Ever wrestled with God? Since that’s not physically possible, wrestling with God takes the form of wrestling in prayer or wrestling in your soul. Perhaps you’ve wrestled with God over taking a job or buying a house or marrying someone or a wayward child or friend. Wrestling with God is not fun or pretty. Sometimes wrestling with God happens when He asks us to do something we are afraid to do. Sometimes we fear the consequences to our reputation, finances, lifestyle, or family. Fear is a primary motivator for wrestling with God. We wrestle with Him because we’re afraid of something or someone.
That was the case with Jacob. He had fled from his brother, Esau, to live with his uncle Laban in the city of Haran. He left under the pretext of taking a wife from among his mother’s people. Now after 20 years of servitude for his uncle, marrying two wives, Rachel and Leah, and fathering 12 sons and 1 daughter, Jacob flees from Uncle Laban. Heading back to his homeland he hears that his brother, Esau, is coming to meet him with a small army. Panicked at the thought that Esau might still be seeking revenge for all Jacob had done to him 20 years earlier, Jacob sends servants with gifts in hopes of appeasing Esau. He then sends his wives and children ahead of him. He is left alone at the Jabbok Stream. There, alone and afraid, he is met by a man who wrestles with him all night in a fierce, exhausting match (Genesis 32:24-26). We later learn that this man is none other than God and a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ, the God-man (32:30, Hosea 12:4). The God-man gives Jacob (“Supplanter”) a new name. He would now be called Israel, “Wrestler with God.” As a side note, the Jabbok Stream where Jacob and the God-man wrestled means “wrestling” in Hebrew. They wrestled at Wrestling Stream.
What lessons can we glean from this ancient story?
- Like Jacob, wrestling with God always occurs alone. No one but you can wrestle with God.
- Wrestling with God is exhausting and lengthy. Jacob wrestled with God all night and the match didn’t end until daybreak. When you’re wrestling with God in prayer the answers won’t come quickly or easily.
- Wrestling with God is fear-driven. Just as Jacob was terrified at the prospect of meeting Esau, fear drives us to wrestle with God. We are afraid of what might happen or what the consequences of our decision might be and so we wrestle with God for His help.
- Wrestling with God is about trust. Jacob was a self-willed man who trusted in his own abilities and cunning to get by in life. Now he must trust the Lord. Might that be your case too? It isn’t easy to trust the Lord in a fearful situation or with a person you fear if you’ve relied on your own abilities and cunning in the past. God will wrestle with you until you discover that He is trustable and you can’t do it in your own strength.
- God loves wrestlers. He permits Himself to be wrestled. He can stop the match at any time just as He did with Jacob by simply touching Jacob’s thigh. Jacob’s thigh was immediately dislocated proving to Jacob that this was no dream. He wants us to grapple with issues in prayer and in our souls and not rely upon our own strength and abilities.
The God-man not only renamed Jacob with a new name but blessed him by allowing him to see God and live. Jacob names their place of wrestling Peniel, “Face of God.” Do you need to wrestle with God in prayer because you are afraid of something? Do you need to wrestle with Him so you can see His face clearly and trust Him implicitly? Perhaps 2019 is your year for wrestling with God so you can learn to trust Him more.
In the Victor’s grip,