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A Fight in the Night

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Jacob’s Trip Toward Trust, Part Two

Authored by Jewel Roque

When we left Jacob in the last podcast, he was on his way to his uncle’s house, after having created a bit of havoc in his own. He discovered that God was with him, but he still wasn’t sure he wanted to commit to trusting God with his life and plans.

He arrived and was welcomed with open arms. But he soon discovered that living in his uncle’s household wasn’t all peaches and cream. After he had worked for uncle Laban for a month, Laban said, “Tell me what your wages should be.”1

Jacob knew what he wanted; he probably had it figured out from the first day he arrived in Paddan Aram: Laban’s younger daughter, Rachel, who “had a lovely figure and was beautiful.”2 It was agreed that he would work for Laban for seven years, and then he’d earn the liberty to marry her. He was happy to work under this agreement and time passed quickly.

But the morning after his greatly anticipated wedding night, he realized that he had been tricked. Laban had wedded him to his older daughter, Leah. “That’s the way we do things here,” Laban explained. “I can’t marry off my younger daughter before the older one.”3

After committing to work for his uncle for another seven years, he was finally able to marry Rachel. After those next seven years, he was ready to leave with his wives and children. Maybe he’d had enough of his uncle by then, and of course, he probably wanted to move out on his own.

But Laban asked him to stay, saying, “I have learned by divination that the LORD has blessed me because of you.”4 I guess Laban didn’t want to let go of his goose with the golden eggs, so again he promised Jacob whatever wages he wanted, in order to keep him there.

Jacob asked for only the spotted, speckled, or dark-colored sheep and goats. And over the next six years his flock grew greater and stronger than Laban’s flock.5

Finally, Jacob began to notice that Laban’s sons were complaining about him: “Jacob has taken everything our father owned and has gained all this wealth from what belonged to our father.”6 Even Laban himself wasn’t treating him the same as he had before. So Jacob decided to make a run for it—with his family and flocks, of course.

Once Laban learned that Jacob had taken off, he pursued him for a week. But when he was about to catch up with his daughters and son-in-law, God told him in a dream, “Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.”7

Laban overtook them the next day, asking, “Why did you run off secretly and deceive me? Why didn’t you tell me, so I could send you away with joy and singing to the music of timbrels and harps? You didn’t even let me kiss my grandchildren and my daughters goodbye.”8

He tells Jacob, “I have the power to harm you; but last night the God of your father said to me, ‘Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.’”9

Jacob finally vents all the grievances he’s been adding up in his mind: “I have been with you for twenty years now. … I did not bring you animals torn by wild beasts; I bore the loss myself. And you demanded payment from me for whatever was stolen by day or night. The heat consumed me in the daytime and the cold at night, and sleep fled from my eyes. I worked for you fourteen years for your two daughters and six years for your flocks, and you changed my wages ten times.”10

Then he adds, “If God … had not been with me, you would surely have sent me away empty-handed.”11

Laban suggests, then, that they make a covenant of peace. He kisses his daughters and grandchildren goodbye and returns home.

Finally, with all that behind him, Jacob can now look forward to returning home.

He can almost picture the look on his father’s face. His joy in having him home again.

But what of his brother?

Esau had vowed to kill him and clearly wanted him dead. Was he still angry? Had the two decades done anything to assuage his promise of vengeance? Or would his returning with his wives and children only mean a mass slaughter, with his flocks and herds ending up in his brother’s hands?

Suddenly, the future had never looked so uncertain, especially when he sends word to Esau that he is returning, and hears that Esau is coming to meet him … with 400 men!

Jacob prays:

“O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, LORD, you who said to me, ‘Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper,’ I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two camps. Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children. But you have said, ‘I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.’”12

He reminds God of the promises He had made; but, fearing that those promises just might not be enough, he makes plans. He prepares a gift for his brother, Esau: 220 goats, 220 sheep, 30 female camels with their young, 50 cows, and 30 donkeys. Jacob sends these flocks, with their caretakers, in the direction of his quickly approaching brother, hoping that perhaps these gifts will be enough to please Esau and keep him from doing them harm.

Then Jacob sends his wives and sons and all his belongings across the stream of Jabbok. Now he’s alone, fearful, and realizes that there is nothing more he can do to plan and prepare and work things out.

He begins to wrestle with God once more, and this time, it wasn’t just in prayer.

The Bible tells us, “… a man wrestled with him until daybreak.”13

It wasn’t just a man. And Jacob refuses to let go. Even when his hip is wrenched out of its socket, he holds on tightly.

The figure commands, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”

Jacob’s answer? “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”14

Twenty years earlier, Jacob received the blessing he had so long sought … through deception and lies.

This time, he received the blessing he sought through holding on until morning, through wrestling past the point of exhaustion, through refusing to let go.

Jacob not only received the blessing, but his name was changed to Israel—“a prince of God.”15 But it wasn’t an easy victory, and Jacob limped for the rest of his life. That night I believe Jacob learned something more important than anything he had experienced so far.

For so long, his life had been about calculating his next move, making decisions that would position him to come out on top. But this time, it could no longer be about planning ahead and figuring it all out. It had to be about clinging, holding on, even wrestling—not with man, but with God—and coming to realize that there’s only one way to win a decisive victory.

That is through the power and blessings of God, which come only in His time and in His way. There’s no way of knowing for sure Jacob’s mindset that night. One thing for sure, his life was never the same again. Perhaps that dislocated hip served as a reminder, for the rest of his life, of that strange and mysterious night. And no doubt it was another step on the road to complete trust and faith in the God who always kept His promise to be with him every step of the way.

I might not think I am a calculating individual, driven by my own plans. But I do have—and would venture to say we all do to some extent—that part in my nature that wants to have it all figured out. I want to be assured somehow that everything is going to work out for my good and my benefit. That I’ll have the family, the lands, the “flocks,” the blessings, my future all set in stone.

However, God doesn’t work that way. When I think I have it all perfectly figured out, my assurance soon gives way to the realization that I’m heading into something darker and more frightening than I have ever known.

Still I try to plan and strategize.

Finally when I’m left alone with nothing but fears and what-ifs, God appears. So I run toward Him, vowing that He’s going to see reason, if it takes me “all night” to convince Him. And it’s only when my strength wanes and my arguments prove vain, at the dawning of a new morning, that I finally begin to realize what He has been trying to show me all along.

It’s not my plans that will come to fruition. It’s not my dreams that will glide beautifully across a golden sea. It’s not my strategies that will win the victory. It’s not me at all.

It’s Him—the one whose promise never falters, no matter how grave the circumstances might appear to be. When He says, “Wherever you go, I will watch over you. I won’t leave you—I will do all I have promised,”16 rather than trying to test Him, it would do good to just trust, believe, and hold on for the blessing.

Because it is coming. He promised.

And God’s eternal promises are better than my own plans any day.


Footnotes
1 Genesis 29:15 NIV
2 Genesis 29:17 NIV
3 Paraphrased from Genesis 29:26
4 Genesis 30:27 NIV
5 Genesis 30:37–43
6 Genesis 31:1 NIV
7 Genesis 31:24 NIV
8 Genesis 31:27–28 NIV
9 Genesis 31:29 NIV
10 Genesis 31:38–41 NIV
11 Genesis 31:42
12 Genesis 32:9–12 NIV
13 Genesis 32:24 NIV
14 Genesis 32:26 NIV
15 Genesis 32:28 NIV
16 Genesis 28:15 NIV

Read by Amber Larriva. Music by sindustry(CC). Copyright© 2013 by The Family International


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