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  • Writer's pictureDavid Bent

Jacob wrestles with God (07-07-21)


The name ‘Jacob’ means ‘Supplanter’ or ‘Trickster’. Jacob was born after his twin brother Esau, grasping onto Esau’s heal. Previously he has tricked Esau out of his birthright and has tricked his father Isaac to give him the blessing of the firstborn. Fleeing his home to live in exile with his mother’s family in Haran, he has prospered. He now has two wives, two mistresses, a large family including eleven sons (Benjamin has not yet been born) and numerous cattle, sheep and goats which he has gained by tricking his father-in-law.

Jacob now believes God has told him to return to his father’s home. He sets off but is fearful of meeting his brother Esau whom he has cheated and who has a vendetta against him.

Bible Reading: Genesis 32:22-31

That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob's hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, "Let me go, for it is daybreak." But Jacob replied, "I will not let you go unless you bless me." The man asked him, "What is your name?" "Jacob," he answered. Then the man said, "Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome." Jacob said, "Please tell me your name." But he replied, "Why do you ask my name?" Then he blessed him there. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, "It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared." The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip.

A Reflection

Jacob was a man called by God but in many ways his life did not match up to his calling. Having been away from his family home for many years he sets off to return but is fearful of the reception he will receive. Alone at night he wrestles with God. He emerges from his struggle with a new name and with God’s blessing. No longer a ‘trickster’, he is now ‘Israel’, which literally means ‘Wrestles with God.’

There are times for all of us when our lives do not match up to our calling and the way God would want us to behave. There may also be times when we have been badly hurt by people or by circumstances. Such times can leave us in a form of exile from those we love and from God.

Dealing with our failings can be a struggle and letting go of past hurts is not easy. Alone with our thoughts it can feel like we are wrestling with God as we face up to our memories and to our hopes for the future. The good news is that our failings, past, present and future, are dealt with by Jesus. Our struggle may be to acknowledge them and to bring them to the cross, but the struggle is the way to blessing. Leaving them at the foot of the cross we can walk away in freedom.

Are there things in your life, past failings or past hurts, that you have not yet brought to God? Can you bring them to him now? It may be a struggle, but it is the way to true freedom. Jacob became Israel, Simon became Peter and Saul became Paul. When we come to God he doesn’t define us by what we were but by who we can become.

A Prayer:

Thank you Jesus that you have dealt with my failings and my hurts on your cross.

Help me to walk in freedom as the person you have called me to be.


Lord, I come to you. Let my heart be changed, renewed.

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