Jacob had deceived his father and gotten his brother’s birthright. God wanted to give it to him, but Jacob did not trust God for what He had promised. (Read Genesis 25:19-34, Genesis 27.) Now Esau, his brother, wanted to kill him.
So Jacob was out in the wilderness. God spoke to him, and wonderful things happened, but Jacob knew he could not be right with God until he was right with his brother. Furthermore, Jacob heard that Esau was coming to meet him.
God was going to use this situation to make Jacob cease to depend upon himself, and the three things that happened to Jacob long ago have their correspondence in your life.
God will protect you, but not pamper you.
God was protecting Jacob (see Genesis 32:1), but God engineered trouble for him.
Jacob learns that Esau is coming, and he begins to scheme.
First, flattery. “Then Jacob sent messengers before him. …And he commanded them, saying, ‘Speak thus to my lord Esau, “Thus your servant Jacob says…”’” (Genesis 32:3-4a).
Second, strategy. “So Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed; and he divided the people that were with him. …And he said, ‘If Esau comes to the one company and attacks it, then the other company which is left will escape’” (Genesis 32:7-8).
Prayer was Jacob’s last resort. (See Genesis 32:9-11).
Then he took 580 valuable animals, divided them into lots of five, and started sending these as gifts. (See Genesis 32:13-20.)
God let Jacob stew in his own juices.
God will hurt you, but not harm you.
“Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day” (Genesis 32:24). This was a theophany, a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ.
“Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him. And He said, ‘Let Me go, for the day breaks.’ But he said, ‘I will not let You go unless You bless me!’” (Genesis 32:25-26).
He could have thrown Jacob at any time. Why did the Lord say, “Let me go”? Study the Bible: God will act as if He wants to get away from us, when He wants us to pursue Him with all of our hearts.
Jacob has come to the end of himself. God loves you too much to leave you self-sufficient (see Hebrews 12:6), but God will not harm you. “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:11a).
God will break you, but He desires to bless you.
“So He said to him, ‘What is your name?’ He said, ‘Jacob.’ And He said, ‘Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed’” (Genesis 32:27-28).
Jacob means “con-artist.” Israel means “prince.” Do you think God did not know his name? He wanted Jacob to admit it: “Con-artist, conniver, schemer.”
Jacob was crippled so that he might be crowned. For the rest of his life, he leaned on a staff. God never really uses anything until He breaks it. If we will come to our Lord in humility and brokenness, and cease our conniving and planning, God will use us.
“By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff” (Hebrews 11:21). Jacob was stronger, crippled and leaning upon a staff, than he ever would have been upon his own two feet.