Monday, February 6, 2012

"The Wrestling Match" Genesis 32:22-32

Most of you know by now that I am not a big sports guy. I do know however that the Super Bowl is today. I don’t remember who is playing nor do I know what time it starts but I’m pretty sure we will be out in time to see it if you want. That should make the guys here happy. It’s my understanding that men are happier overall than women anyway. Do you think that is true? That’s what I have heard. In fact, I have a list of reasons here why men are happier than women.
Your last name stays put.
The garage is all yours.
Wedding plans take care of themselves.
Chocolate is just another snack...
Car mechanics tell you the truth.
You never have to drive to another gas station restroom because this one is just too icky.
Same work, more pay.
Wrinkles add character.
One mood all the time.
Phone conversations are over in 30 seconds flat.
A five-day vacation requires only one suitcase.
You can open all your own jars.
You get extra credit for the slightest act of thoughtfulness.
Your underwear is $8.95 for a three-pack.
Three pairs of shoes are more than enough.
You almost never have strap problems in public.
The same hairstyle lasts for years, even decades.
Most marriage counselors consider it important to communicate to the happy couple that if the marriage is to succeed, then both must be willing to accept the other as he or she is. Few things destine a marriage to failure quicker than one spouse thinking they can or will change the other once they are married. They are told instead to love who the person is, not just the person they would like their spouse to be.
God’s relationship with us is not like this. While it is true that God loves us as we are, it is His desire and right to transform us. He also has the ability to transform us. (John Walton, Genesis Commentary p.614) The problem is that we very often do not want to change. We read in God’s Word that we should be this way or we should do this or that and we should not have this kind of attitude and we agree with it, at least with our mouths, but we never really get around to making those changes.
How do you think God reacts to that? When we know we should do something or not do something but we just never really get around to it, what is God’s response? Does he act like a wife who can’t change a husband and cry to a friend? Does God the Father go to the Holy Spirit and say, “I just don’t know what to do.”? “He just won’t change!” “I told him plainly what I wanted him to do but he just won’t do it. He’s out of control.”
Or does He act like a wise Father, giving you the opportunity to do what is right and then you have consequences and then He gives you another chance? At some point, a good parent will discipline the child. Unlike most kids today, most of us got a spanking when we refused to obey. Proverbs 3:11-12 says,
11 sMy son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline
or be weary of his reproof,
12 for the Lord reproves him whom he loves,
as ta father the son in whom he delights.
We are going to look at a passage this morning where God spanked His beloved Jacob so hard that He dislocated Jacob’s hip. Boy, the CPS or SPCA or whoever they are would not approve of Genesis 32:22-32. As you turn there I want to tell you what has happened since we saw Jacob last week.
First, do you remember what the name “Jacob” means? It means literally “heel-grabber” and figuratively it means “supplanter” or “one who trips up”. He has gone his whole life with people calling him a name that is derogatory. It would be like your parents naming you “Thief Ballard” or “Liar Lightsey”. All of his life Jacob lived up to his name and honestly, so far it has turned out pretty good. Not great but pretty good.
After he swindled Esau out of his birthright that we looked at last week, Jacob then flat-out steals his blessing as well and figures he better make a run for the border before Esau kills him. He has to spend the next 20 years away from his family but even there he seems to do very well for himself. God promised his grandfather Abraham that he would bless his descendants and even though Jacob was a schemer and a cheat God blessed him because of that promise.
But how many of you can relate to the fact that God just won’t seem to leave you alone? God keeps wanting to change you and make you more like Him. That is what happens here with Jacob. All of his life Jacob has been blessed by God because of the promise but here we see God wanting to make Jacob a little more worthy of some of the blessings. So God goes to visit Jacob as we will see and He doesn’t just want to talk.
Let’s read Genesis 32:22-32.
As I said earlier, 20 years have passed since Jacob left his home and now he is headed back there. There is only one problem. He knows when he gets there he is going to have to face Esau, his brother from whom he has stolen the blessing and birthright. So, Jacob the schemer schemes up a plan. He sends all of his people and all of his property ahead of him with huge gifts of livestock for his brother hoping that all of that will placate Esau and then he waits until the next day to follow.
Even with all the scheming and strategizing Jacob still feels very vulnerable. He gets word in an earlier passage that Esau is coming to meet him with 400 men. Will all the plans work? Will he survive the next day? Will he ever see home again? He has done all that he knows to do but ultimately there is no safety net. If Esau wants to kill him he can and nobody would blame him.
There are a couple of things I want us to see in this passage. First, wrestling with God reveals who we really are and secondly, wrestling with God allows God to be God. Let’s see first how wrestling with God reveals who we really are.
As we look at this I want to address the elephant in the room that appears out of nowhere and into verse 24. “And a man wrestled with him till daybreak.” Really? That’s all we get? No description. No background. No name. Now, we have seen this kind of situation before and we have learned that if it is not clear then it is because it doesn’t have to be clear. This isn’t a novel written for our reading pleasure.
Jacob and the man both say that he struggled with God but Hosea 12:4 says, “He struggled with an angel…” It may be God in human form or it may be an angel with the right and responsibility to talk and act for God. It doesn’t matter. There was a physical struggle and it lasted all night. Pretty good for a 97 year old man as Jacob was. Jacob had to be pretty proud of himself for holding his own that long. He probably felt pretty cocky at this point.
And then God decides that it is over and it says He touches Jacob’s hip and dislocates it. God had allowed the scuffle to go on as long as He wanted but then it was time for Jacob to do business and so Jacob’s grappling turns into just holding on. He continues to live up to his name and grabs the man however he can.
God tells him to let go and he refuses until the man blesses him. Even to this point he was the same old Jacob. Still wanting a blessing. Still wanting what he couldn’t have. Still wanting something for nothing. So God decides to bless him but not like Jacob is expecting. He asks Jacob his name.
That had to sting. That had to hurt even more than the hip. He had to tell the man his name and his character. He had to say my name is Heel-grabber, Supplanter, Schemer, Liar, Thief. He had to admit who he really was and who he wasn’t. He had to come to the point of admitting to God that he was less than able to save himself from Esau or anything else. It wasn’t until he saw himself as God saw him that God was able to bless him.
When he sees that he lets God be God and God blesses him with a new name; a name he could be proud of. It’s a name that would endure through history. He was now called Struggles with God. Rolls off the tongue a lot better than Heel-grabber. It wasn’t what Jacob was expecting. When he asked for a blessing I’m sure he wanted physical blessings instead he got a physical problem but a spiritual blessing. His hip would always be painful but he had a new start with a new character.
I remember the day I realized I was not invincible. Many years ago I had a ’70 Chevy pickup. It wasn’t much to look at but it was loud and fast and that’s the way I liked to drive it. I was coming back from somewhere I shouldn’t have been and crashed it into a guard rail. I woke up in the passenger side floor board with most of the dash embedded in my face. I wish I could blame the way I look on that but the only scar I got out of it was this tiny one between my eyes. You probably can’t even see it from there.
I see it every time I look in the mirror and like Jacob I have a permanent reminder of wrestling with God. We can continue to fight like Jacob did and get a bum hip out of it or we can let God be God in our lives and receive the physical, emotional and spiritual blessings He wants to give us.
We as Christians wrestle with God every day when we decide we can handle the problems that come our way and we don’t need to talk to Him about it. When we live our lives self-sufficiently. Pulling ourselves up by our boot straps or being a self-made man are terms that Jacob used to describe himself. Does that describe you? Or do you let God be God in your life and realize everything you have and everything you are is in the hands of Almighty God.

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