VAYISHLACH | WEEK 8
By Paul Wilbur
Gen 32:4 – 36:43
Vayishlach, (Hebrew for “and he sent,”) is the eighth weekly Torah portion in the annual cycle of Torah readings. It includes the verses in the book of Genesis 32:4 through Genesis 36:43 and tells the story of Jacob’s reunion with his brother Esau, the famous wrestling with God, his return to Bethel, and the deaths of Rachel and Isaac.
When we last left Jacob in chapter thirty-one, he was fleeing from his father-in-law with all his flocks, herds, and wives. Laban eventually caught up to the large caravan, but the Spirit of God warned him not to speak anything good or evil toward his son-in-law, Jacob. So again, the promise of God to watch over and protect Jacob in his coming and going until everything has been accomplished proves to be faithful.
Now in chapter 32, as we begin the parashah ‘Vayishlach,’ we find Jacob preparing to meet his brother Esau for the first time since stealing the birthright, fleeing to Haran, having the dream and promise of God, and building a large family and fortune at Laban’s expense. Naturally he is frightened, anticipating the worst, so he sends some servants ahead (hence the title, ‘and he sent’) of him with substantial peace offerings, hoping to persuade Esau’s anger to be satisfied. The early report from the servants is that Esau is coming to meet Jacob, but he is accompanied by 400 fighting men!
Jacob is not only concerned for his own life, but also for the lives of his wives, his children, and the promises of God for a good future. So, he decides to set aside from his vast riches a substantial peace offering that consisted of: 220 goats, 220 sheep, 30 camels with their young, 40 cows, 10 bulls, and 30 donkeys, all mixed of male and female. Now this is either an offering for a king, or the act of a desperate man hoping to convince someone not to kill him! The thing is, if Esau has it in his heart to kill his brother, he could kill Jacob and his entire family, and then just take the entire herd anyways, right?
In verse 9 of chapter 32 we find for the first time, a very different Jacob. He is no longer depending on his clever wit and schemes to carry him through, but he is humbly praying and reminding God of the promises made to his family and him. My Bible tells me that our God resists the proud, but He shows favor to the humble (Provs.3:34). And although there are some twenty-two verses that basically say the same thing in scripture, both James and Peter quote this one verse from King Solomon.
After praying and arranging his family and gifts for Esau and the manner in which they will proceed the following day, Jacob lies down again to get some rest. But rest was not in God’s plan for Jacob; in fact, the plan was to make him even weaker before meeting his brother and the army of Esau. In verse 24 we read, “So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.” This is, in my mind, a very strange encounter! Consider the details we are given in the next five verses. The two ‘men’ wrestle until daybreak when the stranger sees he is unable to overpower Jacob, so he touches Jacob’s hip so it comes out of the socket; then the stranger says, “Let me go for it is daybreak”; Jacob replies, “Not unless you bless me”; then the ‘man’ asks his name; “Jacob,” he says; “Not anymore,” says the stranger, and gives him the new name Israel (he struggles with God) because he has struggled with God and men and has overcome. Jacob asks the stranger’s name to which he receives the question, “Why do you ask my name?” Jacob then receives a blessing, and the stranger is gone. Sounds like something out of a Sci-Fi movie or a fairy tale, doesn’t it?! Very strange. It seems that each man has some power over the other. The stranger has power over Jacob’s body, but Jacob has the power to restrain the ‘man’ from leaving. Neither man completely overpowers the other, but each has a certain level of authority over the other…very strange indeed.
Well, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, they say, so Israel calls that spot ‘Peniel’ (face of God), and declares, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.” This is a very different Jacob, now Israel. Humility is more than an emotion or a state of mind, true humility is the foundation for receiving anything from God! We see this in the 22 verses I spoke about earlier, but we see it demonstrated by God Himself through the amazing life and attitude of Yeshua who came to serve, not to be served! Humility says to God, “You are right, I am not.” Yeshua said it best in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Father, not my will, but Yours be done.”
In fact, how do you reconcile these former verses unless you come to the conclusion that Jacob wrestled with God? But in order to do that, God had to ‘reduce’ himself; the Creator of the Universe had to ‘humble’ himself in order to communicate safely and effectively with Jacob in order not to obliterate the guy completely!! When we humble ourselves, we become more like our Father! Humility brings reconciliation, but pride brings contention and strife; and James tells us that envy and self-ambition (pride) bring with them ‘every evil thing’! On the other hand, in chapter one of the Book of James (Jacob) we are told that receiving the word with humility can save us!
Just one more thought about humility, if I may. This thought about Yaweh reducing Himself in order to communicate with man is a very ‘humbling’ thought, don’t you think? For me it makes the incarnation of Yeshua so much more meaningful. Consider Psalm 113: 5,6 that says, “Who is like the Lord our God, the One who sits enthroned on high, who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth?” And again in Isaiah 57:15, “I live in a high and holy place…but also with him who is contrite and humble in spirit…” When we humble ourselves before God, we prepare our hearts to become a dwelling in which He lives by His Spirit!
Now that is worth the time it took to read this, isn’t it?!
About the Author
For over 40 years, Paul has been leading worship before crowds of thousands in the Middle East, singing to packed soccer stadiums throughout Latin America, and bringing his anointed Messianic message directly to the people of Israel. His partnership with Integrity Music has resulted in projects such as “Up To Zion,” “Shalom Jerusalem,” and “Your Great Name.” With award-winning sales in the millions of a Latin Dove Award for best live praise worship album of the year, there is no end in sight for this growing team. Paul truly believes that the Lord inhabits the praises of His people, and in that presence there is fullness and joy.
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