Hos 12.6

In Hosea 12:2-6 he tells the story again of Jacob’s Struggle. In these verses we see the story recounted where Jacob struggled for the birthright, stole it outright, sough reconciliation, struggled with the Angel of the Lord, and then we see his vision while he slept at Bethel.  We read next, “The Lord also brings a charge against Judah, and will punish Jacob according to his ways; according to his deeds He will recompense him. See, here he is using Judah to prove a point, and says that even though Judah is walking with God, there are still things to charge them with and judge them for. Even from the founding of the nation, there has been guilt for sin and disobedience to the Covenant with God.

He continues, “3 He took his brother by the heel in the womb, and in his strength he struggled with God. 4 Yes, he struggled with the Angel and prevailed; he wept, and sought favor from Him. He found Him in Bethel, and there He spoke to us—5 That is, the Lord God of hosts. The Lord is His memorable name. 6 So you, by the help of your God, return; observe mercy and justice, and wait on your God continually.”

The nation looks back at their fathers – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Jacob, the father of the nation, whose name means deceiver. In fact, Jacob in Hebrew means literally “heel grabber” and refers to one who tries to work his way around behind you in order to trip you and change the direction you are headed for his own gain. This is someone who is going to try to put you in a vulnerable place where they can take advantage of you – this is summarized by the word “deceiver.” And here the people are being accused of deceit, even lying to God. He struggled with his brother Esau while they were still in the womb. “He took his brother by the heel” it says. And this is the pattern of much of his life, isn’t it? Tricking, deceiving, lying to get what he wanted.

Esau as the firstborn had rights and responsibilities, but we know the story. We understand that God had determined before they were born who would be blessed and be the one to carry on the Covenant. Now some would ask, would it not have been simpler for God to just have had Jacob be the first born? That was not His plan, and His plan had a specific purpose. This is the story of redemption and it will unfold as God has determined.

He was always second. He was second born, second in strength to Esau, second in that Isaac loved Esau more. So he manipulated circumstances, with the help of mom of course, to get ahead. He struggled with his brother and his family, he stole the birthright, and he fled from Esau as his life was threatened! Then he struggled with an Angel. He wrestled all night and just as he was going to prevail the Angel touched him and wounded him and left him with a limp for the rest of his life as a reminder.

As he fled from Esau we know he went to Haran and to his mother’s family, to the house of Laban, his uncle. There he met Rachel, and fell head over heels! And he told Laban he would do whatever was required to marry Rachel and Laban said if he worked for him in his fields for 7 years then he could marry Rachel. And Laban deceived the deceiver and tricked him and he ended up married to Laban’s oldest daughter Leah. He made another agreement and married Rachel and then worked another 7 years. For 20 years then he worked and the sisters fought and we wonder if Jacob ever knew what he really wanted, working this hard to get all of this trouble.

What a family – after 20 years Jacob has had enough of Laban so he makes Laban mad and uses the opportunity to leave and go back home….home where Esau had vowed to kill him if he ever came back. And when he left he had no idea that Rachel stole household idols from her father’s house.

Remember also that as Jacob thought about this, it was the Lord who told him to go back home and the Lord said He would be with Jacob as he went. So if we look past the surface we see God’s plan unfolding in the midst of the mess of Jacob’s life.

This is all a mess – this is all about broken people and dysfunctional families and deceit and manipulation…and God is using it all to bring us the Messiah because these are the kinds of people the Messiah was coming to save!

As Jacob came near, he sent messengers to meet Esau and their response was to report in Genesis 32, “6 Then the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, “We came to your brother Esau, and he also is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.” 7 So Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed; and he divided the people that were with him, and the flocks and herds and camels, into two companies. 8 And he said, “If Esau comes to the one company and attacks it, then the other company which is left will escape.” He is trying to manipulate the situation and improve his odds of survival….and I wonder about those he put in the first group! He was willing to sacrifice flocks and herds and wives and children to Esau, while keeping those he loved the most safe and ready to escape.

It does not sound like Jacob believed God does it? God had said He would be with Jacob, but Jacob saw no way out of what was to him the inevitable outcome of his actions.

He did then decide that there was another way. He was going to offer people and possessions as a gift to Esau. He was going to try to buy him off. In Genesis 32:17-20 we read, “17 And he commanded the first one, saying, “When Esau my brother meets you and asks you, saying, ‘To whom do you belong, and where are you going? Whose are these in front of you?’ 18 then you shall say, ‘They are your servant Jacob’s. It is a present sent to my lord Esau; and behold, he also is behind us.’” 19 So he commanded the second, the third, and all who followed the droves, saying, “In this manner you shall speak to Esau when you find him; 20 and also say, ‘Behold, your servant Jacob is behind us.’” For he said, “I will appease him with the present that goes before me, and afterward I will see his face; perhaps he will accept me.”

He sends his flocks, his servants, Leah and her children, in three stages, all to give as gifts to Esau. Surely he won’t kill me if I appease him with these gifts, Jacob thinks. Instead of trusting God he is determined to think his way out of the predicament his own deception has put him in. He finally goes so far as to consider offering Rachel to Esau. All to save his own skin. Consider the contrast – Hosea was willing to buy Gomer back from the slave market, but Jacob was willing to subject his wives and children to slavery to save himself from his brother.

He is about to give 20 years of work away because of his fear. You see, while at times fear is useful as a God ordained response to danger, at other times, and most often it seems, it is an irrational, unreasonable rejection of the truth of God’s promises.

And remember, our text mentions Jacob’s struggle with Esau and also with the Angel. In verse 4 and 5, “Yes, he struggled with the Angel and prevailed; he wept, and sought favor from Him. He found Him in Bethel, and there He spoke to us—5 That is, the Lord God of hosts.” In the middle of this earthly struggle now we see heaven intervene. In the night, all alone, filled with fear, trying to think his way out of a confrontation with Esau, suddenly and man appeared and they fought – they wrestled. This man, while not referred to as the Angel of the Lord, is most likely a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ as Jacob tells us that he has wrestled with God face to face and the man he fought said, “You have struggled with God.” And in that fight Jacob came to understand that he needed God’s blessing.

There is a word play here in Hebrew where it tell us Ye’abeq (God wrestles) Ya’aqob (Jacob) at Yabboq (Jabbock). And here Jacob saw that he could not think or manipulate his way out of circumstances. He could not even barely walk after his hip was injured in this fight. And he held on until he was blessed. In his stubbornness he was wrestled into submission. And this is the lesson we learn – we will either wrestle ourselves into submission daily to Christ, or we will be wrestled into submission by Him.

Another thing mentioned here in the life of struggle for Jacob. It tells us in verses 5 and 6, “He found Him in Bethel, and there He spoke to us—5 That is, the Lord God of hosts. The Lord is His memorable name. 6 So you, by the help of your God, return; observe mercy and justice, and wait on your God continually.” Hosea here has made a point that Jacob had to be wrestled into submission, but he also reminds the people that Jacob worshipped God!

Jacob was travelling, fleeing Esau, headed to Haran and Laban’s house. As he fled he stopped to rest. He found a stone to lay his head on – not a very comfortable rest stop – and as he slept he had a dream and saw a vision. There was a ladder from earth to heaven with angels coming up and down it and in Genesis 28 we read, “13 And behold, the Lord stood above it and said: “I am the Lord God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants. 14 Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed. 15 Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you.” 16 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” 17 And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!” 18 Then Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put at his head, set it up as a pillar, and poured oil on top of it. 19 And he called the name of that place Bethel; but the name of that city had been Luz previously.”

Beth-el – house of God.

Why does Hosea bring up Bethel? When the kingdom of Israel split, where was the first place King Jeroboam set up a golden calf? At Bethel! Hosea was pointing out how far Israel had fallen in their idolatry.

It was there that God met with a man and subdued him – a sinful, deceitful, manipulative man. Jacob who struggled with God and men – Jacob who was chosen before he was even born, chosen by God to be the Father of the nation of Israel.

And we know the morning after the wrestling match Jacob had a new name. It was Isra-el, which means “A Struggler with God.” Wow, has this nation lived up to its name or what? Jacob struggled with God and walked away to tell others about it. Israel was about to be wrestled into submission and the question was whether or not they would ever walk away from the coming judgment.

Here again Hosea points the people to the truth about their history, about who God is, and about what they need to do. He says, “So you, by the help of your God, return; observe mercy and justice, and wait on your God continually.” Remember, here he is talking to Judah, because for Israel there is no more time for them to return. But maybe for Judah there was hope.

It is interesting that Hosea tells Judah to wait. He is telling Judah that if they do not wait on the Lord and rest, if they continue to violate the Sabbath, the Covenant, then they will also suffer judgment.