The greatest wrestler of all time?
Most would say Hulk Hogan.
But as I recover from my recent right hip surgery,
I can’t help thinking about the man
who wrestled God and prevailed,
even after his hip was touched and moved out of joint,
causing him pain and tears (Hos. 12:4)
as they struggled on till daybreak.
Who would be so dumb to wrestle God? Certainly not Jacob who from early on showed unusual cunning and manipulative ability when he frauded his brother out of the birthright and blessing. And he had been coming to know the power of God as 10 times His Great Shepherd miraculously produced whatever spotted or striped sheep his wily uncle Laban had agreed would be his.
As he was traveling to settle in the land of Canaan, “angels of God” met him to camp for the night (Gen. 32:2). “When Jacob saw them, he said, ‘This is God’s camp.'” Jacob could see this was no KOA or Motel 6.
But I’m sure he had no idea that he was about to rumble all night with God. After his long journey, he was probably hoping for another pillow stone (Gen. 28:11).
And Jacob was too worried about his brother Esau coming his way with 400 men to think about half nelsons.
So no, Jacob was not foolish enough to go to the mat against the God of the Old Testament who was Jesus Christ of the New. It appears in verse 24 that God caught Jacob alone and instigated the all-night knockdown, drag-out contest of wills.
God had big plans going back to Abraham and Isaac to work through Jacob, and He wanted to see how badly Jacob wanted to be blessed. Jacob meant “supplanter” but God was looking for a humble man who would persevere with God in adversity that was surely coming for his progency down through all the years to come.
Of course this wasn’t really about Jacob vs. God. Jacob had no chance to win even if God tied both hands behind His back.
God was eager to bless Jacob but not with buckle or trophy. Jacob’s life and spiritual development was the main event right now in the plan of God for mankind. God was so happy for Jacob to hang on till daybreak. The growth encounter ended not with a pin but with spiritual victory.
God changed his name to Israel, meaning “prevailer with God.” We are spiritual Israel (Gal. 6:16).
We wrestle with God
For over a year now I’ve been mentally grappling with God over why He isn’t healing a brother in Christ who seems so deserving yet only gets worse. It’s a case resembling the story of Job more than any I’ve ever known. “Father, please, next time we talk, please let him have something happy to share.” Healing was the happy I was hoping to hear! But he would be talking with joy in his voice about God and His way of life!
As with Jacob, no pin but spiritual victory! As with Job, God was contending for perseverance (James 5:11).
In another struggle, I’ve been tag-teaming with a brother in Christ who has endured 31 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit and sees no hope in this life of the bell ever ringing the bout over. Family long ago deserted him and now brethren who had been faithfully encouraging him grow older and wearier and overwhelmed just by their own matches.
So, leave the ring? No, we keep wrestling! With God—not against Him—as we struggle to seek His will and submit to it.
Perseverance has been called the sixth law of success out of seven, the main one being looking to God and keeping our eyes on Him. If Jacob started out thinking he was grappling with flesh and blood, by the end he knew he was seeing God face to face (Gen. 32:30).
We don’t wrestle against flesh and blood either (Eph. 6:12). We need God to help break every hold this world has on us.
As I wrestle with God now, often flat on my back in hip recovery, God would just have to rest a pinky finger on my chest for the pin. But His favorite move is a big comforting spiritual bear hug! And He blesses and blesses and blesses!
Jacob was surely the greatest wrestler of all time and has made the Hall of Faith (Heb. 11). So will we unranked Christians who endure to the end and prevail with God. Then we’ll be given a new name (Rev. 3:12) that will probably be way cooler than anything WrestleMania can think up!