Home At Last
At last, the light that has flickered for so long finally burns brightly. For Jacob, Genesis 32 describes a pivotal moment, an “aha” in his history.
He’s on his way back to Canaan, the land that God promised to return him to when he had run from his brother’s anger and his family’s shame (Genesis 27:41ff). God has kept the promise He made Jacob at Bethel (28:15).
Perhaps it’s the thought of facing his brother, Esau, after all these years. Perhaps it’s because Jacob is a family man now and he has more to think about than himself. Perhaps it’s because he has learned a few lessons along the way. Whatever the catalyst was, Jacob seems to have finally developed a pretty strong God-consciousness.
As we read through this chapter we hear Jacob refer to his brother as “master” and “lord;” a deference that he certainly didn’t show Esau when he cheated him out of his rights as the first-born. But it is Jacob’s prayer that clues us into the heart change that is taking place: “I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown to your servant…” (32:10, NIV). No kidding!
But in case we should think that Jacob was being insincere and simply trying to manipulate God to protect him from Esau—on his way with 400 men riding behind him (32:6)—Jacob has an encounter with God. The text says that Jacob wrestled with a man and that the man could not gain the upper hand over him. Then comes an interesting conversation. “The man asked him, ‘What is your name?’ ‘Jacob,’ he answered. Then the man said, ‘Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.’ Jacob said, ‘Please tell me your name.’ But he replied, ‘Why do you ask my name?’ Then he blessed him there. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, ‘It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared’” (32:27-30, NIV).
God threw the fight. This whole episode was meant to illustrate Jacob’s life, his spiritual struggle with his surrender to God and with his need to use his own cunning to get what he wanted in life. The crippled hip, his new name, would always remind him of that decisive moment in his spiritual journey and who was his real Master. In a spiritual sense, as well as a physical one, the deceiver had come home at last.