The WWF Finals
What a difference a night of wrestling with God can make! (32:22ff)
Jacob, the deceiver, is now Israel, he who struggles with God. And as Israel faced the long-anticipated reunion with the brother he had wronged, what thoughts went through his head?
Obviously he was frightened (Genesis 32:7). He knew Esau was coming to meet him with four hundred men (32:6). What were their intentions? It was a little much for a friendly reception committee. Israel prepared for the worst, arranging his family in the order (33:1,2) that he thought would best protect the ones he loved the most (no, he wasn’t perfect, he played favourites just as his parents had!).
|Not quite the relationship that brothers Esau and Jacob enjoyed!|
When Esau arrived, we discover that both men had changed (33:4). We only read in Scripture how God had been working in the old Jacob’s life, but it seems that He had also softened the heart of Esau. Israel had sent a gift ahead of him to placate his brother, but Esau didn’t want to take more where he already had plenty (33:9-11)—a stark contrast to the scheming and conniving Jacob who tried to get everything he could from everyone possible. The four hundred men were not a small army bent on killing the brother who had stolen all that should have been important to Esau.
But there are times when the damage done to relationship between people, even brothers, leaves wounds whose scars even time can’t erase. Esau wanted his brother to go with him to Seir (33:12-16) but Israel was reluctant. Perhaps he still feared that his brother was not being entirely honest about his intentions. Perhaps he knew that he needed to be in heart of the land God had promised and not on its fringes.
So he headed toward Shechem. When he got there he built an altar—this keeps coming up in the Old Testament stories. When God is close to a man’s heart, there is always an altar to be built. “There he set up an altar and called it El Elohe Israel” (33:20, NIV).
The name of the altar says it all: “mighty one, God of Israel.”
The difference between the manipulative, lying, thieving, deceiver and the one who now acknowledges his God wholeheartedly tells me that a night wrestling with God is a good thing, something we need to schedule regularly to take off our own rough edges.