Summary: An inductive style look at Jacob’s wrestling match with God--a case study in a transformed life.
It’s Hard to Go Back
Dr. Roger W. Thomas, Preaching Minister
First Christian Church, Vandalia, MO
Sometimes it’s hard to go home. It was for Jacob. Jacob was headed home for the first time in twenty years. Twenty years is a long time. A lot can change. On the other hand, sometimes things might not have changed. That too can make it hard.
Going home means going back—old memories, old mistakes, old reputations. Sometimes people change while their gone. But the people back home don’t always know that. Back home, you’re still the same ornery little kid as before. To the neighbor ladies, you’re still that freckle-faced little boy with the cow-lick or the chubby little girl with braces. Maybe they only remember the obnoxious teenager who was forever getting in trouble. When you go home, you have to listen to all of those embarrassing stories over and over again.
For Jacob it was worse than that. He had made some mistakes. He had disappointed his dad. His brother hated him. Nobody liked him much. Jacob had left home to get away from all of that. Going away and starting over someplace else had seemed a lot easier than dealing with the mess he had made of his life.
I am reminded of the mother that Jerry Clower used tell about. One day some workman started re-roofing a large building not far from her house. A couple days later the youngest of her sixteen children wandered off. She looked and looked and finally found him. He had fallen in a fifty gallon vat of roofing tar. She reached in and pulled him out. As she drug him home by his shirt collar, she was overheard saying, “Boy, it would be a lot easier to have another child than to clean you up!”
For Jacob it had all started the day he was born, actually before. He was the youngest of twin boys. Everybody always reminded him how he and Esau used to fight all the time. Even before they were born, Rebekah said she could feel them wrestling with one another. When Jacob was born, he came out grabbing his brother’s heal as if they had been fighting to see who got to go first. That was one of those embarrassing stories he would have to hear when he went home.
His parent’s took these birth stories into account when they named him. They called him Jacob. He never knew for sure if they were trying to be cute, creative, or just mean. That Hebrew name meant grabber. As if that weren’t bad enough, his people used the same term for a cheater or swindler. Imagine growing up with a name like that. When your mom called you for supper or your friends wanted you to come out and play, it was “Hey, Thief, dinner’s ready” or “Can Liar come over?” On your first day in school, you have to say, “My last name is Isaacson. My first name is “Cheater.”
Maybe it was in an effort to make up for the name or maybe for some other reason, his mother always tended to take Jacob’s side. That only made matters worse. His brother not only teased him about his name. He also called him a “mamma’s boy.” As a result of all this, Jacob grew up with chip on shoulder. He was convinced that life had handed him the short end of the stick. He had something to prove. He became determined that nobody was going to take advantage of him and get away with it. As he grew up, Jacob grew into his name!