Greetings in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit!
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.” (Genesis 32:28)
Isaac and his wife, Rebecca were childless. Isaac prayed earnestly to God to open the womb of Rebecca. God heard the prayer, and opened her womb. As the time came to give birth, Rebekah discovered that she did indeed have twins! The first one was very red at birth and covered with thick hair like a fur coat. So they named him Esau. Then the other twin was born with his hand grasping Esau’s heel. So they named him Jacob, i.e., Holder of the heel.
From his birth, Jacob was jealous about the birthright of his elder brother Esau. Jacob’s jealousy was not diminished as he was growing up with his brother. One day when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau arrived home from the wilderness exhausted and hungry.
Esau said to Jacob, “I’m starved! Give me some of that red stew!”
“All right,” Jacob replied, “but trade me your rights as the firstborn son.”
“Look, I’m dying of starvation!” said Esau. “What good is my birthright to me now?”
But Jacob said, “First you must swear that your birthright is mine.” So Esau swore an oath, thereby selling all his rights as the firstborn to his brother, Jacob.
Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and lentil stew. Esau ate the meal, then got up and left. He showed contempt for his rights as the firstborn. One day when Isaac was old and turning blind, he called for Esau, his older son, and said, “My son.” “Yes, Father?” Esau replied.
“I am an old man now,” Isaac said, “and I don’t know when I may die. Take your bow and a quiver full of arrows, and go out into the open country to hunt some wild game for me. Prepare my favorite dish, and bring it here for me to eat. Then I will pronounce the blessing that belongs to you, my firstborn son, before I die.”
Rebekah overhead what Isaac had said to his son Esau. She, who loved more Isaac than Esau, and quietly called in Isaac to tell what was about to happen. Then she prepared food for Isaac, disguised Isaac, and sent Isaac in to pretend he was Esau. Isaac turning blind without knowing gave to Isaac the blessings prepared for his first son, Esau. Soon Esau came back from his hunting, and realized Jacob stole his blessings. He decided to kill Isaac. Thus, for his life, Jacob had to go to his uncle, Laban.
He was on the journey to his uncle’s house. Night fell. Jacob found a stone to rest his head against and lay down to sleep. The gracious God with full of mercy appeared in his dream, and He blessed Isaac as He promised to Abraham, his grandfather: “Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” (Genesis 28:14-15)
The next morning Jacob got up very early, made an alter to God with a stone, and prayed: “If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God, and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house. And of all that you give me I will give a full tenth to you.” (Genesis 28:20-22)
His prayer was really honest and authentic, which reflected Jacob himself. As we can see, although he prayed, his prayer was almost a business deal between him and God. The God full of love did not say anything, but accepted his prayer as he prayed. (I recall that how many times I had accepted such deals with my two sons when they were young. I did it because I knew that they did not what they were doing. It was even my real pleasure because I loved them.) Yes, God heard the prayer. He made Jacob safely arrived his uncle’s house. God also made Jacob prosper during his stay at his uncle, Laban’s house.
Jacob was not changed. While he was with Laban and his uncle’s family, he craftily made his fortune rather than humbly following God’s will. Déjà vu. His behavior upset Laban and his uncle’s family, and he was no longer able to stay his uncle’s house. Thus, Jacob took his family and his belongings, and left his uncle’s place. Then, he had no choice but going back to his home, from which he fled because Esau, his brother, tried to kill him.
Again, the Merciful God sent an angel to help Jacob. Getting closer to his home, Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau to soften Esau’s heart. The messengers returned to Jacob, and told to Jacob that Esau was coming to meet you with four hundred men. When he heard this, Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed. He divided the people who were with him, and the flocks and herds and camels, into two camps, thinking, “If Esau comes to the one camp and attacks it, then the camp that is left will escape.” What a good idea! Jacob was still relying on his cleverness. He prepared a huge amount of presents to Esau to soften his heart, and he even put words on his servants’ months. So the present passed on ahead of him, which was followed by all of his belongings including his two wives, his eleven children and his two female servants, who crossed the ford of the Jabbok. And he himself stayed that night in the camp on the other side from all of his belongings.
Yes, that night, he was alone. He knew what he could do was cling to God. Suddenly, an angel showed up, he wrestled with the angel. It continued until the breaking of the day. The angel did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Even so, Jacob did not release the angel because he could not cross the ford without blessings from God due to the fear of Esau.
God, full of mercy, finally saw the faith of Jacob – truly trusting God. The angel said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then the angel said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” (Genesis 32:27-28)
The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip. That night, God change the Jacob, who was a clever and cunning man to “Israel.” God made him the father of the twelve tribes of Israelites.
Praise the Lord, who loves his children with infinite patience! God spent decades to carve out Israel from the raw material of Jacob. His love never fails, and His mercy endures forever. Let’s bow down to God, Our ever-loving Father, and praise His Name. He will surely carve out His master piece out of the raw materials: us.
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. (Ephesians 2:10)