Wrasslin’ with Jesus

Posted: June 21, 2018 in Genesis, Uncategorized

Genesis 32-33, “Wrasslin’ with Jesus”

In the South, it’s not “wrestling;” it’s “wrasslin’.” I didn’t watch much wrasslin’ growing up as a kid, but I watched a few episodes of WWE (WWF at the time). Guys like Hulk Hogan and André the Giant and Randy Savage were the rage – massively huge men who seemingly had the capability of throwing people across the room. Was it fake? Sure, but not to a kid…to a kid, it was superhuman strength! The only time it would really cause trouble was when we’d try out the moves on each other. Somehow, a clothesline or an elbow drop looked like it hurt a lot less on TV! 

Real-life wrestling is different. To grapple with another human being is a tough (but ancient) Olympic sport, which requires strength, skill, and (perhaps most of all) endurance. If you don’t have the stamina to last in the ring, you’ll end up on the losing end of the match.

Genesis 32 has its own version of a wrestling match, as Jacob goes toe-to-toe with an unnamed Man, who is none other than the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ. For all that Jacob lacked, one thing he had in abundance (by this point) was endurance. Once he got a clue whom it was he was wrestling, he understood that he could not afford to let go. He had to hold on to God for all he was worth, because all he had & all his hope was in God alone. It had taken Jacob a while to get to this point, but he had finally arrived, and he wasn’t about to leave!

Because much of what is narrated in these chapters had their beginnings earlier in the book, we need to review a bit of the context. The last time Jacob had seen his twin brother Esau was twenty years earlier, when Jacob had deceived their father Isaac and received the blessing that Isaac intended to give to Esau. Technically, the blessing rightfully belonged to Jacob, both by prophecy of the Lord & by right of sale, acquired from Esau for a bowl of stew. Even so, Jacob was still at fault for trickery and Esau wanted blood. His father and mother thus sent Jacob to his uncle Laban in Syria to find a wife (and to let tempers cool). Along the way, God promised to return Jacob to the land, and Jacob promised to worship God when it happened.

Time passed. Jacob had arrived in Padan Aram and learned some hard lessons in humility at the hand of his deceptive uncle Laban. Even so, God blessed Jacob, and at the end of twenty years, now with four wives, eleven sons, at least one daughter, and massive numbers of livestock – it was time for Jacob to return home. Laban didn’t make things easy, but eventually he and Jacob came to an agreement, and Jacob was free.

By this point, Jacob was starting to walk by faith, having a righteous fear of the God of his fathers. But what would Jacob’s own relationship with God look like? And how would that affect his other relationships and challenges? That is all settled in Chapters 32-33. This is when Jacob finally surrenders himself in faith, refusing to let go of God. Getting right with Jesus got Jacob ready for everything else.

Jacob may have wrassled with Jesus, but it brought him to surrendered faith. What will it do for you?

Genesis 32

  • Preparing for Esau (32:1-21)

1 So Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. 2 When Jacob saw them, he said, “This is God’s camp.” And he called the name of that place Mahanaim.

  1. The Hebrew text actually includes 31:55 as the first verse in Chapter 32, so when it says “Jacob went on his way,” it should be thought as the equal response to Laban’s leaving. They both left the place where they had formed a covenant, each going their separate ways.
  2. Jacob didn’t remain alone for long; “the angels of God met him.” Not much about it is described, but Jacob actually had an angelic encounter – something that might have gotten a larger write-up anywhere else. If nothing else, it was a sign that Jacob was on the right path, doing the right things. After all, if he’s camping out in the same place as the angels of God, there’s no place better that he could be!
  3. The most important thing about the angels wasn’t the angels; it was Who the angels represented: the Lord God. God was there – this was His Being in the presence of God is the privilege of every believer in Jesus Christ. How so? We are the temple of the Holy Spirit. God the Holy Spirit indwells each and every born-again believer. We don’t have to search for a specific physical location in which we can worship God – we can worship God anywhere, in spirit and in truth, for God is always with us.

3 Then Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother in the land of Seir, the country of Edom. 4 And he commanded them, saying, “Speak thus to my lord Esau, ‘Thus your servant Jacob says: “I have dwelt with Laban and stayed there until now. 5 I have oxen, donkeys, flocks, and male and female servants; and I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find favor in your sight.” ’ ”

  1. There’s an interesting parallel between verse 1 & verse 3 that doesn’t come across in English. The Hebrew word for “angel” and “messenger” is the same (as it is for Greek). It is the context that determines the translation. But the word for both is “malach,” (מַלְאָךְ). (“Malachi” = My Messenger) Just like God sent messengers to Jacob, Jacob sent messengers to Esau. In a sense, Jacob is following God’s lead. Of course, in God’s case, He already knew everything about Jacob. God’s messengers (angels) were sent for Jacob’s benefit. In Jacob’s case, he needed his messengers to not only communicate to Esau, but learn what was on Esau’s mind – again, primarily for Jacob’s benefit.
  2. In the midst of it all, notice the humble attitude: “my lord…your servant.” This was a vastly different tone than what he had when Jacob originally left. Twenty years ago, Isaac had promised Jacob that he would be master over his brother (27:29), and that Esau would have to break off the yoke of Jacob (27:40). Even if Jacob hadn’t flaunted this in front of his brother, it was still the proverbial ‘elephant in the room.’ This is why Jacob went to such extremes regarding the titles – he was trying to put this as far away from him as possible. This wasn’t simply cultural humility; it was planned wisdom.
    1. Humility goes far in defusing bad situations. Proverbs 15:1, “A soft answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:18, “A wrathful man stirs up strife, But he who is slow to anger allays contention.” The way we answer someone can sometimes be just as important as the content of our answer. Even the truth of the Scripture can be quoted in such a way that it becomes a bludgeon & not a balm. By all means, speak truth! But speak it in love & humility.

6 Then the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, “We came to your brother Esau, and he also is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.”

  1. 400 men! This had all the appearance of war, and it probably was. Dangerous sight!

7 So Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed; and he divided the people that were with him, and the flocks and herds and camels, into two companies. 8 And he said, “If Esau comes to the one company and attacks it, then the other company which is left will escape.”

  1. Jacob’s fear was natural! If you were facing the possibility of staring down an army with nothing more than your family & farmhands, you’d be fearful, too!
  2. Jacob did two things. The first was to plan – initially described here, as splitting up his people. This was only the first step. The bulk of his plan was to send an appeasement gift/tribute to his brother – something already mentioned by the messengers, but fully planned later in the chapter.
  3. The second was to pray. 

9 Then Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, the LORD who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your family, and I will deal well with you’: 10 I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies and of all the truth which You have shown Your servant; for I crossed over this Jordan with my staff, and now I have become two companies. 11 Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, lest he come and attack me and the mother with the children. 12 For You said, ‘I will surely treat you well, and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.’ ”

  1. This was a prayer of faith! It is some of the strongest faith thus far seen from Jacob. Jacob may have his own plans in the works, but ultimately his hope is not in those plans, but in the Lord. He appeals to God in faith, doing so on several levels.
  2. First, Jacob knew God as the God of his fathers. Just as he had done with Laban, he remembered God as the true God – the God his fathers worshiped and feared. This was not a generic god of a generic people; this was the God of all the Universe who promised an everlasting covenant with Jacob’s family. And that wasn’t all…Jacob also knew God as the God who spoke to him. Jacob’s faith wasn’t only mirrored off the faith of his fathers, but also his own personal encounter with the Lord.
    1. This is key! Which god do we worship? To whom do we pray? Many people pray, but few pray with knowledge of the true God – and to have that knowledge, it needs to be first-hand. No one is saved by second-hand faith. If the only way we know Jesus is through the stories of our parents, grandparents, or friends, then we don’t know Jesus at all. We have to know Him for ourselves.
  3. Second, Jacob remembered God’s promises. He quotes/summarizes two of God’s specific promises to him (31:3, 28:14). Jacob did not appeal to God based on Jacob’s own merit, for he had none. His prayer was predicated on God’s own promises. Because God said these things, God would ensure they came to pass. God promised to bring Jacob back to the land, to bless him, and to make him a great nation, so God would see it done.
    1. We do the same thing when we quote Scripture in our prayers. Caveat: we don’t rip the word of God out from its context & try to make truths apply to us that don’t fit. (Example: Jeremiah 29:11. That’s a national promise for national Israel; not a promise for individual application.) But what better to inform our prayers than the Bible? How can we best know what is on God’s heart for us, other than reading His inspired word? Our Bibles and our prayer journals go hand-in-hand!
  4. Third, Jacob had a humble view of himself, and an understanding of God’s greatness and merciful blessing. “I am not worthy” wasn’t a facetious statement giving the appearance of humility…it was truth! Jacob wasn’t worthy of the blessings of the Lord, and he knew it. He had come to grips with his history of deceptions and scheming – those things became painfully clear when he was walking through the desert twenty years ago holding his staff & nothing other than the promises of God. Jacob had come from one of the wealthiest families in the middle east, and at that point he had nothing but his clothes and a walking stick – soon to be dependent upon his uncle to give him a job tending sheep. That was where his own “worth” and efforts led him. Quite literally everything he had was due to the gift of God.
    1. Likewise, God has been merciful with us. We aren’t worthy of God’s blessings…not by a long shot! If our futures depended upon our worth, we would have nothing to expect except fire and brimstone. Our “worth” is worthless! Having that honest view of ourselves keeps us in the place of holy humility. We see us for who we are, and Jesus for who He is, and that’s the right perspective in prayer.
  5. Fourth, Jacob was honest! He didn’t pretend he wasn’t afraid; he freely admitted it. “…For I fear him.” Truth! Jacob didn’t pretend a holy courage that he didn’t have. By this point in his life, he understood that there was no point in pretenses with God. God knew his heart, and God would know if Jacob was lying. Jacob feared…and Jacob still trusted the Lord. His fear didn’t send him running away from God; it sent him running to God.
    1. Faith isn’t having a lack of fear; it is trusting God despite our fear. Fear shuts so many people down from prayer, but when we fear, it is what we most need to do! Prayer takes our eyes off our circumstances and puts them back onto the Lord (whom we need to fear reverently).
  6. Jacob’s prayer is a great model for us. Pray to the God who has revealed Himself to us – pray according to God’s promises – pray according to God’s character – pray honestly.
  7. Now that Jacob has prayed, he sets about with his planning. Faithful prayer is essential, but it isn’t a substitute for faithful action. Action is subservient to prayer, but it also needs to be subsequent to prayer.

13 So he lodged there that same night, and took what came to his hand as a present for Esau his brother: 14 two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, 15 thirty milk camels with their colts, forty cows and ten bulls, twenty female donkeys and ten foals.

  1. This is a massive gift! 550 various animals of livestock were sent to Esau. It emphasizes the abundant wealth held by Jacob. Surely, this was a significant percentage of Jacob’s herds, but it hardly left him penniless. God had blessed him abundantly! 

16 Then he delivered them to the hand of his servants, every drove by itself, and said to his servants, “Pass over before me, and put some distance between successive droves.” 17 And he commanded the first one, saying, “When Esau my brother meets you and asks you, saying, ‘To whom do you belong, and where are you going? Whose are these in front of you?’ 18 then you shall say, ‘They are your servant Jacob’s. It is a present sent to my lord Esau; and behold, he also is behind us.’ ” 19 So he commanded the second, the third, and all who followed the droves, saying, “In this manner you shall speak to Esau when you find him; 20 and also say, ‘Behold, your servant Jacob is behind us.’ ” For he said, “I will appease him with the present that goes before me, and afterward I will see his face; perhaps he will accept me.”

  1. Consecutive waves of gifts – meant to soften Esau’s heart. One would follow the other, which would follow the other, giving Esau time to think and consider the humility of his brother.
  2. Some criticize this planning, claiming that although Jacob prayed, Jacob didn’t have faith that God would actually act. Not so. Jacob prayed, and his prayer was sincere – as seen in his later wrestling match. Jacob is simply being proactive, which is good! The last time Jacob saw his brother, Jacob had stolen a blessing from his brother. Upon his return, Jacob is giving a blessing to his brother. Was Jacob’s intent to save his skin? But it was still the right thing to do. Jacob has finally started to take responsibility for his actions, and he did what he believed necessary to make amends.
  3. Keep in mind, reconciliation with his brother was a must. Not only did it need to happen if Jacob was ever going to live safely in the land, but it was just the right thing. How could he move forward in his relationship with God and with the covenant blessing, if there was the unsettled stigma of how he had left his brother? Jesus addressed the same principle in the Sermon on the Mount: Matthew 5:23–24, “(23) Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, (24) leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Is our invitation to worship God bound as to whether or not we are forgiven by someone we’ve offended? After all, we cannot force anyone to do anything. But we are bound if we never seek forgiveness, or some form of reconciliation. How can we offer God our worship, trusting in His forgiveness, if we’ve got outstanding debts of sin towards others? (Let your conscience be clear!)

21 So the present went on over before him, but he himself lodged that night in the camp. 22 And he arose that night and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven sons, and crossed over the ford of Jabbok. 23 He took them, sent them over the brook, and sent over what he had.

  1. At this point, there was nothing left to do but the waiting. He sent the gift, and prepared himself for the outcome. Time would tell as to what would happen.
  2. Actually, there was one There was one more meeting to be had – only Jacob didn’t know it was coming. 
  • Wrestling for a blessing (32:24-32)

24 Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. 25 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.

  1. Who was the Man? Jesus, at least in His pre-incarnate form. Earlier, Jacob met with multiple angels of God, but here it was no angel; it was God Himself!
  2. Question: Was it real – or was it a vision? In the end, it doesn’t matter – the actions and the result were the same either way. Just like Paul had a vision of heaven, not knowing if he really travelled there or just dreamt it, Jacob had his own encounter with Jesus. Together, they wrestled all night. Though infinitely outmatched, Jacob was persistent – to the point that Genesis says of Jesus “He did not prevail against him.” By normal physical means, Jesus did not outlast or overcome Jacob in wrestling. Jacob simply would not give up. It wasn’t until the Son of God used His supernatural power that the match came to an end.
  3. Who prevailed over who? Jacob hadn’t let go, but it only took a single touch to knock his hip out of joint. God let Jacob “win.” Jesus was in control the whole time. In fact, God showed mercy in allowing Jacob to wrestle with Him at all! … It’s not unlike dads engaging in horseplay with their young children. Could a grown man put down a 5 year old? No question, no problem. But sometimes dads let their kids win…especially when the kid wants it so bad that they don’t give up. That was Jesus with Jacob. Almighty God the Son could have stopped the wrestling before it started – He could have put Jacob down with a mere glance & not a touch at all. Jesus let Jacob wrestle Him, because Jesus wanted to see Jacob endure. In the past, Jacob had always taken the easy way out…not this time. No doubt, it thrilled the Lord that “He did not prevail against” Jacob!

26 And He said, “Let Me go, for the day breaks.” But he said, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!”

  1. Why didn’t Jacob let go? Because Jacob’s one hope was in the Lord. Finally, he had the right perspective of God. In the past, Jacob believed some of the promises of God, but thought Jacob’s own plans for achieving those promises were better. In the past, Jacob relied far too much on himself. Now, he saw the worthlessness of his own self-reliance. What he needed was the blessing of God, and he had absolutely no hope without it. Jacob was going to cling to Jesus, and he was determined to always cling to Jesus.
  2. Don’t let go of Jesus! The problem with many people is that they let go of God too soon. They might ask for an initial salvation, but believe they can get through the rest of life on their own. They want a promise of eternal heaven, but not much to do with God along the way until they get there. Or they think God needs their help, and that they know better. IOW, they think God needs to cling to them, rather than them cling to God. Not so! He is our hope – He is our only What do we have to offer God, apart from faith? Nothing! There is nothing we can give Him that He cannot get on our own. The single exception is our willing worship…and for that, we need to cling to Christ. That requires total surrender; not a half-hearted pseudo-faith.

27 So He said to him, “What is your name?” He said, “Jacob.” 28 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.”

  1. Jacob is renamed. He was “heel-catcher / supplanter” – now he is “strength of God / God persists/perseveres.” His entire identity was changed. The old name reminded him of his past – his new name signified his future. His encounter with Jesus changed everything!

29 Then Jacob asked, saying, “Tell me Your name, I pray.” And He said, “Why is it that you ask about My name?” And He blessed him there.

  1. Question: Didn’t Jacob already know? That much was made clear in his request for a blessing. So why did Jacob ask? That’s exactly the question Jesus asked him. Basically, ‘If you already know who I am (which you do), why do you ask Me my name?’ Of course, God knew the answer to what was in Jacob’s heart – even if the Scripture doesn’t tell us directly. Jacob had already shown much faith to this point, but Jacob wasn’t perfect. God wasn’t about to enter into some tit-for-tat with him – this was not a relationship-of-equals, yet that was seemingly how Jacob wanted to treat it. God had full rights to know Jacob & name him, but that didn’t go the other way around. God gave mercy to Jacob in revealing Himself to Jacob – but Jacob needed to come to God on God’s terms; not his own.
    1. People often do the same! We cannot come to God apart from His invitation on His terms.
    2. And when we do, we can never forget that we are not Yes, we are joint-heirs with Christ Jesus, graciously blessed to share in His inheritance and future. But at the end of the day, God is God & we’re not. We are not in a relationship-of-equals – we are privileged to be sons and daughters of the Most High God.

30 So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: “For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.” 31 Just as he crossed over Penuel the sun rose on him, and he limped on his hip.

  1. Peniel/Penuel are alternate spellings of the same thing: face of God.
  2. At this point, Jacob recognized the mercy shown to him. He was one of a few people in history who spoke to God face to face (Abraham & Moses being another couple of examples). Normally, that would mean death – in this case, it meant life.
  3. BTW: John 1:18 says that no one has seen God at any time – how can that be true, in the light of Jacob’s declaration & Moses’ experience, etc.? Simple: God the Father is spirit, and has no physical form. When people see God, usually they see some representation of God’s glory (burning bush, thick cloud, etc.). Jesus is the image of the invisible God (Col 1:15), and when we have seen Him, we have seen the Father (Jn 14:9). Jacob had not looked upon the face of God the Father (1st Person of the Trinity), but he did look on the pre-incarnate face of God the Son (2nd Person of the Trinity). Thus he had seen God face-to-face, even while preserving the truth that none can look at God and live.

32 Therefore to this day the children of Israel do not eat the muscle that shrank, which is on the hip socket, because He touched the socket of Jacob’s hip in the muscle that shrank.

  1. A bit of epilogue & extra info from the author (and/or Moses, the compiler). Tells of a then-current (and sometimes still-current) custom among the Hebrews to refrain from eating the muscle that shrank. It became a memorial of Jacob’s moment of faith.
  2. Jacob had his own personal memorial in his permanent limp! Every time he moved, he would be reminded of the night he wrestled with God.

Genesis 33 – Encountering Esau (33:1-20)

1 Now Jacob lifted his eyes and looked, and there, Esau was coming, and with him were four hundred men. So he divided the children among Leah, Rachel, and the two maidservants. 2 And he put the maidservants and their children in front, Leah and her children behind, and Rachel and Joseph last.

  1. Jacob may have settled his faith with the Lord, but that didn’t remove the challenges ahead of him. Esau was still on the way. Now, however, Jacob was prepared to face him! Once Jacob’s relationship with God was right, that set the tone for everything else.
  2. Sadly, the favoritism shown among his wives and children remained. Jacob arranged his family in order of importance/rank, with “Rachel and Joseph last,” being with him.
    1. Keep this in mind for later, when Joseph’s brothers have issues with his favored status. Joseph was so favored by his father, that the other sons were basically expendable to the army of Esau.

3 Then he crossed over before them and bowed himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother. 4 But Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.

  1. There was incredible humility in Jacob’s approach. Not only had he sent ahead the many waves of gifts, but he continually bowed on the way to meet his brother. Jacob went above & beyond to demonstrate he posed no threat.
  2. Esau’s response? Reconciliation! Despite arriving with an army’s worth of 400 men, Esau had not come to execute his brother, but to embrace him. This was the best scenario possible – something which Jacob would never have even dared to dream. It would have been enough for Esau to leave him alone or even turn away; this was nothing less than a miracle of God!
    1. Do you trust God for miracles in your relationships? One of God’s specialties is bringing dead things to life, and that includes friendships & marriages as much as it does eternal souls. Nothing is too hard for the Lord. What relationship are you afraid to entrust to Him?

5 And he lifted his eyes and saw the women and children, and said, “Who are these with you?” So he said, “The children whom God has graciously given your servant.” 6 Then the maidservants came near, they and their children, and bowed down. 7 And Leah also came near with her children, and they bowed down. Afterward Joseph and Rachel came near, and they bowed down.

  1. Remember that twenty years had passed. Esau had never known his nephews & niece. The twin brothers had much catching up to do!
  2. All of them demonstrated the same submission as had Jacob. This was the cultural practice, but it was also necessary due to the situation. Jacob wasn’t yet sure if Esau might change his mind & bring down the sword. He needed to keep things as friendly as possible.

8 Then Esau said, “What do you mean by all this company which I met?” And he said, “These are to find favor in the sight of my lord.” 9 But Esau said, “I have enough, my brother; keep what you have for yourself.” 10 And Jacob said, “No, please, if I have now found favor in your sight, then receive my present from my hand, inasmuch as I have seen your face as though I had seen the face of God, and you were pleased with me. 11 Please, take my blessing that is brought to you, because God has dealt graciously with me, and because I have enough.” So he urged him, and he took it.

  1. Negotiating the gift. Both men were extremely wealthy, and neither truly needed the livestock to further enrich themselves. The fact that they could argue over this (in a friendly way) does to show the fulfillment of the prophetic blessing given them by their father. Both of them were enriched from “the fatness of the earth,” (Gen 27:28,39). Neither of them lacked for bread or provision. To be sure, only one brother had the covenant, but both were blessed by the Lord.
  2. In the end, Jacob insisted on the gift. All he wanted was peace, and he wanted his brother to know that was his heart’s desire. (Blessed are the peacemakers – Mt 5:9)
  3. The expression Jacob used to express his gladness at Esau’s response was interesting. “Inasmuch as I have seen your face as though I had seen the face of God.” Jacob knew a little something about seeing the face of God! Though Esau didn’t understand, Jacob knew that this was part of the very blessing that God had promised him the previous night. This was confirmation of God’s hand on his life, and his newfound (newly renewed) faith in God.

12 Then Esau said, “Let us take our journey; let us go, and I will go before you.” 13 But Jacob said to him, “My lord knows that the children are weak, and the flocks and herds which are nursing are with me. And if the men should drive them hard one day, all the flock will die. 14 Please let my lord go on ahead before his servant. I will lead on slowly at a pace which the livestock that go before me, and the children, are able to endure, until I come to my lord in Seir.” 15 And Esau said, “Now let me leave with you some of the people who are with me.” But he said, “What need is there? Let me find favor in the sight of my lord.” 16 So Esau returned that day on his way to Seir. 17 And Jacob journeyed to Succoth, built himself a house, and made booths for his livestock. Therefore the name of the place is called Succoth.

  1. Reason not to travel together – but also an excuse for Jacob to remain separate and independent. Although he promised to follow his brother to Seir, he lied.
  2. Question: Should Jacob have gone to Seir? God had called him to Canaan; not Edom. Jacob’s commitment to remain in the Promised Land was part of his obedience to God. His insistence to lie about it, however, was not.
  3. Jacob had taken a giant step of faith, but he wasn’t perfect. (Neither are we!)

18 Then Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Padan Aram; and he pitched his tent before the city. 19 And he bought the parcel of land, where he had pitched his tent, from the children of Hamor, Shechem’s father, for one hundred pieces of money. 20 Then he erected an altar there and called it El Elohe Israel.

  1. This the setting and background for Chapter 34.
  2. Jacob is back home in Canaan, per God’s promise.
  3. Jacob formally declares his faith in God, per his own promise. Back in Genesis 28:21, when Jacob received God’s promise that God would return him to the land and bless him, Jacob had then made a conditional promise that he would worship God as God. That condition had been fulfilled, and Jacob made his faith known. “El Ehohe Israel” (אֵ֖ל אֱלֹהֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל) = “God, (the/is the) God of Israel.”

Conclusion:

By definition, there has come a point in the life of every Christian when we made the decision to follow Christ in faith – that Jesus would be our God. What was yours? For Jacob, it was the night he wrestled with Jesus, refusing to let go, knowing that his only hope for blessing (his only chance for survival!) would be if God acted on his behalf. For you, you may have had your own experience wrestling with the Lord. 

The thing about wrestling with the Lord is that it is something God graciously allows us to do, but it is something we cannot win. Or, we win – but we only win when we surrender. “Winning” is persistent surrender to the Lord Jesus. We recognize His lordship & grace, and we do not let go. In Him is our only hope.

Perhaps tonight is your wrestling match. Will you surrender and hold on?

Perhaps as a Christian, there’s a challenge in your life that still requires surrender to the Lord. Maybe there’s a sin to which you’ve clung – maybe there is resentment towards someone else, or fear of certain consequences. Whatever it is, you need to come to the point that you realize: (1) you aren’t in control; God is, and (2) you can’t fix it; God can. The way we tackle these problems isn’t by trying to handle it ourselves; it is to handle them with Jesus. Get your relationship with Jesus right first, and the rest will follow.

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