A month long process ended with God had lifting our family off the path at the cornfield college and we were on our way to the mountains of Virginia.
The freedom I was feeling was undeniable. I was able to say goodbye to a career I only half halfheartedly enjoyed, people I had been wounded deeply by, and had I wounded as well. It seemed like the sky was the limit in opportunities presenting themselves. I’ve always considered a fresh start a blessing!
So the story of Jacob starts with his birth, Jacob is the son of Isaac and Rebekah. I’m not going to go into it all now, go ahead and read Jacob’s story to refresh your memory. We’ll pickup in Genesis 32.
“Now as Jacob went on his way, the angels of God met him. 2 Jacob said when he saw them, “This is God’s camp.” So he named that place Mahanaim. 3 Then Jacob sent messengers before him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom. 4 He also commanded them saying, “Thus you shall say to my lord Esau: ‘Thus says your servant Jacob, “I have sojourned with Laban, and stayed until now; 5 I have oxen and donkeys and flocks and male and female servants; and I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find favor in your sight. 6 The messengers returned to Jacob, saying, “We came to your brother Esau, and furthermore he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.” 7 Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed; and he divided the people who were with him, and the flocks and the herds and the camels, into two companies; 8 for he said, “If Esau comes to the one company and attacks it, then the company which is left will escape.” 9 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 relatives, and I will prosper you,’ 10 I am unworthy of all the loving kindness and of all the faithfulness which You have shown to Your servant; for with my staff only I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two companies. 11 Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, that he will come and attack me and the mothers with the children. 12 For You said, ‘I will surely prosper you and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which is too great to be numbered.’”
So Jacob is in the literal wilderness, and all of his past deviousness is about to show up to see him. It seems to me that Jacob is praying out of fear. He says he fears Esau (as he should) and reminds God of a promise for his life.
After a few strategic choices Jacob tries to sleep and instead wrestles with God. Genesis 32:24-32
“24 Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.25 When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.” But he said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28 He said, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.”29 Then Jacob asked him and said, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And he blessed him there. 30 So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved.” 31 Now the sun rose upon him just as he crossed over Penuel, and he was limping on his thigh. 32 Therefore, to this day the sons of Israel do not eat the sinew of the hip which is on the socket of the thigh, because he touched the socket of Jacob’s thigh in the sinew of the hip.”
In Chapter 33 Jacob and Esau have a good reunion and it seems Jacob’s prayers were answered.
Record: Reflecting on the chapters to read, do you think Jacob was seeking daily relationship with God?
Do you think Jacob deserved for Esau to be angry with him?
Do you see yourself in this story?
Review: Jacob actually gets 3 fresh starts in these chapters. First when he leaves for Laban’s house, second when he leaves Laban with his wives and children, and third when Esau and he part paths with forgiveness.
It doesn’t seem that in all of these seasons Jacob spends much time praying or pursing God until he is in the wilderness and in fear. In that time of prayer Jacob reminds God of the promise he had for his life. It doesn’t seem that Jacob truly confronts his actions until he is about to lose all he cares about. Even with a few fresh starts there were some things God still needed Jacob to change.
Jacob wrestled with God physically. I’ve wrestled with God mentally. Our fresh start in the mountains brought much joy to our family, but with change comes new challenges.