Thursday, July 14, 2011

Genesis 32:22-32

In today’s story from Genesis, Jacob has a need for a face-to-face encounter with God, because he is so fearful of seeing Esau’s face. If Jacob were meeting Esau with a clear conscious, he would not need to be fearful. However, increasing the fear is the shame he bears for his trickery with his brother. So, God has some work to do in Jacob this night, and He keeps him up all night in a wrestling match. What in the world is this all about? Well, with a little help from Hosea, Jon Courson, and Beth Moore, we’ll get a full picture of what God and Jacob are doing here. First read the passage in its entirety to see the the complete event.

Jacob has sent his wives and children and all of his possessions on ahead across the river. He is now all alone, with none of his people, no TV, no cell phone, no video games to distract him. When we are surrounded by people and sounds and gadgets, we don’t have to deal with what’s going on inside us. We can barely hear the sounds of nature, let alone the voice of God! There is definitely a need for us to “be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10) And sometimes is takes clearing everyone and everything else out to be only with our Father. Jesus modeled this over and over when He would leave the crowds to pray.

So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 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. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” (Gen 32:24-27)

In Hosea 12:3-5 we get more insight into this scene:

In the womb he grasped his brother’s heel; as a man he struggled with God. He struggled with the angel and overcame him; he wept and begged for his favor. He found him at Bethel and talked with him there— the LORD God Almighty, the LORD is his name of renown!

Jon Courson looks at this wrestling match as a lesson in persistence in prayer. He asks, “Why did God wrestle Jacob? Why does he want to wrestle with you and me?. . . It’s something called intimacy. God likes to wrestle things through with [us] because He enjoys us. It’s as if He says to us, ‘Let’s wrestle this thing through hour after hour, day after day, even month after month, because not only will you find that I’ll come through eventually - but in the process, we will develop a wonderful intimacy.’ “ (Courson’s Old Testament Commentary, Vol 1, P. 155)

What are the things that cause us to struggle with God? A deep loss - the loss of a spouse, a child, a friend, a home, a job, our health? Or maybe a persistent sin or feeling of worthlessness? If you have ever been through one of these devastating losses or inward struggles, you know that it causes you to agonize as you question God. My dear friend, Carrol, who had breast cancer several years ago, recently wrote me about that period in her life and how it caused her to really seek God like never before - and for that she is actually grateful for the cancer! I see my sister, Jodi, even now wrestling with God over the overwhelming events of the past few months, the loss of her son and the fight with multiple myeloma. This kind of struggling is done with great pain - even weeping and begging as we see in Jacob - but joy and blessing are the end result! I know that is where Jodi will end up, but I cry with her now in the struggle and pray for her as she wrestles. She’s already seen many blessings, but I know that the wrestling is not yet over.

Courson continues:

“God also invites us to wrestle with Him in order that we might discover things about Him and ourselves we could learn in no other way. As you wrestle in prayer, you might find that what God gives to you and does for you is entirely different than what you expected. Jacob asked to be blessed, instead he was broken - but the answer was better, because our Father knows best.” (P.155) I can hear Carrol shouting, “Amen!”

Jacob was never the same after this wrestling match! He walked with a limp forever after - a limp that reminded him that when God wins the match, WE win, too!

Tomorrow we’ll take a second look at this same scene with some insights from Beth Moore that bless my socks off!

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