The Man Who Wrestled With God
1. Here is an episode which unfolds suddenly and unexpectedly, and has something of a tone of mystery within it, and concludes on what seems to us an odd note, but which obviously involves things which are important to the message of the Bible. What are we to make of it?
2. It will help if we start with these details in mind.
a. Jacob is alone at a real turning-point in his life.
b. The account revolves around a play on words.
c. The man who wrestled with him represented God.
i. v. 24, 30
ii. v. 1; Joshua 5:13, 14
iii. Hosea 12:3, 4
3. Jacob is, then, the man who wrestled with God – in some sense, even the man who wrestled with God and prevailed! He is a man from whom we must learn.
1. Seeking the kingdom
a. The real character of our seeking after the kingdom of God and his righteousness is revealed in this encounter.
i. Matthew 6:10, 33
ii. This is an endeavor which requires energy, struggle, even agony.
b. Something of the kind of wrestling that may be involved can be imagined from the circumstances in which Jacob found himself.
i. He had a past in which there was a string of strife.
ii. At the present, he was alone with a self with whom he could hardly be comfortable.
iii. What the future held for him uncertain and out of his control.
2. Recognizing God
a. Here is where Jacob finally realized the importance of being blessed by God.
i. All his life he had struggled to prevail: Genesis 25:22, with Esau, with Laban.
ii. But now as he is about to re-enter the land he sees that he is really wrestling with God, the only one who can bless him in the way he needs to be blessed.
iii. The struggler at last realizes that it is God who holds his destiny in his hands.
b. Here he makes the God of his father his own God.
i. This is a process that is not always easy, and some, unfortunately, never emerge from it.
ii. Genesis 28:21
iii. Genesis 32:9
3. Touches of grace
a. That God is present enough in a person’s life to be wrestled with, and that he allows it to go on, is in itself an amazing expression of his grace.
b. That the man who had the power to touch Jacob’s hip strengthened him to wrestle on against himself without being overcome and condemned was another expression of his kindness and mercy.
c. His desire to depart before daylight expressed God’s concern that Jacob not perish through beholding his face without the cover of the darkness.
i. Exodus 33:20
ii. Judges 6:22f; 13:22
iii. Jacob recognized this gift for what it was (v. 30).
d. And, of course, the “and there he blessed him” (v. 29) is the clearest expression of the grace of God in this story.
e. The lesson Jacob was to have learned is that God might not be able to grant his every request, but that he would give him what he needed.
4. The persistence of faith
a. What is commended about Jacob in this event is summed up in his statement in verse 26: “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
b. His name was changed to “Israel” – “he strives with God” – because he had striven with God and with men and had prevailed (v. 28).
c. Hosea 12:6
5. At the price of suffering
a. The angel touched Jacob’s hip, and Jacob came away from the whole experience limping. It stayed with him, and remained in the memory of his people.
b. It has been suggested that since the thigh was regarded as the seat of the reproductive powers, the smiting of Jacob’s thigh was a sign of the penalty that would be born by the descendant of David who would ultimately be smitten by God (Isa. 53:4), upon the basis of which God would justify many (Isa. 53:11).
1. Jacob’s new name was applied to a people, and from that people came a Savior, because “God strives.”
2. Will you depart with a blessing, or will you let go too soon?