Wrestling With God

I think one of the most puzzling passages in the Old Testament to many people has to be Genesis 32:24-32. It is the record of Jacob’s wrestling with God.

         It is the eve of Jacob’s encounter with his brother Esau, his estranged brother whom he cheated out of his birthright. He’s worried sick that Esau is going to kill him and his fears are well founded. Esau’s coming his way with 400 men. Hardly an outing for a Sunday picnic. After making preparations to appease his brother, Jacob is left alone on the other side of the river. The text tells us that “a man wrestled with him until daybreak” and apparently this “man” was God himself or at the very least an angel of God. This goes on the rest of the night until finally the “man” tells Jacob to let him go. Jacob refuses until he is blessed. Jacob’s name is changed to Israel because, and here’s the curious part, “you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.” What? A mamma’s boy who’s scared to death of his brother winning a wrestlin’ match with Jehovah? If he so chose, God could have left a greasy spot that once was Jacob. But God doesn’t always do what he can do; he does what he wants to do. And what he wants to do is preserve Jacob, not destroy him. Jacob prevails because God is merciful, not because God is a 98-pound weakling. God is impressing upon Jacob’s mind that, regardless of the odds, the strength of your foe or the bleakness of the outlook, God is for you and he doesn’t leave you to fight your battles alone.

         With the rising of the sun Jacob sees his brother and his army coming over the horizon. What had Esau’s intentions been during the march? To hang his brother from the highest tree and leave him for buzzard food? He had vowed before that he would kill him. But if that’s so, a strange thing happened on the way to Jacob’s date with death—Esau’s heart was changed. Where there was bitterness there was now brotherly love. And Jacob prevailed over man like he had prevailed over God. Not because he was bigger, tougher or stronger. But because of God’s tender mercy.

         God doesn’t want to destroy us. He wants to save us. But sometimes we have to wrestle first.

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Published in: on October 14, 2010 at 3:48 pm  Comments (1)  
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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Good one, bud!


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