If you ever wondered if God can use broken people, consider the story of Jacob in Genesis 27-32.
In his youth, he manipulated his brother, deceived his father and left home without one healthy relationship in his family. His first encounter with God was as he was fleeing from the anger of his brother hoping to find a refuge with his extended family. In that encounter (Gen. 28), God spoke to him in a dream, filled his heart with hope with the knowledge God had a plan and purpose for his life. A lesson we glean from this experience is that God sees something in us when others do not, and He looks past our failed relationships and invites us wonderful relationship with Him.
Jacob’s second encounter with God occurred roughly 20 years later (Gen. 31). Those twenty years were filled with the joy of marriage, starting a family and career. The problem was his career involved working for his father-in-law who was manipulative to say the least. Weary of trying to manage that dysfunctional relationship, Jacob gathered his family and possession and set out to return to his homeland. His father-in-law was in hot pursuit intended to harm Jacob, but before he reached Jacob, God had a private meeting with him and warned him to not harm Jacob. God took care of Jacob’s accuser without Jacob having to get involved. A lesson I glean from this experience is that God will go before us and protect us from our spiritual enemy. None of us know how many spiritual victories have been won on our behalf because Almighty God came to our defense.
Jacob’s third encounter with God occurred a short time later in Genesis 32 as Jacob prepared to face his brother, Esau. When Jacob last saw Esau twenty years earlier, Esau made it clear he intended to kill him. Twenty years is plenty of time for resentment and hatred to fester into an out-of-control rage. It is also plenty of time for an inner work of the Holy Spirit. The night before the two were to meet, God sent an angel who wrestled with Jacob through the night. It is ironic that Jacob’s life would be spared from the altercation with his brother because of a wrestling match with an angel. We get a glimpse into the real heart of Jacob verse 26 when he said to the Lord “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” There you have it. After a lifetime of wrestling with people, his true heart is exposed; he was a man who simply wanted to be blessed by God.
Each of the three encounters Jacob had with God occurred when he was alone. They also came at crisis points in his life. Every person needs their own experience with God, an encounter that serves to define your faith. It will happen when you get alone with God and surrender your past to His mercy and your future to His grace.