Today’s Reading: Genesis 31-33
Today’s Reflection: Genesis 32:24
And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day.
Do we recognize that when we fight often it gets us nowhere? And if this is the case, why exactly do we keep on fighting? I think in our human frailty we feel the need to defend ourselves when we come under attack. But by trying to do this in our own strength, we fail to realize that this attitude is actually rooted in a lack of faith. The Bible tells us ‘The Lord shall fight for you’ (Exodus 14:14), and God says ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay’ (Hebrews 10:30). If we believe these promises we won’t feel we have to fight our battles on our own.
We must remember it is God who fights for us and gives us our victory. OUR fight is to NOT fight what God is doing in our lives.
One person in the Bible who learned this lesson the hard way was Jacob. Through deceit and taking advantage Jacob had managed to take the birthright and blessing that rightfully belonged to his older twin brother Esau, then managed to escape to Haran to avoid his wrath. But now Esau had managed to track the trickster down and Jacob was about to face his darkest hour. The last he had heard Esau sought to take his life, and now he was just hours away. As Jacob went off alone that night to contemplate his fate a stranger approached him. And predictably, it turned into a wrestling match.
There are 4 important lessons to learn from Jacob’s example:
1. We wrestle with God when we don’t take the time to recognize Him
Jacob had not taken any time to ascertain whether the man approaching him was friend or foe. With that failure he assumed the worst. Little did he realize just whom he was fighting against.
We often do the same thing when difficult, challenging or unwanted circumstances come into our lives. We fight in an effort to cling to what we feel is being taken from us, when in truth these losses and obstacles are often the very things God is using to shape us. The Word tells us that ‘for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose’ (Romans 8:28). But when we leap into fighting mode without seeking God’s council, we won’t even realize that in struggling against our circumstances it is actually God and His plan we’re fighting against.
2. We wrestle with God when we refuse to submit to Him
At some point Jacob realized that the man he was fighting was no mere man, but a supernatural being sent by God (Genesis 32:30). So then, why did he continue to fight?
Why do we?
It’s one thing when we fail to recognize that trials in our lives are coming from God. It’s another when we recognize it is God, but continue to fight Him because we don’t trust in His leading. Having eyes we refuse to see God’s direction; having ears we refuse to hear God’s instruction. And the cause? Rebellion—the decision to choose our way over God’s way (Ezekiel 12:2); a decision that can only lead to ruin and destruction (Ezekiel 12:19-20). God admonishes us to recognize our wisdom has limits; His does not. His ways may not make sense to us but they always prove to be right.
Isaiah 55:7(a), 8 — Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord… “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.”
Truly God desires only the best for us, and it is in our best interest to submit to Him and to seek His will for our lives. When we surrender what we think we desire for ourselves to God, He can reveal His plan for our lives, and the true desires He has placed within us.
Proverbs 3:4-5 — Trust the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.
3. Sometimes God has to wound us in order to keep us from wrestling Him
Jacob wrestled with his opponent all night. As dawn broke the stranger realized Jacob would never give up the fight, so with just a touch he dislocated Jacob’s hip (Genesis 32:25) causing a permanent injury that would haunt him for the rest of his life.
When we refuse to recognize God, when we refuse to submit to Him, when we persist in wrestling with Him, He may have to do something that hurts us. If we cling to things that are not good for us, God may tear them away from us. Consider the woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8:1-11). Though Jesus saved her from being stoned to death (the appropriate penalty according to Jewish law) He allowed her to be dragged into the street and surrounded by a mob prepared to take her life before stepping in.
Understand that any pain God allows us to go through is considerably less than the pain we would ultimately cause ourselves. The brief humiliation of being dragged into the street half naked was far less a hurt than the loss of eternal life her continued sin would have cost her. Also know that God will never take away our freedom to choose. Jesus admonished the woman to go and sin no more (John 8:11), but the decision to obey this command remained in her hands. At the same time God will make it completely clear what the consequences of our choices will be.
4. The only wrestling we should do with God is wrestling to hold on to Him until He blesses us
The opponent demanded release from Jacob’s wrestling hold as dawn broke, but Jacob hung on requesting to be blessed first. In response the stranger changed Jacob’s name. No longer would he be known as Jacob the trickster, but as Israel: a prince of God, one who had wrestled with the Lord and with men and had prevailed (Genesis 32:26-28).
Whenever we have an encounter with God we have a choice: to draw closer or to run away. God appeared to Moses in a burning bush and Moses drew closer (Exodus 3:1-4). Later as Moses led the nation of Israel through the wilderness God appeared to them in smoke and fire atop mount Sinai, but fear caused the people to remain far away from the presence of God (Exodus 20:18-21).
For those who choose to draw closer to God—who hold onto Him especially when fear and doubt make it difficult—there is a special blessing.
James 4:8(a), 10 – Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.
If you will draw near to God you will find He desires to bless you beyond measure. But before He can put a blessing into your hands you’ll first have to unclench your fists.