Intrusion: Wrestling with God
Some of the lessons I’ve learned when God intrudes:
Genesis 326 When the messengers returned to Jacob, they said, “We went to your brother Esau, and now he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.” 7 In great fear and distress Jacob divided the people who were with him into two groups,[c]and the flocks and herds and camels as well. 8 He thought, “If Esau comes and attacks one group,[d] the group[e] that is left may escape.”
Jacob was caught up with all his misdeeds: The turnaround in Jacob’s life began with a crisis (32:1–21).
In front of him was Esau, who, for all he knew, was on a mission of revenge. And behind him was Laban, who was also none too pleased with Jacob. If he went forward, Jacob was marching into a potential minefield. Nowhere to go. Sometimes God’s appointed means of grace is getting us stuck and afraid.
Up until this point, Jacob had been prideful. But not until he was in trouble was he willing and able to say,
9 Then Jacob prayed, “O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, LORD, you who said to me, ‘Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper,’ 10 I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two camps.
It is the specific conviction “I am unworthy,” not a general realization that “nobody is perfect,” that drives individuals to Jesus, the Savior. We will never be converted unless we are convinced that we as individuals are wretched, miserable sinners. What happened next?
Jacob wrestles with God the very night before the actual meeting; God intrudes into the picture…
24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.
25 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.
26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
Notice how Jacob “wrestled”—intensely. He and the man wrestled “until daybreak” (32:24). What does that mean? Was Jacob wrestling against the Lord? No. Jacob was trying to wrestle forgiveness and help from the Lord. He was doing, physically, what all of us do, spiritually, when we earnestly pray. He was pleading with God for mercy. He was begging God for it. He was trying to wrestle it out of him: “I will not let you go unless you bless me” (32:26)!
But why did God make Jacob wrestle all night?
To see how badly he really wanted the blessing of forgiveness and hope! And, in that sense, Jacob prevailed (32:28).
Here is a reminder that undergoing the great change—becoming a Christian—is not always quick and easy. It is not just a matter of repeating a prayer, making a decision, or filling out a card. True conversion often comes only after intense wrestling with God. A new identity in Jesus often comes only after a period of persistently praying like Jacob, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
27 The man asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob,” he answered. 28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”
God is more in interested in changing you, rather than your present circumstances. God is in the business of changing us to Christ likeness and not change our circumstances.
We want God to change our circumstances but God arranges our circumstances to change our hearts.
Where Jacob got the blessing, it was a place of conscious weakness. While he got the blessing, he got lameness, too, and he might be well content to carry that lameness to his grave!
I have often found that the place where I have seen most of my own insignificance, baseness, unbelief and depravity has been the place where I have found a great blessing.
Are you ready to rumble???