“We should let God be the one who determines how he will bless us, knowing that his ways are best. Then, sometimes God not only gives us what he wants but he gives us what we wanted too, once we have first placed it into his hands. This happened for Jacob, because God did restore his relationship with Esau.”
When we think of Jesus appearing in the Old Testament, just about the last thing we expect him to do is wrestle. But that is just what he did with the patriarch Jacob! Jacob was in the proverbial place “between a rock and a hard spot.” He had just cheated his father-in-law Laban out of his best herds. Running from him, Jacob now faced his brother Esau, who he earlier had cheated of the family’s covenant blessing. Jacob was in a quite a fix, all because of his conniving ways.
True to his nature, Jacob had a scheming plan. He would send gifts over to his brother until he won his favor. So off went his goats, then his rams, next his camels, cows, and donkeys. Now all the animals were gone, so Jacob sent over his wives and even his children (Gen. 32:13-23). Still, no news of welcome arrived from Esau and his 400 warriors. Now Jacob was all alone beside the river and darkness was falling. We can imagine Jacob wrestling with his fears, trying to find a scheme to save him, until Jesus came to wrestle him instead.
Jesus came in answer to Jacob’s own prayer. Jacob had been so desperate that he cried out to the Lord for help: “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac,” he prayed… “Please deliver me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I fear him” (Gen. 32:9-11). We know from the Bible that God always hears the prayers of his people and God answers those prayers to help (see Lk. 11:9). But sometimes God gives us what we really need, not what we think we need. This is why Jesus came to see Jacob. What Jacob really needed was to surrender himself to the Lord – not just his goats, donkeys, and children. He needed to be saved from his sin, and Jesus is the Savior who comes from heaven to give salvation to sinners. We know it was Jesus – that is, the Second Person of the Trinity who later would be named Jesus – who came that night because Jacob said that he saw “God face to face” (Gen. 32:30).
Here is what happened: “And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of day” (Gen. 32:24). While Jacob was wrestling with his brain, seeking some plan, the divine person appeared and laid hold of him. Resisting him, Jacob fought back all night. Finally, the Lord “touched his hip socket so that “Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him” (Gen. 32:25). Jesus then started to leave Jacob but he held on to him. Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me” (Gen. 32:27). This is what the Lord wanted, and so he blessed Jacob with a new name: “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed” (Gen. 32:28).