The Struggle

Text: Genesis 32

Proposition: When God wrestles with us it is not over our possessions or power or even the persons of our family, it is to confront the resolve to stand on our own.

Introduction: Have you ever heard that saying that goes, “One mans trash is another mans treasure.”? What if that were changed to, “One mans trash is God’s anguish”. Sometimes God wrestles with us over things that He wants to change inside us. Though that struggle can painful and even prolonged His will is for a person who longs to know God more.

This morning we are going to return to Genesis, Jacob has left Laban and is coming closer to home, but there are things in Jacob’s heart that God still needs to address. On the east side of the Jordan, near the river Jabbok, Jacob looks up and sees something, he sees watchers, he sees angels. Jacob has stepped into God’s camp, he calls the place Mahanaim and the struggle begins. Turn to Genesis 32.

I. Sometimes We Struggle With Those In Our Own Family. (Verses 1-8)

The name Mahanaim means literally, “Two Camps”, Jacob’s thought was that he and the Lord were sharing the same camp. You might even say that Jacob felt that the Lord was in his camp, that God was on his side. Though Jacob is heading for Bethel up in the hill country of Judea, he sends messengers to go to the land of Seir, an area south of the Dead Sea where his brother Esau stayed. He knew that though 20 years had passed since he deceived his father Isaac into blessing him instead of Esau that Esau might still not have forgiven him. So he sends the equivalent of an e-mail to Esau saying something like, “Hey I’m back and I’m stinking rich, just thought I’d let you know, things okay between us?” The cardinal rule when it comes to conflict resolution is never do it with an e-mail. What Jacob meant to say is, ‘Though I left penniless I have done well and will not be a burden to our family, I want things to be good between you and I.’ What Esau heard, well we assume that it wasn’t that same tone. Sometimes we struggle with those in our own family because we don’t talk face to face, what we say is not what they hear. There’s a quote from Shakespear that goes, “Our conscience makes cowards of us all.” We know we have done wrong and we are afraid that it can’t be fixed so avoid the very thing necessary to resolve it, going to them, to hear and to speak.

Jacob’s messengers don’t even make it to the land of Seir because Esau has already heard about Jacob and is riding towards them with 400 men. Jacob knows that you don’t bring four hundred men to a family reunion, you bring 400 men if you want to end the family. Jacob assumes Esau’s intentions are not good, he splits his flocks and people into two groups thinking that this way he’ll at least save half his fortune. The oversight here is that if Esau comes Jacob isn’t going to alive to enjoy that clever scheme. Sometimes we struggle with family, speak to them face to face, don’t assume, don’t be afraid but trust that the Lord is in both your camps.

II. Sometimes We Struggle With What to Say To God. (Verses 9-12)

When things are falling apart, when you know people may die and all that has been built is about to be torn apart, we can struggle with what to say to God. In these next verses Jacob gives a good example of what that might sound like.

1. Your promises O God are greater than any disaster. The promises Jacob refers to are those made to Abraham and Isaac and now him, promises to see them through and promises to bring them to their own land and to care for them.

2. Your grace O God in my life is a standing stone to me. Jacob admits that God has been faithful and true even when Jacob has not deserved it. Even now he can look back and see the difference that God’s grace makes in his life.

3. Your deliverance O God is what I hope for. For Jacob that meant a rescue from the wrath of Esau, a rescue from the fear he felt for himself and those close to him.

4. Your hope for me O God is what stirs my faith. What God sees for Jacob is a future, a family, what Jacob sees is that God’s desire is to bless and not curse, in that he believes, in God he puts his faith for a future that goes past this adversity.

Sometimes we struggle with what to say to God, especially when adversity overwhelms us. Look to His Promises, His Grace, His Deliverance and His Hope.

Do all that and then trust Him. George Mueller, a man of great faith, was once asked what was the most important part of prayer? His response, “The fifteen minutes after I say ‘Amen’.” Trust God.

III. Sometimes We Struggle With What To Give Away. (Verses 13-23)

Do you remember that old song they used to sing called, “I Surrender All”? Jacob knows that Esau is coming, he has prayed to God but in the next fifteen minutes he takes things into his own hands again. He sends gifts of goats, sheep, camels, cows, donkeys, five waves of gifts meant to soften the heart of Esau. Then he takes his two wives Rachel and Leah, their two maid servants, Zilpah and Bilhah and the eleven children that came from these four women and sends them on across the brook. Jacob sent everyone he loved, everything he owned ahead of him to Esau, it was an “I Surrender All” gesture but what would have counted even more is if Jacob had gone ahead of them all and surrendered himself, first. Sometimes we struggle with what to give away to God. Maybe if your life has been long or difficult you surrender your drivers license, your car, your home, your freedom. Maybe if there is difficulty you surrender your bank account, your marriage, your children, your wife or husband. Sometimes we struggle with what to give away because we think that it actually belonged to us. Sometimes we struggle with what to give to God when what He seeks is us. Jacob made presents to Esau, God asks that we present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to Him, a reasonable service of worship.

IV. Sometimes We Struggle With God. (Verses 24-31)

Jacob, alone, in the night, in fear, that is the picture we have. Suddenly a Man approaches and tackles Jacob, wrestling him to the ground. At first Jacob might have thought this was one of Esau’s men but quickly that changed. This was Someone whom he had met before, Someone whose voice he knew. Hosea 12:4,5 says, “Yes, he struggled with the Angel and prevailed; he wept, and sought favor from Him. he found Him in Bethel, and there He spoke to us—that is, the LORD God of hosts. The LORD is His memorable name.” In the dark, in the dirt, Jacob suddenly discovered that it wasn’t man he should fear but rather the very One that wrestled with him now. Face to face, Jacob wrestled with the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ. There are few things that need to catch our attention:

1. Jacob didn’t choose to wrestle. This didn’t start by Jacob wanting something from God, it started by God wanting something from Jacob.

2. They wrestled all night. It came to the point that Jesus would not overcome Jacob’s resistance. The strength that Jacob had to wrestle with was miraculous. So another miracle occurred, Jesus touched his leg and the hip sinew tightened and put the hip joint out of place. Despite our resolve to be right, God prevails.

3. The resolve in Jacob is to not let go until he was blessed. The key to being blessed – being exposed for you are and agreeing with God – “Who are you?”, it was a question that was meant for Jacob’s discovery not God’s.

4. The new name is given, Jacob which means ‘supplanter or one who lays snares’ is disappearing. In its place is ‘Israel’, a name given to Jacob because he was, ‘one who struggles with God and men’. Literally the word Israel means, ‘God prevails’.

5. Jacob asks for the name of the One who changes his name. Jesus answers with a question, “Why is it that you ask about My name?” God sees the motive behind the snare, it was a motive of self importance. Who can ever defeat God?

6. Jacob is ready to be blessed, only after he discovers the foolishness of trying to out-maneuver God, of trying out wrestle God, of trying to outlast God. The first blessing he had obtained by deceiving his earthly father Isaac, this second blessing came from heaven, from the  Son of God, the true blessing.

7. Jacob names the place where his life was changed. He calls it Peniel, ‘facing God’.We too have named the place where our lives were changed, we call it Mount Calvary, the word Calvary means literally, ‘skull’. It was a place of death, people still use skulls as a symbol of that today. The death that Calvary pictures, is the death that changed the world, the death that paid the price of our sin when Jesus died on the cross. We name Calvary as the place where we were given a new name, as the place where we died in Christ to our sin. Jacob named this place Peniel because it was here that he saw God face to face and lived. The holiness of God did not destroy him when his sin came close to God. We too have seen God and through faith are saved by Him. We each one have wrestled with God.

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