Reposted from Joel Townsend
Some might say Jacob had overstayed his welcome in Haran. He’d served his father-in-law, Laban, twenty years, including fourteen years for Laban’s daughters and six years for his flocks, (Genesis 31:41). Laban had changed his wages ten times. Each time Laban rewrote the rules, God blessed Jacob and turned the adversity to Jacob’s advantage. It was embarrassing; the wealth Laban’s family had accumulated over generations, flowed steadily to Jacob. Laban’s herds diminished, while Jacob’s flocks increased. Laban’s sons were not pleased; Jacob knew an invitation to leave when he saw it.
Jacob fled Haran with his wives, children, and flocks. He snuck away while his father-in-law was shearing in another city. We might be tempted to think of him as a young, impetuous man; but Jacob was by no means young. Rachel bore Joseph before the family’s flight from Haran and Joseph is identified later as the son of his old age, (Genesis 37:3). Scholars place Jacob in his late seventies or older, as he returned to his father in Hebron.
An Incomplete Life
As you no doubt know, Jacob was the second-born of fraternal twins. He and his brother, Esau, struggled together within Rebekah’s womb. Due to the contentious birth, he was named, Jacob, meaning, “heel-grabber” or “supplanter,” (Genesis 25:26). Without apology, he tempts his brother, Esau, into surrendering the “birthright” for a bowl of soup. Without shame, Jacob deceives his aged, blind father into bestowing the paternal blessing on him, rather than the rightful owner, his brother Esau. Though Jacob possesses God’s blessing, he is, by nature, a grabber.
Jacob lives without apology. He has known only wealth and blessing. On his return from Haran to Canaan, his thoughts toward his brother, Esau, are not remorseful or repentant. To the contrary, Jacob is motivated solely by fear.
“Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed; and he divided the people who were with him, and the flocks and the herds and the camels, into two companies; for he said, ‘If Esau comes to the one company and attacks it, then the company which is left will escape.’ ” (Genesis 32:7-8 NASB).
Jacob is alone. He has sent his wives, maids, and children ahead across the stream named, Jabbok. Jacob has left tainted relationships behind him in Haran. His worst fears are before him, as Esau closes with four hundred men. Jacob worries to lose his possessions; he fears for his life. Hebrews 11 lists Jacob as one of the heroes of the faith. At this moment, Jacob is not feeling very heroic.
Jacob’s Hip… A Reminder to Walk Differently
Isn’t it amazing how God meets us as we look down from the ledges of our fears into the disastrous possibilities of our imaginations? Until this point in his life, Jacob has received God’s blessings like a child tearing a gift from the hands of the giver. Now, he wishes he’d spent more time getting to know his benefactor.
“Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him. Then he said, ‘Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.’ But he said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’ So he said to him, ‘What is your name?’ And he said, “Jacob.’ ‘He said, ‘Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.’ ” (Genesis 32:24-28 NASB).
God confronts this slippery, elusive, deceiver called Jacob. When asked his identity, Jacob must confess that, by name, he is a “Heel Grabber.” In exchange, Jacob receives a blessing, a new name, and a dislocated hip. As many have pointed out, both spiritually and physically, Jacob’s hip reminds him to walk differently from this day forward. God expects that Jacob will receive His blessings with humility and grace. Jacob becomes the man God intended, and we remember him with these words in Hebrews.
“By faith Jacob, as he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff.” (Hebrews 11:21 NASB).
Why was Jacob leaning on his staff? His hip still hurt.