Yesterday, I turned thirty-two. By design, I was off work – I definitely like to take some vacation days around my birthday to rest and reflect on the past and the future. So, once again, happy birthday to me! For the past few weeks, I have been reading from the book of Genesis, one chapter a day. It has been quite insightful journeying with ancient Bible characters and standing in their shoes as they tried to make sense of their lives and purpose. Yesterday, it was time to read chapter thirty-two, and I thought that was an interesting coincidence.
Genesis chapter 32 tells the story of Jacob’s return home after several years of sojourn in a foreign country. Interestingly, that foreign country was originally his grandfather’s home, but Abraham had moved out by divine instruction and made home in another country God led him to – a country that would later belong to his descendants. Jacob had deceived his brother to get the blessing – a spiritual inheritance belonging to the first born. Now having wives, children, and wealth, he was returning to face the man he supplanted to get blessed.
Naturally, Jacob was anxious and fearful, not knowing how Esau would react after all those years. He sent messengers ahead, but they brought back message that Esau was coming to meet him with four hundred men. He feared the worst. He split up his family and herd into two companies, so one could escape if Esau attacked the other. He prayed to God for mercy and sent gifts ahead, strategized so the gifts could come to Esau in several batches, and sent all of his family ahead, staying back alone a restless man. Then something unusual and life-changing happened.
A “Man” came and wrestled with Jacob all night. Having had previous divine encounters, he knew this was a lifetime opportunity, and he was determined to have this “Man” pronounce a blessing over him. This greatly typifies prevailing prayer – a determination to petition God on a specific issue until a divine decree changing the situation is received. In Jacob’s case, the decree was a change of name – from Jacob (one who ousts/displaces) to Israel (one who struggles with God). Jacob moved from supplanting men to contending with God.
This transition for Jacob started with being alone. Great things often happen when people spend time alone, especially in times of difficulty. In addition, I personally believe the visitation was a response to his prayer for mercy, and God needed to address a foundational issue setting him at odds with others – he always contended with men. His focus needed to switch from men to God. And in contending with God, he could receive his own blessing without manipulating or displacing another man. This blessing left him with a mark, but it was more than worth it.
Are you in a desperate and life-threatening situation? Does it look like everything you worked for might be going out the window? Is a sin or mistake from the past coming back to haunt you or threaten your future? Then, be like Jacob and cry to God for mercy. Stay in prayer until you are convinced in your heart that the battle is over. God would often give a word or message that sets your heart at rest even if the situation has not changed externally. But you cannot afford to pray just once and walk away. Like Jesus said, men ought always to pray, and not faint. Blessings!