Weekly Devotion – October 21

Genesis 32:22-32

Jacob’s journey home is anything but heartwarming. He’s spent 20 years away from home, leaving behind an angry brother who sought his death, a mother who schemed with Jacob to gain the advantage over his brother, prompting Esau’s anger, 14 years of hard work for a man who became his father-in-law, deceiving him on his wedding night by marrying him to Leah rather than Rachel. Laban tries to trick and cheat Jacob at every turn, but God has preserved Jacob, increased his wealth vastly, and provided him with many sons. Finally, Laban’s family turns against Jacob and with divine direction, Jacob flees to return home with his wealth and family. Only divine intervention spares Jacob from an attack by his father-in-law and extended family, and now Jacob receives word his brother Esau is coming out to meet him – with 400 men, a small army.

Jacob does all he can to ensure at least some of his family survive in the event Esau attacks. He does all he can to buy his brother’s good will, but now on the last night before they meet, alone after sending the last of his family ahead of him, Jacob is left by the Jabbok River. Alone except for his fear and anxiety.

Here, God comes to him. More accurately, the pre-incarnate Son of God, Jesus, comes to him as a man and wrestles with him through the night. Jacob has no time for worry or fear about Esau, as his attention is fixated on this struggle. Jacob brings his characteristic tenacity to the duel, never giving in, never breaking off. And the Son of God, who comes to Jacob not to crush him in defeat, gives Jacob encouragement for the tasks ahead of him with Esau, leaving him with both a new name and a blessing.

God enters into our struggles with us and for us, and his presence leaves us changed forever as well. Jacob walks forward towards his encounter with Esau with a limp, a reminder of how he grappled with God himself, and a reminder that it is not his own power that preserves him. God is with and for him, and so his encounter with Esau ends well.

May we have the faith to reach out to God in prayer, to grapple with him in his Word and the presence of his Holy Spirit. And may we each leave such encounters strengthened and encouraged by God’s gentle strength, and more aware than ever who it is that sustains us each moment of our lives!

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