Summary: We’ve all wrestled with God and so we can learn some valuable lessons from Jacob, the Wounded Wrestler.
JACOB: LIFE LESSONS LEARNED FROM A WOUNDED WRESTLER
July 21, 2002
Allow me to set the stage for you. Jacob had not seen his brother, Esau, in a long time and he was very apprehensive about their meeting. You see, many years earlier Jacob tricked his brother out of his birthright and stole his blessing. Because of this Esau was planning to kill Jacob. Jacob’s mother found out about Esau’s plan and she arranged to have his father, Isaac, send Jacob away to live among her relatives in a distant land. Now after many years had passed Jacob was returning and he was afraid that his brother might still try to kill him.
Jacob had come to the Jabbok river and crossing it meant crossing into Esau’s territory. Jacob decided that he would try to appease his brother so that he wouldn’t kill him so he sent gifts across the river before him. He sent his servants ahead of him with a gift for Esau of 220 goats, 220 sheep, 30 camels, 40 cows, 10 bulls, and 30 donkeys. As Jacob was making these preparations he said to himself, “I will pacify him with these gifts I am sending on ahead; later, when I see him, perhaps he will receive me” (Genesis 32:20). Later that evening he sent his wives and sons across the river and finally he sent the rest of his servants with the rest of his possessions across.
That night Jacob was left all by himself on the banks of the Jabbok. And that night the most famous and perhaps the most bizarre wrestling match in all of history took place. That night an unknown, unnamed man appeared and wrestled with Jacob all through the night. Please follow along in your Bibles as I read Genesis 32:22-32.
That night Jacob wrestled with God. All of us have wrestled with God at times as we struggle to do our things in our way. We’ve wrestled with God as we tried to understand why bad things happen to good people. We’ve wrestled with God and his call on our lives. We’ve wrestled with God over the things he has asked us to give up for him. We’ve all wrestled with God and so we can all learn some valuable lessons from Jacob, the Wounded Wrestler.
1. ADMIT THAT YOUR WAY DOESN’T WORK.
By crossing the Jabbok Jacob was going to be entering into Esau’s territory, but God saw something even more significant than that. By crossing the Jabbok Jacob would be entering into the land that God has sworn to give to Abraham’s descendants -- the promised land. God wasn’t about to allow Jacob to enter the promised land -- the land of His blessing or favor -- on his own terms or in his own strength. And so God appears in the form of a man and wrestles with Jacob, not for sport, but in order to teach him some important truths. The God-man said to Jacob, “...you have struggled with God...and have overcome” (v. 28). And yet as we read the text it is clear that Jacob didn’t “overcome” in the wrestling match in the sense of defeating God. A little later we will look closer at what that meant. They wrestled all through the night and it appeared that it was going to be a draw until the Man dislocated Jacob’s hip with a simple touch. It was as if God allowed Jacob to give Him his best shot and then God showed his complete superiority with a single touch. In fact it reminds me of when I wrestle with my three-year-old son, Brendon. When we wrestle I let Brendon knock me down and shove me around, but every once in a while a put him in his place just to remind him who is really in charge and that he can’t push me around for real. That night Jacob found out that he couldn’t push God around and do things his way. That is why the Bible says, “...the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength” (1 Corinthians 1:25). He found out that his way of entering the promised land wasn’t going to work because God wouldn’t let it work. This is why the Bible says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death” (Proverbs 14:12).
In 1849 a wagon train was traveling through Death Valley to follow the gold rush into California. As this particular wagon train trudged through Death Valley, the hottest place in California, they looked ahead and saw a sheet of water they all believed was Owen’s Lake. But it was just a mirage created by the intense heat, and the harder they pressed on to make it to the water, the more frustrated they became. If we try to accomplish things in our own way and in our own strength we will be just as successful as that wagon train pursuing a mirage. We will never be successful because our way simply doesn’t work.