Remember Jacob and Esau, the twin sons of Isaac and Rebekah. Also remember that Isaac was the son of Abraham. Remember that Jacob cheated Esau out of his birth right and received the blessing as the first born from Isaac even though it was Esau who should have gotten it.
So Rebekah sent Jacob to live near her brother Laban to hopefully find a wife. Along the way, Jacob stopped to sleep and he has an encounter with God. God spoke to him in a dream. Jacob recognized that it was God who was speaking to him, but Jacob also shows in his language that while he knows who God is, he has not really made Him his God.
“Then Jacob made a vow, saying, ‘If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me great to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God.’” Genesis 28:20-21
Notice the words “if” and “then.” Jacob was bargaining with God. God if you do this, then you will be my God. Now before we go shaking our spiritual heads at that, think back. Has there ever been a time that you may have said the same. “God if you do this, I’ll follow you?” Ouch, I know I have.
God did bless Jacob and gave him two wives and many children and he blessed him while he was with his Uncle Laban with wealth. God continued to chase after Jacob even in all of the deception and the lies and the half heartedness of Jacob. Not because of who Jacob was but because of who God is.
Fast forward, eventually Jacob desires reconciliation to his brother Esau. So Jacob decides to return home. (There is a whole lot to the story that falls between chapters 28 and 33 of Genesis.) Along the way, Jacob begins to take a shift in his prayers and he finally stops bargaining with God, but he begins seeking God. He still acknowledges God as the God of his fathers but he is at least beginning to acknowledge the blessings he has received because of who God is.
“And Jacob said, ‘O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O Lord who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your kindred, that I may do you good,’ I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds of steadfast love and all the faithfulness that yo have shown to your servant.” Genesis 32:9-10
Jacob is working a plan to gain favor with his brother Esau and one night he lays down to rest again, but instead of rest he wrestled with an angel fo Lord all night long.
“Then he (the Angel of the Lord) said, ‘Let me go for the day has broken’ But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’ And he said to him, ‘What is your name?’ And he said, ‘Jacob.’ Then he said, ‘Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.’”
Have you ever felt like you were in a wrestling match with God? The good thing about a wrestling match with God is there is purpose and that purpose is not to harm you but it is to set you in your right place. Jacob, Israel had wrestled with God and he had wrested with men and yet he had prevailed. And in this wrestling God had finally become the God of Jacob.
“So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, ‘For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.’” Genesis 32:30
Jacob goes on to meet Esau and they have a beautiful reunion in chapter 33, then Jacob finally arrived in Shechem, in the land of Canaan and he pitched his tent.
“There he erected an altar and called it El-Elohe-Israel.” Genesis 33:20
Finally Jacob, Israel can call God his God, not just the God of his fathers. But since he knew God face to face, he finally had a relationship with Him and Jacob knew Him as the Holy one of Israel. His personal God! Just like he can be mine and your personal God too.