By Henry Mahan
v. 24. 'And Jacob was left alone.' Was there ever a man more troubled, more frightened and confused, more alone than Jacob at this time? His whole life had been one of trouble and disappointment.
1. He was born second to Esau; he was inferior to Esau; his father preferred Esau.
2. Pushed by his mother to deceive his blind father, he had stolen the birthright.
3. Threatened with death by his brother, he fled from his country.
4. God met him at Bethel, promised his blessings, and confirmed what I'm sure his mother had told him (Gen. 25:22-23; Rom. 9:10-13).
5. He had been deceived by Laban, as he had deceived Isaac, and married a woman he did not want (Gen. 29:16-26).
6. He was told by God to return home (Gen. 31:3).
7. On his journey home he was told that Esau, his brother, was coming to meet him with 400 men (Gen. 32:6-8).
Now Jacob is alone, afraid, and helpless. There's no more time nor room for plotting, scheming, and manipulating. He is shut up to the sovereign power and deliverance of God. Like Israel at the sea and Jonah in the whale, his salvation is totally in the hands of God (Jonah 2:9; Exo. 14:13). Those whom the Lord is pleased to save and to whom he will reveal his mercy in Christ Jesus will all be brought to the place of human helplessness and inability. There must be left no room for boasting nor glorying in the flesh (Psalm 107:1-6, 11-13; 1 Cor. 1:26-31).
'There wrestled a man with him.' Who was this man? There is no doubt that it was Christ, who frequently appeared in human form to saints of the Old Testament in token and pledge of his future incarnation (Heb. 7:1-3). Verses 26, 28, and 30 reveal who the man is.
Jacob, being an object of God's love and mercy, was laid hold of by the Lord Jesus in sovereign power and purpose (Rom. 8:29-31); Jacob, in his loneliness, fear, and need, laid hold of Christ. This was a physical, mental, and spiritual conflict which had to be resolved. God is sovereign and man is responsible; God will have his people and his people will have their God (John 6:37-39); the Lord is King by right, by decree, and by his death; but he will be the King in the hearts of his people by true submission and surrender (Psalm 110:3; Rom. 10:9-10). 'They wrestled until the breaking of the day.' This was no brief and passing encounter, as an indifferent decision at the front of the church. Great issues are at stake; eternal matters will be resolved right here as Christ personally meets Jacob.
God will bless and use Jacob; but it will be a conquered, subdued, and surrendered Jacob.
v. 25. 'When he saw that he prevailed not against Jacob, he touched his thigh and crippled him.' There is no question but that the Lord could have easily subdued Jacob. The conflict was ordered by God, and the outcome is not in doubt. But God's people are not puppets nor robots; and through his revelation, trials, and dealings with them, they must see, feel, and experience the frailty of flesh, the emptiness of this world, the glory of God in Christ, and desire above all things his salvation and his presence. Finally, the Lord struck a crippling blow and Jacob went down.
v. 26. He had touched Jacob and would leave; but Jacob held on, crying for the Lord's blessing and power. 'I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.' He had had an unusual revelation, he had wrestled with God, he had been wounded; but the battle is not over for Jacob until he is assured of the Lord's permanent blessing upon him and his peace within him. This was life or death for Jacob--a battle that would not be fought again. He had heard promises of God's blessings; now he wanted them in truth. He was still Jacob, his past clouded with sin. He was a wanderer in a strange country and must still face Esau, his angry brother. He knew he was no better off for this experience unless the Lord gave him his approval, acceptance, and presence.
vv. 27-28. Our Lord asked, 'What is your name?'' He said, 'Jacob,' cheat, supplanter, deceiver, holder of the birthright by human effort. He had laid claim to the blessing by his mother's and his decision and deception; now he wanted the blessing from God by God's will and purpose! The Lord changed his name to Israel, a prince who has power (acceptance, union, and sonship) with God. This position is not one achieved by merit, works, nor human will but by his grace (John 1:11-13; Rom. 9:15-16; Eph. 1:3-7).
v. 29. Jacob asked, 'What is your name?' The Lord replied, do you ask my name?' We can only speculate, but ...
1. Human curiosity has a way of prying into things God has not volunteered.
2. Perhaps Jacob looked for proof and signs. Is not his word enough?
3. Maybe there was a little pride and ambition to be on a first-name basis with God.
One thing is certain--Jacob will not be carried beyond the bounds of faith prescribed for the age in which he lived. We believe God as he has been pleased to reveal himself to us, and true faith demands nothing more.
v. 30. Jacob called the place, 'Peniel,' the face of God; for he said, 'I have seen God face to face.'
1. This was no mere emotional experience; he had met Christ.
2. No soul-winner nor preacher told him that he was saved; he had personally encountered the Redeemer himself.
3. He knew that his life was preserved by the will and act of God, who could have justly destroyed him (Rom. 8:33-34). I met God and came away preserved--what a small matter it is now to meet Esau!