Genesis 32 (NRSV)
Jacob went on his way and the angels of God met him; 2and when Jacob saw them he said, “This is God’s camp!” So he called that place Mahanaim.
Jacob Sends Presents to Appease Esau
3Jacob sent messengers before him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom, 4instructing them, “Thus you shall say to my lord Esau: Thus says your servant Jacob, ‘I have lived with Laban as an alien, and stayed until now; 5and I have oxen, donkeys, flocks, male and female slaves; and I have sent to tell my lord, in order that I may find favor in your sight.’“
6The messengers returned to Jacob, saying, “We came to your brother Esau, and he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.”
7Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed; and he divided the people that were with him, and the flocks and herds and camels, into two companies, 8thinking, “If Esau comes to the one company and destroys it, then the company that is left will escape.”
9And Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O Lord who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your kindred, and I will do you good,’ 10I am not worthy of the least of all the steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant, for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan; and now I have become two companies.
But the centurion said, “Lord, I am not worthy for you to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed.”
Mary said, “The Lord has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. The Mighty One has done great things for me.”
Our unworthiness. God’s love and faithfulness. The favor of the Mighty One. How do they all fit together in our lives?
11Deliver me, please, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I am afraid of him; he may come and kill us all, the mothers with the children. 12Yet you have said, ‘I will surely do you good, and make your offspring as the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted because of their number.’“
13So he spent that night there, and from what he had with him he took a present for his brother Esau, 14two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, 15thirty milch camels and their colts, forty cows and ten bulls, twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys. 16These he delivered into the hand of his servants, every drove by itself, and said to his servants, “Pass on ahead of me, and put a space between drove and drove.”
17He instructed the foremost, “When Esau my brother meets you, and asks you, ‘To whom do you belong? Where are you going? And whose are these ahead of you?’ 18then you shall say, ‘They belong to your servant Jacob; they are a present sent to my lord Esau; and moreover he is behind us.’“
19He likewise instructed the second and the third and all who followed the droves, “You shall say the same thing to Esau when you meet him, 20and you shall say, ‘Moreover your servant Jacob is behind us.’“ For he thought, “I may appease him with the present that goes ahead of me, and afterwards I shall see his face; perhaps he will accept me.” 21So the present passed on ahead of him; and he himself spent that night in the camp.
Proverbs 18:16 (New International Version)
A gift opens the way for the giver.
Jacob Wrestles at Peniel
22The same night he got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. 24Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.
25When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him.
from This Day with the Master,
by Dennis F. Kinlaw
It is God who wrestled with Jacob. God is always the initiator in our liberation. And before he blessed Jacob, he touched Jacob’s thigh. God has to break a person before that person will surrender. The Christian community really ought to talk more about surrender than about consecration, because human beings resist God to the end and then must ask him to break the resistance and take control of their lives and hearts. God broke Jacob so he had a crippled leg, and then God came and began to bless him.
I never knew a person who was filled with the Holy Ghost who did not have some brokenness in him. We want to stand straight and be self-contained and poised, but God cannot use us or bless us when we are in that position. He wants to break us so that instead of our own power, we have the Holy Spirit’s power. Are you willing to be broken for him? This is the toughest of all battles, but it determines whether we will be free or in bondage.
We need to have our own Peniel where we meet Jesus face-to-face. We must see ourselves for what we truly are. We must cry out to God for heart cleansing, and we must let him come and fill us with His Spirit. We must allow him to break us so he can make us into prevailers, conquerors, and overcomers.
HERE is The Oslo Gospel Choir and “All to Jesus I Surrender,” a popular hymn first published in 1896.
26Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.”
But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.”
27So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.”
28Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.”
Jacob demands and receives a blessing. This blessing comes in the form of a name change. Instead of being called Jacob (he supplants; see Genesis 25:23-26) he is now called Israel (God strives, or striver with God). A name change is symbolic of a new identity and a new way of life. Jacob has striven both with God and with human beings (particularly with Esau and Laban). He has proved himself an able and willing striver who no longer will need to resort to deceit or seek to supplant anyone.
–Linda B. Hinton
29Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.”
But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him.
30So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.” 31The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip. 32Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the thigh muscle that is on the hip socket, because he struck Jacob on the hip socket at the thigh muscle.
Lord, I cannot let Thee go,
Till a blessing Thou bestow:
Do not turn away Thy face,
Mine’s an urgent, pressing case.
Dost Thou ask me who I am?
Ah! my Lord, Thou know’st my name;
Yet the question gives a plea
To support my suit with Thee.
Thou didst once a wretch behold,
In rebellion blindly bold,
Scorn Thy grace, Thy power defy:
That poor rebel, Lord, was I.
Once a sinner, near despair,
Sought Thy mercy seat by prayer;
Mercy heard, and set him free:
Lord, that mercy came to me.
Many days have passed since then,
Many changes I have seen;
Yet have been upheld till now;
Who could hold me up but Thou?
Thou hast helped in every need;
This emboldens me to plead:
After so much mercy past,
Canst Thou let me sink at last?
No, I must maintain my hold;
’Tis Thy goodness makes me bold;
I can no denial take,
When I plead for Jesus’ sake.
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.