“Moses told the people, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again.
The Lord Himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.”
Jacob, son of Isaac, was heading home, back to his birth land of Canaan after being with his uncle for 20 years in Abraham’s old stomping grounds. Having snuck away from his uncle/father-in-law he and his large company were keeping a low profile as they traveled several days from Haran. Sneaking and conniving came pretty easy for Jacob, which means deceiver or usurper, one to take and hold by force without legal right. Jacob bulled his way through life fighting and scrabbling for every inch he gained.
Before Jacob was born he struggled with his brother, more than likely trying to get the best spot in the womb. Jacob was born trying to gain control. He was holding his twin brother’s foot, as if saying, “Get a move on brother! If you’re not going to go, then let me by!” Or in other words, “Move it or tie it up and milk it!”
As he grew to adulthood he lived up to his name. By taking advantage of his brother’s famished and exhausted state after hunting, Jacob manipulated Esau into trading his right of inheritance as the oldest son for a bowl of lentil stew. Then with his mother’s help, he tricked his father, Isaac, into giving him the blessing reserved for the first born son. The blessing was the spoken announcement of the inheritance and the proclamation of the next head of the household or clan.
In anger and frustration Esau, cries, “No wonder his name is Jacob, for now he has cheated me twice. First he took my rights as first born and now he has stolen my blessing. Oh, haven’t you saved one little blessing for me?”
After that Esau hated his brother and schemed to kill him. So, their mother told Jacob to flee to her brother’s land until Esau simmered down.
Jacob has an encounter with God the first night on the road. After laying down to sleep with his head on a rock, he dreams of a stairway leading to Heaven. On the stairway were many angels going up and down.
At the top stood the Lord and this is what he told Jacob, “I am the Lord, the God of your grandfather Abraham, and the God of your father, Isaac. The ground you are lying on belongs to you. I am giving it to you and your descendants. Your descendants will be as numerous as the dust of the earth! They will spread out in all directions to the west and the east to the north and the south. And all families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendants.
What’s more I am with you, and I will protect you wherever you go. One day I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have finished everything I have promised you.” (Gen. 28:13-15)
Jacob went on his merry way and met his future wife, Rachel, his uncle, Laban, and the whole family in Heran. The deceiver was deceived by his uncle, funny thing, and Jacob ended up with the wrong sister for a wife. After working 7 long years for beautiful Rachel, the girl of his dreams, Laban gave him the oldest daughter, Leah instead.
Then Laban made Jacob promise to work another 7 years for Rachel. That’s 14 years! But he got two for the price of one. Whether he wanted them or not.
Laban’s flocks and herds flourished under the herdsmanship of Jacob for 20 years and Jacob learned a lot about animal husbandry. He learned that Laban’s goats had a large gene pool of spotted and striped goats so he asked Laban for all the multicolored goats for back wages. Well the master deceiver, Uncle Laban, pulled another fast one on Jacob by hiding all the spotted and striped goats. However Jacob knew a thing or two about breeding. He bred the multicolored goats to multicolored goats and got a lot of spots and strips.
He also bred the strong goats to his spotted goats and so came out with a lot of multicolored strong goats. He also found the herd of spotted goats, Laban was hiding, and turned the other goats in with them. Thus more spotted goats. And so forth with all the black sheep, so he amassed a large amount of stock. Or in other words, wealth. It also really helped to have Almighty God on his side blessing him.
However things didn’t work out too well with his father-in-law and cousins. The relationship was a little bit tense over the spotted goat thing, so Jacob was itching to take off for home. Surely his brother had forgotten all about his transgressions by now and was willing to let bygones be bygones. However Jacob waited until God gave him the word to return.
“Its ok, Jacob, to go back now to the land of your father and grandfather. I will be with you always.” God told him on day.
Jacob also had learned a thing or two about women. He asked his two wives, actually he had four wives, but he asked the two sisters what they thought about moving far away from their father, before he made the move. Smart man. They thought it a good idea since they wouldn’t inherit anything from their father anyway and all the wealth that Jacob had would go to their kids.
Jacob was indeed a wealthy man with lots of animals and servants, but he almost caused an outright war with his uncle/father-in-law by sneaking Laban’s daughters and grandchildren away without so much as a fare-thee-well or kiss or blessing. Made Laban very upset. God protected Jacob, however, by telling Laban not to harm him.
Seven days into Jacob’s journey to Canaan, Laban caught up to them, with an army of relatives. Heaven forbid! Relatives of all things! After some tense discussion and much back peddling on Jacob’s part, Laban sent them on their way with a tentative peace treaty and a border between them, which is still the border between Israel and Aram (Syria).
So far Jacob’s life has been full of strife and struggle, for every step he has made forward, he seems to slip back several leaps. He has learned to listen to God, but everything he does, all his accomplishments, come with much struggle. Nothing is easy for Jacob. He schemes, he plans, he stretches the truth, he tricks and he deceives. He pushes and fights and scrabbles for his way. God just keeps on blessing him. But God is not finished with him yet. He is teaching and refining Jacob in the refiner’s fire.
As Jacob starts out on the journey once again, he sees in the distance a great company coming to meet him. As they get closer, he sees tall, shimmering beings. They are white and radiant like lightning and they carry large swords and shields. There are many of them. Jacob and company stand with mouths hanging open watching as these great beings surrounded them.
“Holy cow!” Jacob exclaims, “this is God’s army! He has sent an escort!”
So Jacob and party; many herds and flocks and herdsmen and servants, not to mention 11 kids and four wives are shuffling, marching and riding their way back to Canaan. And Jacob is dreading the reunion with his rugged-mountain-man-angry brother, hoping against hope that Esau has mellowed a bit with age.
Thinking that he better not leave this meeting to chance or even to God’s providence, Jacob sends a message to Esau informing him that the black sheep of the family is coming home with many—well, black sheep. The servants come back with the news that Esau is coming to meet his long, lost brother with an army of 400 men.
Jacob panics. In fact he is terrified. Did he forget about the mighty angelic army that accompanies them? I mean it’s only been a few weeks since he witnessed that amazing sight of angels all around them. Did he forget that God had told him, not once but twice that He would always be with him? Oh Jacob is so like me.
Jacob divides his company into two groups thinking if Esau attacked one group then the other group could escape. Then Jacob did a wise thing, he prayed to His God.
“Oh Lord, please rescue me from the hands of my brother, Esau. I am afraid that he is coming to attack me, along with my wives and children.” (Gen. 32:11)
Jacob lays his fears and burdens at the Lord’s feet. However, he doesn’t leave it in God’s hands. Taking control of the situation, Jacob picks out many goats, sheep, camels, cows and donkeys, each in a herd of their own kind and sent ahead with a herdsman and this message. “They belong to your servant Jacob, but they are a gift for his master Esau. Look, he is coming right behind us.” In other words, Don’t worry Esau I’m not going to hold you to our father’s blessing about me being your master and all that. That’s just plain silly.
So Jacob tried to appease his brother with gifts and hidden messages as he sent the herds out one at a time to meet Esau. Then Jacob stayed where he was for the night. He must have not slept a wink and during the night he got real worried so he gathered up his wives, children and all his possessions and crossed over to the other side, the south side, of the Jabbok river. I’m not sure what that was about since Esau was coming from the south. Does he hope that if Esau comes he will take his family and things and leave him alone?
Then he went back to hide in his camp and was all alone.Suddenly from out of the dark, a man attacked. Jacob found himself in a wrestling match fighting, it seems, for his life. Is this someone sent from his brother? Or has Laban sent an assailant to do him in? Or is it just some robber from out of no where looking to steal all his wealth? Whoever it is the man is strong, but Jacob holds his own. One thing about living the outdoor life of a herdsman and running from relatives, it makes a person tough
The man could not prevail against Jacob, so he touched Jacob’s hip and the socket was wrenched out of joint. Ouch! I’ve had that happen before and it hurts a bit! However, Jacob just keeps the man in a death grip. Maybe he has him pinned. Maybe, since dawn is breaking, he gets a good look at his face. Or maybe because of the touch on the hip and the searing pain, the lights go on for Jacob. He suddenly knows Who he is fighting.
How many times have I been fighting God and He has taken the fight right out of me? How many times has He knocked me down, then lifted me up and carried me in His arms? God has given us a free will that He will not force, but sometimes He makes it really hard to fight.
“Let me go, for dawn is breaking!” The Man cries.
“Nope,” Jacob stubbornly says, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” Aww those blessings, Jacob strives for every one of them.
“What is your name?” The man asks. What are you like?
“Jacob.” Deceiver, usurper, controller.
“Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the Man told him, “from now on you will be called Israel, God fights, because you have fought against God and against men and have won.” And now God will fight FOR you.
Jacob doesn’t stop to think about that, he just demands, “What’s your name?” Does he think he can get the upper hand with God? Demand his way with the God of the universe?
The Man says, “Why do you want to know my name?” You know who I am. Then, as He has always done for Jacob, God blesses him right there.
Indeed, Jacob knew who he was fighting since he named the place Peniel which means Face of God. “Since I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared.” God didn’t kill me, in fact, He blessed me. He fights for me, He’s got my back. Ok world here I come! Brother beware!
All his life Jacob had been self sufficient, taking control, taking things into his own hands, fighting for those blessings. Oh, Jacob acknowledged God and sought His favor, but he wanted God to be in the back seat of the chariot, not holding the reins.
Jacob even saw Angels sent from God to protect his family, yet he doubted that protection. In a dream God told Jacob He would be with him forever, yet Jacob relied on himself for everything. Jacob didn’t know it, but basically he was fighting God his whole life and God finally took the fight right out of him.
Oh I am so much like Jacob. I hate to admit it but it’s true. I want to control a difficult situation. Oh when things are going good I say, God is blessing me, He has my best interests in mind. But when things get tough I want to step in and take the reins. I want to DO something to get the results I desire.
Such as, with John’s knee surgery and all the roller coaster doctor visits and scheduled surgery dates that have been canceled, I want to march up to those doctors (both at the same time) grab them by the throats, and yell, “What are you doing! My husband is in pain, he hobbles wherever he goes! And what do you do? You send us on all these goose chases and play your little games until you decide its ok for him to have his new knee. All while he is suffering!” Then I’d shake the daylights out of them.
Yes that’s what I want to do, but God says, “Wait. Just wait. I have this.”
God has even told me I can walk on water as long as I keep my focus on Him. That He is in the boat and He will calm the storm, no matter how big it is. But do I remember this? No, like Jacob, I forget about the legions of angels sent to surround and protect us.
All this time of waiting; waiting to get the bone marrow test done, waiting for the results, then waiting to see if the blood pressure medicine is causing the low white blood count, I worry and fret.
Bless us God! I demand. Give John his new knee! Take away his pain. I strive with God for my way. I’m determined to get the results I want.
The name Israel means, God fights. Instead of Jacob fighting God, now God would fight for Jacob. So I need to give it all to God, lay it at His feet. Stop fighting for my way, stop striving, stop controlling and let God fight for me.
Jacob left Peniel and crossed the river to where his family waited. This time, walking with a limp, he started out in FRONT of his family. No longer bowed down with fear, he held his head high and marched right up to his big hairy brother and the army of 400 men. Then he bowed to the ground, not just once but 7 times.
Interesting, 7 signifies completeness or it is finished. Is Jacob saying, I am done fighting, I am done striving, I am done conniving, I have God to fight for me now, with Him I am complete?
With robs flapping, Esau ran up to Jacob, grabbed him off the ground and wrapped him in a great big bear hug. Then both brothers wept. They caught up for a bit and Jacob introduced his family. Then Esau invited them to accompany him back home to Seir in Edom.
One more time Jacob couldn’t help a bit of a deceit. He told his brother that all the children and young animals were tired out from the journey so they would come along at their own pace. And they would meet him in Seir. So Esau and his army set out to the south for home.
Jacob then promptly headed north where he set up camp to rest, then he marched his group west across the Jordan river to Shechem, the land of Canaan where he bought land and settled for a few years before he moved farther south.
Great way to get rid of those relatives! A little bit of doubt must have remained. Jacob didn’t quite trust his brother, or maybe he didn’t quite trust his God, enough to tell Esau that he was headed to Canaan.
Just goes to show that even after God changes me or trains me, my old ornery self just might come through a time or two, but God is patient. He continues to refine me.
Praise the Lord! The results on the bone marrow biopsy was normal, nothing is wrong with John. He has chronic idiopathic neutrophilia, which is naturally low neutrophil (white) blood count. And the hematologist approved the surgery. It is now scheduled for March 11th. Hallelujah! God is good!
Yet, like Jacob, I shrink from this battle. Will it really happen? If it does will the surgery be a success? Will John recover quickly? Will he be able to fight off infection? Will I be patient with him during recovery? Will the doctor change his mind again? If he does I’m going to grab him by the—-and then I remember Jacob’s angels.
And another story comes to mind: Elisha was faced with a large army of Arameans coming to seize him since the prophet was good at telling the king of Israel all the Arameans battle secrets. In the morning Elisha’s servant went out and saw a huge army of armed soldiers surrounding the city where they were.
“Oh, sir,” he cried to Elisha, “What will we do now?”
“Don’t be afraid!” Elisha told him. “For there are more on our side than on theirs!” Then he asked God, “O Lord, open his eyes and let him see!”
The servant looked up and his eyes grew wide in amazement. On the hills surrounding them was a vast number of horses and chariots of fire, blazing bright as lightning in the morning light. 2 Kings 6:8-17
God has our backs. He is holding us in His hands. He fights for us. God will fight the battle. And He always wins.