The early part of Jacob's life was that of a hardheaded, successful businessman. Yet it was hardly a peaceful and happy life. From without, there was conflict and persecution. From within, a constant striving and struggling. Through the years of exile, he gained wealth and increased in numbers, but the returning Jacob meets on the threshold of his homeland his unreconciled brother, Esau, still mindful of the wrong endured. It was fear, grim and paralyzing fear for himself and his loved ones, that caused him to seek divine help in solitude and in prayer.
But at the fords of the swift brook of Jabbok, he suddenly discovered that his contention was not against flesh and blood but against a far more formidable antagonist. He wrestled with a man who later revealed Himself as God. The God who promised him for his inheritance the land to which he was now returning did not wish him to come as the old Jacob, clever and worldly successful, but contrite, conscious of his sins and regenerated: "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 hast prevailed" (Gen 32:28).
The God-Man who wrestled with Jacob was the same God-Man, the Lord Jesus Christ, who wrestles forever with each one of us, seeking to smite in us that which is sinful and selfish so that from dust and darkness may rise at dawn a new man with a new name, not Jacob but Israel-a prince with God and man.
Jacob's defeat is also his victory. Smitten by God, he rose up more than a conqueror. At dusk there was a fearful, apprehensive man by the name of Jacob, a man haunted by his past-at dawn after a memorable vigil, there arose a new nan, knighted by God and given a new name-Israel. Truly we have no reason to be ashamed of the fact that the God of Abraham and Isaac is also the God of Jacob.
The life of Jacob is so rich in spiritual qualities and so full of wonderful experiences that it is impossible even to outline its contours in a brief article. Yet we must not leave unmentioned this grand feature in his character, namely, "The Blessed Hope" that was in him. Our Lord said, "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad" (Jn 8:56).
These words of our Savior apply with equal force to Jacob. On his deathbed Jacob blessed Judah, of whom he knew that the Messiah would come, and said, "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be"(Gen 49:10).
And with his dying breath, the weary and worn servant of God whispered, "I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord" (v.18). This was the hope which Jacob left as a heritage to his children, and even to the present day it is still in the family. This was the hope that gave wings to the words of David the king and to the prophets. This was the hope which filled the breast of the aged Simeon with heavenly joy when he held the Child Jesus in his arms and said, "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation" (Lk 2:29-30).
Even though "blindness in par" has happened to the Jews today (Rom 11:25), this is still their hope, for are they not the children of Israel?