Summary: This is about Jacob’s wrestling match with God and the significance for us.
Jacob was the grandson of Abe. Give brief background of Jacob’s life. Sneaky, underhanded, trickster, etc. Jacob had tricked his father, Isaac, and his father-in-law, Laban. He was a marked man by Esau. He is older now, and he is headed to meet his brother.
Read Genesis 32:22-32.
What we have here is a pretty intense God encounter. Jacob isn’t sure at first who is wrestling with; it’s only later that he realizes it is God. This is a major struggle in the life of Jacob. What can we learn about struggling with God? Some people say that they are so close to God that they never struggle with him. Nonsense. Struggling or wrestling with God can be a good thing.
· The DESCRIPTION of the struggle.
We can all see this happening. This isn’t a WWF wrestling match. It’s likely your more classical style of match. There are two important things about the struggle:
o Jacob gets ALONE with God.
This happens in isolation. The fact that it happens at night further emphasizes the aloneness of the encounter. It would be hard to overstate the importance of solitude with God. That’s not to say we become monks. We need alone time.
o Jacob gets in a STRUGGLE with God.
Jacob intentionally withdrew himself from his family, probably concerned with the impending meeting with his brother, who had wanted to kill him. Suddenly a man ambushes him. Could it be Esau? It’s a life and death struggle.
Jacob holds his own with his opponent. Have you ever wrestled with God? I have. My call to the ministry was such a time. Give overview.
In addition to the description we have…
· The REALITY of the struggle.
This wasn’t a dream. This was reality. Have you ever dreamt that you were falling, and then you wake up and realize it was a dream? You usually quickly put it out of your mind. There is no evidence that this wasn’t real. This was real for two reasons.
o The PAIN from God.
Jacob had his hip thrown out of joint. That causes serious pain. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons “It requires substantial force to pop the thighbone out of its socket. But that’s just what happens in a hip dislocation.” They go on to say, “A hip dislocation can have long-term consequences. As the thighbone is pushed out of its socket, it can disrupt blood vessels and nerve functioning. This can result in some tissue death. The protective cartilage covering the bone may also be damaged, increasing the risk of developing arthritis in the joint.” That’s real.
o The BLESSING from God.
If this whole incident was nothing more than a dream, then the blessing that God gave him was also a dream. This would be a meaningless dream, like so many other dreams. Blessings from God are not mere illusions or fabrications of the mind. Jacob had a very real struggle with God that night.
· The SIGNIFICANCE of the struggle.
Turning points are places we look back on as times of changes and a point that altered the course of our lives forever. Wars, sporting events, movies, and our lives have turning points. The significance is that things are never quite the same again. Jacob’s life was forever altered from this point forward. He would never be the same. When we encounter God we cannot helped but be changed forever.
o Jacob gets a new NAME.
Again Jacob’s name meant “trickster.” It would be like naming your child “Cheater.” Essentially the name Israel means, “God strives.”
The change in name indicates a change in character. This is especially true in the Hebrew culture. (Richard Nixon was often referred to as “Tricky Dick.”) Jacob was forced to look into his character when God asked his name. It’s not like God didn’t know Jacob’s name. God wanted him to take a long hard look at who he was. An encounter with God will force us to take a long hard look at who we are.
If a name could describe your life up to this point what would it be? Cheater? Liar? The truth is until we encounter God and his grace and mercy it is “Sinner”? We have all sinned. We need a new name, that of Christ.
o Jacob gets a new WALK.
Jacob’s walk changed both physically and spiritually. As noted earlier hip dislocation isn’t fun. He limped the rest of his life. It was a constant reminder of the night near the river where the course of his life was altered forever. It’s helpful to have a limp from God.
Jacob was a deceiver prior to this, but after this encounter he was different. He dealt honestly with people. An encounter with God can change our character. It is when we encounter the power of God in our lives that things change.