by: Rev. Ed Schneider
In the 32nd chapter of Genesis it shares with us a short but poignant story of Jacob in a cave alone with God. As the story goes, Jacob sent his two wives and the rest of his household ahead of him as he decided to stay over night in what he thought was going to be the friendly confines of a nearby cave. What actually occurred was something far different than what he had expected. He ended up in a place of God’s choosing that was perfect for The Divine’s intentions……not Jacob’s. He ended up in a place where God was able to come to Jacob in a way that he would be able to understand.
God came to Jacob in a way that provided Jacob “Divinely supplied awareness” that what was about to take place could have had no other answer, other than the Creator of all that is known and unknown was the one who was doing the interaction. At the end of this remarkable, yet short scriptural sequence, Jacob was going to have to come face-to-face with and interact directly with God. In this “God moment” experience, Jacob was about to be placed in a position where no other explanation would be possible…other than God was actually in that cave. Jacob was being placed in a position where he could find no other way out of the “God moment” experience EXCEPT BY GOING THROUGH IT!
One of the first things that jumps off the page to me is God has a long history of coming to people in a way that they can not ignore, misunderstand, or deny. Examples of this Divine tendency can be seen when;
•. God came to Abraham “the pilgrim” as a “traveler.”
•. God came to Joshua “the general” as an army commander.
•. To Jacob, “the wrestler,” The Divine came to Jacob as a fellow wrestler.
Why did God choose to approach Jacob as a wrestler? Simple.
Jacob always seemed to be wrestling with someone in his daily interactions with others. He wrestled with his father, Isaac. He wrestled with his brother, Esau. Because of Jacob’s “wrestling tendencies” God came to him as a Divine wrestler. In Genesis 32:24 it says; “The Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day.” The “man” of course represents God and The Divine’s endless ability to communicate to humanity in a way that is seemingly perfect for the person in question. God knew exactly what Jacob needed to experience. He needed to experience the “breaking of the day.” He needed to get out of the cave and step out into the light of day.
Jacob had a long history of conniving, plotting and scheming. Jacob was always on the “hustle.” He lived by his wits. God knew that if there was going to be any real change…any real and sustainable transformation in Jacob’s life there was going to have to be a time where Jacob had no other choice but to be alone with God. Finding ourselves alone with God has the affect of stripping away the pretense of the outside world. All of Jacob’s scheming and plotting would be pitted against God. All of Jacob’s excuses and fast thinking would now be placed directly across from God. Jacob was alone with God.
Imagine this epic battle of human guile and ego against Divine wisdom and authority. According Biblical scripture, this wrestling match went on all night and then something marvelous happened. Jacob somehow changed from fighting against God to desperately holding on to The Divine. It must have been some kind of grip because God says at the end of the wrestling match, “Let Me go, for the day breaks.” Jacob then goes on to tell God, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
Because Jacob had finally surrendered to God he wanted to be within the Almighty’s will…to be in God’s favor…to sense a Divine connection…in other words to be blessed. He had just finished a grueling night of personal introspection at the hands of a loving but determined Deity. Jacob spent all night wrestling his old life, his old habits, and his old way of thinking away from the forefront of his consciousness. In effect, he wrestled all of his personal “mess” into exhaustion so that he had no more strength to resist God’s blessing. Jacob was now at a point in his life where he shouted to God, “I will not let you go until you bless me!”
Remember that one of the messages of the New Testament is that God’s graciousness brings us to an awakened state of the difference between Darkness and Light. We come from the darkness INTO the light. And that moment had come for Jacob. When Jacob told God that he would not let him go, God asked Jacob what his name was. Jacob’s name, like all names of this time in history, meant something. It stood for something. In other words, God was asking Jacob, “Do you still want to be the same as you have been? Do you still want to go about doing the same things you have been doing? Do you still think that you are able to fool me about how you really are under the surface of pretense? Do you still want to walk the way you’ve been walking, talk the same way you’ve been talking, think the same way you’ve been thinking?”
Jacob had arrived at the time in his life where he had to make a decision. He had to recognize that God was actually in-charge of life and that God’s name stood for something greater than Jacob. Jacob had finally come to understand and accept God’s will, God’s direction, and God’s gracious call to change. At that moment Jacob made the right choice and with that right choice God gave Jacob a new name: Israel.
The word Israel means a few things. It means one who fights for God. It also means one who represents God in battle. God had placed much responsibility at the feet of the new Israel, and those responsibilities turned into great blessings.
The question today is what about you? Have you gotten tired to wrestling with God yet? Is it time to walk a new way, think a new way, maybe even be a new way? Peace.