The reason behind Jacob‘s wrestling with an angel of God is just one of the many mysterious ways in which God works. He works in unconventional ways and in ways we often do not expect. Who was this angel, and why did Jacob have to fight this holy being? Jacob’s story is found in the book of Genesis and foreshadows Jacob’s calling the nation of Israel. Jacob not only is given the blessing of first fruits, but he is also given a new name. The Lord is most willing to call each of us in unique ways so that we can also receive blessings, and like Jacob sometimes we do struggle.
Messengers or angels are often sent by God as an answer to prayer or when we need guidance. The angel sent to Jacob is disguised as a man who appeared at the banks of a river to have a conflict with Jacob. Jacob was going through some spiritual turmoil. There must have been some common trait found in both the man and Jacob. The angel could have appeared with wings, but it really does not matter. Jacob was physically touched by the angel who took human form just as Christ took human form. Could the angel have been Jesus? According to the Gospel of John, ” The Word” is Jesus and “The Word” existed with God, and was the same as God. Jacob does remark that he saw God face to face.
Jacob’s plan will later influence the nation of Israel giving us Jesus the Messiah. The communication between God and Jacob is truly personal, but becomes shared because Jacob’s ordeal is really a message for everyone. God wants Jacob to be deserving of blessings, and he also wants us to be worthy. This is why we must not give up in our struggles against sin and temptation. We may not wrestle outwardly, but we wrestle inwardly. We need to realize that God himself will help us.
What God did for Jacob was to prepare him to be father of a nation and give him a special name. I believe that God does give us a new name and he calls us by that name. When daybreak approaches Jacob realizes that he is not fighting an ordinary being and then ask the man to bless him. When Jacob tells the being his name, the angel changes it from Jacob to Israel. The angel tells him he will be called Israel because he struggles with God and men. Genesis 32, 22-31. The man is revealed to be “the angel of the Lord” and Jacob names the place Peniel which means I have seen God face to face.
By Illustrators of the 1897 Bible Pictures and What They Teach Us by Charles Foster [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons Illustration from the 1897 Bible Pictures and What They Teach Us: Containing 400 Illustrations from the Old and New Testaments: With brief descriptions by Charles Foster
Jacob’s ability to wrestle with the man all night is a superhuman act and not a typical wrestling match. Jacob did not die from the struggle but because he overcame his inner conflicts his life is spared. Because Jacob was willing to fight, God transferred Jacob’s superior characteristic spirit and made it personify Israel and all those who follow God through Jesus Christ. The nation of Israel has always endured conflict and this is why God gave Jacob a new name. One day the messianic king will return.
Struggling with our life and situations is not a sign that God is punishing us, but our conflicts and the way we handle them should involve a refining process. This is how Jacob is found worthy. Our struggles help make us receptive to our higher calling. Just like God knew Jacob, he knows all of us. Jacob had to fight this angel in order to show his worthiness. He was not just trying to win, but in this struggle Jacob is defeating his fears and repairing his flaws. God has to get Jacob’s attention, and he does so by an outward struggle. In order to past the time men often wrestled or played combative sports. This kept them physically fit.
God understands our thought processes, and he does not change, because one that is perfected does not need to change. God’s ways are the same, but he relates differently to each of us on a more personal level. Even though we struggle with internal conflicts or everyday concerns, God is there helping us and giving victories when we call to him. Blessings even happen when we thank him, and even when we are unaware, some stranger will help you, but don’t be surprise if it is an angel.