Jacob arrives at Jabbok to face the source of his fear and guilt. Jacob has a prophetic promise to be the inheritor of Abraham’s covenant with God. He has the right to the covenant with God, but he will be prepared as an inheritor at Jabbok.
Jabbok means “emptying out.” It is a brook that divides Gilead into two parts. Gilead means “testimony or witness between.” Jabbok is the dividing point between the witness God’s spirit and your own testimony of who you are.
God’s Spirit testifies with our spirit that we are His children, and if children, then heirs. We are equal heirs with Christ. Identity moves us from being heirs to being inheritors. Not all heirs inherit because they rebel like Esau. Inheritors must be prepared to inherit because the inheritance has a covenant purpose.
Step 1 – Jacob meets God’s Army of Angels and knows he is in a strategic place. Angels are sent to those about to inherit salvation according to Hebrews 1:14. Angels stand ready to assist the inheritors because the inheritors receive the purpose of God. Jacob is familiar with angels because he saw them at Bethel on the staircase of heaven. Jacob is having revelatory experiences because God is making him aware that his earthly life has spiritual and eternal meaning.
Do you know the spiritual and eternal meaning of your life? This is the first step in identity crisis, a revelation of what God wants you to be. You can get it badly wrong as Saul of Tarsus did, thinking he was doing God a favor killing and persecuting believers. You can spend years of your life going awry and still come back to the fullness of your destiny!
Jacob has already experienced prophetic promise and the struggle of destiny that occurred in his mother’s womb. Meeting angels empties Jacob of the claim that who his is physically defines him. It forces him to come to grips with the spiritual aspects of history and destiny, to see himself as God sees him, and to see the battle as a spiritual battle. He sees the angels as an army and names the place “two armies.” The two camps could refer to angels going one and angels coming down. Either way, Jacob knows that the spiritual aspects of his destiny provide superior dynamics than the natural conditions he faces with Esau and Laban.
Step 2 – Jacob sends all his earthly possessions over Jabbok and is left alone. I must tell you that your spiritual identity crisis is something you must face alone, empty of the things you would show God as proof that you know who are.
The initial steps of identity require a sacrifice of the body. You can see the parallels with Romans 12: 1-2 and the process of identity crisis. “By God’s mercies present your body as a holy, acceptable offering, a sacrificial life.”
The separation of physical things is necessary because we often use them to define ourselves. We include our possessions and relationships in our definition of who we are. This is not a separation from evil things but a process of redefining relationships and possessions, aligning them to the revelation of who we are in the eyes of God. After the death of evil things comes the death of good things.
Cheer up! God is trying to kill you! This is the cross you carry. It is not suffering, sickness, your mother-in-law, or your circumstances. The cross is the place of death for self-image so God can resurrect the person He created you to be, and introduce you to yourself. As long as you maintain control of self and image, you are living with a limited understanding of your destiny.
Step 3 – Jacob wrestles with God. God shows up in the darkness when Jacob is alone, vulnerable to his deepest fears. His fear surfaces with someone grabbing hold of him, but God goes deeper than the manifestation, to the root issue. This wrestling comes out of fear of loss, a fear of being empty, a fear of losing himself and not knowing who he really is anymore.
God could overwhelm Jacob at any moment. The wrestling continues because God is holding Jacob in this traumatic crisis of identity. This is the sense of “by the mercies of God” in Roman 12:1. We need God’s mercy with us during this time of transformation. God holds us close to His merciful heart. He is with us to secure us in this frightening death-to-self time.
God wasn’t wrestling Jacob. He was holding him.
Step 4 – Jacob prevails with God. What does this mean? Simple. God lost the wrestling match on purpose, and then showed Jacob that He could have won any time He wanted.
How would like to wrestle with someone for hours, seeming to win, and suddenly the person touches your thigh with his finger and puts it out of joint? You would realize that your opponent could have won at any moment. God is wrestling with Jacob because He knows Jacob is really wrestling with himself.
By His mercies, God is there to hold Jacob in the most difficult crisis of life – the crisis of identity. God holds him while Jacob empties himself of his struggles. The last level of personal strength goes out of Jacob, and he sags in the grip of God. God won’t let him go until everything that stands between Jacob and true destiny is separated out and destroyed.
This is also the sense of John’s prophecy of Jesus: “He will baptize you with Holy Spirit and fire. He will completely clean the chaff from the grain and blow it into His fire. The fire that consume this chaff never stops burning.”
Step 5 – God reveals who Jacob isn’t. “What is your name?” God shows Jacob that he really doesn’t know who he is. God says, “Your name will no longer be Jacob.” Since no one knows who Jacob really is but God, God is the One who tells him his new name.
Wow! That’s really scary! “If I am not Jacob, then who am I?” That is the scariest moment you face with God. The level of trust you must have with God to exhaust your struggles and surrender all. This is the level of trust required to be the person God knows you are. Without this level, you cannot see or receive the revelation of your highest destiny. God will show you who are and convince you that you can be that person! Don’t miss the process of convincing or you will lack the strength to finish the assignment!
God alone can take you to this place, but God will not leave you alone when you go there. He will stay with you through the entire process.
I have seen so many people run away when faced with this moment. Spiritual children often refuse to face this moment and call God and their leaders unfair and controlling when it comes. They refuse to be conquered by anyone, submit to anyone, because their definition of God and leadership looks far too more like the world’s. They have developed an entitlement mentality. They wrestle for what they want, not what God wants and walk away with the same old name. They are after their potential instead of their purpose.
To get to the “instead you shall be called” part of the process, you must surrender all, and then you must surrender your struggles. Abraham got to this place after trying to help God out for decades. When Abraham had no other options, God renamed him and gave him the promise. With Paul, Jesus says, “It is hard for you to kick against the goads of the Spirit.” It seems Paul was reaching the end of himself.
Finding out who you are not can be a difficult experience, but it will open your life up to your greatest days and dreams.
Step 6 – God reveals who Jacob is. “Your name is God-wrestler.” God is thrilled with Jacob’s wrestling. Jacob wrestled in the womb, wrestled with intrigue to steal his brother’s firstborn inheritance, and struggled with his father-in-law and his sons. Jacob is a professional wrestler, and now he has wrestled with God and won! His new name will never be lost. “You are Israel. God’s wrestling partner.” When you and God wrestle together as partners, no one will be able to beat you! Are you convinced, Jacob?
God holds Jacob until he faces his deep deception, the basis of his greatest fear. Jacob knows he got the blessing in the wrong way and fears he will lose it. Even after experiencing favor for many years and becoming rich, Jacob fears losing it all because his success is based upon the wrong assumptions and actions.
Step 7 – Jacob inherits what is coming to him. But now he is ready to inherit it. As a wise Father, God will not give you more of your inheritance than you are prepared to invest. Much of our inheritance is in limbo, hidden from human eyes. God preserves and reserves inheritance for a faithful generation.