Why Do We Wrestle with GOD?
The Struggle of OUR FAITH
Many times we find ourselves surrounded in turmoil during our daily lives. We struggle with the labor of our efforts at work. We sometimes struggle with the people we encounter. We struggle with our friends and families at other times. We struggle with what decisions to make, whether they are the correct course of action or not. We struggle against the temptations of sin when we dwell in a world that is ruled by it. We struggle with life in general, each and every day that we wake up and take a breath. We also struggle with GOD. Sometimes it even seems like the struggle never lets up, like there is no end to it. Sometimes this constant bombardment hardens us and makes us cynical towards the world. It may even make it difficult to trust in people and to put our faith in the things yet unseen. But this is exactly the point.
It is really the mystery of the unknown and the unforseen future that troubles us the most. It is frequently hard to rely on the promise of an unemcumbered future that we cannot see. But that is EXACTLY what FAITH IS.
FAITH [feyth]: the belief in something that is not based on the necessity of proof or evidence; complete confidence or trust in a person or thing without requiring affirmation or need of establishing substantiation.
Fortunately, nothing we will encounter in this world can compare with the reward we receive in return for our faith. There is no obstacle that we will ever confront that is not worth the effort required to overcome it.
"The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs - heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God." (Romans 8:16-19 NKJ)
We ARE the "children of God". We are His children, in not just that we are a part of His creation, but whereby the virtue of the promise that the Lord made to Abraham, we are part of the lineage and seed of His blessings thereof. As Christians, we are also by default the "children of Israel" (Abraham-Isaac-Jacob) in the Messiah Jesus, through His divine bloodline and with the gift of His salvation.
“I am the God of your father Abraham; do not fear, for I am with you. I will bless you and multiply your descendants for My servant Abraham’s sake.” (Genesis 26:24 NKJ)
What is the Struggle All About?
One of the most famous events of Bible history, is the renaming of Jacob to 'Israel'. This occurred as Jacob was crossing the ford of the Jabbok River. Some biblical historians believe that John the Baptist ('Yohannon the Immerser' in Hebrew texts) may have performed his baptisms at or near the ford of the Jabbok River.
After a 20-year stay in the land of Haran, Jacob ('Yaacov' in Hebrew) decides to return to the "Promised Land" with his family and possessions. This is an act of sheer trust and true faith in the Lord. As a result, Jacob hopes to reconcile with his brother Esau, who is probably still resentful that his brother stole his birthright (Genesis 25:29-34). When we study this passage of scripture in the original Hebrew, we find a deeper meaning than what appears in English translations. At birth, 'Yaacov' was given a name derived from the Hebrew word for "heel" (ekev), because he grasped the heel of his twin brother Esau (Genesis 25:24-28). It seems like Jacob was behind from the beginning, grasping ahead for the blessings and inheritance that he might one day receive.
When Jacob learns that his brother is on the warpath with 400 armed men, he sends his family ahead across the ford of the Jabbok River and he remains behind for the night. It is here that Jacob, alone with his thoughts and prayers, becomes conflicted and is fearful about the upcoming encounter with his brother on the other side of the river. During that night however, is the famous encounter where Jacob wrestles with a "man" (pronounced 'iysh' in Hebrew). They wrestle all night until daybreak, with Jacob never submitting. Finally this mysterious "man" touches the hollow of Jacob’s thigh so that it was strained, he asks Jacob to "let him go". Jacob however, responds saying: "I will not let you go until you bless me.” (Genesis 32:23-26)
The "man" (the 'Angel of the Lord') then changes Yaacov's name to 'Yisrael' ('Israel' in English)...
"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.' Then Jacob asked, saying, 'Tell me Your name, I pray.' And He said, 'Why is it that you ask about My name?' And He blessed him there." (Genesis 32:27-29 NKJ)
Face to Face with God
Jacob (now called Israel) knew that this was no simple wrestling match with a "man", but that this person was divine (the 'Angel of the Lord').
"And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved." (Genesis 32:27-30 NKJ)
Jacob called the place 'Peniel' because he saw God, "panim el panim" (face to face). He named it Peniel ('Peni-El') because in Hebrew this means ‘my face to God’. After Jacob’s encounter with the Angel of the Lord, his entire character is forever changed as evidenced by his new name – 'Yisrael' (Israel). He was now to be called Israel, because the Hebrew word shares the same root (s-r) as the word for strive, struggle or "to wrestle". The destiny of Israel would be to "struggle with God and with men", but to also ultimately prevail.
Wrestling with Faith in OUR Own Lives
This is not to say that we all should expect such a divine encounter (or be required to live up to its expectation). But we should consider that the day to day challenges that we might face are indeed divine appointments. They are set before us to overcome, so that we may be promoted to a new level of our faith and relationship with the Lord. By doing so, we WILL likewise inherit the blessings that are ordained for each and every one of us. That is the true beauty in the manifestation of our faith as it works in the real world.
"Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: 'For yet a little while, and He who is coming will come and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith; but if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.' But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul." (Hebrews 10:35-39 NKJ)
How often do we wrestle for the blessings of God in our lives? The story of Jacob (Israel) speaks to us of the perseverance and endurance required from the "children of God" as His faithful servants.
It is tempting, after struggling and wrestling for what seems to be too long of a time, to feel like "enough is enough", and to lose one’s confidence that God’s promises for our lives will ever come to fruition. We must endure and be like Jacob however, who refused to let go until he received his full blessing.
"For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance." (Romans 8:24-25 NKJ)
Does wrestling for the blessing mean to constantly fret about the laborious situations in our daily lives? On the contrary, this spiritual wrestling constitutes the struggle to remain at rest and in peace, trusting fully in the Lord God. To be confident in the fulfillment of His divine promise to us all.
“For thus says the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel: 'In returning and rest you shall be saved; In quietness and confidence shall be your strength...'” (Isaiah 30:15 NKJ)
Just like Yisrael (Israel), it is also our destiny to walk in triumph, whether we are the direct born descendents of Abraham, or have been grafted in to the family of God, through Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus the Messiah).
JACOB in the Modern World
Today, "Jacob" figuratively (the nation of Israel) still struggles with this "Divine Man" who is Yeshua (Jesus Christ). The Messiah (Jesus) was “In the Beginning”, according to Yochanan (John 1:1). The Jewish people (Israel) do not believe that the Messiah is part of the Oneness of God, and therefore they struggle with the belief that the Lord God could actually appear in the flesh as Jesus the Christ. It is the Jewish nature to struggle and fight. They have always had to fight for their very existence.
In Israel they struggle to fend off their unfriendly Muslim Arab neighbors on an ongoing basis. There is a lot of pressure and tension in Israel today as a result. It is a way of life for them. People there are also loud and they seem to argue and debate over almost everything. This is the action of people wrestling with people however. Wrestling with God is much different but it also comes with a cost.
The Angel of the Lord touched Jacob’s hip and it was strained. From that encounter on, Jacob walked with a limp. He then needed to lean on a walking stick. In our struggles with God, we also come forth forever changed, with a noticeable difference or a "limp" in our former walk. This is because we are always needing to lean on God. We are not able to rely on the ways of mankind or just trust in our own mortal understanding.
"Let not mercy and truth forsake you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart, And so find favor and high esteem In the sight of God and man. Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths." (Proverbs 3:3-6 NKJ)
Jacob had taken his wives and children to the other side of the stream out of fear from an encounter with Esau. He was completely alone when he met God. In our own lives, so often we crave fellowship with the comfort and wisdom of other believers when we are going through trials. There are many times however, when we just need to be alone with God. It is Him and us – one on one, face to face ("panim el panim").
With WHOM Do We Really Wrestle?
Yeshua (Jesus) spent a lot of time seeking to be alone with God our Father (Matthew 14:23). But we also see that when Christ went into the Judean Desert for 40 days and nights, He was tempted by the Devil (Matthew 4:1-11).
The Holy scripture also tells us that our wrestling matches are not just with flesh and blood but with princes of the "Fallen Angels" and the very powers of darkness itself.
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)
This is one reason why our struggles can become so painful. We are sometimes not quite sure what (or whom) we are actually wrestling with!
This was the dilemma that Job had faced. Satan was causing his troubles but he did so with God’s permission. Job's pain was then compounded by the attitudes and remarks of his friends, stating that he must have sinned for God to be punishing him so terribly. They insisted that if he would only confess his hidden sins, everything would be okay. Job was actually a righteous and blameless man, even in the Lord’s sight. He had to wrestle on several fronts however – with man, with God, with the Devil, even with the lack of support shown by his contentious and unbelieving wife. If there were ever anyone that should have given up, it would have been Job. But instead he persisted and kept going.
Most often the adversary of our Lord will use those persons that are closest to us for bringing discouragement. In the case of Job, he continued none-the-less. Even through his grief, with his confusion and pain, Job remained steadfast in his faith and confident in his God.
“For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, That in my flesh I shall see God...” (Job 19:25-26 NKJ)
This story is a perfect example of how we CAN endure all the trials and tribulations placed in our lives if we set our minds to it and develop the faith needed to persevere.
To answer the question: "With WHOM Do We Really Wrestle?"
We wrestle more within ourselves than with the external elements around us. It is how we learn to deal with these matters of faith that makes the difference in our lives. That is how we overcome all the challenges that are presented to us.
Winning the Battle
A wrestling match or fight is not over until one of the opponents can no longer get up again. Likewise, we have not lost if we become weary or discouraged, or even feel like giving up. We cannot be faulted for struggling with God, with man, against Satan, or even for falling down to the ground time and time again. It doesn’t matter that we have fallen. There are even many times when it may seem like the enemy has us completely pinned to the mat. BUT... It is only when we fail to get up again that the battle is over and the match is lost.
“For a righteous man may fall seven times and rise again...”
It is our Lord God who raises us up however. He dusts us off again and again, setting our feet back on solid ground.
“Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God... he remains faithful forever. He upholds the cause of the oppressed... the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down...” (Psalm 146:5,6,7,8 NIV)
You may ask - Why must we wrestle with God sometimes for our blessings? Surely the Angel of the Lord could have easily overpowered Jacob in a single second. Although Jacob was not fit before the struggle, it was his sheer faith and what he came through that made the difference. There is a redemptive purpose that we can each find in this struggle. As Jacob’s nature was changed to inherit the promises of God, so we too can find our own blessings. We must merely be trained with faithful endurance in order to finish the tasks that are set out before us.
“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2 NKJ)
Even with the miraculous blessing that Jacob would one day receive, he had endured great trials throughout his entire life. Not only had his brother threatened to kill him, but he was tricked by his father-in-law into marrying the wrong woman and then coerced into extra years of hard labor for his intended wife Rachel. Laban also tried to cheat Jacob out of his wages several times during his stay. After his marriage, Jacob's only daughter was raped by men from Shechem. Then to his dismay, out of revenge, his sons tricked the entire male population of the town into being circumcised, whereafter they slaughtered all the men while they were recovering. Jacob’s beloved wife Rachel, died giving birth to Benjamin, just prior to the death of his father Isaac. His ten elder sons also kidnapped his favorite son Joseph. They lead Jacob to believe that the boy had been killed by a wild animal. It was not until many years later when Joseph was discovered in Egypt, that he was able to bless the entire family and all of his people. Yet for Jacob, even with all of these things through the entire struggle of his life, he never abandoned his destiny and faith in the Lord God.
Abraham and Isaac led lives that were separate and set-apart from the rest of the world. While Abraham did pray for Sodom and Gomorrah, he would not live amongst them. His son Isaac walked away from the Philistines and would not mix with the inhabitants of the land. It was Jacob however and his children, that engaged in struggling with the real issues of community life. They were the ones who became entrusted with establishing the entire Jewish nation (the "twelve tribes" of Israel). Jacob (Israel) brought God into the world of commerce, politics and everyday life for his people.
We too are called to be in the world but are not "of the world" (1 Corinthians 2:12; 1 John 4:4-6). We must walk a fine line between our faith and the secular views of those around us, using the examples that Jesus (Yeshua) left for us to follow. Christ did not separate himself from the common people. He was known as a friend of sinners although He himself was sinless and pure. Similarly we must conduct ourselves in a world surrounded by sin. Although we struggle and wrestle throughout our lives, we too can have an impact by bringing God into the real world in which we live.
The Peace of the LORD
Maintaining the peace that the Lord offers us is the most effective way to deal with the troubles and struggles in our lives.
"He who is devoid of wisdom despises his neighbor, But a man of understanding holds his peace." (Proverbs 11:12 NKJ)
It is through His peace that we are given the comfort, strength, endurance and understanding necessary, to overcome every trial that we could ever face.
"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:6-7 NKJ)
Even if this means that by "all understanding", it implies that we actually are only to grasp very little of God's plan for us. That we are NOT YET meant to understand all the things that the Lord may be doing in our lives. The Lord our God does have a plan however, even though it may not be completely evident at the time. Simply be comforted in the fact that GOD IS in charge of the universe and is in full control of the world, regardless of how it may appear to us on the outside. Therein we can find peace, endure any trial and overcome every obstacle that is placed in our path.
Focus on the prize that lies ahead, in the coming Kingdom of Heaven here on Earth, when the Lord Jesus our Messiah returns to us once and for all time. This is the "blessed hope" that fuels our faith beyond all measure and will sustain us even in the worst of times (Titus 2:11-14).
Just remember, that when the LORD comes back again...
"...God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4 NKJ)
Embrace the Struggle for the Glory of the Eternal Prize!
But Jesus looked at them and said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.” (Mark 10:27 NKJ)
"...He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world." (1 John 4:4 NKJ)
MAY THE PEACE OF THE LORD ALWAYS BE WITH YOU IN FAITH!