Jacob, whose name means “heel biter” or “deceiver”, uses cunning and deceit in an attempt to help God. Despite God’s many promises, pursuits and proven faithfulness, Jacob continues to meddle in his life and the lives of others. He cheats Esau, deceives Laban, and tactically divides his family for protection while trying to buy Esau’s forgiveness with lavish gifts. Finally, when faced with Esau’s 400 men, Jacob recognizes that his own efforts may not be enough. He prays, “God, I am not worthy. God, I am afraid. God, save me. God, you said!” (Genesis 32:10.)
Have you ever prayed like this— desperately realizing the control you thought you had was just an illusion? God answers Jacob’s prayer, not by relieving him of his situation, but by sending “the man” to wrestle with him. In Jacob’s own strength, fueled by willpower and determination, he wrestles with God and “wins”. Realizing Jacob would not yield his will, God overcomes him, taking out his ability to wrestle by touching his hip. (This, to me, feels like losing.)
God changes Jacob’s name saying “...your name shall no longer be Jacob but Israel, for you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.” Genesis 32:28.
Physically wounded, and realizing God is more powerful than he, a fully surrendered Jacob holds onto God until he receives God’s blessing. The outcome of his meeting with Esau is out of Jacob’s hands. But now, clinging to God, Jacob is ready to face Esau, with God’s blessing.
However, as his new name, “one who wrestles with God,” foreshadows, Jacob is soon to resort to his old tactics. After a friendly reunion with his brother, Jacob blatantly lies to Esau. Just like I keep going back to trying to manipulate life with my own hands, Jacob also struggled with submission and acceptance to God’s plan.
Jacob had a heart change, a personal encounter with God, and still messed up. He never fully learned how to be hands-off in a way that honors God. But through it all, God kept every promise He ever made. He continued to pursue Jacob, and bless him and his family. Not just despite his struggles, but during his struggles. God pursues us too, desiring to lead and bless us. He doesn’t want our perfection; he just wants our complete surrender.
You see, when we wrestle with God and choose to submit to him— that, my friends, is when we actually win.
What do you need to surrender to God this week? I challenge you to give it fully over to Him.
The timing. The method. The outcome. We can be hands-off because He is handling it all. Will you trust Him with your future?
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