I described succumbing to the lures of an internet scam which made me feel vulnerable, embarrassed, ashamed and angry. “How could I be so stupid and not be more suspicious? Why would someone want to harm our ministry in such a way?”
Now, I’m beginning to understand how Jacob’s brother, Esau felt in the Bible story. Jacob grabbed his brother’s birthright with what I call, “The World’s Most Expensive Stew.” He stole Esau’s blessing and honor by disguising himself in front of their father. Caught in his deceit, Jacob did what comes natural for any con artist — he ran away.
But after years of living with another con named Laban we find Jacob wants to pack up his family and return home. All his life, Jacob had been running but now the con-artist was coming home to face Esau, his family and God.
For years, Jacob escaped the consequences of his deceit and lies. But no more. He would soon face the truth before his brother, who was riding out to greet him – with four hundred armed men. What would they do to him? Fearful, Jacob sent his family across the river to act as shields while he stayed safely behind. Coward!
But during the long night, Jacob experienced a significant turning which changed his life forever: “A man wrestled with him until dawn.” (Genesis 32:24) Who is this mystery man? Was this a literal wrestling match or a dream? What does it all mean?
“When the man saw 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.’” (Genesis 25:27)
First, touching the hip or thigh in the Middle East symbolizes where vows are made and life is given. The stranger is deliberately striking at Jacob’s weakest point: his integrity.
Second, Jacob would not ordinarily divulge his name to a stranger because it was believed to reveal your character and surrender power to the person asking. Yet, to this stranger, Jacob does the unthinkable. He gives him his name. He confesses that he is Jacob, the deceiver, the con artist.
So, first Jacob was struck down for a life of lies and second, by admitting he was Jacob, he was for the first time confessing his true character.
As you have probably guessed, the mystery man is God. So, is Jacob locked in a wrestling match with God? Whether the match was literal or a dream doesn’t matter because God was definitely there. The important part is that Jacob needed to wrestle with the consequences of his life of lies and deceit. So do I. And so do you.
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 won.” (Genesis 32:28) But what does it all mean for Jacob and, eventually, for us?
- There is a Jacob of “grabbing and deceit” within all of us.
- Someday, we must face our own wrestling match with God.
- Recognizing, who we really are is a necessary step toward divine change.
- A willingness to change allows God the opportunity to work a miracle within you.
Did Jacob really change? Absolutely! How do I know? “Then in the distance, Jacob saw Esau coming with his four hundred men. Jacob now arranged his family in a column – then Jacob went on ahead.” (Genesis 33:1-3)
Did you notice the change? The former con artist and coward who hid behind his family and possessions now moved ahead of the line to face his brother and four hundred armed men – alone.
But Jacob wasn’t the only one who changed. Esau, the scammed brother, also experienced the miracle of change. “As he 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)
The one with every right to seek revenge instead chose the path of forgiveness and embraced his brother. Is it any wonder that Jacob now Israel would say to Esau: “To see your friendly smile is like seeing the smile of God!” (Genesis 33:10)
Such is the power of divine grace. Jacob’s wrestling match led to a changed life ready for God’s service. Esau’s willingness to forgive led to the miracle of reconciliation. Wow!
Have you been scammed, taken advantage of? Are you struggling with bitterness, vowing to get even with a relative, coworker or friend? Maybe your are the con artist. Have you scammed others?
Maybe it’s time for your own wrestling match with God. Confession leads to change. Change followed by reconciliation is potent medicine for the soul. Do you have the courage to wrestle with God? Like Jacob and Esau, this could be a turning that will change your life.