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Jacob Encounter with God

“Wrestling” in prayer with God? This comes from Genesis 32:28. At night in the open wilderness Jacob found a man wrestling with him. At least he took it to be a man until daybreak and then he was stricken with awe. The “man” was the Lord who had come to him in that form. Jacob realized that he had seen God and that his life had been spared (v.30). If we read this ancient account carefully, we shall note that Jacob was not the one who began wrestling and, in any case, he was not at first aware of who his adversary was. Afterwards he was amazed that he had not died in such a close encounter with God. The explanation is that God had a vital work to do on Jacob – we might call it spiritual surgery – and Jacob did not find it easy to accept. Jacob had not followed the Lord as his father and grandfather, Isaac and Abraham. God had struggled with Jacob all his life. Now this struggle became epitomized in a strange physical encounter at night.

The struggle of God with Jacob in the darkness is a summary of the whole of Jacob’s life to that date. Eventually Jacob was defeated because the Lord touched Jacob’s hip joint and he could not resist any more. Then comes the curious twist in this rather mysterious story. Jacob began to realize what was happening. He knew that the Lord was wrestling with him to master him. He realized this was the God of Abraham and Isaac, that He meant to become Jacob’s God and that Jacob had to give way. He realized that this man, the Lord, was not trying to hurt or kill him, but simply to master him. At that point Jacob had to stop wrestling, but he still kept a grip on the Lord, saying that he would not let him go unless He blessed him. God had prevailed with Jacob and now Jacob prevailed with God. God had begun the wrestling match but He also wanted to fulfill His promise to Abraham that in his family all families would be blessed. Jacob did not have to wrest God’s blessing out of Him – God loves to bless.

We should never come to God to wrestle with Him as if he was hostile towards us. He is not our opponent, ever. His attitude is one of perfect love and reconciliation. That we should treat God as if He had to be overcome is not the lesson of this story about Jacob. In all the 66 books of the Bible it is never once suggested that God is an opponent with whom we must wrestle in order to prevail over His reluctance. God is always FOR us. Nowhere in the Bible will we find that He needs to be pressurized as if He were unwilling to let us have the good things He has in store for us and to do the things we ask. We do not need to defeat Him and force Him to give them up. The truth is quite different. Basically, if our lives are not in line with the will of God, then God will give us no rest. He will strive with us to bring us back to where we should be – not because He wants to punish us but because He knows that there can never be anything better for us than to be close by His side. Then when He has won His way with us, we can win our way with God.

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