Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.” - Genesis 32:24-30
Have you ever regretted something you have done?
Has something ever weighed on your heart that it overwhelmed your thoughts?
This is exactly where we find the character Jacob in this scripture. Jacob is returning to the land of Canaan, his home, where he had grown up. It's the place he fled twenty years before to avoid his brother Esau who was out to kill him for stealing their father's blessing. Blessings from fathers were a traditional way to pass down inheritance to the oldest son. Jacob was not the oldest but pretended to be when his father was on his death bed. The act of betrayal against his brother Esau left only one way out and that was to run.
Often times we run from things in our life or from our past. Are you running from anything now? Jacob ran from his past. He started a family and settled down making a new life for himself in Laban. Despite the success he made, he internally was still running from the wrongs he had committed. It is in this conflictual state that Jacob decided to journey with his family back to Canaan to make peace with his brother. The weight of unease was too much for him to bear anymore. No matter what may come he had to make things right.
It is at this spot where we find Jacob who has just crossed into Canaan wrestling someone until the morning. Jacob was most likely fearful as he had been told his brother was coming to meet him with 400 men. He sent his family across the river so he could be in solitude. There's no indication originally of who Jacob is wrestling or why. The scripture indicates Jacob prevails in the match and his opponent is God. It also states Jacob asks for a blessing after the altercation which is the same thing he stole from his brother ironically.
We will never know if Jacob actually wrestled God or if it was a figurative way of Jacob working through his internal struggle with the divine. We know the turmoil and conflict Jacob was most likely enduring which may have prompted this experience. Did he actually win against God or was it he came to a new understanding of who he was, accepting the past for what it was?
Jacob just might have really saw who he was through all the facades he tried to hide behind. In this authentic experience the real Jacob prevailed over the guilt and shame of his past. He knew whatever his future holds, it would not be defined by what had happened but what he would be about from here forward. The name change is what is significant here. This name gives Jacob new meaning for who he is beyond his past convictions. It erases the shame he held for his actions.
Relevance for us Today
Each one of us has conflicts and struggles we wrestle with in our daily lives. Sometimes these are things from our past like Jacob. This scripture tells us to wrestle with those struggles with God. We must include the divine in the chaos of our lives. The scripture also asks us to really look at who we are now instead of the person we were in the past.
God wants us to wrestle with our internal feelings of shame and guilt and come to a new understanding that we are ok with. An understanding that you are who you are and that is enough. It is someone that the divine wants to see face to face. It is someone God wants to call by name and bless.
So lay down your burdens, forgive yourself, and lean into the blessings God is wanting to bestow on you.
I hope these few blogs about certain scriptures has been useful for you. If so please comment below.
This week know God is working through your struggles with you.
The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Community of Christ. We believe individuals should be allowed to have their own opinions and be at different places in their faith journey.