A humbled and open heart is fertile soil for God’s seeds of wisdom. Establishing deeper roots requires analyzing God’s word to discover truths, values, and lessons for application to our lives. Periodically, a scripture or passage calls for further exploration, like Genesis 32:22-31.
Our Deeper Roots passage in Genesis demonstrates the paradox of God leading us to difficult situations to demonstrate His power in our weakness. Our scripture selection begins as Jacob is working to get his family across the Jabbok River at night. After he gets his family safely across, Jacob goes back for their possessions. While he is alone in the camp, a man comes and wrestles with him until dawn. Jacob persists even with his hip out of the socket and requests a blessing from the man. The man responds with a new name; Jacob would now be known as Israel. And the place where they wrestled would now be known as Peniel.
The wrestling on the border of entering the promised land speaks volumes about the way that God moves. Jacob was told by God to return to his homeland. He was hours away from meeting his brother, Esau, face to face to hopefully reconcile after stealing his birthright. It’s interesting to see the build-up of anticipation here and understand why Jacob wanted a few moments alone after all of his family and possessions were safe across the river. The man that he encountered was none other than God. There is an argument about whether the wrestling was in the physical or spiritual/dream sense, but either way, Jacob came out with a new name, Israel. This means Jacob recognized who he was tussling with and knew what was at stake if he left without what he asked for. The question that God asked was a peek into who Jacob thought he was. Remember, names have significance in the Bible. Jacob means heel grasper, sometimes it’s translated as supplanter. So at that moment, Jacob is identifying himself as someone who comes in second grasping at someone’s heels. But God gives him a new name, Israel, which means wrestles with God. Jacob didn’t leave the exchange unscathed. He had a limp from the encounter, which is a small thorn for such a new beginning as Israel. The meeting with God led Jacob to name the place Peniel which means the face of God. Another marker of where Israel encountered the Lord and left with another blessing.
We may not receive new names with each battle we’re led to, but we do come out transformed. When God leads us into seasons of testing, it feels rough and unkind, yet God is using those situations to refine us. As we wrestle with God, we need to remain mindful of who we’re battling with because if we refuse to let go, God will bless us. Like Jacob, we may not leave unscathed, but there is something humbling about the exchange. Similar to Paul, who references the thorn in his flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7). The thorn is there to keep us from getting too proud and remember that God’s power works best in our weakness.