We are looking at a series of biblical characters, all of whom faced some extraordinary trials and difficulties, and how the Lord brought hope to them to face these difficulties. Today, Terry is talking about the character of Jacob, one of the biggest scamps in the Old Testament.
The name Jacob does not have a good connotation. The name Jacob meant supplanter, deceiver, swindler. Jacob and his brother Esau were twins. Esau was born first and Jacob second. They grew up in the home of the patriarch, Isaac and Rebecca. Later on in life when Isaac was very old and couldn’t see very well, he called his son Esau to come to him. “I want you to get some special food for me. I love venison. I want you to go out with your bow and arrow and bring home some food. And then I want to bless you.” Rebecca heard Isaac say this to Esau, and she ran to Jacob and said, “Your father is going to bless Esau today and I want you to get the blessing. I want you to go into your father’s tent, deceive your father, and receive the blessing. You must have the blessing.”
Jacob went to Isaac’s room, and deceived his father by giving him food he was expecting from Esau. Isaac put his hands on Jacob and gave him Esau’s blessing. When Esau got home that afternoon and learned he and Isaac had been deceived, he went ballistic. He was so angry he threatened Jacob: “When my father dies, I’m going to kill Jacob with my own hands.” Jacob’s mother, Rebecca, heard this and said, “Jacob, get out of Dodge. Run! Go to my brother Laban’s house in Haran.” Jacob ran and as he established himself under his uncle’s protection. Jacob stayed with Laban for 20 years. He married four wives. He had 12 sons, who became the 12 tribes of the land of Israel.
The time came when the Lord spoke to Jacob and said, “I want you to go back to your home in Canaan.” So Jacob took his wives and children and his flocks. By this time, he’d taken half of the flocks of Laban. He’d cheated his father-in-law, too. On their way back home, Jacob receives a message that his brother Esau is riding with 400 men on horses. They’re on their way to confront Jacob. Judgment day is coming for Jacob and he is terrified.
Although the Bible doesn’t state this specifically, I’m sure that Jacob had an incredible amount of shame for what he’d done, cheating his father and brother, and running in the process. I’m sure he wasn’t proud of himself. But that night as he called out to God and asked for favor, God gave it to him the next day, because amazingly when Esau and his men came, he chose to forgave Jacob and not kill him.
The night before Esau arrived, an angel of the Lord came to Jacob and they wrestled together at a brook called Jabbok. It was a long fight through the night. They were probably in the mud of the riverbank rolling, and one ascendent than the other ascendent. And finally the angel said to Jacob, “I want you to let me go. Daylight’s coming.” And Jacob said, “I will not let you go until you bless me.” During the fight the angel touched the sinew of Jacob’s thigh, and he walked with a limp for the rest of his life.
Jacob was a man who struggled with memories of the past. Mistakes that caused him to fear God’s wrath. His wrestling with the angel represented a deeper conflict filled with questions such as, “Would God allow him to be killed by Esau? Would he live another day? Was judgment coming? How did God feel about him?” As Jacob wrestled with the angel of the Lord that night, the angel said to him, “I’m going to change your name from Jacob to Israel.” The angel expressed God’s forgiveness to Jacob by giving him a brand new name.
We all have memories of things we’ve done that we’re not proud of. What we need to know is that when Jesus Christ went to the cross, God put all of our mistakes on his own son. We have been completely redeemed by the blood of Jesus, and we have hope with God.
When the wrestling match with the angel came to an end, and while on his way to meet Esau the morning, Jacob knew that the grace of God was with him. God had blessed him with a new name, Israel. He was a different man than the one who first began wrestling with the angel. He was a different man than who had deceived Isaac, Esau and Laban.
Jeremiah 29:11 says, “ ‘I know the plans that I have for you,’ says the Lord, ‘plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Hope comes from Jesus. Hope says that you and I are loved of God and we’re going to make it. If you’re struggling to forgive your past or to find peace in your present, it’s time to move toward God and to wrestle with him as Jacob did. Don’t let go until you know in your heart that you are free.