Jacob now has 12 children – 11 sons and 1 daughter and in spite of his flaws God is richly blessing him and we see the promises to Abraham becoming realities even if only in a limited way at this stage. The next part hinges round Jacob’s wealth in terms of livestock which again comes in spite of the rivalry between him and Laban and Jacob’s manipulation of the flocks in ways that are hard to understand from an animal husbandry point of view but not from God’s!
Finally the time for parting comes and Jacob organises a clandestine departure from Paddan Aram with his family and his flocks and herds, the multiplying of which he attributes to God 32.4-13.
This departure from Laban is not without its problems and deceit (yes this trait comes up again) as Rachel hides the household gods she has stolen but finally an accord is reached and a pillar of witness to this is set up and they part company with Laban blessing them and returning home.
It is messy. It has been messy all along and there is now the possibility of yet more mess ahead as Jacob prepares to meet Esau who he cheated out of his birthright some 15-20 years earlier. The details of these preparations are given in chapter 32 which begins with ‘the angels of God meeting him’ continues with his prayer acknowledging God’s faithfulness, confessing his unworthiness, and claiming God’s promises v.9-12 and ends with a hugely significant encounter when he wrestled with God. V.22-31.
Up till this point Jacob’s commitment is still to the God of his fathers but now it becomes personal. He will not ‘let God go unless he blesses him’. Now he is renamed Israel ‘because he has struggled with God and with man and has overcome’. Stunningly it is noted that ‘the man (God) could not overpower him’ so put Jacob’s hip out of joint but still Jacob held on with the plea ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me’
The place was then named Peniel ‘because I saw God face to face and yet my life was spared’
It is salutary to measure our own experience of God against this account. Is he the God of our fathers or OUR God? Have we shown or, more importantly, do we show, the tenacity that Jacob showed in our desire for God? Are we holding on no matter what? Are we experiencing the blessing of God?
All these are ours if we are in Christ for
If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
2 Corinthians 5.17