The severity and complexity of our circumstances can at times be overwhelming to us. The troubles of our heart can become so enlarged that the presence of God becomes a fleeting reality to us and our sense that he's really at work in our lives can become quite diminished. The reality that God is at work intervening on our behalf can be overshadowed by what we are facing. Sometimes we can become so bottomed out that we become incapable of comprehending how God is at work.
While Jacob was initially taken back by the circumstance of Esau coming at him in a potentially aggressive way, he turned to the Lord in prayer. Think about those moments in our lives when we've bottomed out, lost sight of God, and didn't turn to the Lord in prayer. How many times might it have been that God was just waiting to intervene but we did not turn to him. So caught up in our troubles and so at the bottom, we were not at all aware that God waiting to intervene and clear the way to the open door he had in mind for us.
We saw yesterday that Jacob sought God's presence, spoke authentically to God about how he viewed things, and recounted the faithful promises made to him by God in the past. This approach by Jacob kept him from faltering and allowed him to handle the struggles of the "in between" in a victorious way. But there is more, by taking a spiritual route, Jacob becomes the recipient of a work of God that goes beyond his work intervening and clearing the way to the open door he had in mind for him.
After turning to the Lord in prayer, Jacob decides to send wave after wave of gifts to his brother. We are told that the present passed on before him, and that, essentially, he and his wives and children brought up the rear. During the night Jacob sends his wives and children across the ford of the Jabbok while he stays behind. It is at this point that we see the special work God does for Jacob in the very unusual account of our passage for today.
This left Jacob all alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him 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. 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 32:24-28
This is a one of the most singular incidents in all of Scripture and likely, this side of eternity, we will not clearly know what took place. But we don't need to understand it all to get from it what we need to get. We can be sure that this was a very spiritual experience for Jacob in that we are told that his encounter was an encounter with God (verses 28 & 30). We know it was a transforming experience for Jacob, too. He became weaker physically due to the infirmity of his hip that resulted. We know that he became stronger spiritually due to the blessing that was bestowed through the changing of his name from Jacob to Israel. Truly Jacob is transformed from the "Supplanter (Jacob)" to "He Will Be Prince With God (Israel)," as one Old Testament scholar suggests.
What about us? We said before that God is the God of the "in between" just as much as he is the God of "the door of what has been" and "the door of what will be." When we follow Jacob's example and put our focus on God in the "in between" times, we, too, will become the recipient of God's transforming work in our lives as well his work of intervening and clearing the way to the open door he has in mind for us. God loves to shape the identity of his people in spiritual ways. We must respond well to the "in between" times that come because of closed doors. By putting our focus on the Lord and not on the seeming absence of options, we are given the beautiful option of knowing God's presence and his transforming grace that shapes or identity into the likeness of Christ and paves the way for a godly life and future.
Lord, forgive me for the times I have let my troubles become the Lord of my life instead of you. I realize that the intervention and transformation I need more than anything is in regard to myself and not so much in regard to my troubles. Turn my heart and life toward you more fully and completely than ever before. Help me to believe that you are Lord and Master over everything and that you are Lord over my heart and life. I reaffirm that you are always present and available to me for that which really counts. May your will be done in my life day by day going forward. Amen!
Posted on Sat, August 22, 2015
by Alan Porter