From birth, Jacob was a “grabber” (grabbing a hold of his older twin brother Esau’s heel as they were being born). He wanted to “grab all the gusto” as it were. Although second born, Jacob wanted to be the first born and benefit from all the blessings bestowed on the first born. This grabber, Jacob, connived a way of getting Esau’s birthright and he also stole Esau’s blessing from their father Isaac. Jacob was not a “good” man.
His story begins in Genesis 25 and ends, as it were, in Genesis 50. In Chapter 32 of Genesis, after many years of separation, Jacob is lead to reconcile with his brother Esau. Jacob was afraid (Esau vowed to kill Jacob when he stole their father Isaac’s blessing). Jacob was ashamed of his past sin and in Genesis 32:34, Jacob is alone in the middle of the desert. God came to visit Jacob in the person of the Angel of God (or some think the pre-incarnate Jesus) and they wrestle one another through the night. At daybreak, with just a touch, the angel dislocates Jacob’s hip. I have this vision of Jacob lying on the desert floor in pain. Jacob realized he has just fought with the Angel of God and lived and he realized he is still alive by God’s grace. Jacob realized he was a sinner, lived his life his own way, and God beat him into submission and yet let him live… God loves and tolerates us sinners to a point (although there is a limit to God’s patience – Romans 1) but God works out His plan in our lives and we are not capable of understanding His entire plan for our lives. In spite of his sin, Jacob was the one chosen to become the nation of Israel. God never works in our lives like we think He should; He is God, we’re not and the quicker we accept this fact, the easier our life will be. God is Holy and Sovereign and He does not need our input or help or opinions.
Jacob asks the Angel of the Lord in Genesis 32:29: “Jacob said, "Please tell me your name.’ But he replied, "Why do you ask my name?" Then he (the Angel of the Lord) blessed him there.”
Why did the Angel of the Lord ignore Jacob’s request for His name? In Judges, Samson’s Mom and Dad had an encounter with the Angel of God (Judges 13:17-18: “Then Manoah inquired of the angel of the LORD, "What is your name, so that we may honor you when your word comes true?" He replied, "Why do you ask my name? It is beyond understanding.”
Listen people, we go through life questioning God’s moving and shaping of our lives. If we saw the plan from the beginning, we wouldn’t understand much less believe it. As sinners, redeemed by God, growing towards spiritual maturity, God will wrestle with us, put trials in our life to refine us and in many ways we won’t understand much, if any, of it. When in the midst of a trial we become angry because we think God is saying “no” when in reality He is not revealing the truth to us because “it is beyond our understanding”. We couldn’t take it all in. We want to tell God what to do and we can’t even understand His name. Without Christ Jesus, we are hopeless, lost and miserable. We are, like Jacob, afraid, ashamed and alone. Thank you, Jesus. Never let me go. Hold on. I need you just one more minute, one more hour, one more day. My time and future are in your grace-giving hands even if I don’t understand it, I will trust you. Amen