Today Jacob is preparing to meet his brother Esau for the first time in 20 years. The last time they saw each other Jacob had tricked Esau out of their father’s blessing. Esau had vowed revenge and Jacob fled. Now he is returning back home with much wealth. He is not sure how Esau will react, but is preparing for the worst.
The night before their meeting a man came to Jacob’s camp and wrestles with him. This man was none other than God Himself (Genesis 32:30). The man sees that he will not win the wrestling match and dislocates Jacob’s hip miraculously by touching it (something only God could do). After the struggle, the man changes Jacob’s name to Israel, from which we get the name of the country. The man says that Jacob has struggled with God and “has won”.
This story is a bit confusing… how could Jacob defeat God? There is only one way… God let Jacob win. Just because God can win doesn’t mean He has to win. Sometimes He lets Himself be defeated, at least from a human perspective. Jesus was God in a human body, but it appeared that He was defeated when He was nailed to the cross. But really, God had won. God’s victories are spiritual. God is humble enough not to have to control us physically or mentally. He is much more interested in our spiritual well-being. And at the cross God conquered sin and death on our behalf. When viewed from a human perspective, Jesus lost. But when viewed from God’s perspective, Jesus was victorious.
I believe that this struggle between Jacob and God was meant to teach Jacob a lesson. And that lesson is that his (Jacob’s) struggle is not with men, but with God. All through his life Jacob seems to have a hard time getting along with people. We see him take matters into his own hands numerous times in attempts to control his destiny. Only occasionally does he pray. But I think after this wrestling match he is changed and understands that he doesn’t have to fear men or plot against them. He only has to submit to God. That is how Jacob “won” the struggle. The victory was not a physical victory, but a spiritual one.
When Esau and Jacob finally meet the reunion is a pleasant one. Esau seems to bear no grudge against his brother and offers to escort Jacob into Canaan. Jacob declines the escort apparently having no intention of meeting up with his brother later. While Esau seemed happy to be reunited with Jacob, Jacob seemed to have no interest. And instead of going to Canaan, he goes to Shechem. Again we see Jacob lie rather than trusting God. Jacob we supposed to be in Canaan – that was God’s will for him. But he again takes matters into his own hands once again with disastrous results.
In Chapter 34 we read of the crime against Dinah, one of Jacob’s daughters, and the vengeful plot carried out by Jacob’s sons. Just like their father, they take matters into their own hands. While what happened to Dinah is not right, neither was the son’s reaction. But the most interesting thing of all is that Jacob seems to have no reaction. He rarely speaks in this passage. When he does, at the end, he seems only interested in how this whole ordeal affects him. Jacob seems disinterested in standing up for morality. But he exerted plenty of energy to obtain material possessions (obtaining a wife, obtaining flocks of goats and sheep).
But even though Jacob was majorly flawed, God still loved him and never left him. The same is true for us today. We all are majorly flawed. But God loves us anyway. and always will.
In Matthew we see Jesus speak with authority well beyond any teacher of the day. He pronounces judgement on a few Jewish towns (verses 20-24) that would not turn away from their current lives and come to Him (i.e. repent) Who can pronounce judgement except for God? No one. So here we have Jesus speak with the authority of God, which is exactly who Jesus was.
In verses 25-27 Jesus declares that the Father has spoken to Him and has revealed things only to Him. He also states that no one can know God at all without the Son (Jesus) revealing the Father to them. He is saying that He is the “only” one who can do that. That is, we can’t learn about God on our own. We can’t have a relationship with God on our own. We can only do so through Jesus Christ.
Finally, since we can only know God through Jesus, He invites everyone to come to Him (verses 28-30). The news that Jesus is the only way to God is not close-minded as some would suggest. It is 100% loving. Jesus loves everyone and wants everyone to know that He is the way to God so that we can be saved. Jesus can provide, and wants to provide, eternal rest. He’s made the offer available to everyone. Sadly, as we’ve seen, very few people will accept the offer.
Its encouraging to know that God will protect his people as Psalm 14 tells us today. No matter how much people will hurt us, God is there to protect us. Isn’t that encouraging?! But we also read (verse 3) that all people are corrupt. No one does good. Even though we dont’ want to admit such a thing about ourselves, it is true. Even when we do “good” it is often only to bring attention to ourselves, negating the “good” that we think we are doing. That is why we need Jesus — no one can enter heaven based on our “good” deeds because there is no such thing.
In previous passages in Proverbs so far this year we have been instructed to seek and obtain wisdom. Today we see that God created the universe because of wisdom. Creating us was a wise thing to do. God knew exactly what He was doing. We are not some random-chance life form. We were thought out and planned by a powerful and loving God.