1. JACOB’S ONLY HOPE
a. How did Jacob feel upon hearing that Esau was coming with 400 men—and in utter despair, what only could he do? Genesis 32:7 (first part), 9–12.
“The sinful course which Jacob had pursued in deceiving his father was ever before him. He knew that his long exile was the result of his own deviation from strict integrity, the law of right. He pondered over these things day and night, his conscience accusing him, and making his journey very sad. How he longed to again go over the ground where he had stumbled and brought the stain of sin upon his soul. Before his transgression he had a sense of God’s approval which made him brave under difficulties, and cheerful amid trouble and gloom. To this deep, abiding peace, he had long been a stranger. Yet he remembered with gratitude the favor which God had shown him, the vision of the shining ladder, and the promises of help and guidance. In solemn review of the mistakes and errors of his life, and the dealings of God with him, he humbly acknowledged his own unworthiness, the great mercy of God, and the prosperity which had crowned his labors.
“As the hills of his native land appeared before him in the distance, the heart of the patriarch was deeply stirred. He had proved his God, and found His promises unfailing; he believed that God would be with him; yet as he drew near to Edom he had many fears of Esau.”—The Signs of the Times, November 20, 1879.
2. IN SOLITUDE WITH THE SAVIOUR
a. What wise, tactful plan did Jacob decide to implement? Genesis 32:13–21.
“Jacob halted in his journey to mature plans for appeasing the wrath of his brother. He would not rush recklessly into danger, but sent large presents to Esau by the hands of his servants, with a message well calculated to make a favorable impression. He sent his wives and children, with all his substance forward on the journey, while he himself remained behind. He thought the sight of that helpless little company would touch the feelings of Esau, who, though bold and revengeful, was yet pitiful and tender toward the weak and unprotected. If his eye rested first upon Jacob, his rage might be excited, and they would all perish.”—The Signs of the Times, November 20, 1879.
b. Explain Jacob’s priority at this moment. Genesis 32:22–24 (first part).
“Jacob wished to be alone with his God. It was midnight. All that made life dear to him was at a distance, exposed to danger and death. The bitterest drop in his cup of anguish was the thought that his own sin had brought this great peril upon his wives and children, who were innocent of the sin of which he was guilty. He had decided to spend the night in humiliation and prayer. God could soften the heart of his brother. God was his only refuge and strength. In a desolate place, infested by robbers and murderers, he bowed in deep distress upon the earth; his soul was rent with anguish, and with earnest cries mingled with tears he made his prayer before God.”—Ibid.
c. How was Jacob’s fervent prayer to be an example for generations to come? Psalm 46:1–3, 7.
“Jacob prevailed because he was persevering and determined. His experience testifies to the power of importunate prayer. It is now that we are to learn this lesson of prevailing prayer, of unyielding faith.”—Colporteur Ministry, p. 81.
3. THE NIGHT OF WRESTLING
a. What suddenly happened as Jacob prayed—and why is it significant to us? Genesis 32:24–26.
“Strong hands are suddenly laid upon [Jacob’s] shoulders. He immediately grapples his assailant, for he feels that this attack is a design upon his life; that he is in the hands of a robber or murderer. The contest is severe; neither utters a word; but Jacob puts forth all his strength, and does not relax his efforts for a moment. Thus the struggle continued, until near the break of day, when the stranger placed his finger upon Jacob’s thigh, and he was crippled instantly. The patriarch now discerns the character of his antagonist. He knows that he has been in bodily conflict with a heavenly messenger, and this is why his almost superhuman efforts did not gain for him the victory. He is now disabled and suffering keenest pain, but he will not loosen his hold. He falls, a conquered foe, all penitent and broken, upon the neck of the angel.
“In the inspired history of this event, the one who wrestled with Jacob is called a man; Hosea calls him the angel [Hosea 12:4]; while Jacob said, ‘I have seen God face to face.’ He is also said to have had power with God. It was the Majesty of Heaven, the Angel of the covenant, that came, in the form and appearance of a man, to Jacob. The divine messenger uses some force to release Himself from the grasp of Jacob; He pleads with him, ‘Let me go, for the day breaketh.’ But Jacob had been pleading the promises of God; he had been trusting His pledged word, which is as sure and unfailing as His throne; and now, through humiliation, repentance, and self-surrender, this sinful, erring mortal, can make terms with Jesus Christ: ‘I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.’ What boldness is here manifested! What lofty faith, what perseverance and holy trust! Was this presumption and undue familiarity on the part of Jacob? Had it been of this character he would not have lived through the scene. His was not a self-exalted, boastful, presumptuous claim, but the assurance of one who realizes his weakness and unworthiness and the ability of God to fulfill His promise.”—The Signs of the Times, November 20, 1879.
b. How does Jesus bid us to persevere in prayer as Jacob did? Luke 18:1–8.
4. THE MERCY OF THE ALMIGHTY
a. Why would the mighty Angel of the covenant not prevail against a mere man? Job 23:6; Luke 11:13.
“ ‘And when he saw that he prevailed not against him’ [Genesis 32:25]—the Majesty of Heaven prevailed not against a man of dust, a sinful mortal! The reason is, that man has fastened the trembling hand of faith upon the promise of God, and the divine, messenger cannot leave him who is hanging repentant, weeping, helpless upon His neck. His great heart of love cannot turn away from the suppliant without granting his request. Christ did not wish to leave him unblest when his soul was shrouded with despair.”—The Signs of the Times, November 20, 1879.
“[Jacob] had fastened his trembling grasp upon the promises of God, and the heart of Infinite Love could not turn away the sinner’s plea.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 197.
b. Explain the result of Jacob’s struggle and why his name was changed. Genesis 32:27–32.
“The mistake which had led to Jacob’s sin in obtaining the birthright by fraud was now open before him. He had not trusted God and His promises as he should have done. He had become impatient, and had sought by his own efforts to bring about that which God was abundantly able to perform in His own time and way.
“The angel inquired of Jacob, ‘What is thy name?’ And when Jacob answered, He said, ‘Thy name shall be called no more Jacob [the supplanter], but Israel; for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed’ [Genesis 32:28]. Jacob received the blessing for which his soul had longed; his sin as a supplanter and deceiver was pardoned. The crisis in his life had passed. God shows, in His dealing with Jacob, that He will not sanction the least wrong in any of His children; neither will He cast off and leave to despair and destruction those who are deceived and tempted and betrayed into sin. Doubt, perplexity, and remorse had embittered Jacob’s life; but now all was changed, and how sweet was the rest and peace in God, in the assurance of His restored favor.”—Historical Sketches, pp. 131, 132.
5. THE OTHER ANGEL’S MISSION
a. What happened when Jacob and Esau met—and why? Genesis 33:1–4.
“While Jacob was wrestling with the angel on that eventful night, another angel, one of the host which the patriarch had seen guarding him in the way, was sent to move upon the heart of Esau in his sleeping hours. In his dream he saw his brother an exile from his father’s house for twenty years through fear of his anger; he witnessed his sorrow to find his mother dead; and he beheld him encompassed with the hosts of God. Esau related this dream to his four hundred armed men, and charged them not to injure Jacob, for the God of his father was with him. . . .
“Supported by his staff the patriarch went forward to meet that band of warriors, bowing himself repeatedly to the ground as a token of respect, while his little retinue awaited the issue with the deepest anxiety. They saw the arms of Esau thrown about the neck of Jacob, pressing to his bosom him whom he had so long threatened with direst vengeance. Revenge is now changed to tender affection, and he who once thirsted for his brother’s blood shed tears of joy, his heart melted with the softest endearments of love and tenderness. The soldiers in Esau’s army saw the result of that night of weeping and of prayer; but they knew nothing of the conflict and the victory. They understood the feelings of the patriarch, the husband and father, for his family and his possessions; but they could not see the connection that he had with God, which had gained the heart of Esau from Him who has all hearts in His hand.”—The Signs of the Times, November 20, 1879.
b. How did the encounter conclude? Genesis 33:10, 11, 15–17.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. Like Jacob, what tokens of God’s favor must I recall when in crisis?
2. Besides bringing gifts, how did Jacob prepare to meet his brother?
3. How can my prayer life become more like that of Jacob?
4. Explain the spiritual results of Jacob’s night of wrestling.
5. What potential is there for angels to change the heart of someone I know?