JACOB WRESTLES WITH A “MAN”
“I will not let thee go, except thou bless me“ (Genesis 32:26).
Angels appeared to Jacob as he started on his way again after Laban had returned home. He recognised them as coming from God, as a token of His divine Presence.
We have studied other instances where angels stood by the children of God and delivered them out of their trouble. One instance that we have not mentioned was before Paul the Apostle was shipwrecked while on his way to Rome as a prisoner. There was a terrible storm at sea, and neither the sun nor stars had shone for many days.
Everyone feared they would be drowned. But Paul prayed and fasted, and God heard and answered him. One day he stood before the crew with the confident message that they would all be saved. An angel had appeared to him the night before, saying that he would yet come to Rome, and God would also spare the other people on the ship. Paul believed God, and everything came to pass as the angel had said. That was also another instance of God blessing sinners for the sake of the Christian, as we learned when God blessed Laban for Jacob's sake.
The Report of Jacob's Scouts
Jacob sent messengers ahead to see what kind of reception he would get from his brother. You remember Esau had planned to kill Jacob twenty years before, and for all Jacob knew, that old hatred might still be rankling in his breast. When the messengers came back they reported that Esau was coming with four hundred men. That looked like war! Jacob was afraid.
With God's help, Jacob had won in his battle of wits with Laban. Then he was doing the right thing, fulfilling the agreements of his father-in-law. But now he must face his angry brother whom he had wronged, and he was much distressed.
God had forgiven Jacob for his sins the day he prayed at Bethel, but now came the time to make his restitution -- to get the forgiveness of his brother. It is not enough to get the forgiveness of God; He expects us to make things right with our fellow men. In Jacob's mental agony he turned to God for help. When the way seems hard before us, we have the sure guiding hand of God to lead if we will lean hard on Him.
In humility Jacob prayed, "I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast showed unto thy servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands." He acknowledged that God had given him his great possessions, and he did not feel worthy of them. But he wanted God to do more for him. Jacob reminded the Lord of His promises to bring him back to his father's house in peace, and to make his seed "as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude."
It is a good thing when we pray to remind God of His promises to us -- not because He does not know them, but to bolster our faith by recounting the precious blessings.
He has promised in His Word.
Jacob was now ready to begin his preparation to meet Esau. He took hundreds of animals of different kinds from his flocks and herds and sent them over in bands, a servant with each group, to tell Esau that they were presents to him from his "servant Jacob." Jacob had humbled himself before God, and now he humbled himself before his brother, showing that he had had a change of heart.
But all the works of his hands still did not assure Jacob that he would find favour with his brother. He decided he must pray through and get the assurance from God that all would be well. He took his wives and children across the river and settled them for the night. Then when he was all alone he started to pray. It was more than an ordinary prayer; the Word tells us, "There wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day." When he could not defeat Jacob by ordinary means, he put Jacob's thigh out of joints; but Jacob could still hold on. When it was near daybreak, the angel said, "Let me go," but Jacob answered "I will not let thee go, except thou bless me." And Jacob won. The words of the angel were, "As a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed."
The Reward of Perseverance
"Hast prevailed!" What a wealth of meaning was in those words! Jacob still had not met his brother, but he had the assurance from God that he would be forgiven. By faith he called "those things which be not as though they were" (Romans:4:17). That is real faith. This was Jacob's second great spiritual engagement. This spiritual victory, with the consecrations he made, brought to him the heart purifying experience of sanctification.
1. Did Jacob feel worthy of all the mercies of the Lord?
2. Who was He Who wrestled with Jacob until daybreak?
3. Did Jacob receive the blessing he was after?
4. What lesson can we learn from Jacob's prayer?
5. What experience did he receive here?
6. When and where was he saved?