Genesis 32 Have you noticed anything about Jacob’s character by watching his behavior? Jacob’s name is revealing…he overcomes by tripping up and manipulation. In those days, being the father’s favored son and being the first born, as well as physical strength and skill, brought power and prosperity. That was Esau. Jacob was favored by his mother and likely learned the way for a weaker person to gain what they want…by manipulation and good works (humanism). This is how he operated in getting the firstborn inheritance, the firstborn blessing, his wives, and his flocks…trickery, manipulation, and good works. God tries to come to him and change his ways by encouraging Jacob to trust Him and His promises, as well as teaching him a lesson through Laban’s trickery, and proving His faithfulness in prospering Jacob’s flocks. Still, Jacob tries to sneak away from Laban to go back home.
We also see that Jacob is often motivated by fear. He reacted in fear when his mother proposed the plan to trick Isaac for the blessing. He does not mightily cross Laban when he is tricked, but rather works a plan to get what he wants. When returning to his father, he fears Esau. He reminds God of His promise to keep him safe and prosper him. In some way, this can be seen as trying to manipulate God! Be careful when you pray that it is in humble submission to His will and trusting Him, not manipulation of His words.
Also, notice that Jacob allowed idols in his household. We find that when Jacob leaves Laban’s household, that Rachel steals and hides the family idols to bring with her. Notice that according to Jacob’s word, the one proven to have Laban’s idol carries the penalty of death. Rachel dies soon afterward in giving birth to Benjamin.
But, notice this….God had made a promise to Abraham who walked with God….that promise extended through his descendants. God is faithful even when we are not!
God tries again to reach Jacob and wrestles with Jacob’s flesh. God maims his flesh, but Jacob fights to have his flesh win. His next move is again motivated by fear and manipulation when he sends gifts ahead to win Esau’s favor. When Esau says to keep the gifts because he has plenty, Jacob insists he keep them….he wants a secure sealed agreement through his gifts….still not trusting.
His name is changed to Israel…meaning one who strives with God. This is the opposite of humble obedience in walking with and trusting God. When he names this place of striving, he seems to brag that he saw God face to face and still overcame and lived.
There will be consequences to living in his own abilities…without walking in submission to God….we will see as we continue on. Yet, we will see that God is long suffering, merciful, full of grace, faithful, and can take what is meant for bad and turn it for good.
We serve an all wise, all good, all powerful, all awesome God…the Only One…Yahweh!
Note – Ephesians 6:12 For we wrestle not against fleshy and blood, but against principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Notice, we do not wrestle against God, but against wickedness. We humble ourselves before God! We repent of wickedness and try to change to His righteousness…right way of being and right doing. And we live and walk with Him, trusting Him!