GENESIS 32: WHEN JACOB WRESTLED WITH GOD
when jacob wrestled with god
Jacob’s story teaches us to persevere in prayer and in our relationship with God even to the point of “wrestling with Him”.
Jacob is a very interesting character in the Bible. He’s one of the twins born to Isaac and Rebekah. The other twin was Esau. When Isaac was very old, he called Esau to give him his blessing. But Rebekah upon hearing this called Jacob to prepare what Isaac requested from Esau. With the help of Rebekah, Jacob pretended to be Esau by wearing his clothes and by covering his hands and neck with goatskins, since Esau was a hairy man. When Jacob presented himself, Isaac just relied on touch and smell since his eyes were weak that he could no longer see. And so Isaac blessed the son whom he thought as Esau.
…When Isaac caught the smell of his clothes, he blessed him and said, “Ah, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field that the Lord has blessed. May God give you heaven’s dew and earth’s richness— an abundance of grain and new wine. May nations serve you and peoples bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may the sons of your mother bow down to you. May those who curse you be cursed and those who bless you be blessed.” Genesis 27:28-29
What a beautiful blessing! You could imagine how devastated and angry Esau was when he reached home and prepared everything only to find out that his father Isaac already gave the blessing.
Esau wept aloud… and held a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him. He said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.” Genesis 27:41
When Rebekah was told about this, she sent Jacob away to his brother Laban in Haran to stay there until his brother’s anger subsided.
Turn to Be Deceived
When in Haran, Jacob fell in love with Rachel, the beautiful daughter of Laban, he worked for 7 years to marry her. But during the night of their honeymoon, Laban sent Leah instead, his older daughter.
When morning came, there was Leah! So Jacob said to Laban, “What is it this you have done to me” I served you for Rachel, didn’t I? Why have you deceived me? Genesis 29:25
Look who’s talking! The once deceiver, now the one being deceived.
Laban reasoned out that it’s not customary for the younger daughter to marry first and instructed Jacob to finish the bridal week with Leah, then he would give Rachel in return for another seven years of work.
Going Back Home
Jacob had accumulated great wealth in Haran that caused some concerns from Laban’s sons and even Laban himself showed a changed of attitude in treating him, not as good as before.
Then the LORD said to Jacob, “Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.” Genesis 31:3
Facing His Past
If time for Jacob to go home, it would mean – time for him to face his brother, Esau. He prepared well for their reunion by sending Esau gifts ahead of him. He was told that Esau would meet him with his four hundred men.
Jacob was in great fear and distress that he divided the people who were with him into groups, and the flocks and herds and camels as well. Genesis 32:7
And he prayed to God acknowledging His promises, kindness, faithfulness and deliverance from his brother Esau. The Dependent Prayer of Jacob
God answered his prayer. Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept. Genesis 33:4
WHEN JACOB WRESTLED WITH BOTH GOD AND HUMANS
Wrestling Match #1 Family
Struggle with humans
When Jacob deceived his brother Esau, he went away to Haran and stayed there for 20 years. The Bible does not tell us if Rebekah and Jacob ever saw each other again. Being away that long means Jacob missed a lot – weddings, birthdays, burials, celebrations, etc.
That’s a struggle to see time passes without seeing your loved ones, but Jacob had overcome. When in Haran, he worked hard with all his strength and won the favor of Laban. He did something with his time and skills. He had his “savings” and “investments” that when it’s time to go back home, he’s ready and not empty-handed.
When it’s time to meet his brother Esau, he prepared for it with gifts and humility. He himself went on ahead and bowed down to the ground seven times as he approached his brother. Genesis 33:3 He also insisted for Esau to take the gifts.
Wrestling Match #2 Lovelife
Struggle with humans
Jacob fell in love with one of Laban’s daughters, Rachel. He worked 7 years to get her, but Laban deceived him by giving Leah. So he worked for another 7 years for Rachel, 14 years in all. That’s a struggle to wait for the love of his life, but Jacob had overcome. He’s willing to work for another 7 years for Rachel.
Wrestling Match #3 Career
Struggle with humans
…I’ve worked for your father with all my strength, yet your father has cheated on me by changing my wages ten times. However, God has not allowed him to harm me. Genesis 31:6-7
Laban cheated on Jacob’s wages, but he had overcome. He still worked hard, and God blessed him all the more.
If he (Laban) said, ‘The speckled ones will be your wages,’ then all the flocks gave brith speckled young; and if he said, ‘The streaked ones will be your wages,’ then all the flocks bore streaked young. So God has taken away your father’s livestock and has given them to me. Genesis 31:8-9
Wrestling Match #4 Spiritual Life
Struggle with God
So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man.
Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
The man asked him, “What is your name?”
“Jacob,” he answered.
Then the man said,
Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.” But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.
So Jacob called the place Peniel,[b] saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”
THE NEW NAME
Jacob’s name was changed to Israel, because he had struggled with God and with humans and had overcome.
With Rachel and Leah as his wives, with Bilha and Zilpah as his concubines, Jacob had 12 sons: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph and Benjamin, later known as the Twelve Tribes of Israel. And the rest is history.
JACOB AND US
Jacob’s story is no different from us. He faced the same struggles as we have now. He had a fight with his brother that took 20 years to be settled. He fell in love with someone but married another one. He worked hard, but he didn’t get the salary he deserved. But again and again, he had overcome.
Jacob might have a bad start when he deceived his brother Esau, when his daughter Dinah was raped, when he thought his son Joseph was dead… but throughout Genesis his story prevailed (Genesis 27 to 50). His relationship with God was solid with prayer and faith.
He finished well seeing God’s goodness and deliverance through his son Joseph when famine struck the land. He finished well seeing all his sons together, giving them his blessings and asking them to do his last wish.
Jacob persevered throughout his lifetime. I think this is the big difference ~ How many of us today will wait on God to persevere and to wrestle/struggle with him in prayer?
Let Your Prayer Wrestling Match Begin
Never give up praying for each member of your family, no matter how dysfunctional and broken it is. My dad was an alcoholic for most of his life. He made changes when he reached 60. Never lose hope even when relapse happens.
If you have the desire to get married, then continue praying for a partner, even to the point of praying for the next 14 years. When I was asking God about my heart, he had impressed a beautiful promise in 2004 and 16 years have passed, I’m still not married. I’ve surpassed Jacob’s 14-year mark.
If you think you have the gift of single blessedness, then continue praying for it that God may prepare you to maximize your time, talents and gifts.
If at work, you feel cheated, undermined, unrecognized – God sees your hardship and the toil of your hands so continue working with all your heart, as working for the Lord, and not for human masters. Colossians 3:23
No one grows spiritually by chance. Reading the Bible is intentional. Wrestling with God in prayer takes effort despite a “wrenched hip” – our pains, doubts, questions, hurts, and challenges. Knowing His will is an everyday commitment. Having the full armor of God is putting it on: belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, shield of faith, helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit. Ephesians 6:14-17
Every person in this planet earth matters and has a calling. But sometimes that calling is hard to see and realize. Struggle with God in prayer to show you if you are to go to the mountains of the Himalaya to preach the gospel, or if you are to volunteer teaching kids in the remotest areas, or if you are to adopt children from the most impoverished countries, or if you are to give up your high-paying job to become a missionary, etc… These are difficult decisions to make and prayer is key. Struggle in prayer.
A Good Example to Follow
Paul, in his letter to the people in Colossae, mentioned Epaphras about his prayer habit.
Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. Colossians 3:12
Whatever situation you’re in now, no matter how bad it is, God is with you. Allow Him to enter your heart, accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior, and He will surely guide you to finish well. Offer your family, love life, career, spiritual life, calling and other concerns to God and persevere in prayer no matter how long it takes. He cares. He listens. Be like Jacob, “struggle with God and humans, and you will overcome”.