- Sermon Notes
Wrestling with God
Last week in our study, Jacob had to leave his mother, whom he dearly loved, his father whom he had deceived, and his brother who wanted to kill him.
Because of his mother Rebekah’s influence, Isaac sent Jacob some 500 miles away, to Haran, to her brother Laban. It was there Jacob was to find a wife
amongst her relatives.
Jacob was on the run because all around him he created heartbreak and conflict.All his relationships were broken.On the way he had an encounter with
God.He had a dream where he saw a ladder or stairway from earth to heaven with angels ascending and descending on it.God then gave him the blessings
of Abraham and Isaac.When he awoke he said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I didn’t know it.How awesome is this place!This is none other
than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.”And he called that place Bethel – the house of God.
When he arrived in Haran, he met Rachel and her father Laban; he fell in love with Rachel and agreed to work seven years for her hand in marriage since
he had no dowry.
Many see some poetic justice when Jacob met Laban.The heel snatcher meets the manipulator.After Jacob worked seven years for Rachel, Laban did some
serious conniving of his own and put his older daughter, Leah, in Jacob’s tent instead of Rachel on their wedding night! He then must work another
seven years to get Rachel, the one he truly loved.
Then, in a turnabout of manipulation, Jacob agreed to work several more years if he could have the goats of the flock that were spotted or speckled
and the lambs that were black.He then created a breeding program so that most of the goats were born spotted or speckled and the lambs were born
black.Thus, he ended up with most of what Laban had.
When we come to Genesis 32, twenty years have passed. God finally spoke to Jacob and told him to go back to the land of his fathers and that God would
be with him.
But then a problem arises – a very big problem; his brother Esau. He sent word to Esau that he was coming, and his servants returned with the news,
“Esau is coming out to meet you and has 400 men with him.”Jacob interprets that as a sign of great danger.400 men is not a welcoming party, it’s
He divided his company into two groups; if one is attacked the other could flee.He sent gifts ahead of him in the hope of appeasing Esau.He sent his
wives and children across the River Jabbock. Finally, he was alone, and that night the angel of the Lord came to Jacob, took hold of him and wrestled
with him all night long. This is where the scripture reveals powerful insights for our lives as well.
I. We are in the Process of Becoming
- Jacob was given that name because he had hold of his brother’s heel as he was being born.Unfortunately, he lived by the meaning of that name all
- It’s time to change.It’s time to change that name, but first, God confronts Jacob by striving, wrestling, and contending with him.
- God brought this crisis for the purpose of transforming him. He can’t go back to Laban and in front of him is his brother with 400 men.
- But first, Jacob must learn to stop relying on his own strength, his clever heel snatching.He must learn that God will contend with those who contend
against him; that God will be the blessor of his life; but he must cling to God and realize that God will wrestle with him, God will contend with
him, if he must.
A. God can bring purpose out of problems
- God is the one who told Jacob to go back to the land of his fathers, knowing that Esau was there waiting for him.
- It was time to face the past; it was time to make things right, it was time to reconcile with Esau.
- Jacob sent word to Esau that he was on the way.His servants returned and told him that Esau was coming to meet him with 400 men. That might seem like
a great obstacle, but Jacob’s major obstacle was not his brother, it was God.
- God uses troubles and crisis to change us. They’re opportunities to get things resolved in our lives and in our character, and they are preparing us
for greater challenges to come.
Illus – CSW Lewis once wrote, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts to us in our pain.”
James 1:2-4, Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.
And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
- In other words, the testing of your faith strengthens your faith.If your faith cannot be tested, then your faith cannot be
- We need our faith to be strengthened because there are many challenges yet to come.
Illus – When we had our first baby, I thought we would never get a full night’s sleep. She had colic so badly we had to take two hour
shifts to get any sleep at all.I was complaining because I thought parenting was so difficult. Little did I know we would someday have five kids in
their teens all at the same time!
Jeremiah 12:5, If you have run with footmen and they have tired you out, then how can you compete with horses? If you fall down in a land
of peace, how will you do in the thicket of the
B. Pray the promises that God gave you
- In verses 9-12, Jacob turned to God with a prayer that is an example of using the promises of God as the substance of prayer.
- “O God,” he prays, “You are the one who directed me and the one who said that you would prosper me, deliver me, I pray…”
- You don’t see Jacob as a man who prays until this point in his life, but he turns to God in this crisis, and calls out to God by quoting the promises
that God gave him.
- There is something very right and powerful about using scripture and the promises of God in your prayer.
Illus – George Mueller was a man who believed in the power of trusting God in prayer and relying on God’s promises when he prayed. He
trusted God to take care of the more than 1000 orphans in his care. But God had to contend with him first.
His early life in Prussia, in Germany, was marked by lying, gambling, drinking, and imprisonment for fraud. At age fifteen, he was playing cards and drinking
with friends while his mother lay dying.
George Mueller was troubled in his spirit, but God touched his life and he learned to trust God, even for the miraculous. One day the orphanage had no
money and no food, “You promised to give us our daily bread,” he prayed, and then, almost miraculously, a cart loaded with bread broke down in front
of the orphanage. The driver gave it all to the orphanage.
2 Timothy 1:12, I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have entrusted
to Him until that day.
- Jacob prayed that God would deliver him and God will surely answer that prayer, but he will deliver him from himself first.
II. Surrender All to God
- A man wrestled with Jacob all night long and Jacob knew he had an encounter with God!
- Verse 28 is amazing – “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.”
A. God contends so that He might bless
- Jacob is wrestling with God and they keep wrestling all through the night.
- The amazing thing is that God doesn’t pin him in three seconds. This much is certain, God is bigger than we are.
Illus – Once when one of our children was having difficulty obeying, I took him out of bed and set him on the floor of our bedroom and
told him to stay there; he was on a timeout. “This isn’t fair,” he said, “you’re bigger than I am.” “That’s exactly the point,” I said.
- God wrestles with us and could defeat us in an instant but allows us to continue until we come to the point where we say, “God, I surrender; I will
cling now to You… You and You alone are the blessor of my life.”
- The prophet Hosea said that when Jacob wrestled with God, he wept and sought His favor.
- It’s important to see that God initiated this wrestling match with Jacob. When God contends, it’s because something needs contending with…
1 Peter 5:5-7, God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of
God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.
Illus – God contended with David after he sinned by taking another man’s wife and David’s soul was in agony…
Psalm 6:3-6, My soul was greatly dismayed… Return, O Lord, rescue my soul… I am weary with my sighing, I dissolve my couch
with my tears.
B. There is purpose in a limp
- As they wrestled through the night, Jacob refused to give up, and as the dawn was almost breaking, seeing that Jacob would not stop contending, he
touched him on the hip, and dislocated it.
- Thereafter Jacob would walk with a limp; a reminder that he must no longer trust in his own strength. Now weakened, Jacob could not fight nor, could
he run from Esau; he must cling to God.
- In other words, God may give a limp in order to strengthen. He may prune in order to bring forth fruit.
Hebrews 12:11, All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards
it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.
- In the pocket of a soldier in the Civil war was found this prayer that says it all…
- Illus – I asked for strength that I might achieve, He made me weak that I might obey, I asked for health that I might do great things,
He gave me grace that I might do better things, I asked for riches that I might be happy, He gave me poverty that I might be wise, I asked for
power that I might have the praise of men, he gave me weakness that I might feel the need for God, I asked for all thing that I might enjoy life,
He gave me life that I might enjoy all things. I received nothing I asked for, He gave me everything I hoped for.
Luke 9:24-25, “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.
For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself.”
C. Be governed by God
- Just before sunrise he said, “Let me go for the dawn is breaking.” In other words, that’s enough.Jacob was still holding on to him even though he had
a dislocated hip.
- But Jacob responded, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
- Jacob has won God over; he wept and sought a blessing from God.Jacob learned to cling to God.If any good thing comes, let it be from the hand
- Can you win God over?Yes.God loves to be won over by genuine faith…
Illus – When Jesus was in the region of Tyre and Sidon, outside of Israel, a Canaanite woman from that region came and began to cry out,
saying, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon possessed.”…And the disciples came imploring Him, saying, “Send
her away, because she keeps shouting at us.”Jesus answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”But she bowed down before Him,
saying, “Lord, help me!”And he answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and give it to the dogs.”…
Matthew 15:27-28, But she said, “Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their master’s table.”Then Jesus said
to her, “O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish.”And her daughter was healed at once.
- Jacob prevailed in that even when his hip was dislocated, he wept and kept clinging to God and sought His favor. He knew that God blessing him now,
before he must meet his brother Esau rapidly approaching with a force of 400 men, was what he desperately needed.
- The angel then asked, “What is your name?” This question revealed his greatest weakness, because the answer reveals who he is, “My name is heel snatcher,
- He then said, “You have lived long enough being Jacob, the heel-snatcher, the supplanter. Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel”
- The name “Israel” can be seen in two ways. It means ‘Contended by God,’ and ‘God contends.’
- Receiving the name ‘Israel’ is the blessing Jacob needed.
- Israel – ‘Be governed by God and God will contend with those who contend against you,’ but also know this, that ‘God will contend with you if He must.’
Romans 8:31-32, What then shall we say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but
delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?
Genesis 32:22-32 NASB
He took them and sent them across the stream. And he sent across whatever he had.
of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.”
But he said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28 He said, “Your name
shall no longer be Jacob, but I.e. he who strives with God; or God strives Israel; for you have striven with God and with
men and have prevailed.” 29 Then Jacob asked him and said, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And
he blessed him there. 30 So Jacob named the place I.e. the face of God Peniel, for he said, “I have seen God face to face,
yet my life has been preserved.” 31 Now the sun rose upon him just as he crossed over Penuel, and he was limping on his thigh. 32 Therefore,
to this day the sons of Israel do not eat the sinew of the hip which is on the socket of the thigh, because he touched the socket of Jacob’s thigh
in the sinew of the hip.