|Volume 24 Number 11 November 2022
Johnny O. Trail
There is a passage in Genesis that many people have wondered about down through the centuries. While some speculation remains, there are some powerful spiritual truths that can be taken away from the account that Moses offered regarding Jacob’s wrestling match with the Lord. Genesis 32:24-28 reads:
Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him. And He said, “Let Me go, for the day breaks.” But he said, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!” So He said to him, “What is your name?” He said, “Jacob.” And He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.” (NKJV)
As one studies these passages, there is some question about whether the one Jacob wrestled with was God or an angel. Many scholars are divided about the identity of the one grappling with Jacob. Suffice it to say that this was a being of divine nature and of great strength. Whether directly or indirectly, Jacob wrestled with God.
It seems that the one grappling with Jacob had enough of the antics of the patriarch and moved Jacob’s hip out of joint. It appears that Jacob was a scrapper because he did not let go of the one wrestling with him, even though he was, most likely, in immense pain from a dislocated hip joint. He continued to wrestle with this grappler until he was granted a blessing. The blessing entailed a change of name that carried with it a change of status and purpose. Jacob was thenceforth called “Israel.” This name change was symbolic of the great nation that would emanate from Jacob. Ultimately, the blessing would carry heavy spiritual import.
These events from Genesis 32:24-28 have implications for Christians in our era. Sometimes we have to “wrestle” for the blessings that we receive. While God causes the rain to fall upon the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45), spiritual blessings are only for those who seek them and live accordingly. That is, we must live our Christianity faithfully to receive blessings from Him. Leroy Brownlow once said, “So, if there is one lesson which the life of Jacob teaches above all others, it is that a man’s struggles are essential to blessings.” Scripture bares this principle out in its teachings.
One such passage is found in James 1:12, where it says, “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” We can be blessed as we struggle with various temptations in our lives. With each temptation that we overcome, we are strengthened and promised a “crown of life.” Revelation 2:10 says, “Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” We should not let go of God until we receive our blessings. Our attitude needs to be the same as Jacob’s, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!”
Jesus even struggled before God blessed Him. We see Satan’s unrelenting attack against the sinless Son of God in Matthew 4. Jesus met every temptation successfully with Scripture and had a powerful resolve to accomplish Jehovah God’s will. He was blessed after Satan left Him. Matthew 4:11 records, “Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.”
Do we assume that it will be any different for us? Blessings are promised to the just and to the wicked alike (Matthew 5:45), but God’s people are blessed in their prosperity and in their struggles. A wicked person who struggles can expect nothing at the end of the struggle that has any spiritual importance or relevance. First Peter 3:14 says, “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. ‘And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.’”
Just as Jacob held on to this divine being when he struggled to do so, we must endeavor to hold on to God so that we might be blessed. The world challenges God’s people to the extent that they sometimes ‘let go’ of the very one to Whom we need to cling for life. Demas and those named with him in 2 Timothy 4:10 might have been among those who let go of God and clung to the world in which they were living. The passage says, “For Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica – Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia.”
The problems we face in life are oftentimes overwhelming, but we are yoked to the One Who promises to help us bear our burdens. Matthew 11:28-30 says, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Being yoked to Christ means that He labors with us when we struggle to make it through the most complicated problems of life. It does not mean that He will completely take the burdens away from His disciples. Instead, His promise is to bless those who overcome regardless of the situations they face in life.
See What John Saw
Imagine you were the great apostle, aged and innocent and always helpful but now “quarantined” on a forsaken island because of your religion, a religion seen as subversive to the government. You are alone, without help, feeling every cold wind, hot sun and hunger pang, and it is not your fault.
What would be your attitude? I am afraid mine, after reveling in my righteous dilemma, could find me starting to fuss at God to “Get me outta here!”
What did John do? He was “in the Spirit on the Lord’s day” (Revelation 1:10). In other words, he set his mind on the things of God, and when Sunday came around, he worshipped Him Who is forever and ever. This enabled John to endure his trial for two years!
You see, if God is your companion through life, then you are never alone, even if there is nobody else around. God helped John and still used him for great good in this circumstance. Will God stay by your side? Oh, yes, all the way to the end! “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5-6 NKJV).