Week of Monday, January 8 – January 14
Tenacious Faith – Man as Provider

And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day.  When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob's hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he 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.” Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. 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 32:24-30 ESV

Two days after the Battle of the Black Sea in Mogadishu, Somalia (a.k.a. “Black Hawk Down”), I was commiserating with a few of my men, my boot propped up on a sandbag, part of a protective bunker. As we reflected on the tough loss of some brave men, a massive explosion shook the ground, knocking me to the pavement, seriously wounding some, and instantly killed Delta Sergeant Matt Rierson. I tried to stand, but pain shot through my calf and thigh, so I laid down on a litter. Eventually, they medevacked me to the UN Compound for surgery to remove shrapnel embedded in my legs and foot from that mortar round. For a brief time, I was confined to a wheelchair, quickly graduated to crutches, then finally to a cane to lean on. By the grace of God, my leg and foot healed, and I walk without a limp.

My temporary incapacitation reminded me of what happened to Jacob in the aftermath of this epic wrestling match. Honestly, wrestling would have been the last thing I would think of when Jacob comes to mind. I would think of Esau, the man’s man, an avid outdoorsman, a skilled hunter pursuing wild game, a hairy brute. By contrast, Jacob was a smooth skinned man, more interested in spending time at home then he was learning any wrestling moves. However, he had wrestled with his brother Esau in utero, grabbing his brother’s heel on their way out of the womb (Gen 25:22-28). No doubt as they were growing up as twins, Jacob and Esau may have gotten into multiple wrestling matches. It’s likely Esau got the upper hand, put Jacob in a headlock, and made him cry “Uncle Laban” more than once. But maybe Jacob learned some of his burly brother’s tactics and moves. We don’t know.

What we do know is that Jacob, whose WWE wrestling handle could have been “Jake the Snake,” more than held his own against this angelic assailant throughout the night. When dawn broke, Jacob appeared to gain the upper hand, but the angel pulled one last move, dislocating Jacob’s thigh socket, crippling him. But Jacob was tenacious, wouldn’t give up, and wouldn’t let go, even though the angel pleaded with him. Old Jake refused to turn loose until his opponent blessed him because he realized this was no ordinary human wrestler—he was an angel sent from God.

That’s how Jacob, whose name originally meant “heel grabber,” “supplanter,” or “cheat,” would be called “Israel” or “prince with God” from now on. Instead of depending on his skills as a cheat and a conman, Jacob learned to lean on the Lord just as he learned to lean on his staff, walking with a limp as a result of this encounter. In fact, Hebrews 11:21 (NKJV) tells us: “By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff.”  The blessing he received, he passed on. His life was changed forever by that all-night wrestling match with this heavenly opponent. But don’t miss the point. To get the blessing, Jacob had to hang on tenaciously and refuse to let go until he got it. That captures the kind of tenacious faith in God we must model to our family and friends as Providers—a determined vice-grip on God that never lets go. 

- Are you providing an example of tenacity with God, or do you give up too easily? How willing are you to wrestle with God in prayer over something or someone dear to you?
- Is there any area of your life in which you are depending more on your skills and abilities than you are leaning on the Lord? 
- Ask God for the tenacity to hold onto Him in faith until you receive His blessing, and then don’t fail to pass on that blessing to those you love.