Summary: Jacob wrestles with an angel. He receives the name Israel, for he strives with God.
Genesis 32:22-30 “The Wrestling Match”
It has been a long time since I have attended a wrestling match. I do remember how exhausted the wrestlers looked after six minutes of wrestling. I can’t imagine what an all-night match would be like.
I do know what it is like to wrestle with God. The story of Jacob wrestling God one night can teach us a great deal about living our lives of faith.
WHO WE ARE
Jacob is traveling back to his homeland. He has been away for several decades. He is now returning home. In the process he will meet his brother, who wanted to kill him when they were last together. Jacob sends his family away with all of his earthly possessions to protect them. He is then alone and in his solitude he encounters God.
When Jacob was wrestling with God he was also wrestling with himself. He knew that he had done wrong. Jacob had tricked his brother out of his brother’s birthright, and he had stolen his brother’s blessing. Jacob was a thief.
Jacob had tricked his father-in-law, also. He gave his father-in-law all of the weak sheep and keep the strong ones for himself. His herd grew stronger while his father’s-in-law grew weaker. Jacob prospered while his father’s-in-law wealth declined.
Like Jacob we too wrestle with God as we realize who we really are:
• We are people who use our anger to control others.
• We are people who spend extravagantly on ourselves while ignoring the needs of others and the poverty of the world.
• We are people who are racists. We are prejudice and we are bigots.
At the end of our wrestling, we are able to confess, repent, and begin anew.
WHAT WE ARE TO DO
Jacob faced an uncertain future. His brother, Esau, was coming to meet him. Jacob had sent hundreds of head of sheep and goats to Esau in an effort to placate him. Jacob didn’t know how Esau was going to respond. Jacob didn’t really want to meet his brother again, but he felt he had to do so.
We wrestle with the leading of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
• We wrestle with what God wants us to do vocationally—pastors, medical personnel and free clinics, new job or a new career.
• We wrestle with stepping out of our comfort zone—making a new friend, participating in a service project and tithing.
It isn’t easy being a disciple of Jesus Christ. Jesus did say to his followers, “If anyone would come after me let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.”
Wrestling with God is not necessarily bad. It is a part of our walks of faith. Wrestling with God is also transformational. Jacob received a limp and a new name. We are different people, also. We emerge from the match with new insights, a new path to travel, a deeper understanding of ourselves and our need for God in our lives.