Greetings in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
I am not worthy of all the unfailing love and faithfulness you have shown to me, your servant. When I left home and crossed the Jordan River, I owned nothing except a walking stick. Now my household fills two large camps! O LORD, please rescue me from the hand of my brother, Esau. I am afraid that he is coming to attack me, along with my wives and children. (Genesis 32:10-11)
God called Abraham, and Abraham answered to God. He believed God and His promise to be the father of a great nation. Then he followed God. Per God’s command, he left his country without knowing where he went. Whenever he went, he built an alter to God and worshipped God by calling upon His Name. He lived a God-Centric life, and God pleased with Abraham. God richly blessed Abraham. God opened the womb of Sarah, his barren wife, and gave Isaac at his old age of one hundred. God continued blessed Abraham, and he saw his two grandsons, Esau and Isaac. Abraham was able to see the beginning of God’s promise that his descendants would be great nations.
The God’s promise given to Abraham was passed down to Isaac, and then to Jacob, the younger son. Why the younger son? The younger son, Jacob was always jealous of the birthright of Esau. When he was born, Jacob was born with his hand grasping Esau’s heel. This was the reason why the younger brother was named “Jacob”, which meant seizing by the heel. Later Jacob stole his father’s blessing reserved for Esau by disguising himself as Esau. His old father was easily deceived due to his poor eye sight of his old age. By the way, the co-plotter of the deceptive plan was, in fact, Rebecca, his mother. What a broken family! Of course, Jacob’s deception was exposed to Esau, and Esau decided to kill Jacob. Jacob had to run for his life.
Jacob was sent to Laban, his uncle, who lived about 1,000 km away. Then Jacob traveled through wildernesses, foreign cities, valleys and dangerous places. It was the first night. Jacob was alone in wilderness. He found a stone to lay his head, and lied down while looking up the dark chilly night sky lonely. He begged sleep, but it was really difficult. He was able to see the faces of Esau, Isaac and Rebecca, and what he did to them. For the first time, he experienced the taste of his wrong doing. In fact, the pain of his sins was long overdue. After long struggling, Jacob fell into a deep sleep, which was God’s blessing. Although Jacob did not know, God was always with him all the way to the lonely place. God, who was merciful to Jacob, showed up in his dream. God comforted Jacob by showing a stairway that reached from the earth up to heaven and angels going up and down the stairway. At the top of the stairway stood God, He comforted Jacob and gave the same blessing and the promise that was given to Abraham. What a merciful and loving God!
On the next morning, Jacob got up early, and built an altar. He made a vow to God instead of thanksgiving prayer to God. He did not know how to worship God, but he treated God as if God were a powerful man. He was a just baby spiritually. Even so, God loved Jacob as all parents loved their babies. Then with the God’s blessing and protection, he safely made the next 1,000 km journey to his uncle’s house. Laban gladly received Jacob, and Jacob stayed in the Laban’s house. Laban had two daughters, Leah and Rachael. Jacob loved Rachael at first sight, and agreed to work seven years to get married to Rachel.
Laban was also a cunning man like Jacob. He tricked Jacob and made him get married to Leah instead of Rachel. For the first time, Jacob was deceived by another person. Jacob, then, had to seven more years to get Rachel as his wife. Jacob essentially worked for Laban seven more years for free. Indeed, it was God who gave the lesson to Jacob, but the greedy and deceptive Jacob was hardly changed.
God did not stop His lesson for Jacob. Although Jacob loved Rachel, she could not have a baby. Leah bore six sons, but Rachel had no baby. It led to a constant domestic dispute, which made Jacob crazy. However, this made Jacob slowly understood who the God was, and how God worked behind the scene in his life including having a baby from his beloved wife. The merciful God did not blindly continue his lesson on Jacob. God gave Joseph. Jacob and Rachel were greatly comforted.
Yes, God was merciful and is now to each of us. Not because Jacob was qualified to received God’s blessing of Joseph, but because God is infinitely merciful, they received Joseph. This is another lesson that we should not forget. Not because we are faithful to God, but because God is infinitely merciful, we receive God’s blessings.
All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the LORD laid on him the sins of us all. (Isaiah 53:6)
How much is our God merciful? He knows who are — like sheep, stray away from His path. But He is long suffering and patient. Instead, Our God did lay on Jesus Christ the sins of us all for us to forgive all of our sins. Thus, whoever believes this truth receives His forgiveness, and Our God will never remember our sins. Instead Our God looks at the Jesus Christ on cross, who died for our sins. This is the love of God and His mercy.
Let’s back to Jacob’s life. Jacob was still a work in progress of God’s master piece. The still worldly Jacob paid back by deceiving his uncle. He took away his uncle’s wealth while increasing his wealth. Soon Laban and his sons noticed this deceptive act of Jacob. As a result, Jacob coule not stay with Laban and his sons. Again Jacob had to leave the place where he lived tens years like his second home, and where he got married and had many children also.
Jacob was trapped again because he had no place to go. He could not stay no longer his uncle’s house, and he could not return to his home where his brother Esau was waiting for Jacob to kill. For the suffering Jacob, the merciful God showed up to Jacob, and told,
“Return to the land of your father and grandfather and to your relatives there, and I will be with you.” (Genesis 31:3b)
Upon hearing God’s command, although he feared of Esau, Jacob followed God’s command. Jacob started believing God and His promise more than his wisdom and cunning mind. He left with his family and all belongings that were gathered while he was with his uncle. In fact, the large portion of his wealth was a deceptive gain at the cost of his uncle’s wealth. Soon his secret departure was known to Laban, and Laban pursued Jacob with his sons. As about to catch up Jacob, the merciful God intervened Laban. God appeared in Laban’s dream, and said
“I’m warning you—leave Jacob alone!” (Genesis 31:24b)
Laban was terrified before God. When Laban caught up Jacob and his family, Laban could not do anything except making peace with Jacob. Together they built a monument by stacking up large stones. Then they separated to their own ways. Laban returned to his home without touching anything that Jacob owned although he even told to Jacob, “all that you have are mine.” Jacob was saved by the mercy of God.
As Jacob started on his way again, angels of God came to meet him. When Jacob saw them, he exclaimed, “This is God’s camp!” So he named the place Mahanaim. Yes, God, who loved Jacob, step by step guided Jacob. Although Jacob did not know what was really going on behind the scene, it was God who guided Jacob and molded Jacob to whom God really desired – the one who could carry the glorious God’s promise. Since he left his home, Jacob had been growing into God. God continuously trained Jacob, and his faith was getting deeper into God. When he heard God’s voice to return to his home, where the fearful brother, Esau was waiting to kill Jacob, he departed to his home. How many of us would want to go back to the place where one person was waiting for kill us because of our past sins that greatly hurt to the person? Probably not, but Jacob chose the path of returning his home upon God’s command.
However, as getting closer to his home, the fear of Esau took over Jacob. Again Jacob developed a plan of his own to survive from Esau’s sword. He used all of his cunning mind that always worked well so far. He knew if he failed to come up with a plan that really saved his life, he would be get killed by his brother Esau.
Jacob sent messengers ahead to his brother by telling, “Give this message to my master Esau: ‘Humble greetings from your servant Jacob. Until now I have been living with Uncle Laban, and now I own cattle, donkeys, flocks of sheep and goats, and many servants, both men and women. I have sent these messengers to inform my lord of my coming, hoping that you will be friendly to me.’”
After delivering the message, the messengers returned to Jacob and reported, “We met your brother, Esau, and he is already on his way to meet you—with an army of 400 men!” Jacob was terrified at the news. He divided his household, along with the flocks and herds and camels, into two groups. He thought, “If Esau meets one group and attacks it, perhaps the other group can escape.”
However, Jacob knew his plan was not enough to protect him and his family against an army of 400 men of Esau, who was deceived by Jacob. Jacob could see Esau’s face clearly and again, which was furious after discovering Jacob’s sin of stealing the blessing received for him. Jacob knew he hit the wall. His cunning mind was of no use no longer. He found how powerless he was. Jacob finally prayed to God humbly and authentically. Please remember that Jacob made a transactional vow to God when he left his home about twenty years ago. The twenty years made a huge impact on Jacob and his relationship with God.
Jacob prayed, “O God of my grandfather Abraham, and God of my father, Isaac—O LORD, you told me, ‘Return to your own land and to your relatives.’ And you promised me, ‘I will treat you kindly.’
I am not worthy of all the unfailing love and faithfulness you have shown to me, your servant. When I left home and crossed the Jordan River, I owned nothing except a walking stick. Now my household fills two large camps!
O LORD, please rescue me from the hand of my brother, Esau. I am afraid that he is coming to attack me, along with my wives and children.
But you promised me, ‘I will surely treat you kindly, and I will multiply your descendants until they become as numerous as the sands along the seashore—too many to count.’” (Genesis 32:9-12)
What was Jacob’s prayer?
1. Jacob called on God’s name
2. His obedience to God’s command
3. His humility before God and God’s unfailing love and faithfulness
4. Thanks to God’s blessing
5. His authentic fear
6. His hope in God and God’s promise
Then Jacob prepared huge gifts for his brother Esau: 200 female goats, 20 male goats, 200 ewes, 20 rams, 1530 female camels with their young, 40 cows, 10 bulls, 20 female donkeys, and 10 male donkeys. His plan was to soothe Esau’s heart, which was hurt by Jacob. Then Jacob divided the gift into three groups. Esau sent them ahead of him while making distance between the group so that Esau could see the huge amount of his gift sent. Jacob also gave words on his servants who led each group of the huge gift of animals, “‘All of these animals belong to your servant Jacob, but they are a gift for his master Esau. Look, he is coming right behind us.’” Jacob wanted to subside Esau’s fury against Jacob when Esau saw his gifts three times. Jacob did everything. He prayed and he sent the huge gifts in three groups. The three gift groups were sent ahead of Jacob.
Jacob and his family were still behind the other side of Jabbok river. Although he did everything, his heart did not allow for him to cross the river to where Esau was coming with his 400 men. As the night getting darker, he knew he could not hold his family anymore. He sent his family also. He was still the other side of the river. He was alone. He could not close the river because the true fear was holding him off. He thought that he did everything – he humbly and authentically prayed to God and he sent huge gifts to Esau using his own mind. However, the fear in the deepest part of his heart was still with him. Jacob was completely exhausted. He was in pain, fear and shame of his prior sin committed against Esau. God saw Jacob, who was in pain. God also knew his faith was not yet ready for the true heir of the glorious promise of God. God gave the final plan to make Jacob to the Jacob whom God truly wanted.
God, who was merciful and full of love, showed up to Jacob. For this time, not just a dream, but as a man. One man came to Jacob and started to wrestle with Jacob. It continued until the dawn began to break. When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket. It was a real pain to Jacob, but Jacob did not release the man, and continued wrestling with the man.
Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!”
But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
“What is your name?” the man asked.
He replied, “Jacob.”
“Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the man told him. “From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.” (Genesis 32:28)
Please tell me your name,” Jacob said.
“Why do you want to know my name?” the man replied. Then he blessed Jacob there, and left Jacob.
Jacob finally came back to himself, and realized he met God. Additionally, he wrestled with God throughout the night. He extremely fear of Esau because he sinned against Esau. He really wanted his sin went away, but it did not. His sin was with him throughout his life. It was continuously dominating in his heart, but Jacob did not know of this. Jacob had successfully suppressed his heart for long time, but at the most critical moment of his life, his sin came back and bit him. He suffered really. Jacob sent away all that he had including his family and his wealth to the other side of the Jabbok river, but he could not cross. Before the weight of the sin, all that he had were useless. He found he had to confront his sin alone.
When Jacob left his home about twenty years ago, he was alone. However, God was with him and protected him throughout the journey to his uncle’s house. Then God let Jacob to establish his own family and collect lots of wealth, and made him returned to home. Unfortunately, he could not cross the river, which was the last river that he had to cross to reach the land of his hometown. Again, he was alone while confronting his own sin. But Jacob was not the Jacob about twenty years ago. He had experienced God many time and he knew more about God – who God was, how much God loved him, and how gracious God was. Most of all, he became humble and authentic before God. He wholeheartedly prayed God, and even he praised God at the most painful moment. Please note that did his prayer resolve the problem that he confronted at? No. Although he had faith, the power of his sin was too great. Jacob was stuck and suffering. Didn’t God know this? Surely, God knew exactly how much pain Jacob had and why Jacob was stuck and suffering.
Instead of leaving Jacob alone suffering, God came to Jacob personally for this time. God let Jacob wrestle with God himself. There was none except God who could take away the pain deeply rooted in Jacob’s heart and the sin that continuously accusing Jacob as the source. Jacob himself had to release his sin in God’s mercy, but he could not.
Yes, it is the dilemma in our heart tangled with a past sin. Although we really want to be released from our sin in our heart, the sin clings so closely. Surely, we want, but we cannot take away our sin so that we can be relieved from the power of the sin. Only can God take away our sin and truly release from the power of the sin. Although Jacob did not know, he was in fact wrestling with his own sin. Throughout the night, God chipped away Jacob’s sin piece by piece at a time till the entirety of his sin was completely destroyed, which was so tightly clinging in the deepest part of his heart.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, (Hebrews 12:1)
For this time, Jacob could not give up. He wrestled and wrestled till the dawn. He put all his hearts, minds and souls to wrestle with God. God finally saw the Jacob desired by God at the dawn. God carved out the Jacob whom God truly desired from the raw material of the old Jacob, worldly and cunning. Yes, Jacob became the true heir of the promise of God, which was given to Abraham and Isaac. This made God pleased, and God stopped His hand on Jacob. Then the man wrestled with Jacob left Jacob. Before leaving Jacob, the man changed the Jacob’s name also. The new name for Jacob was Israel, which truly reflected God’s promise:
“Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the man told him. “From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.” (Genesis 32:28)
Israel also became the name of the nation, and even today, we use Israel to refer the descendent of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (i.e,. Israel). Jacob finally released from his old sin that was always with him, and he got the new and glorious name – Israel!
God is always merciful and gracious because He is full of love to His own children, i.e., us. God never leave us nor forsake us. He is infinitely faithful, and His mercy endures forever till we become whom God desire. His loving hand has never stopped working on us whether we know this fact or not because He is Love. His love is higher and stronger than any sins that we have already committed and will committee in future (sadly).
God surely carves out one whom God desires, and God always succeeds without exception. Yes, it might be painful as Jacob wrestled throughout the night, but we are sure about His love and His infinitely goodness toward us. God carved out Israel, the new Jacob from the old cunning and worldly Jacob, who was not qualified to carry the God’s holy and glorious promise. Thus, it is surety that God will do to each of us as He did to Jacob — carving out His masterpiece out of our raw material of the old worldly self, and He will never fail. This is also our assurance in Him. Praise God, who is infinitely wise and full of love toward us! In Him, we are secure. His love will be magnified in us to glorify Our merciful and loving God. His mercy will endure forever! Amen.
so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, (Joshua 1:5b-6a)
So we can confidently say,
“The Lord is my helper;
I will not fear;
what can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:6)