Genesis 32:22-31 (NRSV)
Verse 22The same night he got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. Verse 23He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had.
Verse 24Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. Verse 25When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob's hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Verse 26Then he said, "Let me go, for the day is breaking." But Jacob said, "I will not let you go, unless you bless me." Verse 27So he said to him, "What is your name?" And he said, "Jacob." Verse 28Then the man said, "You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed." Verse 29Then Jacob asked him, "Please tell me your name." But he said, "Why is it that you ask my name?" And there he blessed him. Verse 30So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, "For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved." Verse 31The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.
In Genesis, God blesses Jacob with a new name, Israel, because Jacob prevailed in his struggles against both God and humans. This is the same Jacob who previously stole his brother Esau’s birthright by tricking his blind father—at his mother’s behest.
Lies, trickery, fighting, thievery—all actions seemingly supported by God. We expect blessings as reward for “good” behavior, so blessings handed out for “bad” behavior can seem backwards to us. Yet the Bible has a myriad of stories of God choosing faulty and flawed people—people we would never hire as our staff—to bring forward God’s new creation.
Is this not our blessing as well? God loves the world so much that our sin-filled human nature is not held against us. Instead, God sees our humanity and calls it good, and uses all of us to bring forth new life, new nations, new existence. Thanks be to God!
Merciful God, we thank you for the multitude of blessings you shower on us daily, and for encouraging us to struggle with you. Help us to keep our trust placed in you, and to seek your guidance as we face struggles within our lives. Amen.