Here is the nadir of Jacob’s career as deceiver par excellence. In nearly every situation prior, his plans and schemes have gotten him his way—have gotten him out of tight and difficult spots. Yet as we find him in this text, now he is simply alone. Alone—and also terrified that this time there will be bloodshed and he may lose it all. He earlier attempted to pray—as we all do in supreme trial—and yet held all the tighter immediately thereafter to his own schemes. At prayer’s end he made one final adjustment to his plan, reasoning that with this last gift, “Perhaps he (Esau his older twin brother who earlier vowed to kill him) will accept me.” He then arose and walked his family across the river—perhaps for the last time. And now, as we find him in this text, he is simply alone.

Pleas for grace sometimes lead obliquely down dark and even painful paths. Jacob asked for deliverance and instead got a wrestling match with God Himself. Much like Paul who pleaded for removal of his “thorn in the flesh” and instead received grace sufficient to sustain him in his pain, Jacob received from God not simply what he wanted, i.e. “deliver me…I fear him”—but rather what he needed.

In the wisdom of God, Jacob is moved in the span of one night beyond indefatigable self-reliance, deception, and human strength to complete reliance upon God alone. In a sense you could say that Jacob moved that night from God holding on to him—to him, Jacob, holding on to God. It is a blessed place to arrive at a disposition of heart that says to God “I will not let you go…”—to finally let go of all self-effort and schemes to secure blessing for oneself. To cling to God with all your might. This is a blessed place even if the path is, in God’s infinite wisdom, filled with pain. For then it may be said of us, in the end, as it was said of Jacob, “And there he blessed him.” (Gen 32:29).

by Craig Lester

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