Genesis 32:24-32 God exalts those who possess the innocence of children
Genesis 32:24-32 God exalts those who possess the innocence of children
24 Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 25 When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.” But he said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28 He said, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.” 29 Then Jacob asked him and said, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And he blessed him there. 30 So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved.” 31 Now the sun rose upon him just as he crossed over Penuel, and he was limping on his thigh. 32 Therefore, to this day the sons of Israel do not eat the sinew of the hip which is on the socket of the thigh, because he touched the socket of Jacob’s thigh in the sinew of the hip.
As Jacob was about to enter the promised land, he met the heavenly wrestler who came for what was considered unfinished business – Jacob’s supplanting spirit. Jacob has since been living under the guilt of having gotten a holy blessing through unholy means. 20 years on, he will now right the wrong, by ratifying the blessing, this time from God Himself. Jacob, in having his thigh socket dislocated has learned to submit himself to man, and to become innocent like a child. In today’s devotion we learn that God exalts those who possess the innocence of children.
Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.
After making preparations to appease Esau in hopes of averting a catastrophe, Jacob’s inner world remain in a state of dispease and chaos. In a bid to get in touch with his inner world and to “sort things out”, he isolated himself. A man came out of the dark and wrestled with him. The goal of the divine intruder was not to crush Jacob, but to wrestle him into a posture of defeat so that he might acquire a spirit of submission. That explains why Jacob could last until daybreak for we know that it is humanly impossible to even see God and live. The intruder asserted an appropriate amount of pressure giving Jacob a choice to either give up or hang on. The contest of physical strength and prowess was targeted at Jacob’s intractable spirit, who would bow to no man, who was always contending for the last laugh. Uncannily, Jacob’s spirit had become pliable in the process of the struggle. But at the point when Jacob was ready to submit, the intruder dislocated the socket of Jacob’s thigh. The dislocation of the socket of his thigh is a symbol of Jacob’s victory over his fleshly arrogance. Through this experience, Jacob understood that man cannot be blessed by striving with his own strength but only by the strength that comes from God.
Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.
Now that the divine intruder has accomplished the purpose for which He came, He requested to leave so that Jacob could get on with meeting Esau: Let me go, for the dawn is breaking. However, Jacob upon realising that the intruder was more than just human could not pass up on this opportunity to exact a blessing from Him. For all that struggle must not come to nothing! The blessing as it appears has to do with the new name that Jacob was about to inherit. To make the transition more intentional, the man asked Jacob for his name which forced him to own up to his devious past. Jacob means footsteps at the rear which implies one who follows insidiously to assail and to supplant. Jacob would instead be called Israel which means “God strives” with the extended meaning: for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed. Jacob, who has been striving against God and men for selfish reasons, has now been re-oriented to strive alongside with God and with men. This time, not for personal gain but to establish God’s rule so that the earth may be blessed. Until Jacob’s spirit and motives are regenerated, he cannot possess the land. For Jacob’s true struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12). Therefore, having inherited a new name, Israel now stands with the armies of angels. No longer like a fish out of water, for he has inherited a new nature and authority to prevail against the forces of darkness.
So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved.
Jacob’s curiosity of wanting to know the man’s name reveals his earnest desire to know the things of the Spirit. However, the man’s reply, “Why is it that you ask my name?” implies the futility of the question, for to know the Divine is beyond man’s reach at this juncture. For until the revelation of the Son in the flesh, no one can truly know God (John 1:18). Nevertheless, Jacob was convinced that he has seen God face to face. The act of memorialising the event by naming the place Peniel (I have seen God face to face), suggests that a profound and irrevocable change that has taken place, a change that almost costs him his life (yet my life has been preserved). God allowed the wrestling to go on so that Jacob may get a taste of God’s humility. Therefore, having experienced God’s humility, Jacob will learn to submit to others.
Now the sun rose upon him just as he crossed over Penuel, and he was limping on his thigh.
The description of the scene is intentional in that it portrays Jacob’s spiritual journey. The rising sun (the sun rose upon him) and the setting sun (because the sun had set) (see Genesis 28:10) carry hidden spiritual meaning. The setting sun depicts Jacob’s humiliating flight from his homeland. But the sun now rises upon him with hope of a new beginning after years of oppression under Laban and his guilty conscience towards his brother. He has now turned the page and enter into the land, as Israel to possess it.
The physical limp signifies the death of his fleshly nature and the regeneration of his spirit. The marks on Jesus’s resurrection body similarly signifies His death and victory over the fleshly nature of man. With a limp, Israel no longer walks in the instinct and power of the fleshly nature. He now walks in the newness of the spirit motivated by the virtues of the Divine.
Heavenly blessings come from God that need no man’s approval
Jacob sought his father’s approval but was continually sidelined by his brother Esau. Hence, he employed all kinds of trickery to supplant his brother and steal his blessing. The problem with Jacob is not his aspiration (to be heir of the covenant) but his understanding of the source of divine blessings. He sees his father as being the source of blessings rather than God. Jacob’s supplanting ways had him cast away for 20 years. When he returned and met the heavenly wrestler, he seized the opportunity and ratified his blessing, this time from God. Here, Jacob has learned to fix his eyes upon God who is the source of all blessings.
Children seek their father’s approval, workers their manager’s approval, ministers the masses’ approval, and Facebook users the public’s “likings”. We must not look for the approval of men in authority or the masses thinking that they hold our future. But it is God’s approval that will endure for eternity. Believers seek God’s approval by loving Him above all things and to put the interests of others before our own. The psalmist said,
“That those who love Your name may exult in You.
For it is You who blesses the righteous man, O Lord,
You surround him with favor as with a shield.” Psalm 5:11-12
By fixing our eyes upon God and to love Him, He release His favour and exalts us.
God exalts those who possess the innocence of children
Jacob had a supplanting spirit, driven by envy and the desire to for prominence. He could not accept Esau as the bearer of Abraham’s promise, because he could not submit himself to his brother. And because Jacob’s supplanting nature goes against everything that heaven stands for, he is unfit to possess the promised land. For all who are envious, filled with strife, enmity and self-indulgence cannot enter God’s kingdom (see Galatians 5:19-21). Thus, he was cast out of the land. And for the next 20 years he learned integrity and resilience but has not quite shed off his arrogant and self-seeking instincts. The heavenly wrestler came at the right time for what was considered unfinished business – Jacob’s supplanting spirit.
The world exalts those who are beautiful in appearance, and gifted in the natural. But God judges people by their inner virtues and by their propensity towards heavenly things. He builds them up in secret and in due time exalt them to higher positions of authority and work. Jesus taught that the kingdom belongs to those who possess the innocence of little children.
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:1-4
A child instinctively depends on his parents for everything and does not ponder excessively about the future. A child has no penchant for supremacy nor does it harbour a crafty spirit, only a certain trust in the goodness and righteousness of its parents. Hence, the Lord confers greatness upon those who are freed from the preoccupation with their self image. Their faith and identity is rooted in desiring and being like Jesus in doing His will. For such, they have an identity from God which is called the Lord’s righteousness and worth. Such are like mirrors reflecting off the beauty and brilliance of Jesus. Such have nothing of themselves only a desire to be led through constant dependence on God’s provision and vindication.
Therefore, let us seek not to be first among men but in humility promote one another. We may be perceived as the least among all, but we are promised in time to come, “The last shall be first, and the first last.” (Matthew 20:16).
Do you sometimes feel that you have been cast away and unfairly treated by men? Turn your eyes upon Jesus and seek His face. And God will in due time come through for you. David cried out in times of distress… Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice, And be gracious to me and answer me. When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You, “Your face, O Lord, I shall seek.” Psalm 27:7-8. Let the hope of divine vindication fill your heart.
Do you harbour a secret ambition to be richer and more successful than your neighbours? You suppose that in order to stand tall in the crowd, you need to achieve a level of success and prominence in your field. The bible teaches us in all our endeavours to be motivated by love so that we may serve out our fullest potential in order to please Him. Perhaps your motivation needs some work… to live always for the audience of the One (which is Christ).
Dear Lord, I confess that I have been seeking the approval of men. I now turn my eyes upon you and seek your face. I command all feelings of injustice and heaviness to leave. Grant me to understand your thoughts, plans and your desire for my church, career and community. Bless me and make me the heir of your kingdom. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.