Jacob – Israel
When asked what her 2022 World Woman Boxing Championship gold medal and a potential 2024 Olympics nomination mean to her as a Muslim Indian, Nikhat Zareen replied, “Religion and nationality are two different things which shouldn’t be mixed, especially in sports.”
Regarding how gender, religion, and ethnicity tie in with a boxing career, Nikhat Zareen has heard it all. She’s also dealt with the backlash and hardships along the way, including an in-ring landslide loss to her “idol” Mary Kom–whom she challenged to the fight.
Despite overwhelming media attention and setting herself a lofty goal of becoming an Olympian, she tries to keep it real.
She pushes on, proving that Indian women can defy patriarchal systems and pursue their dreams. And Zareen’s victories in and out of the ring have made her a role model for young Indian girls.
At just 25, Zareen’s faced enough challenges and won enough victories to last a lifetime, and yet her career promises much more in store.
Jacob was also a young man when he decided to take on one of his greatest opponents, who also happened to be his older brother Esau. Not only did Jacob grab Esau’s heel during their birth, but he would go on to steal Esau’s birthright. The fight he expected to result from his actions never culminated between the two, but Jacob would have to face someone else in Esau’s stead.
Jacob wrestled for his life against God and would not come away completely unscathed, losing the battle with a bum hip. Yet, he had the faith to audaciously demand a blessing from God, and he obtained it. The blessing came with the new name Israel, for he had struggled both with God and humans and overcame the adversity (Genesis 32:28).
The tide changed for a season as Israel and Esau were able to reconcile, but Israel would soon have more battles to fight. After moving to a new land in which he found himself a foreigner, his daughter was defiled, his sons (who also defiled women) committed genocide on their sister’s behalf, idolatry seeped into the family, and his beloved wife Rachel died. Yet, Israel never lost God’s blessing.
Despite the family dysfunction and his shortcomings, Israel’s faith kept him close to and reliant upon God, making him a role model for all of us.
Connecting: Why was it important for Jacob to literally wrestle with God?
Sharing: What do Israel’s sons’ homicidal and womanizing actions, and his family’s Canaanite idols, reveal about him?
- Israel’s sons/family were influenced by Rachel (Genesis 31:19, 32)
- Israel had his own share of bad behaviors that had to be tempered
- Israel did not like conflict so he let everyone go their own way until they threatened peace, or until God intervened
- Israel did not have strict control over the family
- Israel was only reaping the repercussions of moving to a new land and trying to compromise with the Canaanites
Applying: Meet with someone you know who is struggling with facing a challenge, and encourage them with the story of how Jacob wrestled with God. Brainstorm together how their challenge can be overcome.