Perhaps this has been a year of struggle. If so, daybreak awaits.
The biblical account of Jacob wrestling with the Angel of God is intriguing. Jacob’s father (Isaac) and grandfather (Abraham) had both encountered God on an epic, yet very personal level. Jacob, on the other hand, knew about God, but had not yet encountered Him. (Many people today find themselves in a similar place.)
Being a “take-matters-into-your-own-hands” kind of person, Jacob had learned and mastered the art of manipulation. He knew what he wanted and did whatever it took to get it. It’s a skill he learned from his mother, actually. In fact, together Jacob and his mother schemed a way to steal both the birthright and the blessing from Jacob’s brother, Esau – a task that required premeditative thought and a willingness to blatantly lie to his blind father about his identity.
Of course, he was then forced to abruptly flee for his life. Ironically he ended up working for a family member who was a worse con-man than himself. Laban got 14 years of labor out of Jacob, while Jacob received two wives and several doses of his own medicine.
Eventually Jacob’s past – specifically his brother, Esau – caught up with him. Jacob stood on the eve of his reunion with Esau, wondering if he would come out of it alive or not. (Family reunions can be brutal.) Sending his wives, children, and servants in separate directions, Jacob was left alone.
Then God showed up.
The account in Genesis describes a Man. The prophet Hosea later specifies Him as an Angel. Many theologians believe this to be a pre-incarnate Jesus appearing to Jacob. Whether it was God Himself or not, we know that God was being represented.
What we do know is that a fight broke out. The intense, exhausting struggle lasted all night long.
Genesis 32:22-32 (NKJV)
He took them, sent them over the brook, and sent over what he had. 24 Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. 25 Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him. 26 And He said, “Let Me go, for the day breaks.”
But he said, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!”
27 So He said to him, “What is your name?”
He said, “Jacob.”
28 And He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.”
29 Then Jacob asked, saying, “Tell me Your name, I pray.”
And He said, “Why is it that you ask about My name?” And He blessed him there.
30 So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: “For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.” 31 Just as he crossed over Penuel the sun rose on him, and he limped on his hip. 32 Therefore to this day the children of Israel do not eat the muscle that shrank, which is on the hip socket, because He touched the socket of Jacob’s hip in the muscle that shrank.
Jacob wrestled with God until the breaking of day. I’m captivated by that phrase – “the breaking of day.” If it is true that it’s always darkest before the dawn, then it is powerful to realize that the deepest of darkness can be utterly broken by a single ray of light.
Perhaps 2014 has been a year of struggle, a year of wrestling, maybe even a year of darkness; but daybreak awaits.
Although I cannot promise or prophesy an immediate turnaround for you on the last stroke of midnight as we enter the new year, I can declare this promise: if you are willing to wrestle some things out with God, you will experience “the breaking of day.”
The breaking of day comes at the cost of confrontation.
Jacob had to face the fears and sins of his past in order to be set free to his future. Are you willing to allow God to take you back to unhealed, unhealthy areas of your life? It is there that we must face two enemies: shame and condemnation. God wants to break their strongholds on your life, but you must be willing to confront them.
The breaking of day comes at the cost of confession.
As the wrestling match continued through the night, Jacob refused to give in. That is, until the Angel of God asked, “What is your name?” That’s when time seemed to stop.
The last time he had been asked that question, Jacob turned to his own father and lied about his identity, and in doing so confirmed that he truly was a “deceiver and supplanter” as his name implied.
The Angel fixed his eyes on Jacob and awaited his answer. Letting his guard down, Jacob admitted: “I am Jacob (a deceiver).” There is only one way to be set free from the sins and regrets of your past – freedom begins with confession.
There are two primary words the Bible uses to describe “sin” – (1) Transgression refers to the outward act of sin, and (2) Iniquity refers to the inward motivation to sin. Admitting our transgressions is one thing, but wrestling with God forces us to expose the iniquity in our own hearts.
So, why does God bring us to that point of “sorrow of soul” and “humbleness of heart?” Because He wants to set us free. In fact, Isaiah eloquently prophecies of this very promise (Isaiah 53:5), when he wrote of the Messiah: “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities.”
Listen carefully – Jesus was wounded (outward bleeding) for our transgressions (outward acts of sins), and Jesus was bruised (inward bleeding) for our iniquities (inward motivation to sin). Jesus came to set us free, inside and out! And it begins with confession.
The breaking of day comes at the cost of building our character.
After his all-night wrestling match, Jacob limped due to a dislocated hip caused by the Angel. Whether the limp was permanent or temporary, it changed the way he walked. That’s what happens when you wrestle things out with God – He changes the way you walk.
Once you have confronted the demons of your past, confessing your transgression and iniquity to God, then you realize who you were truly created to be. God changed Jacob’s name to Israel, giving him new perspective and promise for life. Jacob literally walked away from this encounter a different man.
Building character is not for the weak, but transformation is worth the pain of change.
At the breaking of day Jacob had a new name.
At the breaking of day Jacob had a new walk.
At the breaking of day Jacob had a new mission.
At the breaking of day Jacob had a new testimony.
No matter your past…
No matter your struggles…
No matter the darkness…