Jacob’s Wrestling Match – Genesis 31-33

Our church family is reading through the first five books of the Bible together in ninety days. We invite you to join us as we believe this will be a time that will change our lives. 

Read Genesis 31-33

As difficult as it may seem, God chooses to use Jacob as a foundation stone for Israel – His one people to work His plan of saving humanity. Jacob, with all of his family dysfunction and history of deceit, becomes Israel, the nation that will eventually give birth to the Messiah, Jesus. Strangely, God chooses to transform Jacob both physically and spiritually through a wrestling match.

Jacob was a stubborn man who wrestled with his father (Genesis 25:22), his brother (Genesis 27), and his father-in-law (Genesis 29-31). And now he was to wrestle with God Himself (Genesis 32:22-32). The strange account tells of an all-night struggle between God’s messenger and Jacob. Somewhere in the middle of the night, Jacob becomes aware than he is not wrestling with a mere mortal. While the shroud of darkness covered the identity of his attacker, the enormous power of his opponent was evident the moment Jacob’s hip was dislocated by a simple touch from his adversary. Hours and hours of thrashing about soon gave way to the dawning of a new day. But just before the light of dawn broke, Jacob clung to his rival like a rag doll. The story takes an odd twist – whereas Jacob’s earlier efforts had been in hopes of defeating his opponent, he now hung on in hopes of receiving a blessing.

Towards the end of the fight, the angel asks Jacob his name. In the context of the Bible, to disclose your name was also often an act of self-disclosure. When Jacob shares his name, it is essentially a confession of his lifelong practice of deceit. Jacob’s name was given to him because he grasped at the heels of his older brother, Esau, at their birth. From the beginning, Jacob would do anything necessary to climb to the top (Genesis 27:36). So when Jacob’s name is changed to Israel, we begin to see the purpose of the all-night wrestling match (Genesis 35:10). It’s not just that Jacob’s name has changed, but his character and life undergoes a profound metamorphosis.

The Decalogue

I find myself in the middle of a series on the Ten Commandments. We’ve issued a church wide challenge to memorize the Ten Commandments. I hope your house will join me.

A lot has been said over the past five weeks and much of it is so very important. As a way of reminder for our church family, I’ve included a few important notes from the series so far.

So here are Ten Hits on the Ten Commandments.

1. The Ten Commandments were first spoken by God and then written in stone by the very finger of God (Exodus 31:18). The Ten Commandments are fixed in stone and are permanent ;

2. You’ll find the Ten Commandments in two places in your Bibles (Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5);

3. When the Ten Commandments were given, God descended upon the Mount Sinai so that the entire mountain was set ablaze with fire. God wanted the people to see the greatness of the lawgiver before they studied His law (Exodus 19:18). God is not to be taken lightly;

4. When God spoke the Ten Commandments to Israel, everyone was terrified of God’s presence. The people asked for a mediator (Moses) between God and them because they were so afraid of God (Exodus 20:18-21). God is just as scary now as He was then. Only, Christ is now the better mediator than Moses (1 Timothy 2:5);

5. God reserves the first four commandments to tell us why He is so important. While many things in the world our meant to be shared, God’s glory is not one of them. Think for a moment about the implication of God reserving the first four commandments for Himself. This is huge as God knows how important He is (Exodus 20:1-11);

6. When I worship an idol, I control it. When I worship God, He controls me. Idols are built for control as it is easier to worship the god I imagine than to worship the God who makes demands of me (Deuteronomy 4:15-19);

7. God protects the copyright on His name. People cannot use His name for whatever purposes they desire. Instead, God intends to punish anyone who misuses His name (Exodus 20:7);

8. God cannot be defined only as a God of love. He is also a just and holy God. The Ten Commandments define who God is.

9. The Ten Commandments were eventually placed in the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 25:16). They were carried around wherever Israel went. This shows the importance of the Ten Commandments even for us today – they are to be continually with us;

10. A quick glance at the Ten Commandments should convince you that you have no hope of being accepted by God. The only hope you have available is through Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12; Romans 10:13). Christ is the mercy of God Himself and the only way to avoid the wrath to come.