Our church family is reading through the first five books of the Bible together in ninety days. We invite you to join us as we believe this will be a time that will change our lives.
As difficult as it may seem, God chooses to use Jacob as a foundation stone for Israel – His one people to work His plan of saving humanity. Jacob, with all of his family dysfunction and history of deceit, becomes Israel, the nation that will eventually give birth to the Messiah, Jesus. Strangely, God chooses to transform Jacob both physically and spiritually through a wrestling match.
Jacob was a stubborn man who wrestled with his father (Genesis 25:22), his brother (Genesis 27), and his father-in-law (Genesis 29-31). And now he was to wrestle with God Himself (Genesis 32:22-32). The strange account tells of an all-night struggle between God’s messenger and Jacob. Somewhere in the middle of the night, Jacob becomes aware than he is not wrestling with a mere mortal. While the shroud of darkness covered the identity of his attacker, the enormous power of his opponent was evident the moment Jacob’s hip was dislocated by a simple touch from his adversary. Hours and hours of thrashing about soon gave way to the dawning of a new day. But just before the light of dawn broke, Jacob clung to his rival like a rag doll. The story takes an odd twist – whereas Jacob’s earlier efforts had been in hopes of defeating his opponent, he now hung on in hopes of receiving a blessing.
Towards the end of the fight, the angel asks Jacob his name. In the context of the Bible, to disclose your name was also often an act of self-disclosure. When Jacob shares his name, it is essentially a confession of his lifelong practice of deceit. Jacob’s name was given to him because he grasped at the heels of his older brother, Esau, at their birth. From the beginning, Jacob would do anything necessary to climb to the top (Genesis 27:36). So when Jacob’s name is changed to Israel, we begin to see the purpose of the all-night wrestling match (Genesis 35:10). It’s not just that Jacob’s name has changed, but his character and life undergoes a profound metamorphosis.