I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Message (MSG)
24-25 But Jacob stayed behind by himself, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he couldn’t get the best of Jacob as they wrestled, he deliberately threw Jacob’s hip out of joint.
26 The man said, “Let me go; it’s daybreak.”
Jacob said, “I’m not letting you go ’til you bless me.”
Who is your favorite wrestler?
Today’s television wrestlers are professional entertainers — athletes who have captured the imagination of Americans of all generations. Though their names change from generation to generation television wrestlers, complete with costumes, gimmicks, rippling muscles and a lot of hype has an unparalleled following around the world.
Perhaps the most famous is Hulk Hogan, who has had cartoon shows, records, comic books and television shows based on his wrestling persona. Others familiar names of our time include: ’The Rock’, ’Kurt Angle’, ’Triple H’, The Undertaker’ and others. Each combine entertainment and wrestling skills to thrill audiences everywhere.
The stronger and the cleverer of the two wrestlers usually win.
But suppose you had to wrestle God, who do you think would win?
Unlikely as it may seem there are many people who wrestle with God everyday. Some win and some lose. Those who win arise from their experience with a stronger, fuller, faith. Those who choose to refuse God’s will in their lives, walk away as losers.
As Christians we can reflect on Ephesians 6:12 which reminds us that we “wrestle not against flesh and blood, but principalities, against powers, against rulers of darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
As we wrestle with this we should resolve that we will not leave the ring until we are victorious and receive our blessing from God.
I. Our text first considers Jacob as returns home after being away for 21 years. He managed the herds of his uncle Laban during this time and had become wealthy.
Jacob is noted for his frequent tendency to cheat, deceive or take advantage of others. He is often remembered for his boyhood act of cheating his brother out of his divine inheritance in exchange for a bowl of soup. That caused a great division in his family and prompted him too leave 21 years earlier. This text finds Jacob returning home a wealthier man, but one who still possessed the same old habits and traits that caused him to leave. After 21 years of tricking and being tricked, Jacob decided it was time to go home.
As he drew close to home Jacob sent messengers to his brother, Esau, to inform him that he was coming home and that he wanted to make up for the wrongs he had done. The messenger returned to announce that Esau was coming to meet him but he was bringing 400 men with him.
Jacob was disturbed and afraid for his life because he thought his brother was coming to avenge his bad deeds. The night before his return home, Jacob pondered his fate and considered his options and it was to the point he had his third encounter with the Lord. His first encounter came when God spoke to him in a dream and told him to go home (Gen.31: 13). As he returned home he met angels of the Lord along the way (Gen. 32:1-2) and had his second encounter with Lord. Now in his moment of indecision the Lord seized him bodily and spiritually as Jacob wrestled to decide whether to go home or flee.
Without a doubt this was a fixed fight. The outcome of this match was a part of God’s divine plan. Jacob would win this match despite his mortality facing the invincible, indestructible, immortal power of God by simply deciding to go back home. To remind Jacob of the power God could have unleashed against him, the Lord simply touched his thigh and it was weak as a limb for the rest of his life.
Jacob’s decision to go home, but there was something else he needed from God, a changed heart. His plea for spiritual blessings was I can’t go home like this! I have cattle, riches, and fame, but I can’t go home like this! Jacob wanted a blessing from God and he received it. The Lord changed his name from Jacob to Israel, which means: You wrestled with God and won!
Jacob had wrestled with men and won! But now he had wrestled with God and won!
There are many today that have prevailed in their struggle with life’s forces. They have wrestled with men and won. Many have defeated struggles of racism, poverty and sexism to rise high in their professions and to acquire a reasonable level of comfortable living. Though their lives at times appeared to be down for the final count they have risen victorious!
Are you among those who wrestled with men and won? Are you able to keep food on your table, wear decent clothing, and get a few of the creature comforts of this life? If so, you have wrestled with men and won!
Jacob acquired his material by abandoning most stayed away from home for 21 years seeking his fortune and won! Today, there are millions who placed their active service in the kingdom of God on the back burner as they wrestle with men. Many are so completely consumed with making a dollar that they have little time left for prayer, bible study, worship or service to their fellow man in the Kingdom of God.
Sooner or later, no matter who you are, the Lord is going to speak to you. Perhaps he comes in the silence of the night. Perhaps his words leap from the pages of a manuscript and embrace you or they simply ring in your ears. The call is for every child of God to “come home!”
When Jacob asked the Lord for a blessing before he went home, he wasn’t asking for a material blessing because he already had that, what he wanted was the confidence of knowing that God’s spirit was with him. In essence he said I’m going home, “but I can’t go home like this,” without your presence in my life!
There’s somebody reading this who has wrestled with life and won and is now wrestling with a decision about coming home to the Lord!
Their prayer is “Lord, I want to come home’ because you’ve been good to me! But I’m afraid of what’s out there! I’m afraid of making that first step!
I’m not leaving this place until you bless me with your Holy Ghost!
I can’t go home like this!
When the Holy Ghost leads you:
Mountains seem to be a little lower!
Dark clouds seem to be a little brighter!
Burdens seem to be a little brighter!
Fears are a little less frightening!
Troubles seem more bearable!
No wonder the songwriter would write: ’Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me, make me, mold me, fill me, break me, spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me!’
II. When Jacob set out the next day on his way home, he had a limp in his walk but there was no fear in his heart because he had the Lord with him! He was going home, but he wasn’t the same man!
When he left home he was self-centered but as he returned he was willing to share with others!
When he left home he was filled with pride, but as he returned his pride turned to humility.
When he left home he was accustomed to using people, but as he returned he was willing to be used by the Lord!
His brother Esau met him surrounded by 400 men, but what Jacob expected to be an upraised fist turned out to be outstretched hand!
The two embraced each other and wept!
There are good things in store for those who come home! Jacob realized that there is unspeakable joy when you come home!
Every child of God knows how Jacob felt because every child of God is on his way home!
We’re going home, but not to a physical address in the mosquito ridden, humid bayous of the Louisiana Delta. We’re going to place where we have a house not built by hands!
I heard a songwriter said: “I’m going home to live with Jesus, since I laid my burdens down!”
I HEARD Jesus say “In my father’s house there are many mansions!’
Over yonder, in my fathers house:
Every day will be Sunday, always howdy and never good bye!
Every mountain shall be made low!
Every valley shall be exalted!
The wicked shall cease from troubling!
The weary shall be at rest!
Come and go with me to my Fathers house there is joy, joy, and unspeakable joy!