Summary: In this strange wrestling match between Jacob and God, friends struggle with one another and the weaker overcomes the stronger. Find out how God used this wrestling match to help Jacob mature in his faith.
Although I don’t watch pro-wrestling (my parents didn’t allow it lest I practice “piledrivers” on my little sister), I do get a kick out of the wrestlers’ names. There’s Junkyard Dog, Johnny Nitro, The Boogeyman, and The Big Show just to name a few. On our final episode of “Jake TV,” we’ll witness a strange wrestling match between Jacob and God, or if the event had been sponsored by World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), it would have been promoted as The Trickster vs. The Hipster. If you’re a fan of the WWE, you have seen your share of strange wrestling matches but nothing can compare to this one. The Trickster vs. The Hipster was a struggle between friends, and one in which the weaker overcame the stronger. Let’s find out how God used this wrestling match to help Jacob mature as a believer.
Last time we left Jacob he had married the two daughters of his Uncle Laban and worked for him as a shepherd. After serving Laban for twenty years, God told Jacob it was time to return to Canaan where his father Isaac lived. Although Jacob was no doubt excited to be going home, word came that his brother Esau was coming to meet him. Was Esau coming with love in his heart or a lance in his hand to make good on his twenty year-old vow to kill him? The latter seemed more likely since Esau was advancing with a band of four hundred men.
Accordingly, Jacob took precautions. He split his family and flocks into two groups figuring if Esau attacked one group, the other might escape. After sending the groups across the Jabbok River under the cover of darkness, Jacob sat alone on the opposite bank and prayed for God’s protection. Suddenly a man pounced on Jacob and began wrestling with him. Talk about bad timing! Jacob already had enough to worry about in regard to meeting his brother. He couldn’t afford to expend the time and energy wrestling. Where was God when he needed him! Where was God? God was the one wrestling with Jacob.
Talk about a mismatch! I don’t think even the WWE would dream of matching a ninety-nine year-old (that’s how old Jacob was) against their toughest, roughest wrestler. If God had wanted to, he could have ended the match in a heartbeat. The fact that he didn’t tells us that God’s purpose was not to crush the life out of Jacob. God was still Jacob’s friend. Jacob too was convinced of this. How could he not be? Hadn’t God chosen him to be his child when he was still in his mother’s womb? Hadn’t God appeared to him in a dream at Bethel to assure him that, even though he was fleeing Canaan, he would come back and possess the land? Hadn’t God blessed him with wealth even though Uncle Laban had spent twenty years trying to rip him off? On top of all that, before Jacob’s family had crossed the Jabbok River, God had sent an army of angels to assure the patriarch that the Almighty would fight for him. All these things told Jacob that even though God now wrestled with him, he was still his friend.
Do you feel as if God has you in a headlock right now? Has the Almighty ever body-slammed you so that all you could do for days, perhaps even months was stare up at the ceiling from a hospital bed? If so, take comfort in this fact: while God wrestles with us he does so as a father. Just as you dads know the breaking point of your children and will never push them beyond that when rough-housing, so God knows how fragile we are and won’t do anything that will cause our faith in him to be extinguished (Isaiah 42:3). In fact his purpose in wrestling is to draw us closer to him. God made that clear in the Apostle Paul’s life through an illness. Although Paul asked God to remove the “thorn,” as he called the sickness, God responded: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
How God’s power is made perfect in weakness is illustrated in the way the wrestling match between Jacob and God progressed. At one point in the match, God reached over and dislocated Jacob’s hip with the touch of his hand. Jacob could do nothing more now than hang on to God. And hang on he did. Jacob refused to let go even when God asked him to. Jacob said he would not let go until God blessed him. God loved Jacob’s response. God loves it when we cling to his promises, even demand that he keep them. In fact this is why God wrestles with us - so that we will beg blessings of him, blessings he wants to give.