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Wrestling with God

Have you ever faced a situation beyond your control?

In Genesis 32, Jacob finds himself in a situation entirely beyond his control. Though he was married, to two wives with kids, and well-off, he now faced a threat beyond him. Jacob was travelling on his way back to Canaan and was about to face his older brother Esau, from whom Jacob had stolen their father’s birthright. Esau we are told is on his way to meet Jacob with 400 men. That did not fill Jacob with confidence. 

This crisis awoke in Jacob a hunger for God Himself. He spends time in deep prayer alone. Then, that night, the most amazing thing happens. A man suddenly appears and Jacob enters a wrestling match with him that lasts until dawn. 

We can ascertain several things about Jacob’s character from his life. One, he was extremely prideful for he deceived his father in order to steal his brother’s birthright. Not only that, but when he was deceived and given Leah not Rachel as a wife, he worked another 7 years to receive her as a wife as well. Two, he was a determined fellow. Spending 7 additional years working for Rachel after already having spent 7 years for her must’ve taken some guts. Likewise, to wrestle with God for an entire evening took tenacity and resolve.

Jacob at some point realizes he is wrestling with none other than the Lord. The conflict brought to a head the battling and groping of a lifetime. Jacob’s embrace so vividly expresses his vacillating attitude to God, of love and enmity, defiance and dependence. It was against God, not Esau or Laban, that he had been pitting his strength and God now takes the initiative to chasten his pride and challenge his tenacity. 

By crippling Jacob and renaming him Israel God shows that he wants all of Jacob’s character his determination, but cleansed of the prideful self-interest and renewed to the proper object of man’s love, God Himself. Jacob’s competitiveness is turned to a dogged dependence. He emerges broken, named, and blessed. His limping would serve as a lasting sign of the reality of the struggle. His new name would serve as a sign to his renewed relationship with God no longer Jacob ‘the prideful cheat,’ but Israel, a mark of grace. 

There is so much for us to take from this story. Like Jacob, we are prideful and desire success. We strive to overcome others. Whether COVID-19 or some other event, we strive to overcome the earthly trials we face, like Jacob,  with our own cunning. Like Jacob, we wrestle with God. God, why did you let this happen? God, I’m going to get myself out of this situation. God, I should have this, so I’m going to make it happen.

Like Jacob, we need to come to the realization that all we can do is hold on to the Lord and ask for His blessing. We may be left with scars, but God will renew us in Jesus Christ.

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