When a person is able to overcome a difficult set of circumstances, how is that person able to do so? The world says that we need to be strong, but how? The world says that we need to have faith, but in what? People have attributed a number of different things and processes as the cause of their endurance of trials. However, the Bible makes it very clear where one's strength lies and where one's faith should be focused.
Genesis 32:1-32 documents the testimony of Jacob wrestling with Jesus. The Bible explains that Jacob found himself alone with the Lord, and tried to wrestle against him. This testimony begins by explaining how Jacob ended up alone with the Lord. The Bible explains that as Jacob sought to move his family from Laban, he ventured back towards his home land. However, understanding the dynamics between him and Esau, Jacob had a fair amount of concern. It was true that 20 years had elapsed since Jacob deceived his father and took Esau's blessing. Nevertheless, Jacob was concerned that Esau was holding his grudge and was still seeking to kill him. Therefore, Jacob made efforts to appease Esau.
The Bible explains that Jacob split up his camp. He had one part of his camp go one way, and another part of his camp go another way. Jacob's thinking was that, if Esau captured and killed one part of the camp, the other would be able to escape. The Bible also explains that Jacob really tried hard to earn the favor of his brother. Scripture states that Jacob arranged several caravans containing gifts for Esau to approach Esau. Jacob's thinking was that, as Esau saw these successive groups bringing him various gifts and offerings, by the time Jacob arrived, Esau would not be angry anymore. Essentially, Jacob was expressing a great deal of paranoia. After hearing from one of his servants that Esau was seeking to meet up with Jacob and was bringing 400 men with him, Jacob's mind began to think of the worse possible scenarios and feared for the life of his family, servants and his own. Thus, at the end of all of Jacob's plotting and scheming to earn his brother's favor, he took his family and sent them on their own to a hiding place the night before he planned to meet Esau.
Genesis 32:1-32 explains that the night before Jacob and Esau met up, that Jacob was by himself. He had sent companies of servants bearing expensive gifts to meet his brother ahead of him. Jacob had sent his family to a hiding place until morning. Thus, scriptures explains that Jacob was left alone. It is at this time that the Bible explains that "a Man" wrestled with Jacob until the breaking of day. Considering the time reference that is previously given, the time that Jacob spent wrestling this "Man" could have been a couple of hours. Jacob wrestled this "Man" for hours without success, but also would not give up. The Bible explains that when this "Man" realized that Jacob would not give in, the "Man" touched Jacob's hip socket and dislocated his hip joint.
At that point, the "Man" spoke to Jacob and pleaded with Jacob to stop. Jacob was clearly not going to win the match. The match had gone on for hours. Jacob's hip was now dislocated. Yet Jacob kept persisting against this "Man" who was seemingly indestructible. This "Man" didn't get tired. This "Man" couldn't be beaten. This "Man" demonstrated that He could end the fight at any time He desired, yet was being merciful to Jacob to keep allowing Jacob chances to just submit. Hence, the "Man" asked Jacob to just give up. Jacob agreed that he would give up and surrender if the "Man" were to bless Jacob. It is interesting that Jacob wrestled with this man, yet discovered that this man was in a position of authority to provide a blessing. Why would Jacob wrestle with this "Man" that is in a position of authority, then seek a blessing from Him? Typically a person will try to earn the favor of a person they want a blessing from by being nice, not by opposing them. Nonetheless, Jacob requested his blessing.
It is at this point in scripture where the Man uniquely identifies Himself as being the Lord. The Man revealed Himself to be an Old Testament appearance of Jesus Christ. As Jacob requested his blessing, the "Man" assumed the position of authority to change Jacob's name. Jacob asked for a blessing, and he received a blessing through a name change. The "Man" changed Jacob's name to "Israel," which means, "God Prevails." The "Man" stated that Jacob had prevailed against men, referring to the old quarrels with Esau, and the more recent quarrels with Laban. The "Man" stated that Jacob had also struggled against God and had prevailed as well, referring to the wrestling match that had just taken place. Hence, as Jacob was wrestling with this "Man," this human figure referred to Himself as God, assumed the authority of God to change Jacob's identity as God did with Abraham, and then chose a name that reflected God's possession of Jacob as with Abraham.
The scriptures explained that Jacob had an issue with the Lord. Up until Genesis chapter 32 Jacob had considered Yahweh to be the God of his father and grandfather. Jacob never considered Yahweh to be his own God. Though Jacob was the heir of God's promises, Jacob went about life on his own, seeking to do his own thing. He acknowledged when God had blessed him, but never sought a personal relationship with God to know Him. God acknowledged this problem and sought to correct it by revealing Himself to Jacob. Knowing that Jacob was the heir to the promises made to Abraham, God changed the identity of Jacob. When the Lord changed Jacob's name to Israel, God was stating to Jacob that He was the reason for Jacob's success. God was telling Jacob that He was the cause of Jacob's ability to endure struggles. It is the Lord who prevails and thus allows His children to do the same. Though Jacob struggled with God, it was by the mercy of God that Jacob was able to prevail. God was the cause of it all and God wanted Jacob to understand that truth.
Genesis 32:1-32 then explains that Jacob suddenly became interested in this Man to know His identity. Jacob wanted a blessing from the man, and received a name change. Upon receiving the name change, Jacob was suddenly intrigued by who this Man was. Yet upon asking the Man His name, the Lord refused. Scriptures states that the Lord questioned why Jacob wanted to know the Lord's name. In other words, Jacob had gone his whole life not caring about who the Lord was, why should the Lord yield to the demands of Jacob now that he's curious? This is not to say that the Lord would reject Jacob, but instead that God reveals Himself to those who genuinely seek to know Him. At this moment in scripture, Jacob realized that he had seen God! The person who took the form of a man in order to focus Jacob's attention to Yahweh was called God. As Jesus took the form of man in order to focus the world's attention to Yahweh in the New Testament, the Old Testament shows Jesus performing the same purpose!
God's point to Jacob was powerful. It was true that Jacob showed a great deal of resolve and ability to maintain during times of adversity. It is true that Jacob was heavily blessed and received incredible wisdom while having great success. However, when the Lord changed Jacob's name to Israel, the Lord clearly communicated that all of Jacob's ability and success was on account of the Living God. It is God who prevails. Today as one examines the events of the nation of Israel, one cannot help but marvel. The world is seemingly against this tiny nation, and such has been the case for centuries; yet the nation thrives. It is the Lord who prevails! Terrorists fire missiles at Israel and confess that God changes their trajectory. It is the Lord who prevails! Believers all around the world are able to face opposition and stand firm in their faith in Jesus Christ regardless of threat or consequence. It is the Lord who prevails! The Bible explains that after Jacob wrestled with the Lord, he walked around with a limp for the rest of his life. It is true that Jacob was able to wrestle with God for a time, but in the end, it was the Lord who prevailed and Jacob's limp would be a lifetime reminder of that truth.
Those who oppose the Lord will loose because it is the Lord who prevails. Those who oppose Israel will loose because it is the Lord who prevails. Those who oppose God's Gentile children will loose because it is the Lord who prevails. Those who are able to endure and possess great resolve through trying circumstances must never boast in self because it is the Lord who prevails!