This past week, as I was reading through Genesis, I came across the passage where Jacob wrestled with God. I always had difficulty understanding that passage. After looking at it this go round, I think I am beginning to grasp the passage.
Gen. 32:24=> And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. v.26-28=> And he said let me go for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and has prevailed. v.30 And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel for I have seen God fact to face, and my life is preserved.
So why would a man wrestle with an angel (or God). The passage seems to point to the question directed to Jacob, "What is thy name?" This is followed by the response "Thy name shall be called . . . Israel." At that point, Jacob received his blessing.
Prior to this, Jacob carried the burden of his name. The name Jacob was associated with deceit. Jacob, the younger brother, used deceit (with the help of his mother) to take Esau's blessing. To escape his brother's desire to commit fratricide, Jacob fled to Haran where his Uncle Laban lived. After giving Laban years of labor, Laban managed to deceive Jacob to get him the marry his eldest daughter Leah. Jacob the Esau's younger brother actually was in love with Leah's younger sister, Rachel. Before taking his leave of Uncle Laban, Jacob engages in further deception to acquire goats and sheep (of course Uncle Laban also did not have clean hands).
After Laban stood down from his confrontation with Jacob, Jacob stops at a point, where he knows he will soon confront his older brother Esau. Although many years have passed, Jacob believe that Esau still wanted to murder him. At that point, in the middle of the night, Jacob wrestles with God and says, I won't let go until you bless me. After years of deceit, Jacob, now Israel, has decided to do things the right way. He cannot acquire a true blessing by deceiving his father and brother. Instead, he turned to God for his blessing. As a result, God gave him a new name. He no longer was known as a deceiver, but as a prince of God.
The message here seems to be where are you going for your blessing. Are you seeking the things of the world. Are you relying on your own understanding. God is calling us to put away deceit and start living like one of his Children. Significantly, Jacob named the place Peniel, which a footnote in my Bible says means "champion of God."