Wrestling with God
Jacob is returning home and preparing to meet his older brother Esau after 20 years of separation. As he is returning angels of God met him along the way. Jacob sends messengers ahead to let Esau know he is returning and the messengers return to Jacob to let him know that Esau is now on his way to meet Jacob along with 400 men. Jacob becomes very fearful of Esau knowing that when he left home Esau had been planning to kill him for taking Esau’s blessing and birthright. In great fear and distress Jacob divides all the people and animals into two groups so that if Esau attacks one the other can escape. After taking action through his own wisdom he prays to the Lord.
Genesis 32: 9-12 9Then Jacob prayed, "O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac,” O Lord, who said to me, 'Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper,'”10.I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness” you have shown your servant. I had only my staff” when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two groups.” 11.Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid” he will come and attack me,” and also the mothers with their children.” 12.But you have said, 'I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand” of the sea, which cannot be counted.” '
What is Jacob doing here? In a time of great fear and distress he turns to prayer but let’s look at the model of how Jacob prays. First he prays God’s promises back to Him, he humbles himself completely and admits he is unworthy of the past or future blessings, is completely honest with God and admits his fears but stands in faith on the safety of God’s word & God being true to His character & word. He prays God’s own word back to Him.
In his moment of complete terror for not only his own life but for his wives and children’s lives he surrenders completely to humility and God’s promises. He is quick to acknowledge that God owes him nothing and that he deserves nothing. I am feeling more than a bit convicted by this. How many times in my own trials have I approached the Lord in this way “Lord, I have been so good why is this happening to me? I don’t deserve this.” 1 Peter 5:5 Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." Might we pause for a moment and look back at our desperate cries to God in prayer & reflect on whether we were in complete humility or not? If we were not, could our feelings of entitlement affect the outcome of God’s answer to our prayer? Let’s pause for discussion.
Next Jacob sends everyone away with a plan to pacify Esau with many gifts. Jacob spends the night in the camp and is alone at first but then spends the entire night wrestling with “a man”.
Jacob Wrestles With God Genesis 32: 22-32
22.That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two maidservants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok.23.After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions.24.So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak25.When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob's hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man.26.Then the man said, "Let me go, for it is daybreak." But Jacob replied, "I will not let you go unless you bless me."27.The man asked him, "What is your name?" "Jacob," he answered.28.Then the man said, "Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome."29.Jacob said, "Please tell me your name." But he replied, "Why do you ask my name?" Then he blessed him there.30.So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, "It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared."31.The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip.32.Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip, because the socket of Jacob's hip was touched near the tendon.
“Our Lesson: Wrestle Our Way with God to:
1. A new kind of courage.
2. A new kind of Intimacy.
3. A new kind of Identity.
4. A new kind of walk. – Beth Moore quotation marks with –BM denotes a Beth Moore quote.
A New Kind of Courage
In verse 24 Jacob gets himself alone with God as should we when we desperately need to cry out. Who is this man Jacob wrestles with? Jacob says it is God in human flesh. “Most scholars believe this anthropomorphism, meaning when God endows Himself w/ human form, to be pre-incarnate Jesus Christ.”-BM Either way, this is no human man Jacob is wrestling with and Jacob knows it. He has the courage to wrestle with God and come face to face with Him.
A New Kind of Intimacy
In verse 25 the man sees that he cannot overpower Jacob. It is more than obvious that God could physically overpower any man. “Overpower in this instance is means that he could not make Jacob quit.”- BM “Hosea 12:4 Yes, he struggled with the Angel and prevailed; He wept, and sought favor from Him. He found Him in Bethel, And there He spoke to us”— Jacob wept & begged for God’s favor. When things got tough Jacob did not quit and run. “This was Jacob’s first honest fight.”- BM Jacob had long used clever trickery to get his way in the past. As he now has the courage to face God and wrestle with him he cannot use manipulation or trickery in this fight. Jacob knows he must face a battle (facing his brother Esau) but he will not go on until he has a blessing from the Lord. He is determined to receive from the Lord and he is willing to hang on until he gets it. In fact, he held on to God for the entire night just until sunrise. Even after the man has touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of it’s socket he would not let go. That my friend is a determination to be blessed. Can we find inspiration in this wrestling match with God? What do we think may have been God’s purpose for wrestling with Jacob? Was God trying to take Jacob to a new place? Was God trying to teach Jacob something about himself? Surely God knew he promised to take care of Jacob as part of the promise to Abraham and he could have just given Jacob His blessing. But, he let Jacob wrestle with him instead. Let’s pause for a moment to discuss why God sometimes lets us wrestle with Him instead of just giving us what He has already planned for us. What might we learn when we wrestle with God?
“In Hebrew text wrestled is abaq. The word embraced is habaq. They have the same root.”- BM Interesting?
In verse 26 the man tells Jacob to let him go because daybreak is coming. Jacob, even though his hip is out of socket still refuses to let go of the man. I will not let you go until you bless me. “It is intimacy with God when you are willing to wrestle with God.”- BM Scripture tells us that we cannot see God’s face & live. Possibly this is why the man tells Jacob to let go because it is daybreak and” the light will allow Jacob the ability to see His face. Jacob knows all this & yet he still hangs on to the man. We should also not give up until the blessings come. Hang on. Stay face to face with God. Keep talking to him, be honest with God. God can handle our fears, questions and doubts as long as our heart’s intentions are to understand and stay in relationship with Him. As we are wrestling something out with God we are embracing Him. We cannot fool Him with pretty words in our prayers.”-BM If you are feeling something wrestle it out with Him. If you need to face something, wrestle it out with Him. “Be honest in your prayers. “Do we say all the right things to God or will we be honest. Isaiah 29:13 The Lord says: "These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.” Do we tell God what we are really feeling & thinking?”- BM Let’s think about that for a moment. When we are praying are we always honest with God? Let’s pause for a moment to discuss this.
A New Kind of Identity: In verse 27 the man asks Jacob “What is your name?” This may be somewhat confusing at first. But really it is a very important question. In Biblical times many people were named after their identity. Sometimes they even changed their names all on their own due to their circumstances. (Ruth 1:20 Don't call me Naomi, “she told them.”Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. Reference also Luke 10:38-39 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.39.She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said.) “The Lord is asking Jacob “Who are you?”. “Jacob”. –heelgrabber, supplanter, cheater, deceiver, manipulator.”-BM What would we say our name was if God was asking us to call ourselves by who we are on the inside and how we conduct ourselves? Who are you? Are you willing to confess who you are to God? Let’s pause for a moment to reflect on that.
supplanter: one who wrongfully or illegally seizes and holds the place of another.
In verse 28 we get to some good meat to chew on. “Then the man said, "Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome." “God had Jacob say his name so God could change it”.-BM Jacob had to confess who he was before he could receive his new identity. God then changes Jacob’s name to Israel and if you were to read the rest of the story you would see a very different Jacob after this encounter with God. He was a new man with a new identity. Let’s look at a few important points Beth Moore makes on this:
1. Through the worst of our struggles it will be wrestling those things out with God which is what changes our identity. It was not the struggle with Esau that was the hardest thing, but wrestling it out with God.
2. It’s not about never doubting but coming out of it with more faith than when we entered through. Stick it out with Him.
3. What do we do when we feel like we have lost our stability with God? Not that he isn’t there but that he has allowed something very unstabalizing to come into my life. What do we do? We wrestle it out with Him, pour our hearts out and hang on tight.
4. Revelation 2:17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it." Overcome-a new name- We have a new name waiting on us from God. It is not until we overcome that we receive our new identity. –Walk in your new name.
5. God sees us for what He is making us. (Thank you & Amen to that!)
A New Kind of Walk
In verse 31 we see Jacob limping off into the sunrise after receiving his blessing. Amen to that. Let’s discuss some points Beth Moore makes.
1. We can not ask God the hard questions & keep walking the way we’ve been walking.
2. Sometimes you have to get a wounding to get a blessing.
3. Sometimes only a wound can take us where God wants us to go. Isn’t it by Christ’s wounds that we are healed, saved and set free?
4. We may come out with a limp but we will all have victory if we embrace God and don’t let go.
Additional points of interest:
“The unique message of Christianity is that God is not an impersonal force, or a terrifying presence to whom we cannot relate in any meaningful way. God is not a person who expects only praise and sacrifices and groveling from us and has no further use for us. God is ready and willing and eager to get down and dirty with us.
We are the spiritual descendants of Jacob. We are the people who wrestle with God. It is not presumptuous of us to make this claim. God was the one who gave that name to God's people. That's who God wants us to be.
Of course God could squish us like a bug in a nanosecond. But for our benefit, God is always available to wrestle with us, at whatever level we are capable of wrestling.
God sent Jesus into the world to wrestle with us, and Jesus allowed himself to get pinned to a cross. That's what it took for us to experience the love that flows from God.”-Nathan Aaseng.
“The notion that only good things happen to good people was put to rest when Jesus was put upon the cross. The more crucial question is, in all circumstances of joy and pain, can you trust God to be God? Can you love God without linking such love to the good or bad things that come your way in life? “ Reverend Dr. Robert Dunham
Israel: Etymology: OFr < id="SPELLING_ERROR_16" class="blsp-spelling-error">Ec) < id="SPELLING_ERROR_17" class="blsp-spelling-error">yisrael, lit., contender with God < sara, to wrestle + el, God