July 31, 2011
Genesis 32:22-32

My twins are becoming independent as they begin to walk and gain strength. When they started to use a cup, I helped them drink so they wouldn’t spill liquid, because they were not yet good at handling a cup. One day, my son tried to hold the cup and drink by himself. I cajoled him into letting me hold the cup so he could drink without spilling. However, he was so reluctant that I just let him go ahead and do it his way. I took my hand off the cup of juice, and he barely drank half the cup before dropping it, messing up his clothes and the floor.

Jacob was so independent. His blessing from God was promised even before he was born (Genesis 25:23). However, he depended on his shrewdness and power rather than relying on God and His promise. What was result? He had to leave his house, his family and the land of Canaan. He was out of the Promised Land for 20 years before returning home. God already promised him that He would bring Jacob safely to the land of Canaan (Genesis 28:13-15; Genesis 31:3). Would Jacob depend on God and His promise?

The Faithless Effort of Jacob (vv. 22-24a)
Upon returning home, Jacob was afraid Esau would seek revenge against him and he would lose his family and all his possessions. Jacob prayed to God for his safe return (vv. 9-12) and deployed his own tactic to appease the anger Esau might have. Despite his prayer and his own plan, Jacob could not sleep due to fear and got up in the middle of the night. He sent all his family and his possessions across the river. Crossing a river at night is a dangerous idea, but his fear caused him to make an unusual decision. His faithless prayer and his own effort did not bring him any assurance for a safe return.

The Faithful Effort of God (vv. 24b-29)
Jacob was left alone in the middle of night. A man came and wrestled with Jacob. Jacob had no idea who he was. The man could not prevail against Jacob and touched Jacob’s thigh socket. After Jacob was hurt, he realized this was not a mere man; perhaps it was an angel—or God! That’s why he asked Him to bless.

God said, “What is your name?” Did God really not know Jacob? No, God was reminding Jacob of the same question His father, Issac, asked 20 years prior. At that time, he lied and said, “I am Esau.” This time, however, Jacob answered, “I am Jacob.” Jacob confessed that he was a heel catcher, a cheater, a sinner.

Then God changed Jacob’s name into Israel. His new name signified he would be the heir of covenant and an eligible leader of God’s people. It was God’s initiative. God approached Jacob when he was caught in fear. God made Jacob confess that he was an unworthy sinner and bestowed a new identity to be an eligible heir of the promise of God. Jacob was faithless, but God was faithful in His promise (Genesis 28:13-15).

The Friendly Reminder of God (vv. 30-32)
Jacob acknowledged having been saved by the grace of God and named the place Peniel. When he held God tight, his fearful night was completely changed into a hopeful morning. Though he walked with a limp from that day forward, his faith became robust. We are living in a world that takes credit for human autonomy. We think we are self-reliable, self-sufficient. We think the success in life depends on our own efforts. However, the life of Jacob proves that human life without relying on God is a life of sin and struggle. How can we live a life of blessing? Hold tight to our faithful God.

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