Posted by: mikenicholsblog | February 1, 2015

wrestling with a blessing

Without much thought, you and I could identify someone we really don’t want to be around. It might be an attitude that annoys us, or character issues that we disdain. Whatever the reason, and although we love these individuals, liking them is much more difficult. When they speak it sounds like fingernails on a chalkboard to our ears, and because of our built-in bias, we don’t believe they will change, nor do we put much stock in what they say. Truthfully, we don’t value much about them. Can you think of someone like this?  You may be surprised to know there is a famous character from Scripture that has never been a favorite of mine. When reading about his life, I am less than impressed (to put it mildly), but God chose to change him.

He was the son of Isaac and Rebekah and a twin brother of Esau. His name means “he deceives,” and it certainly fits this schemer.  Jacob bought his brother’s birthright, and then deceived Isaac (along with Rebekah) to gain Esau’s blessing.  He ended up in the territory of his uncle Laban and was himself deceived. Jacob wanted to marry Rachel (Laban’s daughter), but was tricked into a marriage with Leah (her older, less attractive sister), although he did marry Rachel as well after working seven more years to earn her hand. Jacob had twelve sons who founded the twelve tribes of Israel.  Deceit and dysfunction seemed to swirl around the life and family of this man.  It is interesting to me that his sons actually deceived him with their treatment of Joseph.  It is interesting that this man is the father of one of my favorite characters in Scripture, Joseph.

Is it fair for me to look at his life with an attitude of disdain? There is no denying sufficient opportunity to “judge” Jacob for his pattern of deceipt.  However, there was also a scene from Scripture which I believe was a defining moment for Jacob.  God blessed him, and he was changed. It was an encounter with God that is way beyond my comprehension, yet instructive just the same.  View the scene with me. Jacob is on his way back to Canaan and he will surely see Esau. There were probably emotions of fear, dread and apprehension as he prepared himself for this encounter.  I wonder if he questioned whether Esau would forgive or fight him. Years had passed.  What would it be like?

In the course of events, Jacob is alone and has one of the most astounding encounters found in the Bible. Genesis 32:22-32 gives us the story, but I’d like to zero in on verses 24-28:

This left Jacob all alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break. When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket. Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking! “But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” “What is your name?” the man asked. He replied, “Jacob.” “Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the man told him. “From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.”

Jacob had an encounter with Almighty God. From my study, I believe his wrestling partner was a pre-incarnate appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ. God put his hip out of joint, changed his name (Israel) and verse 29 tells us, “…then he blessed Jacob there.” This section of Scripture is wrought with great meaning, far more than I can understand, or even attempt to write about in one short article. The simple fact is that Jacob had a defining moment in his struggle with God and was changed forever.

The Christian world of the 21st century is no different than in Jacob’s day. You and I can’t fix all the deceit and dysfunction (even among Christ-followers), but we must consider our journey. I don’t know whether you are in need of an epic defining moment, or just a recalibration of priorities.  Don’t live another day without enjoying God’s power and sufficiency in your life in the midst of all of it. Eventually, Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”  And God did!

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