I just love the book of Genesis. It is so fascinating and so human. We didn’t originate from primordial scum or primates. Human beings were made in God’s image Gen. 1:27. Adam became the first human being from the ingredients of dust and the breathe of God. Gen. 2:7 God created mankind with inherent dignity and destiny and mostly for relationship with himself. We see people from the beginning struggling with human nature and the desire for God, always at odds…often with devastating consequences.
My favorite story in Genesis though, hands down, is that of Jacob wrestling with God.
We see Jacob’s life is one of struggle and conflict, from his birth. He is a 2nd born twin and comes out of the womb grasping his brother’s heel. He was even wrestling his brother in the womb. He uses trickery and deception to steal his brother Esau’s birthright and blessing. Even though God had promised that Jacob would be the heir, he still tried to make it happen himself. In the process turning his brother into an enemy and having to flee for his life.
Then he goes far away to his uncle Laban, to save his life and also to obtain a wife. That begins 20 years of the tables being turned on him. Laban cheats him again and again; even deceptively giving him the wrong daughter in marriage. Jacob ends up marrying both his daughters; Leah and Rachel. That precipitates all the drama and dysfunction one might expect!
So Jacob realizes it is time to take his exit and go back home. But Jacob is between a rock and a hard place. Laban will never stop trying to take advantage of him or let him have his own ‘space’ but going back home means facing the brother that he had cheated, the brother that was wanting to kill him.
The night before the showdown with his brother finds Jacob alone in the wilderness. (ever been there? me too) He is facing his biggest fears and the failures of his past, maybe even his imminent death. (he receives word that Esau is coming with 400 men) So God comes down….and… wrestles with him?
“So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”” Genesis 32:24-26
We know this man was God and man. Jacob said “I saw God face to face.” Gen. 32:30 God in the form of a man, sound familiar? I believe this was the pre-incarnate Christ, making a ‘cameo’ in early human history.
But why would God/Jesus come and wrestle with Jacob? Why not just a word of comfort or whatever?
Sometime during that night Jacob realized that he was wrestling with God. He also realized that he was wrestling for his destiny. He had gotten the promise. Gen. 25:23 But all his life he had been fighting for it. He realized what was at stake and he was not going to let go. As the sun came up the God-man touched his hip and it wrenched out of joint. Still Jacob declared, “I will not let go until you bless me!”
And blessing he did get. He saw the face of Christ. He got a new name. He became a key figure in the lineage of Christ (who he had wrestled with, wrap your mind around that!) God gave him favor with his brother Esau.
“For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5
I think this story, more than any other, encapsulates the human experience. The way of Christ is a ‘narrow road’ and ‘few ever find it’. The call of Christ is upwards, against the constant downwards-pull of this world. Those that would follow Christ inherit the kingdom through many hardships. Acts 14:22
There are times of testing and trial that God will allow. Times where it feels like God is against us. Times where the rubber meets the road. There will be long, dark nights. But for those who persevere, who will not let go… well they stand to inherit more than can be imagined. God is good, his will towards us is perfect. He will withhold no good thing. But he wants us strong and committed. The trials of life are the bootcamp preparing us for mighty things as soldiers in God’s army. The trials and struggles reveal what is really in our hearts, what we really trust.
I don’t think there is any other way to get stronger than in an intense struggle. And God is faithful to provide the exact amount of pressure we need to grow. Not only grow but to kill of the ‘old man’ of doubt, fear, selfishness, complacency, etc. The very thing that you feel is holding you back and kicking your butt- that very thing is a blessing and opportunity.
In this life we never get beyond the cross. The struggles are real. But the struggles themselves are a key part in us becoming heroes and fulfilling the call on our lives.
“You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” Hebrews 10:36
Let’s determine in our hearts that we will not let go… because our very destinies hang in the balance.