Wrestling with God – Genesis 33:22-32
I have a particular fondness for this portion of Genesis because I sure wrestled with God in my time. God and I have had many vivid debates, I struggled with concepts, and had a lot of hard-heartedness and stubbornness. God is so patient, and He kept showing me through others and through His Word the truth, until I could accept it.
Speaking of hips out of joint – I could use some prayer for that as my left hip joint hurts and at times I limp when I walk, old age I guess.
Back to Jacob – remember, he is quivering in His sandals because Esau is coming to greet him with 400 men. Jacob has decided to send massive amounts of gifts before him, so that when he finally comes face to face with Esau, that maybe Esau will think more kindly about Jacob.
We will see that in his courage, Jacob sends over his wives and children before him. Verse 22-23 And he arose that night and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven sons, and crossed over the ford of Jabbok. He took them, sent them over the brook, and sent over what he had.
Then Jacob will be all alone. I have to be honest, some of my best times I have had with God have been when I was all alone with Him. No distractions, just God and me. Verse 24 Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. (Most probably the preincarnate Messiah). verse 25-26 Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him. And He said, “Let Me go, for the day breaks.” But he said, “I will not let You go unless You bless me.”
Why did Jacob hold onto God? 1. To receive a blessing. 2. for relationship, 3. Destiny-change, 4 Healing.
So often when we have a need we do not hold on long enough. We let go too soon. Jacob held on, even when his hip was made out of joint – and trust me an out of joint hip hurts. It is funny, but whatever our hurt, sometimes it is so tempting to just let go and run from the pain. Unfortunately that will not help us go through the trial, and we can miss a blessing. Best to hold onto God in the midst of the hurt and pain. It is in this holding on that God can change us.
I love what happens next.
Verse 27 And He said to him, “What is your name?” He said, “Jacob.”
Do you really think God doesn’t know Jacob’s name? Of course God knows Jacob’s name, he just wants Jacob to honestly realize who he is – the heel snatcher. God wanted Jacob to recall the times that he cheated his way into and out of situations, grabbing things, rather than trusting God. It must have been with a bit of shame that Jacob would answer, “Jacob.” because of what the name meant.
Then the Man says, verse 28 “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have struggled with God and with men and have prevailed.” Wow, Israel means Prince with God! What an elevation in rank: heel snatcher to prince with God. What a difference a name makes! We will see in the rest of the story about Jacob how, when Jacob is acting in the flesh, God calls him “Jacob” but when he is acting the way God would want him to act, God calls him “Israel” so we will be able to see the mind of God and how God views Jacob/Israel’s actions.
Hosea 12:3-4 He took his brother by the heel in the womb, and in his strength he struggled with God. Yes, he struggled with the Angel and prevailed; he wept and sought favor from Him.
Jacob, like us at times, was in tough straights, was scared and he needed a blessing. There are some interesting parallels though. Remember Isaac, when Jacob stole the blessing, was blind and had to ask who Jacob was – Jacob lied and stated that he was Esau. Here the angel held Jacob accountable, and asked his name – and Jacob had to answer honestly. I am Jacob, the heel snatcher, the conniver, the con man.
Of course, then Jacob wanted to know the Man’s name. verse 29 Then Jacob asked, saying, “Tell me Your name, I pray.” And He said, “Why is it that you ask about My name?” And He blessed him there. Jacob called the name of the place Peniel (Face of God): “For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.”
After this encounter with God, Jacob crosses Peniel, and the sun rises. How awesome that when we have a real encounter with God, the darkness around us lifts and we see the light. But Jacob/Israel carried a remembrance of this encounter – he limped. From that day forward the children of Israel do not eat the muscle of that shank, because it is on the hip socket.
We need to rely on God, not do things in our own strength. The pain in our walk lets us know that God is more concerned about our eternal state than our present comfort. Although Israel walked with a limp, his spiritual walk was strengthened by that encounter – he got a new name, a new identity, and a real relationship with God that he carried with him.
Beth Moore adds some thoughts to this. Page 149 which is the video worksheet for her video about Jacob’s wrestling.
“Jacob had to make an honest appraisal of himself. He was entirely alone, and when we are without our friends around us, we are more who we really are.” I can agree with this, so often I hide from myself by activities and people. “People help to cover ourselves when we blow it. We play games with ourselves, deceptions. If we do not deal honestly with the games we play with ourselves, we will keep falling prey to them. God has made honesty a big deal, and we have to honestly accept where we are before we can make any real, lasting change.”
The Man gave Jacob an Honest fight. In this struggle with the Man, Jacob learned how to face up and fight honestly. Beth says that “sometimes in the dark of our night seasons we don’t know with whom or what we are struggling until the light begins to dawn. When God allows or invites us to wrestle with Him, His constant goal is to make us overcomers. Even when God appears to be against us, He is for us.”
Because Jacob honestly faced up to what he needed to face up to, he got an honest blessing. Beth counsels that in every struggle, don’t let go until the blessing comes.
“Few things define us more than how we struggle. When we struggle through the crisis with God all the way to the blessing, we are gloriously redefined.”
What kind of fighter are we? Do we fight dirty? Going to a person’s weakness. Do we fight in the mud, having to get the last word in, to best another person, scheme and shame a person. or do we as Paul tells Timothy, to fight the good fight of faith.
Remember Revelation 2:17, that the person who overcomes will be given hidden manna and a new name written on a white stone.
I am so hoping that my fights are the good fight of faith, not the kind that puffs myself up at another’s expense. I want to be a blessing to people, not an obstacle. I want them to discover for themselves the wonderful nature of God, to learn to walk in faith, to grow in strength. To walk alongside of them – and if I have a limp that is ok because we can limp together. Sometimes walking alongside a person can do more good than lording over a person. Helping a person discover on their own is an incredible gift. Pastor Don has that gift, for he wants people who walk in their own faith, not just blindly listen and follow him. I am wondering what name God has for me and you.
Hoping your week is blessed,
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