Read Genesis 32
Now we find Jacob returning home to Canaan as the Lord had directed him. God has dealt with Jacob for twenty years since he deceived his blind father and took his brother Esau’s birthright. Esau swore to kill him. But before Jacob left the land of promise, Christ met him in a dream where he saw a ladder to heaven at Bethel. The Lord gave him assurance that God’s covenant blessing was indeed his. God promised not leave him. In fact, he would bring him back to back to the land. And now he returns to Canaan at God’s command. He left as one man fleeing for his life; he now returns a wealthy herdsman with two wives and many children. Jacob has a fateful appointment with three people in the next 24 hours: Esau, himselfand Christ. The first is murderously angry. The second he has grown weary of. The third will save him from the first two.
This chapter is rich with Christ. We will see a picture of what Christ’s atonement looks like in the gifts that Jacob sends to Esau to appease his anger. Jacob will see Christ face to face when the Lord comes down to wrestle with him. We will also see Christ, as a type, in Jacob. Jacob won through losing as Christ won the greatest victory ever through losing on the cross.
Read: Genesis 32:9-12
Now he comes to the day of reckoning. He must face his past. He must meet his offended twin. This is a fear that never left him. His appointment is only hours away. When he sends an advance group to his brother, the messengers return with bad news. Esau has 400 men heading his way. Jacob rightly concludes that it is not a welcoming party. His great caravan is too great and too tempting of a target for Jacob, so he splits them in two. If one is caught, perhaps the other can get away. He is driven to a point of utter dependence upon the Lord. His prayer marks that he understands that he is no longer the master of his own destiny. He is a believer in the Lord. In humility, he confesses his own unworthiness. He marvels at God’s grace.
Friends, note that Christ always meets the humble man. In His earthly ministry, the greatest testimonies came from the most humbled of people who could, it seem, go no lower. Luke 18:14 Indeed, God has brought Jacob to the bottom that he might lift him to the top. 1 Peter 5:6
"He that is down needs fear no fall;
He that is low, no pride.
He that is humble ever shall
Have God to be his Guide."
Read Genesis 32:13-21, Romans 5:1-11
The first of three appointments on this dark night is with his vengeful brother. See Christ in Jacob’s actions toward Esau: If Esau is determined to be his enemy; He is determined to be his brother’s friend. If Esau would do him evil, he would do Esau good. Jesus called us to do good to our enemies. (Matthew 5:44) Talk about doing good for enemies: Christ’s greatest act of love toward the human race was the giving of Himself to die the death we deserved so that we could obtain the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21 Remarkably, He did this for us while we were enemies. Romans 5:10
We also see Christ in the gifts sent ahead to Esau: “I will appease him with the present that goes before me.” Vs 20 The word appeaseis the Hebrew word: Kippur. Each year, religious Jews celebrate Yom Kippur which is the holiest day of the year. Yom Kippur means: Day of Atonement. Atonement means to cover. The gifts from the herd that Jacob sends ahead are incredibly generous. He was looking to cover his previous injury to Esau and dismiss his anger. If Esau would receive the magnificent gift, there might be reconciliation. This is what Christ did for us. We cannot earn God’s favor but Christ did earn it for us. We have sinned against God and there is a righteous anger to answer to. Only the sacrifice of Christ could vindicate God’s holiness, cover our sins and reconcile us to God.
The greatest gift is Christ and He goes before us to satisfy legitimate wrath.
There is indeed a favorable reconciliation for Jacob with Esau. His sin was covered. Genesis 33:4
Read Genesis 32: 24-32
As Jacob waited alone in the night, he became aware of an advancing stranger. This figure grappled with him. Jacob had struggled with his brother in the womb and now he struggles with the Lord himself. The Lord is showing him that the one he must fear isn’t Esau, but God. Christ has a work to do in Jacob’s life—to make him into a new person.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
The Lord asks Jacob a strange question, “What is your name?” Isn’t that odd? If he is God, he should know his name. But God has asked such strange questions before. He asked Adam, “Where are you?” If God is God, He should know where Adam is. He puts such an obvious question to Adam as he did with Jacob, to make him think about his life and to make him face truth.
Jacob’s name means schemer. God used Laban, for twenty years, to show Jacob what it feels like to be schemed. The Holy Spirit will show us our sin in such a way as to tire us of ourselves, to shame us, and as Jesus put it:
“To convict us of sin, righteousness and judgment.” (John 16:8) Conviction is the first stage of conversion.
When Jacob boldly answers “I am Jacob”, he is saying: “I am a schemer. I am a sinner.” Who will confess such a thing? God will change the name of such a man!
Jacob’s three appointments that night included a meeting with himself, his real self. Not the self that others thought him to be, but the true self that God knew him to be. That sinful self is never a pretty picture. Self must be weakened in the flesh and overcome through a showdown with God. Who we are must become who we were. Self must lose so that we can win. Jacob is through with self. Jacob’s name would be changed but only after the blessing of winning through losing.
“For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:25, NKJV)
To be usable to God, he must wrench a man’s strength. He must violently twist his pride and dislocate the man from his confidence in the flesh. God must injure a man and reveal his weakness permanently to bring him to a place of meekness and total dependence upon God who is Almighty. A man rendered thus is usable exceedingly beyond his previous ability.
Read Genesis 32:24-32
Jacob’s meets with Christ in this all night wrestling match. He is the Angel of the Lord, the mysterious figure in whom God himself is present. He could have simply touched Jacob with a finger of judgment and it would have been all over. But that was not His purpose. His purpose was to give himself to the grasp that held on for the promise.
The Lord restrains his power, and his judgment, to hear this cry of faith:
“And He said, “Let Me go, for the day breaks.” But he said, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!”” (Genesis 32:26, NKJV)
It has been said that the violent take hold of the kingdom. Matthew 11:12 Jacob, though weakened by his hip displacement, held violently for a blessing. Did not the woman with the issue of blood have such a forceful spirit of prayer? “If I just touch the hem of his garment.” And blind Bartimaeus, though rebuked by disciples to be quiet, he could not be silenced: “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me!” The Syro-phoenician woman begged for her daughter to be healed: “but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” She wouldn’t take no for an answer. Jesus’ meeting with all of these people contains an essence of Jacob’s forceful faith and the Lord’s life-changing grace. Jacob certainly did not pin his opponent; his win was hardly a wrestler’s victory. He won when he was helpless; he had power with God when his power was gone. The Lord must wrestle the Jacob out of Jacob so that he can forever change him.
"It takes twenty years to empty a man and in one moment, He can fill him.”
E. M. Bounds