Our spiritual strength comes from our surrender to God.

Along the path of Christian growth, sometimes we can feel like we’re stuck in a traffic jam on a one-lane highway. The pace slows sometimes with trials and afflictions, and other times it speeds up. The Lord determines the pace.

As Genesis 32 begins, Jacob’s pace is picking up. He’s reminded that divine help always goes with him along the way. Likewise, Christians have angelic forces that minister to us, always working to help us be more like Christ.

Retroaction (verses 1-12)

The first thing Jacob wants to do when God tells him to return home is mend his broken relationship with his brother Esau. He can’t move forward without first taking a look back. In his messages to Esau, Jacob calls him “lord” and calls himself “servant,” acknowledging that he was wrong years ago to usurp Esau’s place as the firstborn.

We should never move so quickly that we leave behind those we’ve hurt. We must look for opportunity to minister to them with the same grace that we’ve received.

Jacob is able to trust in the protection of God by understanding the love and promises of God. He rehearses these in prayer in verses 9-12. Jacob knew nothing would stop God’s plans for him and his family.

Progression (verses 13-23)

Seeking reconciliation doesn’t stop Jacob from continuing to move forward. He acts practically and makes a plan to protect his family. Jacob shows a noble effort to reconcile even though he’s still not sure how Esau will respond.

It’s easy to see that Jacob’s habits have changed, evidencing that he is a saved man. He’s no longer a taker but a giver, offering Esau reconciliation and wealthy gifts. Everything changes when grace operates in a heart: we begin to love our enemies, seek others’ good instead of self-promoting, and change from stingy to benevolent.

Introspection (verses 24-32)

Finally, Jacob is left alone, trusting God to protect him. It’s at these times that character is tested. In the process of normal Christian growth, God puts us in situations to test our character. Jacob was tested with a physical wrestling match. He didn’t know who he was wrestling with – it could have been Esau’s henchman trying to take his life. In fact, it was the angel of the Lord, Jesus Christ himself in pre-incarnate form. Jacob immediately recognizes he’s been wrestling with God when his hip is dislocated with a single touch.

Jacob learns that he has been striving to do the right thing in his own strength. No matter how noble, his efforts are overcome by God’s plan. Victory is never won until we quit trying to do things in our own strength.

Jacob gives up his striving and receives a new name – Israel, meaning “one who struggles (or contends) along with God.” When we work along with God in His power, we grow in relation to Him and in our responses to others. How do we access God’s strength? By spending time in His Word and in prayer.

Application Points

  • Is there someone you’ve hurt in the past? What steps can you take to pursue reconciliation with that person? Whether they respond or not, do what you can to restore peace.
  • Time for a look back: What things about you have changed since you were saved? Thank the Lord for His grace, and keep moving forward!
  • If you’re getting weary in doing good, it’s probably because you’re trying to do it in your own strength. Do you need to re-establish a daily time with God in His Word and prayer? This is where to find the power you need to grow.

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore:
  • Galatians 6:9-10 – Don’t lose heart in doing good.
A Hymn to Encourage: “I’d Rather Have Jesus”

I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold;
I’d rather be His than have riches untold;
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands;
I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hand

Than to be the king of a vast domain
Or be held in sin’s dread sway;
I’d rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today.

I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause;
I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause;
I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame;
I’d rather be true to His holy name

He’s fairer than lilies of rarest bloom;
He’s sweeter than honey from out the comb;
He’s all that my hungering spirit needs;
I’d rather have Jesus and let Him lead