Among the adjectives we have used to describe Jacob, we can now add two more to the list.
First, he finally achieved ultimate humility. It is no small thing that the same man who hatched various schemes to achieve wealth only to lose it all and have to fight for it now attaches that success to God and not his own planning. As Jacob says,
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.
– Genesis 32:10
For what it’s worth, Jacob finally matured and is now practically an example of what it means to follow God. However, his humility does not define him completely. God makes us all unique. We each have differing skills, strengths and personality. God designed us and we must assume that his purpose in doing so was to use our individuality for his glory.
So it is amidst this truth that we find another adjective to describe Jacob…scrappy. Jacob is a fighter. He doesn’t even know how to spell the word ‘quit’ let alone have any personal acquaintance with its nature. He served 7 years in the house of his father in law so he could marry Rachel, and when Laban cheated on it, he served another 7. He will not quit if he feels passionately about something and he was certainly passionate about Rachel. When I say that Jacob won’t quit, I’m not saying that he merely gets up after each hit. He actually gets up and has a plan in place that he immediately executes each time.
It’s true that Jacob sometimes receives direct word from God about what he should do. It’s also true that many (if not most) times we should wait on God to reveal a plan to us. However there are some times, as was the case with Peter, where God’s call to faith requires us to simply get out of the boat and start walking on the water. Do you understand the metaphor of walking on water? Have you ever tried to actually do it? It’s somewhat unstable isn’t it? At best, we would be completely unsure of our footing if we were ever asked by Jesus to walk on water. In those moments the only thing that we know is where Jesus is. Our eyes have to be fixed on him, because if we were to look at the path that we were on, we’d freak out. The sight of him is the only way that any of it could possibly make sense.
Jacob only knows that God has made a covenant with him. He prays and asks God to honor that covenant. In a sense, Jacob is not asking, but rather confirming with God that because of that covenant he will continue walking forward even though the path in front of him (concerning Esau) seems sure to end in death. You see, he could have gone somewhere else and settled down. He could have avoided his brother forever. But Jacob knew that he must inhabit the land of his forefathers, because that’s what God told him to do.
I like to think that the wrestling match at the end of the chapter is more about God reminding Jacob of his strength rather than testing his resolve. I don’t think that God actually needed that fight to understand Jacob’s capacity. Rather, perhaps during a night when Jacob was unsure of himself, God reminded Jacob that he still had a lot of fight left in him. It worked too, as Jacob, who only a day earlier was humbly asking God to simply honor a covenant he already made, was now asking boldly asking God to bless him. The humility was still there, as Jacob acknowledges that his life was spared and not that he won the fight (v. 30). But there is strength as well. Jacob has been restored and reminded of who he truly is. The guy who never gives up. It’s part of Jacob’s design that God will continue to use for his purposes.
We can take a lot from this story and it will reach each of us on different levels because we’re all made different. We need not be afraid of our personality as God has a plan for that. God is also made strong in areas that we are weak. We shouldn’t focus on what we lack, but rather focus on this truth…whatever God’s purpose is for our lives, God designed us specifically for it.