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Saturday, January 19, 2013

Have You Thought about Wrestling with the Lord?

Jaccb was in a disastrous situation. It appeared that his brother, Esau,  was coming to kill him. Esau had good reason to be angry with Jacob. Jacob had enticed him to sell his birthright for a pot of stew. Then, with the help of his mother, Jacob tricked their father into giving Esau's blessing to Jacob. A blessing was more that hopes and wishes. It contained the power to accomplish what was blessed. Thus, once said, it could not be taken back. So, Esau vowed to kill Jacob as soon as their father was dead.

Genesis 27:41 (ESV) 41 Now Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him, and Esau said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are approaching; then I will kill my brother Jacob.”

Jacob fled to live with his uncle Laban. His uncle does some of his own trickery on Jacob but eventually Jacob prospers and runs from him. As he is traveling he hears that Esau is coming his way.

Genesis 32:6-8 (ESV) 6 And the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, “We came to your brother Esau, and he is coming to meet you, and there are four hundred men with him.” 7 Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed. He divided the people who were with him, and the flocks and herds and camels, into two camps, 8 thinking, “If Esau comes to the one camp and attacks it, then the camp that is left will escape.”

It doesn't take a mental heavyweight to figure out what Esau's motive is for arriving with four hundred men. Jacob, goes into crisis mode.

He prays but also starts working on human means to appease his brother.. He sends out his family but stays behind.  I believe that he stays behind to pray because his prayers had already started.

Genesis 32:9-12 (ESV) 9 And Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O Lord who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your kindred, that I may do you good,’ 10 I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds of steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant, for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps. 11 Please deliver me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I fear him, that he may come and attack me, the mothers with the children. 12 But you said, ‘I will surely do you good, and make your offspring as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.’ ”

It is here that we have the story of Jacob wrestling with a man until daybreak.This wrestling match is very indicative of prayer. It engages closely with Someone who is much more powerful but still doesn't let go.

Genesis 32:25-26 (ESV) 25 When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

Jacob has a dislocated hip. It is clear that this was a tremedous struggle. The person wrestling with Jacob could have ended the fight but chooses to continue. Anyone who can dislocate a hip with a touch can defeat the opponent at any time. Evidently defeating Jacob wasn't the reason for the battle.

And Jacob received a blessing because he held on. It came in his name.

Genesis 32:28 (ESV) 28 Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.”

Jacob knew he had been wrestling with the Lord.

Israel means, "he strives with God" or even "one who wrestles with God." Most people don't get the significance.

God never wastes His time. Those who struggle with God in prayer will be blessed because God does not have to listen nor does He need to continue the struggle.

Many times people never engage God when they pray. They say a few words and never think another thing about it. They don't even expect an answer. They may or may not even notice if their prayer is answered.

But those who truly wrestle with God in prayer are either assured that God has heard their prayers and will do as they have asked or that He has another plan for the situation. The one who wrestles is satisfied with the blessing because he realizes it is the best answer he could receive.

One who wrestles with God is changed. Jacob limped away. Many know God like they have never known Him before. Others accept His will in a way they never could before. Somehow each person who wrestles with God is changed.

Something happened to Esau before he gets to Jacob. Both brothers weep when they meet. It appears that the bonds of brotherhood have been mended. Did God work on Esau? I think so.

Of course, we can't know what would have happened if Jacob hadn't wrestled with the Lord. Neither can we know if we don't wrestle with the Lord ourselves.

So, if there is something that seems impossible, somthing that spells destruction, something that is such a need that it will keep you up all night, why not wrestle with the Lord over it rather than just wrestling with it yourself?


Anonymous said...

Although you have given a very complete account of the event of Jacob's wrestle with God; a more complete one than previous messages I heard on the episode, I wish to reiterate that we need to come to God with the appropriate heart condition.  Even if, to begin with, one is not, one necessarily need to come to place of humble and contrite of heart, at some point.

While it is right to encourage a pressing in, in our prayer, in our waiting on the Lord or wrestling with God even (physically, anyone! I believe the episode Jacob had, was physical), insistence or persistence on our part should be with a proper ground.  For Jacob's case, he is with ground, and that was that he was obeying God's instruction to him to return to his country and his relative, with a promise that his descendants would be made by the Lord to be as numerous as the sand of the sea (Gen 32:9 & 12).  In obeying God, Jacob was about to face possible danger to his and his family and his household's lives; this (the obeying God's will) was ground enough for him to keep pressing in, for breakthrough.

We are to press in, but each time, let us come to God with proper heart-condition.  If we have done wrong or sinned, we can still be with ground if we are repentant and want to, now, do the right thing, or be given a second chance. Even when we are desperate or at loss, as to what to do, we are still of ground to press in, when what we are desiring, are righteous or honorable. But one just cannot expect God to give in to his or bless any of his, unrighteous effort or desire, even if he presses in. 

Peace and joy of the Spirit comes only to those who are righteous or are in agreement with God.  If one is restless or is lack of peace because of his  stubborn wickedness or harboring of unforgiveness, he must be prepared to let God deal with him regarding his wickedness  or unforgiveness, as the case may be; otherwise, even kneeling before the Lord for hours may not help!

Anthony Chia, high.expressions

Anonymous said...

A powerful message on the need for intense, rather than casual, prayer. Casual prayer isn't prayer at all, I suppose. One is just enjoying the sound of one's "spiritual" voice. God expects more than that.

Thank you.