Growing up I got to watch Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, the Ultimate Warrior, and Andre the Giant. Oh, there were other wrestlers, like the Rock-n-Roll Express, Hulk Hogan, and Jake “The Snake” Roberts.
Since that time there has been The Rock, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, and John Cena. I would be ill-prepared if I didn’t mention the Hardy Boys, CM Punk, and Trish Stratus.
Oh yeah, there have been some good wrestlers. There was nothing like watching “Superfly” jump off the top turnbuckle and slam his opponent to the ground. The Figure-Four Leg Lock was a move you didn’t want to happen to you. And you wanted to be the last man standing in a Battle Royal!
The entertainment value of wrestling is partly based in how feuds get started and continue between wrestlers. For a season or two one wrestler will be the bad guy. Then he, or she, will have a change of heart and side with the good guys. Once in a while these heart changes would be a great career move. But the fans are looking for the wrestlers to turn on each other.
Then there are the wrestlers who seem to cower in fear, until they pull a cheap shot and get the better of their adversary. As we read about Jacob, we find that he is cowering in fear. He has sent everyone and every animal ahead of him. All of his flocks, his wives, and his children are between him and Esau. Behind him at a distance is Laban, who is heading back to his place in Haran.
A. Jacob sends ahead of him a gift for Esau (32:3-21)
The last time Jacob saw Esau, he wanted to kill Jacob! Being fearful, Jacob prays! In the prayer, he admits who God is and who he is himself (not worthy). Jacob then ask for deliverance from Esau’s wrath. And he says that he is relying on God’s promises to him.
However, Jacob wants to try to use his wealth to appease Esau. He sends as a gift 200 female goats & 20 male goats; 200 ewes & 20 rams; 30 milch camels & their colts; 40 cows & 10 bulls; and 20 female donkeys and 10 male donkeys.
Jacob is wary. It has been almost 20 years since he has seen his brother. And now, he has to face him! Jacob needs God’s help. God had heard the cries of Leah and Rachel. God had already spoken to Laban to protect Jacob. God has already met Jacob as he is preparing to head to meet Esau. But finally, Jacob speaks to God. He asks for God to remember his blessings. We are like that, we remember God when we want our blessings from him. In spite of this prayer to God, Jacob must be wondering if his gift to Esau will be enough to satisfy Esau.
B. Jacob is by himself near the Jabbok River (32:22-31)
He sends his wives, concubines, & children across the Jabbok. Alone, he wrestles with a man – all night! The man/God struck Jacob’s hip – I don’t know of a wrestling move that would do hurt this way! The man wanted let go, but Jacob would not let go. Instead, Jacob wanted a blessing. So, the man changed Jacob’s name – Israel – “strive with God & man.” Jacob asked the man’s name – there was no reply, only a blessing!
Over the years, I have heard it said that you must not question God. I believe we miss out when we do not question God. Look at Jacob. Not only did he question God, but he wrestled with him! When people in church are not acting like Jesus, then question God. When you are hurt, ask God what is going on. When you are trying to accomplish a great feat maybe that is the time that you wrestle with God. As you question God and wrestle with God, remember the answers and the outcome will change your life. Your faith in God will be stronger. Your understanding of who God is will be better. And your love for God will be greater. These things won’t happen if you don’t wrestle with God. Even Jacob discovered something more about God.
C. What happens to the man who wrestled with Jacob? (32:24-31)
Jacob names the place “Peniel” – ‘I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.’ The man has blessed Jacob. Yet, it appears that the man does not leave Jacob – God stays with Jacob! Esau does meet Jacob with grace – like seeing the face of God (33;10). So there was reconciliation between Jacob and Esau.
When my siblings and I were younger, we would all wrestle with Dad. My sister would get on the action as well – you don’t want to mess with my sister! As we grew up, the wrestling matches became fewer. I used to pin both of my twin brothers – that is before we grew up and they became Marines! I know my siblings may not be able to help me wrestle with the things in my life. But I know God will help me wrestle with things in my life. And God, well, he stuck with Jacob the trickster. I believe as you wrestle with God, that you will find he won’t leave you, for he didn’t leave Jacob.
There are some awesome wrestling moves that you will see on television. There are some great story lines in wrestling. But the move that God used to get Jacob’s attention cannot be matched. The story line of God blessing a family because he chose them to bless the families of the earth, there is nothing that can beat that.
I know I did not mention Jesus much in this sermon. Knowing that God is willing to wrestle with us helps us see Jesus and God’s Holy Spirit in a different light. It shows that throughout time, God has been trying to get our attention. It shows that through all the trouble we cause, God is still willing to meet us where we are. It shows that God is willing to bless us, even if that means we question God.