JACOB’S NEW NAME
Believe it or not, I’m writing this devotional from the passenger seat of our car. I’m not a fan of long distance trips involving any form of transportation, but I have discovered several coping mechanisms to make things easier, such as what I’m doing now—working on my computer as a distraction from the traffic around me. Another is angels.
When a situation causes me to be anxious or afraid, I visualize being surrounded by angels.
For as long as I can remember, when a situation causes me to be anxious or afraid, I visualize being surrounded by angels. They surround my house like an army. They fly above, below, in front, and on each wing of an airplane. They clear the traffic from around the car. I could go on.
In this week’s lesson we encounter the familiar story of Jacob wrestling with an Angel. We will return to this in a moment, but first I want to draw your attention to another angel sighting earlier in the story.
As Laban leaves and Jacob continued his journey, he is met by “angels of God” (Gen. 32:1). The Bible doesn’t reveal what happened at this meeting, how many angels there were, or why they were sent. But it is significant enough for Jacob to name the place of meeting “Mahanaim,” which means “double camp.” What Jacob saw was exactly what my mind imagines—his family completely encircled by angels.
What Jacob saw was his family completely encircled by angels.
Jacob isn’t comforted long by this angel revelation. His distress, heightened by the news of Esau’s imminent arrival, caused him to fall back on his own resourcefulness. He separated his family into two camps. He sent an amazing number of animals in separate entourages to placate the angry Esau. Finally, he sent his family across the Jabbok River, leaving himself alone, no less distressed than before. Then, and only then, did he realize his great need of God.
I think we sometimes identify more with the wrestling than we do with trust. We hit a crisis in our life, flee to God, and then wrestle with Him through our anger, frustration, or grief. But we forget about the “double camp,” the band of angels that surrounds us every moment of every day. While Jacob emerged changed because of his face-to-face encounter with God, it did not mean God wasn’t there for him before. Jacob simply lacked the trust to believe.
Jacob simply lacked the trust to believe.
Don’t wait for a crisis to meet God. Yes, you will have your nights of wrestling. But each day, take a moment to visualize His presence. Open your eyes in faith and be renewed.
Note that scripture does not say Jacob wrestles with the Angel, but “a man wrestled with him” (verse 24). At first Jacob believes Esau or an enemy has surprised him, and he struggles for his life. Interestingly, the assailant (who we later learn is Jesus) and Jacob appear evenly matched. It is only when Jacob’s hip is touched and put out of joint that recognition dawns as to the identity of the Man. Jacob is not dissuaded by the pain but continues to tenaciously hold on, recognizing that God is his only answer. Gone is the conniving, clever deceiver, replaced by a weeping and contrite Jacob pleading for a blessing.
The last time Jacob received a blessing it was through disguise and deceit. This time he came open and ready to receive what God intended for him. Blessing received, Jacob, now forever known as Israel, went forward in full reliance of faith and trust in God. The wrestling match began as a contest to win, but Jacob became a conqueror only when he was weakest, not when he relied solely on his own abilities and resources.
Making it Real
Sometimes God needs to get us alone before He can get our attention. Only when Jacob had sent his family across the river and was alone did God approach. How can you find alone time to spend time with God away from the noise and distractions of a busy life?
Respond & Share
Have you ever wrestled with God? How did it change you? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Merle Poirier writes from Silver Spring, Maryland, where she works as the operation manager for Adventist Review and Adventist World magazines as well as the designer for KidsView, a magazine for 8-12-year-olds. She enjoys spending time with her family including being the grandmother of two active little boys, who greatly enjoy Starting With Jesus.
Coming next week:
Based on Matthew 28:20; Genesis 33, 35, 37, 39, 40;
PP 198-219; SR 96-103; BS, vol. 2, pp. 36-56