Summary: Jacob Wrestles With God. (PowerPoint slides to accompany this talk are available on request - email:

Reading: Genesis chapter 32 verses 22-32.


• James Whistler, the Victorian artist,

• Showed scant respect for the hierarchy of any profession.

• When his poodle fell ill with a throat infection,

• The artist sent immediately for the country’s leading ear, nose, and throat specialist,

• When Sir Morell Mackenzie arrived at his house;

• He was not amused when he saw that his patient was a poodle.

• But as a good doctor;

• He conducted a thorough examination, wrote out a prescription, and left with his fee.

• The next day Sir Morell Mackenzie sent the artist James Whistler a message;

• In it he asked him to call on him without delay.

• Fearing some development in the poodle’s condition,

• James Whistler hurried to the doctor’s house.

• “So good of you to come, Mr. Whistler,” said Mackenzie as his visitor was shown in.

• “I wanted to see you about having my front door painted.”

• Well Sir Morell Mackenzie got his revenge;

• And made his point effectively!

Now in Genesis 32 the main character is Jacob:

• He is worried that his brother Esau is about to take revenge on him:

• Esau his brother was a fighter and a killer and Jacob was scared to death of him

• Last week you would have noted how;

• Jacob prayed the right kind of prayer (verses 9-12);

• But Jacob is a classic case of actions speaking louder than words!

• Instead of depending on God, Jacob immediately implements his own plan:


A missionary in the Philippines was driving him in a large flat back truck;

• He saw a local farmer who he knew walking with a really heavy load tied to his back;

• The load was obviously heavy and weighing him down;

• The missionary stopped and told the farmer to jump on board the truck;

• The man did and off they went.

• After a while the missionary looked in his mirror and noticed that the farmer;

• Had still not taken the load of his back.

• Despite his new circumstances;

• The farmer was still carrying the same old load.

• How like Jacob who prayed to God about his burden (his situation);

• And yet continued to carry it (try to sort it) himself.


• We ought not to be surprised by Jacob’s self-sufficiency;

• Because this is the pattern of his whole life:

• Jacob’s philosophy in life was: “God helps those who help themselves!”

• Not only is that outlook foolish, it is truly unbiblical!

• Jacob tended to rely upon his own abilities, rather than trusting in God.

• His life is one illustration after another of self-sufficiency!

(a). Remember back in chapter 27:

• Jacob was promised the status of the firstborn son,

• But instead of waiting on God, he sought to obtain this blessing through deceit.

(b). Back in chapter 30: 37-43:

• Jacob was promised material provision for his life,

• But instead of trusting God, he tried to obtain it through manipulation.

(c). Remember back in chapter 31:

• Jacob was promised protection by God,

• But instead of trusting God, he relied upon deceit and speed to try and outrun Laban,

(d). Remember earlier on in chapter 32:

• Jacob is facing a crisis with Esau,

• And once again he again turns to his own resources, rather than trusting in God.

• He first of all tries to use flattery, which did not work,

• And so he then tries bribery to (to appease Esau with presents) to resolve this crisis situation.


• Jacob is a bit like Marmite;

• You either like him or you dislike him (no neutral ground).

• Jacob was what we would call today a “rascal”

• As one commentator has said:

“Jacob was the kind of person that could enter a revolving door behind you

and come out ahead of you.”

In your studies you will have noted that:

• Jacob cheated his brother,

• Conned his father and his brother,

• And swindled his father-in-law.

• Fortunately for Jacob somebody did like him!

• And that somebody was God Almighty!

Jacob is about to have an encounter with him:

• Remember he is expecting to meet and fight with his brother Esau;

• Instead he is will meet and fight with the Living God!

And he would never be the same again!

• His name would be changed;

• From Jacob to Israel.

• His body would be changed;

• From now on he would forever be disabled (walk with a limp);

• More importantly he would be changed;

• God would change him from scheming to trusting.

• Jacob needed to learn the same lesson all Christians have to learn;

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