Though a wrestling process, God prepared the conditions of Jacob’s heart for three great works. First He revealed a new identity and purpose for Jacob’s life, re-directing his history as a deceiver and insecure “over-reacher” to become a prince with God and the father of a nation. Our previous study examines how clinging to the Father in trials achieves this glorious work of unveiling true identity.
Our story continues in Genesis 32:29-30 where we see the next great work God did in Jacob.
Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”
As he discovered how God saw him, Jacob desired to know more about God and he expressed that by asking to hear God’s Name. Understanding how God has made us, seeing ourselves as we truly are, leads naturally to a deeper hunger for our Creator because we are made to “live, and move and have our being in Him” (Acts 17:28). As Augustine said, “you have created us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.”
But He replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then He blessed him there. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”
God responds to Jacob with a blessing but it is not what Jacob asked for. Instead of hearing God’s name, Jacob was shown His face!
The Lord often works in our lives in ways that we do not expect, because He knows our deepest needs and desires better than we often perceive them. Jacob thought that hearing God’s name was what he wanted. But God knew that what he really needed and desired was a look into His face.
Interestingly the Hebrew word for “face” in verse 30 is “panim” and this is also the word used throughout the Old Testament for the “Presence” of God. Here is a powerful thought: an experience of the Presence of God is like a look into the face of God, it is an interaction with Him that causes us to experience His nature.
Jacob says, “I saw God face to face” and he named the place Peniel to remember that moment. His greatest memory of the night of wrestling, more than the destiny that had been proclaimed over his life earlier, was a look at God’s face, an experience of His Presence. Indeed the greatest privilege any man can have is an encounter with the living God. Such fellowship with the Holy Spirit serves as the “everlasting arms underneath” our identity and destiny on earth (Deut 33:27).
If you are in the middle of trials and hardship, know that the process of clinging to God, of wrestling, is preparing you for something even greater than the discovery of your true identity and purpose. It is preparing you for more of God Himself.
The trials are an invitation to a deeper connection with God.
So quiet yourself to experience His Presence. Wait on Him and look to His face. Hunger to know His nature and He will meet you in deeper ways by His Holy Spirit. He has been preparing your heart for deeper things and is inviting you, through the trials, to experiences that becomes monuments in your journey with Christ.