It is a small note in Scripture, but one to which we should give more thought. Jacob was returning to the land of Canaan after living with his uncle Laban in Mesopotamia. The deceiver, who had deceiver his father Isaac as well as Esau, had been deceived by Laban (be sure your sins will find you out—Numbers 32:23), and was going back home. He had not left on great terms with Laban, and Laban had come to “have it out” with Jacob, but been warned by God not to harm Jacob in any way.
Jacob knew that Esau was coming out to meet him with 400 men, and Jacob was concerned about that Esau was still angry and wanted to hill him (Genesis 27:41). So he sent presents to Esau to appease him. He divided his camp, thinking that if Esau and his men fell on one group, the other would be spared. He was then left alone and a Man (capitalized in Scripture) wrestled with him until the breaking of day. Finally, the Man touched Jacob’s socket, and his hip was out of joint.
Jacob would not let the man go until he had received a blessing. And we read these words, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob (hell grabber) but Israel (Prince of God), for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.” (Genesis 32:28).
Let us think about the idea—is it wrong to wrestle with God? One brother asked me this last week, after I made a point in a Bible class. On the face of it, we say YES, because when we wrestle with God we know that we will always lose. The Man stuck Jacob’s hip socket and made him go limp. One cannot wrestle with God and win. Many spend their entire lives wrestling with what God has said and what he commands, determined to live their lives their own way. Jacob was not an honest man—he had deceived others in his own family; but his sin had found him out and he had been deceived and tricked over ten different times by Laban.
Let us consider it another way, however. Is it a blessing to wrestle with God—even though we know we will lose? Is it not the fact that wrestling make us stronger? You may be blessed as he shows you that you cannot wrestle with God and win. You may then see how much you need God, and while the wrestling made lead to pain and heartache, it may make you trust God more than ever.
What is sad is that Israel’s descendants became a people who wrestled with God throughout their existence. They wrestled with him by being disobedient even though he had blessed than and brought them out of the
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land of Egypt, fed them in the wilderness, and spurned his command to take the land. Once they had taken the land, they were blessed as they continued to follow God, but we then see the sad, sordid tale of the Judges, and their desire to have a king like the nations around them. We see that God then punished them because they refused to obey God, even though he warned them through prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah and others of their sin and rebellion. But God still saved the remnant of them, because he wanted his Only Begotten Son to come into the world through them. Their wrestling with God caused them to be punished, but God’s grace had bigger plans because through them Jesus would come and save not just the Israelites who believed in him, but the whole world.
Blessings come from God, even though we wrestle with God about obedience. Struggles make us stronger, but let us always remember that you will never win against God. He wants us to be saved, but if we continue to wrestle with him until we die; if we continue in disobedience and sin, we will perish. But if we learn what he wants us to learn; become obedient to him and His word, and love him with all of our heart, then the struggles we go through will be worth in the end. And that is what is most important!