When God Wrestles – by Desmond Ford

May 5, 2016 1434

When God Wrestles

“Then Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him. And He said, “Let Me go, for the day breaks.” But he said, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!” So He said to him, “What is your name?”

He said, “Jacob.” And He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have
struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed” Genesis 32: 24–28.

Jacob is returning home after 20 years and he has learned that the brother he cheated is coming to meet him with 400 soldiers. He is a plain man, a tent-dweller, not a man of war. He probably prefers aesthetic things to the implements of war, and is religious in nature despite his craftiness.

He schemes and then he prays. Note the order of activity. It is the wrong way around, but in spite of the lessons he has learned, he still has much of his worldliness and his reliance on self.

Jacob’s scheme is to send a succession of gifts ahead of him to his brother, with a gap between each one—herds of goats, camels, and donkeys. Esau will see all these herds and will wonder whose they are, and will be told that each of them is a gift from his brother Jacob. Finally, Jacob sends his wives and his 12 children, all under 13 years of age, over the brook Jabok, the last river before home. He stays on the other side, still trying to prepare himself for this most difficult of reunions. At midnight he feels that Esau has fallen upon
him and that he is wrestling with Esau. But it is not Esau.

They wrestle on and on and on. Then the angelic visitant, to teach Jacob something, puts forth a finger and puts Jacob’s thigh out of joint as if to say, “Listen son, I could have dealt with you a long time ago. It is only in mercy to you that I let you wrestle on. You are wrestling with God!”

The Son of God comes down in human form, a theophany, a type of incarnation, and wrestles with Jacob. It is not so much Jacob’s wrestling with him, but he is wrestling with Jacob. The visitant wants to get something from Jacob. What is it? Surrender, acknowledgement of his own weakness, depravity,
and need.

You cannot help but see the parallel here with the story in Luke 22. Jesus, in agony, prays desperately by the brook, and an angel visits him. Think of the parallels, the words used in Luke 22:44 about Jesus being in agony. The Greek word for ‘wrestling’ used here is the same as that used in used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament story of Jacob. We are being deliberately pointed back to the story of Jacob. Here is Christ with his two natures, the human and the divine. The human is tempted to fight against the divine saying, “Lord, take this cup from me. I don’t want it.” It is too terrible to be separated from God, to endure the horrors of the second death, which is separation from the presence of God.

Here, then, is the real wrestling: the will of the divine Christ about to save the world, against the human, which shrinks from pain. That’s the thing we all shrink from − pain. Everything we do is to avoid pain and find happiness. Unless the Spirit of God comes in to motivate us differently, our only motive is to avoid pain and find happiness.

As you contemplate, you can find more parallels between these two stories. Here is the true Israel by the brook Kedron. He is wrestling with tears according to Hebrews 5, and he is wrestling with God: “Not My will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).

When the fight begins within a person, that person is worth something. If you don’t have any trouble with yourself, you are not awake, you are not alive, and you are certainly not Christian. Dwight L. Moody said, “I have more trouble with myself than any other man I have ever met.”

That is so true; it is our story. We wrestle with self; with doubt, fear and guilt. Life is a wrestling with that part of us that wants to avoid pain, shuns duty, and is very self-indulgent. We spoil ourselves, even though we find spoiled people obnoxious. Of course, we wrestle with other people too, but that is secondary. The big wrestling in our life is with ourselves.

However, God is very patient with us and he deals with us through his Holy Spirit − convincing us of righteousness, of judgment, and of sin. He wrestles with us so we will come to the point where we will give up − not give up living, or wrestling, but give up trying to do it our way. The worldly way does not work. It’s been tried for millennia. It’s a cheat, a robbery, and a deception. It just does not work!

So God wrestles with us by pain, by his word, and by his spirit. He wrestles with us to try to teach us to surrender our will to his.

The evidence of a mature Christian is this: I must find out the will of God for me and by his grace, I must do it. That must supersede all other ambitions. It is no good being like Samson: “Get her for me, for she pleases me well” (Judges 14:3). ‘Get him for me, he pleases me well, get me this job, get me that position.’ There must be only two primary ambitions, to know the will of God and to do it.

It comes to all of us – a time of wrestling, a crisis in our lives. How will we get through it? The answer is in the story of Genesis 32. When I surrender to the one who wrestles with me in life’s trials and difficulties through the movings of the Spirit; when I confess my human inadequacies, my human guilt; when all I want is his way and his will, then I will be called Israel – Prince with God, Princess with God. Because we have seen God face to face, nothing on earth can scare us and our eternal life is preserved.

 

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