Much like Mt. Moriah for Abraham where his faith was challenged in offering up Isaac, Jacob has his own crisis of faith at Peniel.
Jacob had lived his life looking out for number one and doing things his own way. And because of his gifts, talents, abilities, personality, whatever, (and God’s grace) he generally came out on top in most situations. There were definitely setbacks along the way, but he had won in the end. Birthright. Blessing. Rachel. Laban’s flocks. He seemed to be virtually invincible. And even though he had had an encounter with God at Bethel, on the surface little had changed for most of the twenty years he was in Laban’s house. But God was working below the surface through the circumstances to not only bring about what He’d promised Jacob…provision and protection, His presence with him, but also to chip away at his character. He was shaping and molding Jacob into the man He wanted him to be. God’s severe mercy. Jacob’s crippling victory. Blessed and broken.
But one final lesson remained before Jacob could enter the Promised Land…he had to learn to trust the LORD. Not just a little. Not just when there seemed to be no other option. But fully and completely and always. Jacob, the manipulating, scheming self-absorbed and self-sufficient opportunist, had to become Israel, the one for whom God fights, before he was ready to enter the land.
Many of us are like Jacob. We trust God to help when we’re out of options, and then only half-heartedly. He is our plan B. And why not? We’ve been successful to date, right? Never mind the carnage we’ve left behind…broken relationships, deception, manipulation, compromise. Examples are myriad. We’ve wrestled with men thinking all the time we were winning…not realizing that we were wrestling against God who never loses. He wants us to learn the lesson from Jacob…until we let go of our self-sufficiency we’re not ready to enter into all that He has for us. Ultimately the wrestling match is for who gets to be g/God in our life. Genesis 1 & 3. Not content to be image bearers, we want to be like God… Until we let go of doing things our way and grab hold of His way, stop building our own kingdoms and invest in His kingdom, stop wrestling and start clinging, we will not experience the abundant life that Jesus promised. Strength through weakness that Paul talked about.
Some of us are in a wrestling match of a different kind with God. We don’t yet know Him, though He’s been near all along. He’s wrestling for our attention, our affections. He’s gone to incredible lengths in His pursuit of us. He’s sent His Son, the One He promised way back in Genesis 3.15 would crush the head of the serpent, giving His life in the process to pay the penalty for our rebellion and provide the way back to a relationship with our Creator God. Talk about a wrestling match. Jesus was wounded for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities.
May we be a people, blessed and broken, clinging to God, trusting Him to fight for us and expand His kingdom here in the valley.
Until next time…stay salty.