Torah Portion: Vayishlach Genesis 32:4-36:43
HafTorah: Hosea 11:7-12:12
Over twenty years have come and gone since Jacob left Israel. His leaving and return are marked with encounters with angels. It is also marked by a Hebrew word that appears in both his going and coming. In Genesis 28:11 we read, “So he came to a certain place.” The word for “he came” is vayifga in Hebrew. In Hebrew today you hear the negative form of this word used frequently by children when they want to say, “don’t touch me.” So when Jacob left he encounters or touches a place. That place is where he has his dream.
Here in Genesis 32:1 we see the same word but here the angel of G-d touched him. Here is where he is changed. Let us look at this event and see what we can learn about Jacob and the process that he goes through. From the use of the same word in both cases I think we can learn an important spiritual principle. In both cases Jacob encounters the heavenly realm breaking into the earthly realm. He and we need these heavenly encounters in our lives to be what G-d has for us to be. We must be touch by G-d. Only then are we changed, truly changed to be the person we were called to be before the foundations of the world were laid. Only by this touch are we changed into another person. Most of us have felt this touch at our encounter with Yeshua. We are forever changed, as was Jacob.
As he returns to Israel, Jacob had grown a lot but there were still things that needed to be done in his life. We read in verses 22-24 a short phrase that has great meaning. Remember Jacob had left Israel with nothing but here 20 years later he returns a wealthy man with flocks, family, and servants but all that had not brought him to where he had to be to be used by G-d. This phrase we read is, “Then Jacob was left alone.” All his stuff made no difference when it came down to this encounter with G-d. In the end he was left alone. For him and for us it is alone in the wilderness where we finally meet G-d. When he was stripped of all pretense and anything to which to run does he meet G-d. So it is with us. But for him it is still a struggle. He had relied on his own cunning for years and it didn’t let go without a fight. But here was the struggle that changes Jacob from being a follower of men to being a Prince of G-d.
He, like us, was in a place where he found himself in a situation that was beyond his control. Control is a big problem for most of us. We live under the illusion that we can work everything out in our own power and understanding. He had made every plan, split the herds up, sent a present to Esau and put his family out of harms way as much as possible. But still Esau was coming with 400 men. Jacob was left alone.
G-d brought this change in his life through something as earthly as a wrestling match. This brought to a head the battle that had been going on with Jacob his whole life. He could not continue to be a follower of men but had to change to be a Prince of G-d.
This battle left him with both victory and defeat. His defeat was in his flesh, namely the limp that he carried as a reminder for the rest of his life. I am sure each step after this encounter reminded him of what had happened. This had not been some dream that might grow dim over time. His hip reminded him it had actually happened. Our flesh has been defeated by our encounter with G-d through Yeshua. Sometimes it takes us a process to fully realize that defeat. In fact in the New Testament Paul talks of the struggle between flesh and spirit but in truth the battle was won at our encounter with G-d.
The victory that Jacob received was that a new man emerged from this encounter. We also are new creations. So, as we read of this experience of Jacob’s life I pray that it convicts us and encourages us as we meet each challenge that comes into our life. G-d is our hope and our only hope, not how smart we are or how much we have, only Him.