“I will not let you go until you bless me.”
These ten words make up one of the great acts of faith in the Bible. Knowing with whom he wrestled, Jacob demands a blessing from the One who made a promise to him. So, his name is changed, but not before making confession to his character by stating his name. Our names today don’t say much about us, but for Jacob his name was indicative of his deepest person – he was a deceiver. His new name, Israel, was a step up from that – one who wrestles with God. In this meeting, God transformed his past and prepared him for his future. All such meetings with God have that kind of everlasting impact.
It is interesting that Jacob strove with God all night and held his own, yet when God was ready to end the fight it took only one touch to his hip to permanently injure him. Jacob thereafter walks with a limp. On the eve of his greatest faceoff ever Jacob will arrive with the greatest handicap of his life. In the providence of God, this limp is a gift to his chosen child. His pride has been removed. He can finally be honest. It cost him something, but it would have cost far more without it. A man who shows up to the battle already wounded and restored by God is a man who can face the true test that lies ahead.
The meeting of Jacob and Esau could not be more contradictory to the way they left each other so many years ago. Esau’s response is entirely gracious. It is so gracious that it startles us. It is entirely unexpected. There is sweetness in this reconciliation that is very deep and moving. It must point to a greater, deeper truth. Just as an angry God has met Jacob with kindness, so now an angry brother is meeting him with kindness. Both of whom were sinned against, yet both respond in kindness and grace towards Jacob. What a testimony to the wonderful workings of God! If ever Jacob misunderstood who God was and what his promise meant, these two meetings should have beaten it into his memory forever.
What can we learn from this account of Jacob’s life? At least one thing: our most honest confession is not a surprise to God, but is a means that God will use to transform us into men and women of biblical faith. We can wrestle all night, but when dawn breaks there is only one victor. This story shows us, surprisingly, that the victor is Jacob. God’s very words confirm it to us in verse 28, “Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.”
You may say, “how can I be the victor?” Because Christ lost on the cross to gain our victory. We are only as victorious as Jesus on the cross. What a victory it is! What a marvelous God who creates life out of death and through a crucifixion destroys the power of the devil forever. We can finally be honest, and in our honesty become who we are made to be. “Thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession” (2 Corinthians 2:14)