Jacob’s soul was greatly troubled about the impending meeting with Esau, his elder brother, who wanted to kill him and was the reason for his leaving the house. When someone initiated the wrestling, his imagination would have run wild about his identity from Esau or one of his servants to gods of Laban or Esau or some wayward man. It was only when he was unable to prevail over the opponent, that Jacob realized that he was an angel of God or God Himself. On realizing this he found the answer to his problem for instead of defeating he focused on clinging to Him to receive blessings. He was blessed but for that he had to let go of his old identity, attitude and way of life and become Israel, the one who is ruled by God. We desire to prevail over God in our battles in prayer with Him without even trying to learn His will and then surrender to His authority.
Basic principle of fighting in life – The basic principle is to hold on to God whatever be the circumstances and whatever type of battle we may be involved in. God alone is and can be “my strength and shield and my glory” and we can never fight properly what to say of winning without adequate strength and protection (Psalm 3:3-4). Many of our enemies, both in the flesh and the spirits, would flee without a fight after learning about our identity as God’s children through faith in His Son. With God being all three for us and we reflect His glory in us, the battle is already won and over. Jacob held on and even with physical decapitation his meeting with Esau went well for he was fearful, “But Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and they wept” (Genesis 33:4). The enmity between the two turned into love and their relationship was restored under the hand of God.
Types of battles we face – There are four types of battles that we get involved in during our lives on the earth. First is wrestling against the spirits – Apostle Paul, the great warrior of God, identifies this that ‘We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places’ (Ephesians 6:12). Lucifer was thrown out of heavens for his pride and sin (Isaiah 14:12) and he was in Eden, the garden of God (Ezekiel 28:13). Our battle with him and his fallen angels started with God’s command to subdue the earth (Genesis 1:28) and take control through exercising God’s authority over everything on the earth. The battle continued though Adam and Eve surrendered and we fight against the devil and his forces. To fight these invisible forces we need to take up the whole armor of God to withstand against them and having done all to stand in the battle (Ephesians 6:13). ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me and we have to wrestle and stand in strength and protection of the Lord.
Second, wrestling against the flesh –Apostle Paul admitted that “I do not do what I want to do – I do the evil that I do not want to do” (Romans 7:15; 19). We fight against our desires, feelings and our sinful nature and it is a daily battle and we are not alone but our Savior is with us all the way.
Three, wrestling with life circumstances – Our birth, family and genes are God given and throughout our lives we fight to move to a higher spiritual, social and financial plane from the level we were placed by God. Jacob fought Esau from before birth and in life to get the blessing of the first born and for that he tricked his father for his blessings. Laban tricked him to marry off Lea and Jacob deceived him to get financially well off and his wife stole her father’s family idols to stop him from harming her family in any way.
Four, we wrestle with God – Did Jacob really wrestle with God and did not let Him prevail? Esau complained to his father about being tricked twice by Jacob and then decides in his heart to kill him (Genesis 27:36; 41). Jacob was aware of the danger to his life and was desperate to save himself, his family and his possessions. In desperate situations, mostly resulting from our own sins, we adopt desperate measures – prolonged fasts, asking others to pray and try to force God into blessing us through all this. The pre-incarnate Lord Jesus wrestled with and wanted to teach humility to Jacob who wanted to snatch his blessing as he had done throughout his life before that. He wept and sought favor from Him (Hosea 12:3-4) and in his life the Jabbok moment had come, empty out and be blessed. The ladder into heaven was shown to him and that ladder was still there for him to reach out to God. Lord Jesus provided us access to His throne of grace by becoming children of God and to stand before God in prayer (John 1:12-13).
Why was Jacob renamed – Naming a child a very important ceremony and it defined his future life and role. Jabez was given this name by his mother that ‘I bore him in pain’ and he prayed to God and God granted him what he requested (1 Chronicles 4:9-10). God knew but still asked Jacob, ‘what is your name’ and with that question the moment of self identification had arrived for him (Genesis 32:27). God knew his name like He knew where Adam was hiding but He wants self realization of our state and transformation cannot be without that. The moment Jacob admitted his life of deception with his name, he was now was ready to be changed and renamed.
God separates us from our circumstances to bless us. Abram had been shifted from his ancestors and received the promise that his descendents would be as many as stars in the sky (Genesis 15:5). Yet he produced Ishmael from Hagar the maid and was made to wait for twenty five years for fulfillment of God’s promise. God finally commanded him, ‘walk before Me and be blameless’ for blessing follows surrender of our identity and self effort. It was then that YHWH God added part of His own name to Abram and Sarai to make them Abraham and Sarah, father and mother of many nations (Genesis 17:1; 5 &15). Simon confessed the true identity of Lord Jesus and answered ‘You are the Christ, Son of the living God’ –to be told ‘flesh and blood has not revealed this to you but My Father who is in heaven’. Lord Jesus then aligned Himself with God the Father to say, ‘I also say to you, you are Peter’, a rock. Lord Jesus is our ‘rock and refuge’ and He made Simon share in that for realization of identity of God leads to a blessed state and it need not happen with a change of name (Matthew 16:16-18).
Then why did Apostle Paul change his name from Saul? – Saul was famous for persecuting the believers for in his self knowledge and belief, he assumed he was serving God and doing right. It was while on road to Damascus, on a similar mission that he was surrounded by light from heaven and Lord Jesus confronted him there. The light of heavenly glory of the Messiah Lord was so powerful that Saul was blinded for three days, a time that he spent in fasting and prayer. It was only after Ananias prayed for him that ‘something like scales fell from his eyes’ resulting in the opening of his spiritual eyes and self realization (Acts 9:1-18). He was named Saul, the name of the first king of Israel and ‘Saul was taller than everyone from shoulders upward’ (1 Samuel 10:23). And once he realized his self worth without the Lord he changed his name to Paul which means dwarf, though he was probably not short in a physical sense. Apostle Paul then admits his state in humility, ‘I am the least of the apostles, not worthy to be called an apostle, for I persecuted the church of God’ (1 Corinthians 15:9). He changed millions of lives through His work and almost half of the New Testament is written by Him.
Reward in the name change – Lord Jesus has promised the church of Pergamos, a region directly under Satan’s control, ‘To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it’ (Revelation 2:17). His promise of special blessings of heavenly food and also a new name by the Lord, who would then become the Master of that individual, ready to give him a special status. This new name will be hidden from others so that the new role and special status would remain hidden from others. Lord Jesus also has a name, given by God the Father, and for His second coming the Son of God will come on a white horse, under the power and role of that unknown name (Revelation 19:11-12).
Should we change our name – God declares that ‘I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways’ (Jeremiah 17:10). If the reward is dependent upon our commitment and dedicated involvement in the works of God’s kingdom, the relevance of name loses its value. The Old Testament command to ‘love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength’ (Deuteronomy 6:5) was also asserted by the Savior Lord who added ‘with all your mind’ with the other three. It is not the name that matters but what is in my heart, the desires, feelings, thoughts and what do we look up to. The indwelling Holy Spirit transforms us by changing our soul, our desires and feelings to make us poor in spirit.
How do we qualify for special blessings? – Most important is to get the best from God give Him your best, the first fruits of everything – our energy, resources, thoughts and desires. Jacob wrestled with God to win and did his best to do that and was blessed. William Carey’s most famous sermon is God’s call to us today, “Expect great things from God, and attempt great things for God”. What does God desire from us to give us ‘the great things’?
Dependence on God – Apostle Paul most Spirit led and Spirit dependent man among the followers of Christ and a learned man of Scripture, taught by Gamaliel, another great teacher of that era. He humbly declared for all of us, ‘I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ’ (Philippians 3:8). By changing his name and surrendering his life to the Lord, he dwarfed himself before God by following every command of the Holy Spirit, even to face physical assaults and punishment leading to death.
Strive for personal excellence – God created everything and inspected the same while carrying out a final inspection and scrutiny of ‘everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good’ (Genesis 1:31). He is perfect in every way and desires perfection from us like a passion and Scripture underlines different aspects of it. This excellence is, first, excellence in our thoughts – ‘whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things’ (Philippians 4:8). Two,excellence in our words – ‘Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear’ (Ephesians 4:29). Three, excellence in our actions – “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works” (Titus 2:7); “Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness” (1 Timothy 6:11). Four, excellence in personal sacrifice – Apostle Paul’s list of personal sufferings for the Gospel – beaten with rods, stoned, scourged and the list is long (2 Corinthians 11:23-27). Five,excellence in scholarship – He was in prison in an underground and cold prison cell, but requests, “When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments” (2 Timothy 4:13). Even during the last few days of his life Apostle Paul did not stop studying and meditating on the Scripture and helping others in this. He continued to receive great blessings in the spiritual realm from God while attempting Great things for Him and His Kingdom even to be lifted up into heaven to witness things that no one else is allowed to know (2 Corinthians 12:3-4).
How does complete dependence on God work with complete commitment to personal excellence? – Normally we say, ‘Let go and let God’ tgus implying that God will only intervene in our circumstances if we stop and let Him. However the parable of rich man and his servants being given gold talents to invest for the master and their rewards thereafter tell a different story (Matthew 25:14-30). The Scripture command is to use God given spiritual gifts and resources for God’s kingdom and then He will bless to multiply the same exponentially (Romans 12:6-8). Thereis an old song, ‘Trust and obey for there’s no other way. To be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey’ thus I follow His commands and as I work, God works to help me.
Noah built the Ark and God sent the flood; Moses confronted Pharaoh and God sent the plagues, Joshua led the people into the flooded Jordan and God stopped the waters, David fought Goliath and God gave speed and direction to the stone hurled by him, Apostle Peter preached at Pentecost and in the Temple and Gos gave him the words, Apostle Paul and Silas praised God in the Philippian jail and God sent the earthquake, Apostle John worshipped on Patmos to get the revelation. They worked and God blessed their efforts. Jacob clung on to God to receive the blessing and we also have to keep at it and God will answer for He as a Father will not let down His children for whom He gave His only son.
A God who created everything and who is and in whom is the time could set the clock back, yet He sent His Only Begotten Son to ‘empty Himself of His eternal glory’ to become man. The Son of God worked in faith and the Father in heaven blessed His efforts. God desires that we ‘overcome’ to receive unimaginable blessings from Him and for that we have to engage the enemy in battle. The mountains that seem insurmountable will move and fall into the sea but we have to give the command. Life is a continuous battle in which we have to take on the ‘powers of darkness’ but we are never alone in this. To counter the onslaught of invisible evil forces, God Himself is by our side in the form of His Holy Spirit to help us emerge victorious. His Son has fought for us and given us victory on the cross and our job is to walk in that and maintain that victorious stance.