The peace of Israel and the life-preserving power of God
A Christian Science perspective: What Jacob’s transformation in the Bible means for us today.
As our hearts and prayers reach out in support for just and peaceful solutions in the Middle East, I am reminded of a man named Jacob, whose story of transformation and peace is shared by the faiths of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity (see Genesis 32, 33).
As the Bible account reveals, Jacob fears that he and his children will face imminent death by the hand of his own brother. The night before this confrontation, Jacob spent the night in prayer to God saying, “O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, the Lord which saidst unto me, Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee: I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast shewed unto thy servant.... Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear him, lest he will come and smite me, and the mother with the children” (Genesis 32:9-11). The account tells us that “Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day” (Genesis 32:24).
Alone with his own fears, engaged in a mental wrestling with his own history of deception, hate, and revenge, he struggled through the night. But his humble prayers brought the message from God that his true nature was not tied to a history of evil, but to the idea that man is the image and likeness of God, the divine life-preserving Spirit. As Jacob was able to declare, “I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved” (Genesis 32:30).
This awareness changed his nature. His experience was so character-transforming that he was given a new name – Israel. This inspired thought dissolved the contention between him and his brother and brought a peaceful resolution that blessed both their families. Esau embraced his brother, and Jacob said to him, “I have seen thy face, as though I had seen the face of God, and thou wast pleased with me” (Genesis 33:10).
The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote of this profound moment in her book “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures”: “He was no longer called Jacob, but Israel, – a prince of God, or a soldier of God, who had fought a good fight” (p. 309). The fight, or struggle, did not involve weapons; it was a battle within his consciousness to understand that the will of God is to preserve life.
The meaning of Jacob’s spiritual experience would reverberate and grow throughout history. Those who followed him proved that the power of God, good, is with men, bringing protection and healing. It is this life-preserving power of God that was later fully embodied by Christ Jesus, who fulfilled biblical prophecy as the Messiah, and as the Son of God. Jesus showed that God is the always present, divine Love, embracing humanity and bringing peace on earth and “good will toward men” (Luke 2:14). He showed that man’s true nature is as pure and holy as the Father in heaven. He taught, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9).
Today, we can stand with Jacob, or Israel, in the understanding that man’s nature from God is loving, honest, and peacemaking. In humble acceptance of what was revealed to Jacob, the brotherhood of humanity is not secured within a place, but in the spiritual power of God that dissolves hatred, selfishness, and revenge.
Through this enlightened view of man as the likeness of God we can say to all our brothers and sisters, “I have seen thy face, as though I had seen the face of God, and thou wast pleased with me.” This is the heritage we all share under the one God, the Father of all. Through God and His Christ, Truth, we can find the spiritual understanding and power within us to unite as peacemakers and to obey God’s demand that every life be preserved.