December 13, 2003 / 18 Kislev 18, 5764
Torah: Bereshit / Genesis 32:4 - 36:43
Haftarah: Hosea 11:7 - 12:12
Originally published the week of November 23, 2002 / 18 Kislev 5763

Struggling with Destiny

Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome (Bereshit / Genesis 32:28).

Last week I referred to God's unconditional promises – that while some of the promises of Scripture are conditional upon this or the other thing, there are other promises that will happen no matter what. When these promises refer to the general outcome of an individual’s life or the future of a nation, we call this "destiny." The English word "destiny" comes from the concept of being destined for something.

The son of a king may be said to be destined for the throne from birth. Now that doesn't mean that the prince will become king no matter what. Certain factors may enter the situation that will prevent his taking of the throne, premature death being one of them. Destiny here means that becoming king was something already determined for the prince. He didn't have to achieve anything in his life to get that position. All he had to do was wait until the day of his coronation.

If the prince, as he grew up, lived a lifestyle not in keeping with his royal heritage, we might say that he is fighting his destiny. He has a choice to prepare for his destiny or resist it.

This is exactly what Jacob faced. How much he understood about his destiny, we don't know. What we do know is that it took him many years to submit to it.

God had determined that of Isaac and Rebekah's twin sons, it was to be Jacob to whom the plans and purposes of God would be passed on. Even from birth it appears that Jacob strove after those things which God had already decided to bestow upon him. He had some sense of the value of what God had given his family through his grandfather and father, but at the same time he was clueless as to what it would actually mean for him. Jacob needed to go through a major internal change before he was ready to be the carrier of God's blessings and purposes in the world.

It might be correct to say that God was working on this throughout his life. His struggles including his difficult relationships with his brother, and later his father-in-law, were God's way of preparing him for his destiny.

And then came the day when he encountered God himself. It was through this struggle with its accompanying blessing and injury that Jacob was able to fully embrace his destiny. God had determined he would one day be Israel, and now he was.

Maybe you think that your struggles have kept you from your God-given destiny. But maybe you are like Jacob. Your struggles are actually God's way of bringing you to your destiny. Instead of fighting the situations we face, we would be better off to find God in those situations.

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