“Then he said, ‘Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.’ But he said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’”Genesis 32:26
When we think of Jacob, we often think of how he was born by grabbing the heel of his brother. We recall how he tricked his brother to sell his birthright for a bowl of porridge; fooled his father by gluing the hair of a goat to his hands and neck; had the favor of his mother; was deceived into laboring 14 years to gain the hand of his wife Rachel, and displayed incredible entrepreneurship with Laban’s herd. Perhaps one of the more memorable accounts of Jacob’s life is what many of us learned as children and is recounted in the children’s song, “Jacob’s Ladder.”
But when I think of Jacob, I am immediately drawn to the scene of a dark night on the bank of the ford of the Jabbok where Jacob is alone. Then all of a sudden, a “man” appears, and he and Jacob begin an intense wrestling match. They struggle back and forth through the night until at daybreak the man declares, “You have to let me go.” Instead, Jacob hangs on and replies, “Not until you bless me.” Evidently Jacob was a scrappy guy who could hold his own in a fight, so he wasn’t about to “tap out!”
When Jacob refused to let go, the man struck him in the hip, yet Jacob still held on. That’s when he discovered he was wrestling with God. Jacob: the man who wrestled God. How’s that for a resume entry! Jacob was blessed that night as a result of his wrestling match with God, and his name was changed from Jacob to Israel.
Jacob had the courage to persevere, and as a result, he was both touched by God and blessed by God. Today, we live in a world where we have almost instant access to most anything we need or want. Waiting or persevering are almost obsolete words in our vocabularies. Modern convenience isn’t bad in and of itself. The problem is that conveniences reduce the need to persevere. More specifically, we miss out on practicing the courage to persevere.
Today we have things in our lives for which we need God’s help, His intervention. Yet when we don’t see the answer immediately, we think He doesn’t care or doesn’t intervene. We pray about something one time and then quit. We have been conditioned by modern convenience that things come about instantly. Maybe you’ve heard the old saying: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again.” The point being don’t give up! Don’t let go! Persevere. Have the courage to stick with it, to hang on, to see it through, to pray it through.
The reality of this lesson from Jacob focuses on a question we all must answer: Do we have the courage to persevere, to pray, and keep on praying? As Winston Churchill once urged during world War II, “Never give in! Never give in! Never, never, never, never…”