Posts Tagged ‘Jacob’

Jacob half-walked, half-jogged mile after mile toward Paddan Aram, to escape his furious brother, Esau. (You can read about the circumstances of Esau’s anger in Genesis 27-28.)

Finally, at sunset, Jacob had to stop and rest. In a grassy meadow surrounded by trees, he spotted a low, flat rock, perfect for a pillow. He folded his sash into a smooth bundle, to add a bit of softness under his head, then wrapped himself in his outer robe, and promptly fell asleep.

That may be the impression we’ve acquired from such art work as this:


The truth is, the area where Jacob rested that first night as a runaway, was far from pleasant. The landscape was scrubby, rocky, and desolate, which surely accentuated how very alone he was.

I doubt that Jacob rested comfortably or fell asleep quickly.   For all he knew, Esau was in hot pursuit. And though Jacob was headed to the ancestral home of his mother, it’s doubtful he’d ever met any of those relatives. What would they be like? How would he be treated? Between the uncomfortable “bed,” and the worrying and wondering, who could rest?

But Jacob had covered many miles that day. Exhaustion finally took over, and he slept—soundly enough to dream.

You know the story.  Jacob was witness to a glorious sight: angels of God, ascending and descending on a stairway that reached all the way to heaven.

At the top of the stairway stood God Almighty himself, proclaiming glorious promises to Jacob:

  • The land on which he lay would one day be his.
  • His descendants would be as numerous as the dust on the earth.
  • All the peoples of the earth would be blessed through Jacob and his offspring.
  • God would be with him to watch over him wherever he went.

Jacob awoke, astonished by his dream. Perhaps he was a bit disoriented by the darkness and desolation, when just a moment before he was surrounded by ethereal light, gazing at angels on a glowing staircase, and listening to the voice of God.

“The Lord is in this place!” he breathed.

Jacob took the stone pillow and stood it up on end as a pillar-reminder of the momentous occasion. And he renamed the location, Bethel, which means house of God (Genesis 28:10-19).


We may not be runaways like Jacob, forced to sleep in a wilderness. But we’ve all faced rough, rock-strewn places in life when:

  • Marriage is more disappointment than delight
  • The growing pains of our children become our pain too
  • Friends prove unfriendly
  • Circumstances turn our lives upside down
  • The day-to-day routine is unpleasant and boring

Amidst the desolation and darkness we forget:

God.  Is.  With.  Us.

And that is huge.


“God’s presence with us is his greatest present to us” (Joanie Yoder).

The problem is, we’re often unaware just as Jacob was.

But we do have numerous assurances of God’s presence with us throughout scripture, and indications of what a sublime treasure that is:

  • Hundreds of promises in the Bible. (Jacob received only five that night at Bethel!)
  • All of God’s incredible attributes at work in and around us: his power, wisdom, loving kindness, and much more
  • His guidance, provision, protection, and empowerment–whether we currently see the evidence or not
  • His blessings, even in the desolate places of life

May we awaken to full awareness and the full meaning of his presence, because:


(Art credits:  www.keyway.ca; http://www.bibleencyclopedia.com; http://www.amazon.com; http://www.izquotes.com.)

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(No, the title is not a typo!  Please read on!)

One time only the verb wrestle is used in scripture.  You probably remember the story of Jacob wrestling with a man through the dark hours of one night. Chances are, Jacob would have been sleepless anyway.  The next day he was to reunite with his estranged brother, Esau (Genesis 32:22-32).  Echoing in Jacob’s mind was his brother’s vow to kill him (27:41).

At the end of the wrestling match, when the man left Jacob, he realized his opponent had been God (32:30)!  (Some say God took the form of an angel.  Some say this was an appearance of Jesus, a pre-incarnate visitation, before he was born as a baby in Bethlehem.)  

Jacob’s heart must have been pounding madly at that moment, but not just from the exertion.  Imagine his shock to realize he had engaged with the all-powerful King of the universe in hand-to-hand combat!

The chronicler to record this event (and all the other events in Genesis) is generally accepted to be Moses.  As he wrote this particular story, Moses must have smiled to himself at the word play that flowed from his pen (Did they use pens of some sort in those days?)

First of all,  Jacob’s name in ancient Hebrew is ya’ aqob.  The word, wrestled, is ye’ abeq.  Even the location of the event is included in the word play.  Verse 22 indicates Jacob was camped along the stream called Jabbok, or yabbok in Hebrew.  Perhaps it was named later, as a memoriam to Jacob’s once-in-history experience.  By Moses’ time, the name would have been well-established.

But that’s just an interesting aside.   Showcasing his sense of humor was not God’s main objective for including this story in scripture.  What might he want us to learn from Jacob’s experience?

Perhaps it is a lesson in humility, as it certainly was for Jacob.  At the end of that wrestling match, God wrenched Jacob’s hip.  He limped for the rest of his life–a constant reminder that God was his Shepherd-caretaker, responsible for Jacob’s successes.  God was also his Angel-deliverer.  Jacob could not guarantee his own escape from Esau’s harm. or any other danger (Genesis 48:15-16).

God proved himself as Jacob’s Mighty One (49:24) the next day.  Shortly after the man left Jacob, Jacob looked up and saw Esau coming toward him–with four hundred men.  Quickly Jacob took precautions to protect his family.  But it was unnecessary.  Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him.  The two brothers, who had been alienated from one another for years, now wept in each others’ arms (33:1-4).

At the end of his life, Jacob reaffirmed that it was God Almighty who had provided all the blessings he’d enjoyed (Genesis 49:25).  The patriarch was as powerless to bless himself as he was to overpower God in a wrestling match.  And he prayed that the Strong God would give his blessings–tumbling out of the skies, bursting up from the Earth–to rest on the head of Joseph (vs. 25-26, The Message).

Jacob did not pray that Joseph, too, might  wrestle with God, but that God’s blessing would rest upon him.

Yes, wrestling with God has its place.  At times we may spar with God using words, much as David openly and honestly expressed his disappointments, depression, and even anger to God.  (See Psalms 22, 55, and 77 for examples.)  God is big enough to handle it.

But then comes the morning when we can affirm that his compassions, his blessings, never fail.  Great is the faithfulness of our God (Lamentations 3:22-23)!

So an additional bit of word play brings the two concepts together, thanks to my preacher-son, Jeremy:  wrestling + resting = wresting.

Wrestling allows load-shifting; resting results in peace.  Together they make us strong, steadfast, and firm in our faith.

(art credit:  http://www.bishopmarcelopires.org )


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