Two unmarried sisters once lived together but because of an argument stopped speaking to each other? Since neither one could afford to move they continued to live in the same rooms, use the same appliances and eat at the same table all without one word spoken between them. A chalk line divided the sleeping area in half so that each could hear the breathing of the other but because both were unwilling to reconcile, they coexisted for years in numbing silence.
We all have disagreements with friends and family. Some, more serious than others. Yet, refusing to reconcile can have grave consequences on your life, your health and even your relationship with God. A willingness to confess combined with an attitude towards forgiveness can be a major turning point. No one understood the power of reconciliation better than Jacob from the book Genesis.
Jacob followed his twin brother, Esau at birth grabbing on to his heel. Hence the name Jacob which means “grabber.” Throughout his life, Jacob selfishly grabbed, deceived and conned to get his way. He grabbed his brother’s birthright with a hot bowl of stew. Jacob conned his father into giving him a blessing meant for Esau. He was later caught and ran for his life. Now, after years of grabbing and running, Jacob was coming home.
For years, Jacob escaped the consequences of deceit and lies. No more. He would soon face the truth before Esau and his four hundred armed men who happened to be riding out to greet him. What would they do to him; to his family? Fearful, Jacob sends everyone across the river to act as shields while he stays safely behind.
But during the long night, Jacob experiences a significant turning point that changes his life forever.
” — a man came and wrestled with him until dawn.” (Genesis 32:24)
Who is this mystery man? Why a wrestling match? Is this just a bad dream? What does it all mean?
“When the man saw that he couldn’t win the match, he struck Jacob’s hip and knocked it out of joint at the socket. Then the man said, ‘Let me go, for it is dawn.’ But Jacob panted, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’ ‘What is your name?’ the man asked. He replied, ‘Jacob.’” (25-27)
At that moment, something significant occurred.
First, the hip or thigh in the Middle East symbolizes where vows are made and life is given. So Jacob is literally struck down because of his life of broken vows and shattered promises.
Second, Jacob would never divulge his name to a stranger because it was believed to reveal your character and surrender power. So by admitting his name was Jacob, “grabber and deceiver,” he was for the first time confessing his true character.
“My name is Jacob. I am a grabber, a liar and a deceiver.”
Who is the mystery man? By now you realize that it’s God.
So, if Jacob is locked in a wrestling match with God then is he really wrestling with the consequences of his life of deception?
Confession is the turning point that transforms Jacob’s life. What happens next is one of those significant Biblical moments. “Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the man told him. “It is now Israel, because you have struggled with both God and men and have won.” (28)
In one significant evening, Jacob the “grabber” became Israel, who “struggled with God and men and won.” But what does it all mean for Jacob and eventually for us?
- There is a Jacob of “grabbing and deceit” within me.
- Someday, you must face your own wrestling match with God.
- Confession is the first step toward change and reconciliation.
Did Jacob really change? Absolutely!
The coward who hid behind his family now protectively limps ahead to face his brother and four hundred armed men — alone.
But Jacob wasn’t the only one who changed.
“As Jacob approached his brother, he bowed low seven times before him. Then Esau ran to meet him and embraced him affectionately and kissed him. Both of them were in tears.” (33:3-4)
Esau, the one who had every right to seek revenge, instead, chose to forgive and embrace his brother.
Is it any wonder that Jacob now renamed Israel would say to Esau: “to see your friendly smile is like seeing the smile of God!” (33:10)
Such is the power of grace. Jacob’s wrestling match with God led to confession and repentance. Esau’s willingness to forgive led to a miracle: reconciliation.
Are you locked in a disagreement with a relative or friend? Have you stopped speaking and drawn your chalk lines of separation?
Maybe it’s time for you to have a wrestling match with God.
At the beginning of this column you read: Two unmarried sisters once lived together but because of an argument stopped speaking to each other? What would happen if they were to have their own wrestling match with God?
It has been said that confession followed by reconciliation is powerful medicine for the soul. Do you have the courage to try? Like Jacob, it could be the turning point that changes your life.