The two men had shared space in their mother’s womb. The younger of the two, Jacob, obtained the inheritance of his brother, Esau, through deception. The two were now enemies and eventually would meet on a field of battle. The night before that happened, Jacob had an encounter with God on a personal basis.
The story in Genesis 32, which most of us learned in Sunday School as children, always raised a lot of questions for me. I wondered why anyone would want to take on God in a wrestling match. I occasionally watched Saturday morning wrestling shows on TV with my aging great grandmother. For her it was a truthful fight, with chairs flying and bodies being thrown off the mat and into the audience. She had no idea the whole thing was staged for its “entertainment” value. Wrestling was sort of a foreign sport to me. I guess I never realized it actually was a sport until I attended a high school wrestling event. Again, the whole thing seemed rather barbaric and anything but sporting.
A few years ago I watched a PBS show on Helen of Troy and the games played at the time. It was then that I actually discovered the reason for wrestling. The contest was not meant to injure the other person, but one of the two contestants would eventually submit to the other and finally gave in. Maybe this is what the story of Jacob and his battle with God is all about. We go about our daily lives, trying to plan our futures and control all that life throws at us. It isn’t an easy road all the time. Still we try to stand on our own two feet and stay on top. There’s nothing wrong with that, but when we submit to God as the definer of our future, the gold medal is assured.
God invited Jacob to wrestle with Him when He appeared to Jacob as a man. The struggle continued all night, but in the end, God was the victor. The wrestling was an opportunity for Jacob to submit to God’s will for his life, so even though he was defeated, he was a winner. By sustaining the injury to his hip, Jacob would always remember what it was like to wrestle with God. What he gleaned from this encounter was that his earthly struggles would be painful at times, just as we will face difficult situations throughout our journey.
Our wrestling matches with God will go on. They’re daily battles. We may never quite understand the reason for those tests, but we can be sure that when we submit to God and His will for our lives, we definitely will gain the final victory. We’ll carry those battle scars until our death, but while we’re alive we can help others through our own experiences – give hope that there is an end to it – encourage them to go on. Our own struggles will benefit someone else as they face theirs.
Jacob would go on as the father of a nation that eventually produced the Savior of the world, Jesus. God’s plan is always best, because through it, we gain eternal victory. The wrestling will go on for a long time too and we may never understand why we have to go through it. When life seems hopeless by our standards, it’s good to know that by submitting to God’s will, we will gain everything.