Jacob wrestled with God.

It is said that God can work in mysterious ways.  I have heard stories of a man shaving, and coming to Christ after reading a page of the Bible he had torn out in order to wipe off shaving cream; of a man who used the pages from Matthew, Mark, and Luke to smoke with, before meeting Christ in the book of John.

Jacob son of Isaac had the pleasure of meeting God in a wrestling match.

Here in Genesis 32 is the epic struggle:

24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 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.”

I finished reading this passage thinking “why did this happen?” So I looked up a sermon from 1994, from a Rev. Goettsche, and it completely changed my attitude towards this story.

Put yourself in Jacob’s position – He has avoided a serious crisis with Laban, and preparing to meet his brother and, quite possibly, his killer.  Jacob has been praying to God to save him, reminding God of His promise to prosper him.  God responds by wrestling with Him.

Why does God decide to give Jacob a struggle with Him?

I think it was to show Jacob who he was really in conflict with.  This whole time, Jacob is under the impression that his fight is with Esau and Laban.  God is reminding Jacob, “Your fight is with Me.”

One observation Rev. Goettsche made was that Scripture says “a man wrestled with Jacob,” not that “Jacob wrestled with a man.”  God initiated this struggle.

What is the point of wrestling?  To force the opponent to yield.  God wrestled with Jacob to make Jacob yield to Him, for in order for Jacob to be raised up as a new nation, he would have to be broken down first.

Probably the most challenging question for me to ask was this: Is God so weak that a mere man could hold him down for an entire night?

Looking at the passage, Jacob was beaten when God touched his hip socket in such a way to dislocate his hip.  God could have done this at any time to end the struggle.  But He wanted Jacob to struggle.  I think God wanted Jacob to reach a point where he couldn’t move an inch out of fatigue.

Why does God then dislocate Jacob’s hip? Why doesn’t he just let go and say “Well done, my young apprentice?” After Jacob is worn to the bone, God defeats Jacob with one touch.  I believe God is showing Jacob this:  You have tried every trick you know.  You have fought as hard as you could. You gave it your all.  But I defeated you with one touch.  Jacob had to understand that God was superior.

Jacob grew up knowing who God was.  He prayed to Him and was met by angels on numerous occasions up to this point.  He knew the words to say, and he knew the actions to perform.  But God desired an intensely personal relationship with Jacob.  In the midst of the looming distractions Jacob is facing with his family, God created a raw struggle with Jacob in order to force him to focus on his own self and faith.

In wrestling, every muscle is strained to its limit.  Every move has a countermove.  The mind is fixated on what the body is doing, and what the opponent’s body is going to do.  Every ounce of the person is tuned in to the task at hand.

I believe God desired Jacob to focus his entire being on Him in such a way.  I think God was thoroughly enjoying the wrestling match, thinking, “Finally! Finally you are paying attention to me! Oh, and check out this move – ”

When does this match end? Jacob is barely hanging on, his hip dislocated, no doubt in great pain – but he won’t let go until he is blessed by the man he wrestled with.

The last time Jacob asked for a blessing, he was in the presence of his father Isaac, lying to his blind face.  He went to such lengths as to put wool over his arms to deceive Isaac’s touch.  When he asked for a blessing, and his father asked, “Who are you,” Jacob replied, “I am Esau.”

Is there any question as to why God asks of Jacob at the end of the wrestling match, “Who are you?”  God knew Jacob’s name before he was even named so.  God wanted to know if Jacob was going to own up to who he really was, or whether he was going to continue to struggle.

For all Jacob knew, the stranger could have been from Esau’s camp.  By giving his identity, he may well have been putting himself at his enemy’s mercy, being in such a weak state and all alone.  By telling the truth, Jacob was rebelling against all that he had ever done up to this point, deceiving his father, his brother, his relatives, and constantly running and hiding from them.

God desired Jacob to come to grips with who “Jacob” really was – for only once that is established could God move within him.  If a man is calling someone to ask how to reach a destination, how can he be told if he can’t explain where he is?  God showed Jacob where he was, and it took a long night to make it clear.

God is constantly asking me, “who are you?” I am a sinner, I am prideful, I am lustful, I am weak.  God will wrestle with me until I come to grips and tell Him who I am.  And He will answer, “I know who you are.  You are a sinner, and therefore my enemy.  But if you submit to Me, I will make you a sinner redeemed; an enemy I  call friend; an orphan I  call child of Mine. ”   God renamed Jacob to be “Israel” in remembrance of his having struggled with God and men and overcome.

Why didn’t God heal Jacob after he learned his lesson?

I believe Jacob’s injury served as a reminder of what he learned, and who he encountered that night.  I believe Jacob would wince, and then smile at the memory of God popping  his hip out every time it twinged.  But some injuries don’t make us smile.  Some of the injuries left on us from struggles past continue to hurt – and often we fume at God for the hurt we feel.  And every time we do, we forget that He is the only one who can kiss away the pain.

Our lives will always be filled with problems.  Jacob only saw the struggles with Laban and Esau, and not the struggle of his own heart to submit to God.  We are not so different from Jacob – we cry out to God for Him to take us out of our situation, without wishing to let God take control of every situation we face.

What amazes me is the intensity of God’s desire to be with us.  God desires our hearts so much He is willing to come down and wrestle with us personally until we realize who He is.

My favorite part of the entire story is when Jacob asks God who He is.  Jacob wrestled with God hour after hour, forsaking all sleep and comfort, to discover the identity of the one who faced him.  I love God’s reply even better.  Why? Because it’s the way He answers every question the disciples, the crowds, and the pharisees ask Him – He answers it with a question: Why do you ask my name?

Then Jacob recognized God, and it must have been the most incredible experience as God faded into the rising sun.

Rev. Goettsche ended his sermon saying, “This has been a devastating week for many of us…including me.  There will be scars for a long long time.  There are lots of questions that we have that will never be answered.”

I was curious as to what events Rev. Goettsche might have been talking about.  The sermon was given on October 4, 1999.  I looked up November 1999 online, and I found that just two weeks prior to his sermon, an earthquake in Taiwan killed around 2,400 people.

I don’t know if this was part of the struggles Rev. Goettsche and his congregation were facing, but I do know that many people wrestled with God many nights and many days because of that incident.  I know that even now as rescue efforts continue in Haiti, 70,000 lives have been taken thus far, and the death count is rising even as aftershocks continue to shake the country.

Like Rev. Goettsche, I don’t think there will be a good answer to give until we are in Heaven, but I believe that God will reach down to the people of Haiti just as He did with Jacob.

I found a poem written by Charles Wesley, and it is my prayer and my desire that I may find what Jacob found, and that the people of Haiti – and all who are suffering today – will meet who Jacob met in this poem.

WRESTLING JACOB

by: Charles Wesley (1707-1788)

    OME, O Thou Traveller unknown,

    Whom still I hold, but cannot see,

    My company before is gone,

    And I am left alone with Thee.

    With Thee all night I mean to stay,

    And wrestle till the break of day.

    I need not tell Thee who I am,

    My misery, or sin declare,

    Thyself hast call’d me by my name,

    Look on thy hands, and read it there,

    But who, I ask Thee, who art Thou?

    Tell me thy name, and tell me now.

    In vain Thou strugglest to get free,

    I never will unloose my hold:

    Art Thou the Man that died for me?

    The secret of thy love unfold;

    Wrestling I will not let Thee go,

    Till I thy name, thy nature know.

    ‘Tis all in vain to hold thy tongue,

    Or touch the hollow of my thigh:

    Though every sinew be unstrung,

    Out of my arms Thou shalt not fly;

    Wrestling I will not let Thee go,

    Till I thy name, thy nature know.

    My strength is gone, my nature dies,

    I sink beneath thy weighty hand,

    Faint to revive, and fall to rise;

    I fall, and yet by faith I stand,

    I stand, and will not let Thee go,

    Till I thy name, thy nature know.

    Yield to me now–for I am weak;

    But confident in self-despair:

    Speak to my heart, in blessings speak,

    Be conquer’d by my instant prayer,

    Speak, or Thou never hence shalt move,

    And tell me, if thy name is LOVE.

    ‘Tis Love, ’tis Love! Thou diedst for me,

    I hear thy whisper in my heart.

    The morning breaks, the shadows flee:

    Pure UNIVERSAL LOVE Thou art,

    To me, to all, thy bowels move,

    Thy nature, and thy name is LOVE.

    Contented now upon my thigh

    I halt, till life’s short journey end;

    All helplessness, all weakness I,

    On Thee alone for strength depend,

    Nor have I power, from Thee, to move;

    Thy nature, and thy name is LOVE.

    Lame as I am, I take the prey,

    Hell, earth, and sin with ease o’ercome;

    I leap for joy, pursue my way,

    And as a bounding hart fly home,

    Thro’ all eternity to prove

    Thy nature, and thy name is LOVE.

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About gamerfiction

Ever find yourself blown away by that videogame trailer or in-game cinematic and left hungry for more? Or maybe you loved a character and felt like the game just didn't give him, her, or it enough credit? I'm no whiz story-teller, just a dude who wants more story out of his button-mashing. Enjoy, repost for your friends, and above all, keep the recommendations flooding in!

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