We all have battles. We might fight with a neighbor over a barking dog, fight against temptation, or argue with a spouse over finances. The most futile battle is wrestling with God.
Jacob was one of the more interesting people of ancient times, and his battles began before he was born. Isaac and his wife Rebekah had no children. They turned to the Lord in prayer, and their prayers were answered. Not only did Rebekah become pregnant, but she was carrying twins.
“And the children struggled together within her; and she said, If it be so, why am I thus? And she went to enquire of the LORD” (Genesis 25:22).
She had the right idea. When things don’t seem quite right, go to God and ask Him for answers.
“And the LORD said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger” (Genesis 25:23).
Esau was born first, then Jacob. Esau grew to be a hunter, which pleased Isaac. On the other hand, Rebekah favored Jacob. God had told Rebekah that Esau, the older brother, would serve Jacob, the younger brother.
We all try to “help” God in making His plans work out, and Jacob was good at “helping.” One day, Esau had been in the field and was hungry. As it happened, Jacob had been cooking and told Esau he could have some food if he sold his birthright to Jacob. Esau was hungry and agreed. Later, their father Isaac was on his death bed and needed to give his blessing to Esau. Rebekah came up with a plan to have Isaac give the blessing to Jacob instead of Esau. The plan worked and Jacob received the blessing. God had said that Esau would serve Jacob, but had Rebekah and Jacob waited for God to work things out instead of using trickery, maybe there wouldn’t have been the continuing strife and anger between the brothers. Esau was very bitter.
“And Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing wherewith his father blessed him: and Esau said in his heart, The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then will I slay my brother Jacob” (Genesis 27:41).
Rebekah was made aware of Esau’s plan and sent Jacob away. It’s a shame that she and Jacob had taken things into their own hands instead of trusting God to do things in His time in His way. Jacob left, but his battles didn’t end.
“Before Jacob left, Isaac blessed him. “And Isaac called Jacob, and blessed him, and charged him, and said unto him, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan. Arise, go to Padanaram, to the house of Bethuel thy mother’s father; and take thee a wife from thence of the daughters of Laban thy mother’s brother. And God Almighty bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be a multitude of people; and give thee the blessing of Abraham, to thee and to thy seed with thee; that thou mayest inherit the land wherein thou art a stranger, which God gave unto Abraham” Abraham” (Genesis 28:1-4).
Jacob’s battles should have been over, but he would face much more strife. Who was he really fighting against? He was fighting God. That battle would come to a head many years later.
Jacob did travel to Padanaram where he married two sisters. He loved Rachel, but had been tricked into marrying Leah. God’s example for marriage is one man/one woman, but Leah and Rachel were raised in a pagan household, and this created new battles for Jacob. There was jealousy between the sisters over Leah having children and Rachel having none. Jacob had left his father’s house where Isaac and Rebekah had prayed for children, and Jacob should have also prayed. In this pagan surrounding, Jacob eventually had children with both of his wives and their two maids. Instead of seeking God in prayer, paganism won the battle. Eventually Jacob felt the need to leave this pagan life and return to his own country.
“And it came to pass, when Rachel had born Joseph, that Jacob said unto Laban, Send me away, that I may go unto mine own place, and to my country. Give me my wives and my children, for whom I have served thee, and let me go: for thou knowest my service which I have done thee” (Genesis 30:25-26).
When you’re unequally yoked to a pagan culture, it isn’t easy to break free. Laban wouldn’t agree to Jacob leaving. Laban didn’t serve God Almighty, but understood gods in general. He knew that he received blessings from God Almighty because of Jacob. It’s possible to know God, but not serve Him. Jacob was in two battles: one was to serve God Almighty, and the other was the pagan bondage of Laban.
Jacob was becoming battle-weary. He was ready to begin listening to God. “And the LORD said unto Jacob, Return unto the land of thy fathers, and to thy kindred; and I will be with thee” (Genesis 31:3).
Christians forget that we have to leave the world behind when we give our life to Christ; otherwise, we will always be in a battle.
Jacob left Laban. He took his wives, their handmaids, and his children. Satan will always put stumbling blocks in the way of anyone who turns to the Lord. Remember, though, that God will fight our battles if we trust Him. Jacob was returning to a closer walk with God, but the battles weren’t over. Laban was angry and chased after Jacob, but even a pagan such as Laban can receive a dream from God.
“And God came to Laban the Syrian in a dream by night, and said unto him, Take heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad” (Genesis 31:24).
God was fighting for Jacob, and Laban heeded the warning. God won that battle. Instead of fighting, Jacob and Laban talked it out, and Jacob went his way with all his household.
More battles were ahead. Jacob was returning to his home and had to face Esau. Messengers were sent who returned with the news that Esau was coming with 400 men to meet Jacob. Jacob divided all he had and sent them each in different directions, so at least some might escape Esau’s anger at Jacob. Finally, Jacob submitted his battle to God.
“And Jacob said, O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, the LORD which saidst unto me, Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee: I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast shewed unto thy servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands. Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear him, lest he will come and smite me, and the mother with the children. And thou saidst, I will surely do thee good, and make thy seed as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude” (Genesis 32:9-12).
Jacob had come to understand that God had made promises, and it wasn’t his battle to win, but God’s. Instead of figuring out a way to trick Esau or fight him, Jacob turned the battle over to God. He sent his servants with gifts for Esau.
“And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day” (Genesis 32:24).
Sometimes the most important battles of life are fought when we’re alone. Notice that it wasn’t Jacob who was doing the wrestling, but the man wrestled with Jacob. This “man” wanted Jacob to give up his pride and self-reliance. Jacob needed to give up the schemes and the lies and worldly lifestyle. The “man” wasn’t a common man, but this was an Old Testament appearance of Jesus. Jacob was no match for a battle with God, but just as Jesus does with each of us, He lets us fight until we see our own need for Him. God will use whatever means necessary to draw us to Him; and in Jacob’s case, it took a physical disability.
“And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him” (Genesis 32:25).
Not every disability is to bring us to Jesus, but that’s what God used to cause Jacob to surrender to Him. Jacob knew who this Man was and desired a blessing from Him.
“And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed” (Genesis 32:27-28).
Finally, Jacob was worthy of the inheritance which God promised to Abraham. “And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved” (Genesis 32:30).
God changed Jacob’s name from Jacob, meaning supplanter, to Israel, which means God prevails. God will always prevail.
Just a side note: The land which God gave to Abraham is known as Israel, and no matter how hard the satanic powers fight against Israel, God will prevail.
What does this have to do with Christians? A lot! Jacob had choices and had many influences in his life. His choices weren’t always the best, but when it came to the crisis point, God prevailed. If we stop fighting God and submit to His will, we will avoid many problems.
“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded” (James 4:7-8).
Instead of battling God, we should draw closer to Him. Study Scripture in order to know Him better. Begin battling the sin in your life, but give the fight to God. Turn from temptation and turn to God.
At any time during that all-night struggle, Jesus could have forced Jacob into submission. He let Jacob fight until he was ready to submit, then simply touched his thigh and dislocated it. He won’t force anyone into submission, but He gives us every opportunity to stop fighting Him and submit our will to His.
If you’ve asked Him to forgive your sins, then it’s time to move away from them. Take a lesson from Rebekah. She was raised in a pagan family that worshipped many gods, but she had come to know the one true God when she married Isaac. When she was barren, she prayed. She didn’t turn to a false god, but to the God of her husband Isaac. When the babies were fighting in her womb, she prayed to God Almighty and received an answer.
The question has to be asked: how would things have been different if she and Isaac had continued to pray for their sons. What would have happened if Rebekah had allowed God to work things out instead of encouraging Jacob to gain the blessing by deceit? How different would it have been if Jacob hadn’t been sent to the pagan culture of Rebekah’s family in order to avoid a battle with Esau. Brothers and sisters, when we come to Jesus, we need to leave the worldly ways behind.
Our battle is spiritual. Human weapons won’t win this battle.
“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:10-12).
Jesus won the war at the cross, but there are battles still to fight. Let Him win the battles for you.
God bless you all,
Ron and Nathele Graham’s previous commentaries archived at https://www.raptureready.com/featured/graham/graham.html
All original scripture is “theopneustos” – God breathed.
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