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49 Genesis 32v22-32 Wrestling With God

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					Presentation 49
Presentation 49
    Introduction
    The Japanese language, which is written by combining a variety of
    characters has an interesting way of describing a ‘crisis’. It combines the
    character for ‘danger’ with that of ‘opportunity’ thus giving tacit
    recognition to the fact that crisis times can be growth times in the
    development of the individual.

    The most important crisis in Jacob's life is
    found in the passage before us. His crisis
    can be described by using four verb pictures.
    They are;
    ‘trembling, wrestling, clinging and limping.’
    We will examine Jacob’s crisis by using
    these verbs.



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    Trembling
    Have you ever been kept awake at night trembling with fear? Jacob knew
    that experience as he prepared to meet his brother Esau. The prospect of
    Esau and 400 armed men riding into his camp was very unsettling! He had
    taken every possible precaution but would his plan for protection work?

    We read in v22 that he got up in the middle of
    the night and sent his family and possessions
    across the Jabbok river, while he remained
    alone on sentry duty. He anticipated the
    possibility of a night attack. Gripped by
    fear he was covering every
    contingency.




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    Trembling
    Jacob had left himself completely and absolutely alone. Probably the last
    time he had been aware of such aloneness had been 20 years previously at
    Bethel . Then his aloneness had provided the setting for God’s revelation.
    Sometimes God leads us into situations where there are no other living
    persons to help us for then we are often more sensitive to his
    communication.

    Jacob was about to learn that the one thing that
    separated him from God's greatest blessing -
    was Jacob himself. His greatest danger
    was not Laban or Esau but his own
    stubborn self-will and
    oozing self-confidence.



Presentation 49
    Trembling
    Jacob was poised to enter the great turning point of his life, when he would
    be faced with a true knowledge of himself and of his need. Other biblical
    characters had made similar discoveries, when they too were alone;
    1. Moses was a lonely shepherd for 40 years before being called to deliver
        Israel from Egypt.
    2. Backslidden David, faced with the rebellion of his men, entered the
        classroom of loneliness at Ziglag.
    3. Elijah, when alone in a cave in Mt. Horeb, had his inadequate
        understanding of God corrected.
    4. Paul, when alone in the Arabian desert for 13 years, had
        his theological understanding turned upside down.




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    Wrestling
    While Jacob was standing guard a hand reached out and laid hold of him. He
    found himself wrestling for his life. Was it Esau, or one of his men? Jacob was
    no coward and he had no reason to think that he would not win this match.
    After all he had succeeded in everything he had ever attempted in life. In v30
    Jacob had become aware that his protagonist was God. Hosea identifies the
    figure as 'The Angel of the Lord' Hos.12.4. Scholars believe this was a pre-
    incarnational appearances of Christ. God who took the initiative.
    This passage is mistakenly used to illustrate man's
    perseverance with God in prayer. But Jacob
    didn’t set out to pray. He was not looking
    for God to do business with him.
    The reverse was the case. God persevered
    with Jacob until he realised he could not
    win. At that juncture God would break
    him in order to remake him.
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    Wrestling
    The physical struggle of this contest mirrored a spiritual struggle of far
    greater importance. Jacob came not only to a point of physical but of spiritual
    submission. He came to realise what a poor, helpless, worthless creature he
    really was. Only as he recognised his weakness would he discover the source
    of true strength.
    Paul’s shares a similar experience. On three occasions he had asked God to
    remove his thorn in the flesh…
    “But God said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made
    perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my
    weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.
    That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in
    weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in
    persecutions, in difficulties. For when I
    am weak, then I am strong”.
    2 Cor.12.9-10

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    Wrestling
    Have you ever had to wrestle with God, when you thought you knew better
    than him? If so, perhaps you can identify with what follows:

    First, note the duration of this wrestling match v24. It lasted from dusk till
    daybreak. Most professional wrestling bouts today last about 20 minutes
    after which the contestants are often completely exhausted! Jacob was
    determined he would not be beaten.

    The essence of stubborn self-will is a refusal to yield.
    And so God must sometimes become our fierce
    antagonist in order to overpower the strong hold
    of self in our lives.




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    Wrestling
    Secondly, Jacob's hip was put out of joint as he wrestled. This was the
    extreme measure God resorted to because Jacob refused to yield. God
    always wins this kind of contest and it is best to submit sooner rather than
    later.

    Has God ever had to put your life out of joint?
    Has he ever had to dislocate your plans, when you
    attempted something contrary to his will?
    Suddenly the hand of God reaches out to
    create a crippling financial setback, or a debilitating
    illness or grievous disappointment.

    God has many moves designed to weaken us in
    order that we might own him as the source
    of our strength.

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  Presentation 49
    Clinging
    We have a different picture in v26. Jacob is now clinging to the one, who
    has defeated him. We hardly recognise the man. Jacob's strength is broken
    and he is clinging onto Christ for his blessing. He is no longer struggling for
    supremacy but clinging childlike for support.

    Jacob’s opponent had wasted what is recognised to be the strongest
    ligament in the body.
    Jacob would be a cripple for the rest of his life. And any hopes be
    may have had of overcoming or even out-running Esau are now
    completely dashed. He is helpless and knows it!
    He is totally dependent upon God to deliver him.




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    Clinging
    Clinging Jacob is now a man remade by God's grace and surrendered to his
    will. It is a faith picture made all the more remarkable by Jacob’s realisation
    that his protagonist was not after all Esau but God. And his longing for God’s
    blessing was greater than the humiliation of his ego. Jacob’s experience is
    beautifully reflected in Wesley’s hymn;
    Other refuge have I none,
    Hangs my helpless soul on Thee;
    Leave, ah! leave me not alone,
    Still support and comfort me.
    All my trust on Thee is stayed,
    All my help from Thee I bring;
    Cover my defenceless head
    With the shadow of Thy wing.
    Jacob could now say with Paul:
    “I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses,
    so that Christ's power may rest on me”. 2Cor.12.9

Presentation 49
    Clinging
    The blessing Jacob sought was not cheaply secured. The Lord asks him in v27
    'What is your name?' This echoed his father’s question, asked 20 years
    previously, when he entered Isaac’s tent disguised as his brother Esau.
    ‘Who are you, identify yourself before I give you my blessing’.
    On that occasion Jacob had replied ‘Esau’. He had pretended to be something
    that he wasn't in order to gain the blessing. At that point his behaviour had
    truly reflected the true meaning of the name ‘Jacob’, ‘heal grasper, cheat,
    supplanter’.




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    Clinging
    Now God asks the same question put to him by Isaac. ‘Who is it that seeks
    my blessing?’ God cannot be deceived. He sees right into our hearts. Blessing
    comes not by hiding our true identity but by exposing it. So by identifying
    himself, Jacob did more than confess his name to God, he confessed his
    character. He owns up to being a schemer, a plotter and a deceiver. By forcing
    him to confess his past God prepared him for a new beginning, marked by a
    new name - ‘Israel’. The change of name spoke of a change of heart.

    The word ‘Israel’ appears to be a compound of two Hebrew
    words 'sarar' meaning ‘struggle for supremacy’ and 'el'
    meaning ‘God’. And so ‘He struggles with God’ but the
    name Israel can also mean ‘God rules’. As a result of
    wrestling with God Jacob has now begun to submit to
    God’s rule. We then read ‘Israel’ in v28 as irony.



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    Clinging
    When Jacob had contended with men, he always thought he had won but
    he had really lost.
    He had cheated Esau of his blessing but lost his way spiritually.
    He had outwitted his blind ailing father but lost his home comforts.
    He had deceived Laban but lost his goodwill.

    None of these victories had brought Jacob real
    satisfaction. In his latest encounter, this time with
    God, he had suffered a reversal of fortunes.
    He had lost, but in losing he had won! This is
    divine logic. We win by losing!

    The greatest example of this truth is surely
    the death of Christ on the cross and his
    resurrection from the dead!

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    Clinging
    In the C19th, George Muller began a number children's homes for orphans in
    Bristol. He made no public appeal for money but looked only to God to
    provide. It is estimated that a sum of £2 million was donated during his
    lifetime. He was once asked the secret of his extraordinary fruitful life.
    He replied, ‘There was a day George Muller died’.
    He was speaking of the importance of dying to self-will. We win by losing!

    What did Jesus say?
    'Unless a grain of wheat falls into
    the ground and dies, it remains only
    a single seed. But if it dies it produces
    many seeds. The man who loves his live
    will lose it, while the man who hates his life
    in this world will keep it for eternal life'
    Jn.12.24-25

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    Clinging
    Are there wounds, which we proudly wear, deaths that we have died,
    surrenders we have made? Amy Carmichael challenged her Christian
    readership with this poem:

    "Hast thou no scar? No hidden scar on foot or side or hand, I hear thee sung
    as mighty in the land, I hear them hail thy bright ascending star, Hast thou no
    scar? Hast thou no wound? Yet I was wounded by the archers spent. Leaned
    me against a tree to die and rent, by ravening
    beasts that compassed me; I swooned.
    Hast thou no wound? No wound? No scar? Yet as
    the master shall the servant be, and pierced are
    the feet that followed me. But thine are whole:
    Can he have followed far,
    Who has no wound nor scar?


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    Limping
    The final picture shows Jacob limping on his way to meet Esau cf v33. Jacob
    left the wrestling ring as the sun was rising on a new day, on a new beginning
    for a new man. In the world's eyes he was a cripple. In God's sight he had
    become an overcomer through defeat. Jacob no longer strides confidently
    through life but is wholly dependent upon God. His wound, he would carry
    for the rest of his life - a reminder of the most critical day of his spiritual
    pilgrimage and a day that filled his heart with praise.

    A wonderful comment on the significance of this
    event is found in Heb. 11.21:
    'By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each
    of Joseph's sons, and worshipped as he leaned
    on the top of his staff.'
    Jacob would gladly carry his scar into the glory of eternity.



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    Limping
    In John Bunyan’s Pilgrim's Progress, as Mr. Valiant for the Truth was preparing
    to leave this earth and enter the Celestial city, he spoke these last words:

    “I am going to my Father's and though with great difficulty I have got here,
    yet I do not regret all the trouble I have been through to get to where I am.
    My sword I give to him who shall succeed me in my
    pilgrimage, and my courage and skill to him to him
    who can get it. My marks and scars I carry with me,
    to be a witness for me, that I have fought His
    battles, who now will be my Rewarder.




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    Conclusion
    Is God wrestling with you at this moment? Have you resisted his will for
    weeks, months perhaps years? Has God begun to touch some area of your
    life as he touched Jacob’s life, to bring you to an end of yourself? Are there
    deaths to self to which you have to die? God does not wrestle with you in
    order to destroy you but to equip you and make you
    fruitful in his service.

    The scars of such encounters are not to be
    worn with shame but with gratitude and
    carried into glory, where we will have the
    opportunity to rehearse, what God has
    done in and through us despite the
    difficulties, which we placed in his way.




Presentation 49

				
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