Jacob, while God’s man, is a fighter. He struggled with Esau, his twin, while still in the womb. During birth, he grabbed firstborn Esau’s heel. Later, he cheated Esau out of his birthright. He tricked his father, with his mother’s help, into blessing him instead of Esau. This incident forced him to leave home. He went to live with Laban, his uncle—the man who deceives the deceiver. After years with Laban, God tells Jacob (Genesis 31) to take his family and return home.
Needless to say, the trip home has to raise Jacob’s anxiety level. How will his brother receive him? Jacob has fared well in his years with Uncle Laban. Jacob sends the caravan of wives, children, and livestock ahead. He remains alone for the night. Why? Doesn’t he feel an obligation to watch over his family? Does he want some alone time to pray and seek God's guidance?
Whatever the reason, Jacob gets more than he bargains for. As he wrestles with the man, he cannot prevail. The man could probably have beaten Jacob easily, but he does not. Perhaps God tests Jacob to see if he has the fortitude to be the heir to the covenant and leader of the chosen people. Jacob realizes he is striving with someone powerful, and he demands a blessing.
Jacob gets his blessing and remains forever changed. He has been tested and proven worthy. All of us wrestle with God at times. We lift fervent prayers seeking answers from God. We may have hard decisions to make. Perhaps a serious ill- ness looms for us or for a loved one. In the face of tragedy, we ask God, “Why?” We demand answers, wrestling with God to understand why these situations happen. May we be as per- sistent as Jacob so that we may receive God’s blessing, whatever our circumstances.
Bless all who struggle to understand God’s will for their lives.
The heavyhearted psalmist gives voice to the feelings of many when he states, “Hear a just cause, O LORD; attend to my cry.” In the Genesis text Jacob wrestles with a “man.” At one level, this story is about human struggle with God, but at another level the story tells of a human being’s struggle with himself or herself. Yet even in the midst of our struggles, the enduring word is one of God’s grace. Romans 9 also deals with suffering: Paul’s personal anguish over Israel’s failure to receive God’s messiah, the Christ. Matthew 14 reminds us that God’s mercy is real. Obedient disciples become agents through whom God’s provisions are served to hungry people.
• Read Genesis 32:22-31. When have you felt like you were wrestling with God? What impact did it have on your relationship with God?
• Read Psalm 17:1-7, 15. In what ways does your faith give you strength in the face of adversity? Reflect on a difficult time when you felt God’s presence.
• Read Romans 9:1-5. How do the words of Peter in Acts and Paul’s words in Romans shape your understanding of the Jewish faith?
• Read Matthew 14:13-21. How hungry are you for Jesus? Are you willing to nibble and snack, or are you starving for substance and sustenance?
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