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Jacob was the son of Isaac, the grandson of Abraham, and the father of 12 sons, from which came the 12 tribes of Israel. God changed Jacob’s name to Israel, which means one who struggles with God and Prince of God. The name Jacob means schemer, and indeed Jacob’s early life was filled with schemes for advancement. As the second born, Jacob was not entitled to the birthright or blessing reserved for the first born; however, the Lord told his mother Rebekah before his birth that he would rule over his older brother. God had a plan, but Jacob set out to help God by pushing that agenda. First he bargained for his brother Esau’s birthright in exchange for a bowl of stew. Next he posed as Esau to deceive his father and receive the coveted blessing. Jacob left the country to get away from Esau’s anger and revenge. Upon arriving at his Uncle Laban’s home, the tables were turned as Jacob experienced the pain of being the one who was tricked and taken advantage of. After agreeing to exchange 7 years of labor for the love of his life Rachel, he was tricked into marrying her sister Leah. Only by agreeing to another 7 years of labor was he allowed to marry Rachel. He fulfilled his obligation and continued to work in exchange for livestock. However, Laban used every trick in the book to shortchange Jacob and to detain him. By God’s divine hand, Jacob flourished and eventually took his wives and possessions and left unannounced. Laban was furious, but God prevented Laban from harming or holding Jacob back any longer. Jacob returned to face his brother Esau, and in that process he came face to face with himself and with God, and God changed his name. He wasn’t the old Jacob any more; he had wrestled with God and had come to terms with himself. He, Israel, moved forward in God’s master plan to make of Abraham a great nation with descendants as numerous as the stars.

Ge 25:23, 28, 27:34-35, 32:24-31; Gal 6:9; Eph 4:22-24; He 11:21; 1 Pe 5:5;

So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. (Gal 6:9) So get rid of your old self, which made you live as you used to—the old self that was being destroyed by its deceitful desires. Your hearts and minds must be made completely new, and you must put on the new self, which is crated in God’s likeness and reveals itself in the true life that is upright and holy. (Eph 4:22-24)

God had already laid out the plan for Jacob’s authority over his brother, but Jacob jumped in to “make” it happen. He and Rebekah didn’t trust God to fulfill His word. Their doubt led to years of struggle for Jacob. It wasn’t until he followed God’s call to return home and face his brother Esau that he was able to stop running and struggling with himself and with God. Jacob’s wrestling match with God culminates in a true physical and spiritual struggle. Jacob won’t give up even after his hip is wounded. He holds on and holds out for a blessing. Jacob stopped running; he knew he had seen God. He was humbled and accepted what God had in store. Though wounded in his body, his spirit was strengthened and his journey with God made a marked turn. He became Israel. When you think about his early deceitfulness, you recognize that God will use anyone. Perfection isn’t a pre-requisite, but faith in God’s ability to fulfill His plan is the ultimate requirement.

Have you ever been deceived? Explain. Have you ever been the deceiver? Explain. Can we force God’s plan? Can we force God’s hand? Why is waiting for God’s time so difficult? Do you believe that what goes around comes around? How did it happen in Jacob’s life? Do you believe that God sometimes has to fight with you before He can fight for you? How do you discern what God causes and what God allows? In Jacob’s life, what do you feel was allowed and what was caused by God? How do struggles cause growth?

If you are running from something, stop. With God’s help make a plan to face the struggle that is wearing you down. Face your fears, yourself and God. Allow God’s plan to unfold in your life.

Creator of all things, help me to trust Your plan, Your timing and Your outcomes. Allow me to see my struggles as opportunities for change and growth. Let me learn from them. In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen.