Prevailing Faith

by Mark Johnson on March 08, 2021

Gen 32:22-32     

   Jacob is a great example for us of faith prevailing in the face of uncertainty.  One of his flaws was that he often tried to be self-sufficient and take matters into his own hands, the time he shrewdly responded to his father-in-law’s shady dealings and became “exceedingly wealthy.”  At this point in Jacob’s life, he’s under a lot of pressure and stress caused by uncertainty.  After 20 years, he’s finally returning home.  But the uncertainty he was facing goes back 20 years.  You’ll recall that, last week we learned how Jacob secured Esau’s birth right for himself (ch. 25), a deal that took a few seconds to negotiate had life-long consequences for these twins.
   One scholar explained that the Old Testament law gave a double inheritance to the heir of the birthright, which was typically the oldest son (Deut 21:17).  The birthright came with responsibility to make sure the family was taken care of financially and that they walked with God spiritually.   This is the inheritance a lot of people say Jacob tricked Esau out of.
   That didn’t change the fact that Esau still felt cheated when Jacob tricked him by getting his father’s blessings he threatened to kill him. This explains why Jacob had to flee for his life. While away for 20 yrs, Jacob got married, has many children, and was extremely successful.    On his way back to his father’s home, he gets word that his brother, Esau, was coming to meet him with 400 men (32:6-8).  Jacob thought this was it:  His brother would finally take revenge.  It would be a massacre.   A lot of things have been said about Jacob.  But one thing is for sure, he turned to the Lord in difficult moments.  In praying to the Lord (32:11), he was reminding himself of the covenant God made with him 20 yrs earlier.  Which brings us to this text, Genesis 32:22-32. This text is an important reminder of the importance of faith when facing uncertainty. In This passage we discover how Jacob wrestles with God and prevails.
   {1.} First there’s the Fight: Jacob’s life is filled with uncertainty.  He’s not in control of the situation.  For anyone who likes to be self-sufficient and in charge, this was not good.   He’s done everything humanly possible to protect his family by taking them across the river.  And then he has this wrestling match in the middle of the night. One write pointed out that in Jacob, the Lord found someone who put up a good fight.  Jacob did not quit.  And the fact that he was physically injured tells us that this was not a dream or a vision. Even with this injury, Jacob wouldn’t give up -- at least not until he received a blessing from the mystery wrestler whom Jacob now suspected just might be God.
   {2.} Second there’s the Blessing:  When his hip was put out of joint, Jacob didn’t complain.  He didn’t cry foul!  Instead, he asked for a blessing. But God wasn’t ready to bless him, yet.  First, God changes his name from Jacob, the “heal grabber,” to Israel, because, as the man explains, “ have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.”  Theologian, Sidney Greidanus sums it up this way, “Jacob had striven with humans his whole life, from striving with Esau in the womb, to later getting his birthright.  He had striven with his father Isaac and received his blessing.  He had striven with Laban, his father-in-law, and by, shrewd methods, become rich.  Jacob had striven with humans -- in some tough situations and prevailed. Now on the banks of the Jabbok river, it’s just him and GOD and, again, he has prevailed.  But he’s hanging on tight for a blessing.  Verse 28 is key to the whole passage because the new name that God gives him shifts the focus of his character from striving in his own strength to striving for God’s blessing.  Now he’s ready to go back home to the Promised Land and receive it not as something he would gain by his own striving, but as a gift and inheritance from God’s hand.” <end of adaptation).
   {3.} Third there’s the Response: To mark and remember this life-changing event, Jacob calls this place Peniel, which means “face of God.” Genesis scholars point out that Jacob is making it known that in the darkness of that place and time in his life, he had a personal encounter with God.  And that encounter, combined with God’s blessings, means that his life is.  By faith, he has prevailed.
   Jacob is like all of us, a fallen sinner. Yet, God chose him to be a blessing to others and Jacob prevailed in faith, so often the circumstances seemed to be against him. God appears to him to remind him of His promise and His blessings. Jacob learns that God will strive for him. It’s a promise that we too, as His children, receive through Christ. God gave us the gift of prevailing faith to endure all of life’s challenges and He promises to strive for us.

Tags: faith, god, israel, jacob, blessing, esau, wrestling with god, prevail

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