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When I was a younger man, in what I like to think of as a previous life, I remember a man who was a wrestler called “Jake the Snake.” He used to carry a big sack and it had a very large Boa constrictor in it. He would take the snake out when the bout was over, and put it on the body of his opponent, and of course the opponent would run away in fear from the snake. Today we read of a different man, who we might be tempted to call Jake the Snake as well. Jacob was a conniver, a liar, a cheat, he would do anything to win.
He had stolen his brothers birthright, and then the blessing that was rightfully Esau’s. He was an all around terrible person, and he had to run away from home because his brother wanted to kill him, so he went to live with his uncle Laban. He has been gone about 20 years His mother and father were both dead, and he is returning home, knowing that he will have to deal with his brother Esau. Gen 32:22-32 And he arose that night and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven sons, and crossed over the ford of Jabbok. (23) He took them, sent them over the brook, and sent over what he had. (24) Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. (25) Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him. (26) And He said, “Let Me go, for the day breaks.” But he said, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!” (27) So He said to him, “What is your name?” He said, “Jacob.” (28) 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.” (29) 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. (30) So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: “For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.” (31) Just as he crossed over Peniel the sun rose on him, and he limped on his hip. (32) Therefore to this day the children of Israel do not eat the muscle that shrank, which is on the hip socket, because He touched the socket of Jacob’s hip in the muscle that shrank.
We come into the story as he is sending his family across the river and he is all alone. The next thing we know, Jacob is wrestling with a man, the match goes on, hour after hour. Just before daybreak the man reaches out and touches Jacob on the hip and that is really the end of the match. Jacob is now clinging to the man, and he asks for a blessing from him. For he realizes that he has not been wrestling with a man, but with God himself. Verse 30: “So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.”
I have to say that I have heard many theologians, and many pastors speak on the story. Many of them say that it was a dream, or he wrestled with an angel, but very few are willing to say that it was God. Yet brethren, I will say that I have no doubt that it was God that Jacob wrestled with.
You and I have the advantage here, we can look back to see what we know to be true. The gospel of John gives us the picture: John Chapter 1  1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. Verse 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. Verse 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.
Jesus, the Immanuel, God with Us. Jesus was present at the beginning, He is the human face of God, and has been seen by others as well. Why not Jesus as the “man” who wrestled with Jacob at the river Jabbok?

I think that all of us have, at one time or another, wrestled with God. We wonder why God allows things to happen, if we were in charge we would stop these wars. We would never allow poverty, we well, we are not in charge so we wrestle with God over the things we see around us that we know need to be changed, yet we are powerless in the face of poverty, sickness, war, hatreds, the list goes on and on. We try, but we just don’t have the strength to do much, we don’t have the resources to feed all the hungry, care for the sick. Hey God, we can’t even take care of me.
It might help if we would admit that our way doesn’t work, that we need to work things in God’s way. There is a piece of history that talks about man trying to do it on his own. In 1849 a wagon train was working its way to California it was a group of folks who were looking to get rich in the California gold rush.

They came to Death Valley and were crossing that great expanse of desert, they looked ahead and saw a great expanse of water, they all thought it was a place called Owen’s Lake. The truth was it was a mirage created by the intense heat of the desert, the harder they worked to get to that water, the more frustrated they became.
That is a picture of ourselves, we try to accomplish things in our own way, and in our own strength, and we are just as successful as that wagon train chasing after a mirage. Is there something that you have been trying to do in your own strength? Have you been trying to build something to get to God? It may be that God is already with you, and you are striving to do something when God would like to hold you up and help you to reach your goal. I have heard that this church will grow when God is ready for it to grow.
I’m here to tell you that God is waiting for you to get out of the way and let Him build His church. God is ready, for people to hear the gospel message. We need to believe that God can do what He purposes to do.
All night long Jacob wrestled with the man, trying everything he could to defeat him. God showed Jacob that his way would not work, he disabled Jacob with a single touch to his hip. I look to Paul, to see the sufficiency of God, hear these words from 2 Corinthians 12: 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Jacob clung to God, and asked for his blessing.
He realized that he could do nothing for he had only the strength that God gave him. He knew that he had been found out, and could only confess his true identity, when God asked his name, he told him, and in saying Jacob, he also admitted to who he had been. God changed his name to make him into what he would be. Steven Dow tells the story of a student who was given an assignment to teach his speech class. He was to be graded on creativity, and his ability to drive home his point in a memorable way. The title of his talk was “The Law of the Pendulum.” He carefully explained to the class the principle that governs a swinging pendulum. Namely, a pendulum can never return to a point higher than that from which it was released. He then tied a string to a top, he attached that to a bar at the top of the blackboard. He then moved the top to where he would let it go and he marked the spot on the board.
Letting go of the top, each time it returned he placed a mark where it had returned to, in a few moments it had stopped. The student then asked how many people in the room believed that the law of the pendulum was true. They all raised their hands, even the instructor, who then began to walk to the front of the class. However, there was more, the student had hung 250 lbs of metal from the ceiling, he asked the teacher again if he believed in the law of the pendulum and the teacher again said yes. He then asked the teacher to sit in a chair on top of a table at one side of the room. The student then brought the 250 lbs of metal to a point just short of the teachers nose. Again he asked, do you believe in the law of the pendulum. With great beads of sweat pouring off his brow he said yes. The student let go of the pendulum, it is said that no one in the room could believe how fast that teacher could move, before the pendulum came back to his nose.
How easy it is to say we believe in something until we have to put ourselves in the line of fire. We Christians say we believe that God is sufficient to all our needs, but do we truly believe it? That teacher said he believed in the law of the Pendulum, yet when push came to shove, he dove off that table in fear.
Jacob, showed his belief in God by asking him for a blessing, God said “tell me your name.” You see Jacob had to tell God of his sin and admit that he was a sinner, before God could bless him. We too need to step up and admit that we are sinners, then God can bless us, John’s 1st letter to the churches in chapter 1 verse 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. We who claim the name of Christian, are still sinners, we still need to confess our sin before that throne of grace.

When we do so, God extends his blessing upon us, he forgives us of our sins and moves us further along that path toward full sanctification. Our way, brethren does not work, we need to see that, without God to lead and direct us, we are spinning our wheels. God will lead us if we let him, He will bring us to the promised land of the kingdom, in his time and in his way. Pews will be full when we allow God to show us what we are to do, but as long as we think we are the ones who guard the gates of heaven, pews will be empty and people will shy away. Jesus Christ died for all, Jesus will wrestle with you if that is what you want, just as he wrestled with Jacob and with Peter, and Paul and truth be told me too.
Scientists studied a native tribe in South America whose people have been dying prematurely for generations. After thorough investigation, the cause of premature death was determined. The disease was transmitted by an insect that lived in walls of their adobe homes.
This new information gave them several options. They could move to another area where these insects were not known, tear down their homes and rebuild them, use insecticide to rid their homes of the bugs, or, continue as they have and die early. Surprisingly, these people have opted to remain as they are and do nothing about their problem. (McHenry’s Quips, Quotes, and other notes, p. 23).
When we keep doing the same thing over and over again and expect different results, we end up in the same place. It is only when we wrestle with God, only when we are ready to admit that our way doesn’t work, when we confess that we are in need of God’s grace to cleanse us of our sins, and help us to find new ways to do the gospel then we can move forward.


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Pastor and Wife

John & Yvonne Quigley, John is a retired Pastor in the UMC. This blog is about the journey I am on with Christ.