Wrestling with God

Genesis 33:18–20 (ESV)
"And Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, on his way from Paddan-aram, and he camped before the city. 19 And from the sons of Hamor, Shechem’s father, he bought for a hundred pieces of money the piece of land on which he had pitched his tent. 20 There he erected an altar and called it El-Elohe-Israel. "

We need not look too hard at Jacob to see ourselves and our own path to faith in God. The passage above refers to the completeness of his spiritual journey by identifying the God of Abraham and Isaac as his own God (v. 20). But, it took about twenty years for this to happen.

If you look back to Genesis 28:16-22, we see Jacob affirming the presence of God but instead of declaring him as his God, he instead makes a vow that if God will deliver him, give him food and clothing, and keep him safe on his journey back to his father’s house, THEN he would be his God. Thus, Jacob was making his faith in God conditional on God intervening in his life first.

Notice how he would refer to Yahweh as the God of Abraham and/or Isaac, but never of himself during this time. He made some progress in Genesis 31:42 where he acknowledged God as “the fear of Isaac”, but still remained spiritually immature and lacking of complete faith.

Jacob’s spiritual struggle is culminated in Genesis 32:24-25 where he struggles physically with a man (the preincarnate Son of God). The evidence for this theophany is in: (1) Jacob’s thigh was dislocated just by the man’s having touched it (vv. 25, 32). (2) The man changed Jacob’s name (v. 28) to one better suited to his covenant position: Israel, meaning “God strives” (3) The man’s reference to Jacob having striven with God—which, while reflecting the overall trajectory of Jacob’s life to this point, also clearly referred to the present struggle or wrestling match between Jacob and the man himself (v. 28). (4) Jacob named the site of the wrestling match “Peniel,” meaning “The face (or “presence”) of God,” for as Jacob himself explained, “I have seen God face to face” (v. 30).

I wonder how many of us can identify with Jacob? How many of us will acknowledge that if only God would show Himself, or perform some clear intervention in our lives, we would then believe. “God, if you will only heal me then I will believe”, or “God, take this burden from me and then I will serve you more faithful”. Can we recognize ourselves in Jacob? Jacob did have a knowledge of God, but he did not have a saving faith in God until God delivered him safely. Instead of having a position of “faith seeking understanding”, many of us are more of “understanding seeking faith”.

Jacob made the mistake of putting God to the test (Deuteronomy 6:16; Matthew 4:5-7), but in His infinite grace God used Israel to ultimately become a blessing for all nations.

God wants to have a relationship with you, but faith must open that door. If you have required God to do something before you will believe, put it aside today. Hebrews 11:6 states, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him”. Prayerfully seek Him with all of your heart.

He is waiting.