A 97-year-old patriarch.
A powerful being.
A late night by a river.
And a wrestling match.
That is what I found in Genesis 32. A familiar account: Jacob wrestles with God. Easy to pass by, but not this morning. I kept coming back to that sentence in verse 28 – “I will not let you go until you bless me.” How do I make sense of that? I wondered if I could apply it to my life. Is it right to say, “I too can and should wrestle with God. I should hold fast to him, pleading for blessing.”?
I am careful when reading and applying the Bible. I check my heart. You see, I want that text to say that I too can wrestle with God when I’m up against the wall like Jacob. After all, he is about to face a really angry brother who wants his hide on a wall. When in a crunch, I too want blessing. But, is it valid to make such an application in and to my life?
I think so. John Walton writes,
On the banks of the River Jabbok, God finally finds Jacob in a situation in which his sense of self-sufficiency is crumbling. Jacob is unable to provide for the security of his family…Now, he has his whole family to think about, and he recognizes his inability to vouchsafe their security. This is what finally brings him to his knees.
Jacob – the man who has so greedily sought blessing throughout his life history, and contended with so many for what he wants – is in a unique place to recognize in a new way his dependence on God.
One of my favorite authors, J.I. Packer, beautifully describes the result of this encounter ::
That night, as Jacob stood alone by the river Jabbok, God met him. There were hours of desperate, agonised conflict, spiritual and, as it seemed to Jacob, physical also. Jacob had hold of God; he wanted a blessing, an assurance of divine favour and protection in this crisis, but he could not get what he sought.
Instead, he grew ever more conscious of his own state – utterly helpless and, without God, utterly hopeless. He felt the full bitterness of his unscrupulous, cynical ways, now coming home to roost. He had hitherto been self-reliant, believing himself to be more than a match for anything that might come, but now he felt his complete inability to handle things, and knew with blinding, blazing certainty that never again dare he trust himself to look after himself and to carve out his destiny. Never again dare he try to live by his wits.
…The nature of Jacob’s “prevailing” with God was simply that he held on to God while God weakened him, and wrought in him the spirit of submission and self-distrust; that he had desired God’s blessing so much that he clung to God through all this painful humbling, till he came low enough for God to raise him up by speaking peace to him and assuring him that he need not fear about Esau any more.
So, yes, I may plead with God to bless me.
Yes, I may hold fast to God until he bless me.
And, I will be ready for God to weaken me while he holds me, and I hold him, placing me in the place of readiness for the blessing I desire.
Learning from the Scriptures with you,