You always were a wrestler. Even in the womb, you fought to squirm your way to the front. Your first attempt to wrest the birthright from your brother was thwarted, but you emerged with a heel and a name, Jacob, the heel grabber.
You grew up a quiet man, hovering near the tents. Esau, a strong and skillful hunter, loved the open country. He had one thing you desired more than anything else, the birthright. You knew you could never overpower him by brute strength so you resorted to trickery. Esau followed his nose and ended up in the tent drooling over a pot of steaming stew. "Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I'm famished!"
You were only too happy to oblige. You would hand over the stew, IF he traded you the birthright. Your fool of a brother consented, selling the birthright to fill an ever-emptying stomach.
The birthright meant inheritance. But you wanted something more, your father's blessing. Cloaked in a goatskin, you tricked your father and got what you wanted. All your scheming and conniving landed you a mournful father, a death threat, and a sleepless mother who feared for your life. So you ran.
There in the dark night, your head resting on a rock, I found you. "I am going to give you something you can't earn, swipe, or steal, my favor. This land you are laying on will one day be yours. You swindled a blessing out of your father, but I will freely bless the world through you."
"So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy" (Romans 8:16, NASB).
You ran to your Uncle Laban where you met your match in the deceit department. You gave him 7 years of labor, and he gave you a wife you did not love. Oh, but I loved Leah. I saw her misery and gave her a child, Reuben. I heard her cry, so I gave her Simeon. I attached myself to her through Levi, who would father the priestly line. And I would bring praise through Judah. You worked 7 more years and secured the hand of your beloved Rachel.
You desired to return with your wives and sons to your homeland. But Laban wasn't ready to let you go. He received a taste of the blessing I would give the world through you and begged you to stay. You took advantage of this opportunity to drain Laban of what was his. Through a breeding experiment, you stole the best of Laban's flock, leaving him with the weaklings. Laban's attitude toward you changed, so you left.
That's when news of your brother reached your ears. He was on his way to see you and was bringing with him 400 men. Your heel-grabbing had finally caught up with you. You knew your brother was coming with an army to pay you back what you deserved. In a desperate plea to save your skin, you sent droves of servants bearing gifts, you divided up your camp into two groups, and you prayed. Oh, how you prayed.
I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two groups. Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children. But you have said, "I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted (Genesis 32:9-11).
That night, you got up and sent your two wives, your eleven sons, and all your possessions across the Jabbok. But you stayed alone. Or so you thought. Until...boom! a man knocked you to the ground. You fought hard and long under the light of the stars hovering above. When day broke, you were wounded. Your hip was wrenched out of socket, but you refused to let go. "Bless me!" You were still fighting for what was already yours!
"What's your name?"
"No, not anymore. I am giving you a new name. From now on, you will be called, Israel. You've wrestled with your brother, your Uncle, your wives, and now this stranger in the night. But I tell you that all along, you have been wrestling me. Your new name will be Israel, "he wrestles with God." Don't you see? The heavens aren't bent against you, they are bending down to you. Here is my favor. Take it. It's yours.
But, oh Israel, you always were a wrestler.