December 08, 2017

Wrestling Jacob

Genesis 32:22-32

Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.

—  Genesis 32:24

Having stolen his brother’s blessing from their father, Isaac, Jacob left his family and went to live with his uncle Laban (Genesis 27-28). Then, after many years, Jacob returned to reconcile with his brother Esau.

The night before the brothers were to meet, a man came and wrestled with Jacob in a match that ended in a tie. Only after the struggle was over did Jacob learn that he had been wrestling with God, who said to him, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel.”

This new name, Israel, was a symbol of how God was changing Jacob’s life. Jacob would no longer be an ambitious, sly deceiver, but a receiver of blessings who would struggle with God and prevail.

The baby whose birth we celebrate at Christmas had a name that symbolized who he was too. Immanuel means “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). Just as God was with Jacob his entire life, God is with us too, and he has promised: “I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

Like Jacob, we can take great comfort in knowing that God is with us in every step of our journey. And if God is for us, then nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39).

Immanuel, you came from far beyond our reach to be with us and for us. We know that nothing can ever separate us from your love. Abide with us forever. We pray in your name. Amen.

About the author — Thea Leunk

Thea Nyhoff Leunk has been a high school English teacher, a director of Christian education, a pastor of discipleship, and a regional coach for the Christian Reformed Church in North America. She is currently the senior pastor at Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan. Thea has also written courses for teens and young adults on world religions, Christian faith traditions, and science and the Bible. She and her husband have three adult children.

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