Wrestling with God

Daily Reading – Genesis 32

Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world. – C.S. Lewis

The Angel of the Lord tracks Jacob down and engages him in a no-holds-barred wrestling match. Let’s take a look at who this Angel is.

There are several appearances of the Angel of the Lord where he claims to be the Lord himself, and many believe these to be Old Testament appearances of Christ. Here are a few examples where the Angel of the Lord is recognized as God or speaks in the first-person as God.

Genesis 16:7-14

The angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” She said, “I am fleeing from my mistress Sarai.”The angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress and submit to her.”10 The angel of the Lord also said to her, “I will surely multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered for multitude.” 11 And the angel of the Lord said to her,

“Behold, you are pregnant
    and shall bear a son.
You shall call his name Ishmael,
    because the Lord has listened to your affliction.
12 He shall be a wild donkey of a man,
    his hand against everyone
    and everyone’s hand against him,
and he shall dwell over against all his kinsmen.”

13 So she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,” for she said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.” 14 Therefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi; it lies between Kadesh and Bered.

Exodus 2:3-4

When she could hide him no longer, she took for him a basket made of bulrushesand daubed it with bitumen and pitch. She put the child in it and placed it among the reeds by the river bank. And his sister stood at a distance to know what would be done to him.

Judges 6:11-23

11 Now the angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the winepress to hide it from the Midianites. 12 And the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.” 13 And Gideon said to him, “Please, my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and given us into the hand of Midian.” 14 And the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?” 15 And he said to him, “Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” 16 And the Lord said to him, “But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man.” 17 And he said to him, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, then show me a sign that it is you who speak with me. 18 Please do not depart from here until I come to you and bring out my present and set it before you.” And he said, “I will stay till you return.”

19 So Gideon went into his house and prepared a young goat and unleavened cakes from an ephah of flour. The meat he put in a basket, and the broth he put in a pot, and brought them to him under the terebinth and presented them. 20 And the angel of God said to him, “Take the meat and the unleavened cakes, and put them on this rock, and pour the broth over them.” And he did so. 21 Then the angel of the Lord reached out the tip of the staff that was in his hand and touched the meat and the unleavened cakes. And fire sprang up from the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened cakes. And the angel of the Lord vanished from his sight. 22 Then Gideon perceived that he was the angel of the Lord. And Gideon said, “Alas, O Lord God! For now I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face.”23 But the Lord said to him, “Peace be to you. Do not fear; you shall not die.”

So in our story God tracks down Jacob and begins to fight with him. As the sun is about to rise, God touches Jacob’s hip and gives him the name Israel.

A.W. Tozer said, “It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.” This quote captures what is happening in our story. Sometimes our greatest understanding of the Sovereignty of God comes through pain. And it is often in our pain that he uses us to magnify his power.

Jacob knew the Lord, but God was about to take him to a deeper level of trust. Jacob knew he was fighting a higher power after God disabled his hip with a glance of his finger. At this moment Jacob stops fighting with the Lord and clings to him. He refuses to let go until the Lord promises to bless him.

God uses pain to strip us of our misguided notions of self-sufficiency. Paul experienced similar pain from the Lord to help him learn humility and dependence on God.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10

…to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

The name Jacob shares the same root as the word deceiver, which is what Jacob became known for in his early life. Before God offers his blessing, he asks Jacob his name. Jacob is forced to verbalize who he is, a deceiver, and God says this is not who you are anymore. He gives him the new name Israel.

There are several possible meanings for the name Israel, but they all reflect the change that occurred in Jacob’s life. A few of the possible meanings include “Triumphant with God”, “God rules”, or  “the prince of God”.

Jacob’s identity continues to shift from himself to the Lord. Moments of pain in our lives should produce the same result. One of the greatest realizations of the Sovereignty of God that occurs through suffering is Hezekiah’s prayer in Isaiah 38 after he is healed on his deathbed. Let this prayer serve as a model of how to respond to God in humility after he has brought you through a trial.

Isaiah 38:9-13

A writing of Hezekiah king of Judah, after he had been sick and had recovered from his sickness:

10 I said, In the middle of my days
    I must depart;
I am consigned to the gates of Sheol
    for the rest of my years.
11 I said, I shall not see the Lord,
    the Lord in the land of the living;
I shall look on man no more
    among the inhabitants of the world.
12 My dwelling is plucked up and removed from me
    like a shepherd’s tent;
like a weaver I have rolled up my life;
    he cuts me off from the loom;
from day to night you bring me to an end;
13     I calmed myself until morning;
like a lion he breaks all my bones;
    from day to night you bring me to an end.

14 Like a swallow or a crane I chirp;
    I moan like a dove.
My eyes are weary with looking upward.
    O Lord, I am oppressed; be my pledge of safety!
15 What shall I say? For he has spoken to me,
    and he himself has done it.
I walk slowly all my years
    because of the bitterness of my soul.

16 O Lord, by these things men live,
    and in all these is the life of my spirit.
    Oh restore me to health and make me live!
17 Behold, it was for my welfare
    that I had great bitterness;
but in love you have delivered my life
    from the pit of destruction,
for you have cast all my sins
    behind your back.
18 For Sheol does not thank you;
    death does not praise you;
those who go down to the pit do not hope
    for your faithfulness.
19 The living, the living, he thanks you,
    as I do this day;
the father makes known to the children
    your faithfulness.

20 The Lord will save me,
    and we will play my music on stringed instruments
all the days of our lives,
    at the house of the Lord.

The Emmaus Trail is a weekly devotional study that explores the theme of God reconciling himself to the world through the redemption of his Son which is found in all of Scripture. 

Luke 24

That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. 

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