again. After the delivery of each of my children, the only “normal” thing in my house was the setting on the clothes dryer.
I was recently reading about the birth of Jacob and noticed how his mother, Rebekah, responded when she first realized something different was going on in her body. Jacob’s parents, Isaac and Rebekah, had tried for years to have children, and the challenge was taking its toll on their marriage. Isaac, being the spiritual leader of the family, prayed for Rebekah, and God answered his prayer in double portion— Rebekah was pregnant with twins! I wish I could have seen their faces when the boys were delivered! Esau, the first-born, was covered with red hair, and Jacob was grabbing Esau’s heel. Unlike today, names in Biblical times were often used to express the nature of the child not because the name was found on the Top Ten Baby Names list. So, without question, Isaac and Rebekah named their first-born Esau, “the hairy one,” and the second twin Jacob, “catching or grasping of the heel.”
What happens when you grab someone by the heel? You catch them by surprise and may cause them to fall. If ever a person were named for their personality, it was Jacob. Jacob manipulated, deceived, and stole his way through life. We know he manipulated Esau to give him his birthright—which was very valuable in Biblical times—and later, with the help of his mother, stole the family blessing from Esau. When Esau realized Jacob had once again manipulated the situation, he found comfort in planning his revenge and made plans to kill Jacob. At this point, Rebekah decided it was the perfect time for Jacob to visit his uncle Laban—for 20 years!
If you’ve ever studied the events of Jacob’s life, you know there came a time when Jacob had to go back and face his past, and that meant facing Esau. On the night he was to meet Esau, it was late and very dark night when Jacob unexpectedly found himself in a wrestling match. I wonder if Jacob thought Esau had snuck up on him and started wrestling him to the ground. But Esau was not Jacob’s opponent at that moment; God was. Jacob wrestled with the angel of God until the breaking of the dawn. I believe when Jacob realized he was in the presence of God, he didn’t want to let go. Well, at least not until he received God’s blessing.
While they were wrestling, the angel of God asked Jacob his name. Surely the angel already new his name. Then why do you think he asked? I believe God was looking for confession, not information, and wanted Jacob to come to grips with who he really was. When Jacob said, “I’m Jacob,” he was confessing, “I’m a deceiver and a manipulator!” It’s very important for us to know who we really are before we can enjoy the blessing of God. We must confess who we really are to God. He already knows anyway! And I’m talking about the person we are when no one is looking; the person we are in dark times, and there’s no one around but you and God. When Jacob confessed to God who He really was, God changed his name from Jacob to Israel—from a deceiver to a prince. The meaning of Israel is “has power as a Prince.”
How does God take a Jacob and turn him into an Israel? God will wrestle with us until we are honest with ourselves and with Him. Then, and only then, will we find God’s blessing. I believe there is no greater blessing than being at peace with who we are as a child of God. We need to let go of the past, of the person we were before we met God, and then hold on to God until the breaking of the dawn. We must hold on as long it takes for us to understand it is God who we are struggling with. God wants to change us! Go ahead and wrestle with Him. When you find yourself wrestling you will eventually realize you have been touched by God, and through Him, you will be blessed. It’s time to let go of who we think we are and grab on to the woman God says we are! It’s okay to struggle because it’s through the struggle we will receive God’s blessings. Hold on until the breaking of the dawn!
Further Reading Genesis 25:19-33:20