Delving deep into Scripture
Wrestling With God
Rebecca and Isaac had been married for decades, but had no children, and then she became pregnant, and she felt something going on, and she prayed, and God said
Genesis 25:23 There are twins in your womb, and they are struggling now, and older is going to serve the younger…
We know that when the children were born, Esau came out first, and he was red-haired, and they named him Esau, because of his red hair; he is the father of the Edomites. When he was born, Jacob’s hand grabbed hold of his heel, and this was a bad sign, because he was going to try to take Esau’s place. He eventually tricked Esau out of his birthright and out of the blessing.
I want to look at the 28th chapter, verse 12. Jacob was fleeing from his brother, who wanted to kill him, and he went to Haran to find a wife, which he did do. But on the way there he came to a certain place to sleep, and he dreamed that there was ladder going up to heaven from the earth, angels ascending and descending, and the Lord standing above it saying
Genesis 28:12 I am the Lord of Abraham, the father of Isaac. The land wherein you lie, I will give it to you and to your seed, and your seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad…and in you and in your seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.
The Lord was really referring, not only to the Jewish people, but to the seed of Jacob, which is Jesus, “and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.”
Genesis 28:15 Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you.
He had been sleeping with his head on a rock, and he took the rock and set it on its end, as if it were a pillar, and he poured oil on it, a drink offering, so to speak. He was making a covenant with God. “I am going to pour out my life for God.” This was a completely different attitude than Jacob had before…He went from “pillow” to “pillar.”
Fast-forward to Genesis 32. Jacob and his wives are coming back with eleven sons and a daughter, Dinah; and Jacob is sleeping again. He had separated his family into two parts, so that if Esau attacked one, then the other would escape, and that night, before he went to sleep, this person came and started wrestling with him, but he needed a good night’s rest.
Genesis 32:24 Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. [Hold your hand in Genesis; I want to come back to it.]
It is amazing that we learn some things in Hosea about this incident that we don’t learn in Genesis.
Hosea 12:3-6 He took his brother by the heel in the womb, and in his strength he had power with God. [Here, it tells the story again.] Yes, he struggled with the Angel and prevailed; He wept [we don’t learn that in Genesis], and made supplication unto Him. He found Him in Bethel, and there He spoke to us — that is, the Lord God of hosts [That is with Whom he was wrestling]. “The Lord” is His memorable name. So you, by the help of your God, return. Observe mercy and justice, and wait on your God [how much?] Wait on God continually.
Genesis 32:25,26 And when the Angel saw that he prevailed not against Jacob, He touched the hollow of his thigh [on the sciatic nerve]; and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint, as He wrestled with him. And He said, Let me go, for the day breaks. And he said, I will not let You go, till You bless me.
Now, I am thinking about wrestling with God and trying to prevail with God when we wrestle, and we have something that Jacob didn’t have. We have the holy ghost in us, and often we don’t know for what to pray as we ought, but the spirit itself makes groaning:
Romans 8:26 Likewise the spirit also helps our infirmities; for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the spirit itself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
We need to pray in the spirit. We don’t need to pray out of our own minds, but we need to “get down” with God. Paul said
Ephesians 6:18 Praying always with all prayer [in the spirit: that is our strength] and supplication in the spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.
Our strength is praying-in-the-spirit.
When the children of Israel were in the wilderness (Exodus 32:9,10) God saw that the Israelites were a stiff-necked people and that they could not obey Him They just could not obey They were used to living the life of slaves, and they couldn’t straighten out, and God finally said to Moses, Let Me alone, I am going to kill them, and I will make you a nation. But Moses wrestled with God, saying, God, if you do this, it will hurt your reputation because everybody will say, “Why, He couldn’t even bring His own people out of Egypt; He had to kill them.” And God changed His mind.
There is this bride, and she is talking, and she says:
Song of Solomon 3:1-4 By night on my bed I sought him whom my soul loveth. I sought him, but I found him not.
Have you prayed and didn’t know that God was there, and you sought Him and found him not?
I will rise now, and go about the city in the streets, and the broad ways I will seek him whom my soul loveth. I sought him, but I found him not. The watchmen that go about the city found me, to whom I said: Have you seen him whom my soul loveth? It was but a little that I passed from them, when I found him whom my soul loveth. I held him and would not let him go.
When you find Him Whom your soul loves, hold Him, and don’t let Him go. Hold on to Him in prayer. Jacob held on to the angel. Hold on until you get your point across. That is precious to me. I found Him whom my soul loveth, and I wouldn’t let Him go.
The apostle Paul had a problem. We don’t know what his problem was, but he had a problem, and he prayed once, twice, three times. Here’s what he heard: Nothing. He prayed and he heard nothing. Have you ever done that? You prayed, and you heard nothing back. But, he had forgotten how God had blessed him before. Paul had visions where he was even carried up to third heaven. He saw Paradise. He saw and heard things that were not lawful for a human being to see and hear (1 Corinthians 12:2-10). He had been blessed beyond measure. He could have gotten exalted, but all of the sudden we see in red letter that Jesus speaks to him and reminds him; it is because of the abundance of revelation that it was necessary that he go through this problem. It was necessary. He sent a messenger of satan to afflict him, lest he become exalted above measure, and Jesus said to him, You prayed that you would be healed. Here’s what’s going to happen. My grace is sufficient. I’m NOT going to heal you. You need this. Can you imagine that God would tell somebody that? You need this problem, but my grace will be sufficient. He said, “My strength is made perfect in weakness. Paul said, Oh, therefore, I will glory in my weakness, for when I am weak, then I am…” What? Strong. When we are weak then we are strong. When we finally just admit that we can’t do it, we become strong and God comes on the scene. We don’t take God’s place, but we just humble ourselves, and God comes on the scene.
The angel spoke to Jacob:
Genesis 32:27,28 What is your name? He said, Jacob. And He said, Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but “Israel;” for you have struggled [wrestled] with God and with men, and have prevailed.
“Israel” means “prince with God,” or “God rules.” Here’s the difference between Jacob and Israel—both of them are the same man, just different names. We are Jacob a lot of times, because we try to get it done on our own. Tricksters! We try to steal the birthright. We struggle to get ahead on our own strength. But “Israel” means “God fights,” and we can either fight on our own, or we can let God fight. I have found it easier to let God do it. He is a lot bigger.
Genesis 32:28-31 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. So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, for I have seen God face-to-face, and my life is preserved.
“Peniel” in Hebrew means: “face of God.” It is also to be translated “the Presence of God.” He saw the face (Presence) of God there. He named the place Peniel—“for I have seen the Face of God, and my life is preserved.”
And, as he passed over this brook, the sun rose upon him, (vv31,32),and he limped, because in wrestling, God touched the hollow of his thigh, and he limped. Actually, what happened was he got sciatica. God touched the sciatic nerve in his thigh, and it was very painful. He limped the rest of his life, and Jacob never would eat the hind leg of an animal, because of “the sinew that shrank.” And, not only that: The Jews today will not eat the hind leg, unless the butcher pulls out that sciatic nerve, and then they will eat it. But, as long as that sciatic nerve is in there, the Jews won’t eat the hind-quarter.
There’s a message in this: When you wrestle with God and prevail, and He comes on the scene and helps you, although you triumphed, you may come out with a limp. You may have battle scars. But, this is not all bad: others will see that you are damaged, but you will remember what you have been through; that limp will be a reminder to you of the mighty Hand of God; it will put the “fear of God” in you, and keep reminding you.
I want to tell you about somebody else that wrestled with God, if you will go with me to:
Mark 14:34 Then Jesus said to them, My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and PRAY.
John 12:27,28 Now My soul is troubled…
Have you ever been troubled in your soul? I woke up this morning at 2:30, and my soul was troubled.
And what shall I say? Father save me from this hour? But for this cause I came unto this hour. Father, glorify Thy Name. Then there came a Voice from heaven, saying: “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.”
The Old Testament is the New Testament concealed, and there are many verses in the Old Testament that have no meaning for the day in which they were written, but they were written for us.
Jesus speaks through the pen of David in the entire chapter 22 of Psalms. It starts out:
Psalm 22:1,2,14,15;31:9,10;55:4,5 My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me [that was fulfilled on the cross]? Why are You so far from helping Me and from the words of My groaning? O My God, I cry in the daytime, but You do not hear, and in the night season, and am not silent. [Is God even there?]…I am poured out like water, and all My bones are out of joint [when he was on the cross]. My heart is like wax; it has melted within Me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd [a piece of broken pottery], and My tongue clings to My jaws; You have brought Me to the dust of death…Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am in trouble. My eye wastes away with grief [wastes away with tears]. Yes, my soul and my body! For my life is spent with grief, and my years with sighing. My strength fails because of my iniquity, and my bones waste away…Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am in trouble…My heart is sore pained within me: and the terrors of death are fallen upon me. Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me, and horrors have overwhelmed me.
This is the spirit of Christ speaking a thousand years before He was born.
Luke 22:41,42 And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.”
Would you say out-loud right now: “Not my will but Thy Will be done!” Say it again. But, as long as you have what your will is in-mind, you take God out of the picture. But, if you want God to come on the scene… God has a Will; God has a Way; God has a Purpose, and if you can say, “Not my will but Thine be done,” it means all the difference in the world.
VV43,44 Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
Brethren, He was wrestling with God, with situations he knew He had to go through. He was a flesh and blood human being. He knew it was going to be excruciating, what he was going to go through; it was going to be hell. Regarding the angel: this fulfilled prophecy:
Psalm 138:3 In the day when I cried out, You answered me, and made me bold with strength in my soul.
Paul said (Romans 8:25) that we have the “spirit of adoption.” That is what the holy ghost is, because when we get the holy ghost, we are adopted into God’s family, Israel. We become part of Israel, the Israel of God. Even the natural Jew has to receive the holy ghost to become part of Israel, because they have been cut off. When we get the “spirit of adoption,” we can cry out, “Abba, Father.” “Abba” is Aramaic for “Daddy,” “Father.” I want to have that kind of feeling, a humble attitude toward Him. Would you say, “Abba, Father?” That’s good.
There was a story that Jesus told about a woman who had a problem. In the middle of the night she comes to the judge’s house.
Luke 18:1-8 Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, saying: “There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, Get justice for me from my adversary. And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, Though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.
Then the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge said. And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?
Keep knocking until you hear the prayer bells of heaven; then keep pressing. Don’t stop knocking till God tells you He is or isn’t going to do it.
Listen, we are getting ready to go through a horrendous crisis, a time of horror that has never been seen on the face of this earth. There will be God’s people here. He said: When He comes, will He find faith on the earth? Will there be faithful people? Will there be people who are still praying, who are still trusting in God, who are still looking toward God? Will He find that? Yes, I hope I’m still trusting in Him. We’ll find out when the fire and floods come and the horror comes and the police come. Whatever might happen, you’ll find out if you’re going to have faith. You will be tested.
2 Thessalonians 1:6-8 Since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you [If they are troubling you, they are in trouble. That is what it means. God will recompense them for what they have caused you.], and to give you who are troubled, rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Brethren, it is the right thing for us to wrestle with God. It is right to do that. I don’t mean just a little prayer: “Oh, Lord, help Sister Mayme.” I mean get down with God. Wrestle with God, and when you find Him whom your soul loveth, don’t let Him go. Hold on to God, in trials, temptations, distresses, doubts, anxieties, embarrassments, humiliations, whatever it is, it’s our right; it’s our privilege; it’s our obligation; it’s our responsibility to wrestle with God. I am talking to you about another degree, deeper into prayer. He expects us to wrestle with Him until we have peace, victory and joy and rest and comfort.
“I have this problem.” Put it on the altar. I am through wrestling with it myself. “Give it to God.” “Jesus, this is my problem. I give it to you. I make it a living sacrifice.” The temperature is a little hot with a living sacrifice, but you have got to do it. This Way is not really simple; it is not really pleasant. Jesus went through many deaths, and you’ll have to go through many deaths as well, if you are following Him. Put them on the altar. “Lord, they gossiped about me. I’m so embarrassed. Lord, I am humiliated. Lord, I am in such terrific pain, I can hardly stand it. Lord, I am so sad because of what’s going on in my family life. Put it on the altar. Don’t handle it yourself. Give it to God. Wrestle with God. Give it to Him. Make it a living sacrifice.
Isaiah 61:1-3; Luke 4:18,19 The spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord has anointed me to preach good tiding unto the meek; He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted.
Have you ever had a broken heart? It’s not wrong to have a broken heart. It IS wrong to keep a broken heart. Put it on the altar. I have come to heal blind eyes. We have all been blind. Put it on the altar. I have come to heal those that are bruised. I have come to take you out of your captivity, out of your prison. Listen. In my walk through life, I became captive to some things, bad habits. I wasn’t even born with these. I was born with enough bad problems. I was born with character flaws; you were, too. But, I picked up these captivities along the way, bad habits. Put it on the altar. I don’t want it. Take it. I can’t get rid of it. Don’t wrestle with IT; wrestle with God. Put it on the altar. Let Him burn it up, and He’ll give you beauty for ashes. Brethren, having done this, you will be transformed, you will be changed. Your mind will be renewed (Romans 12:2), and then you will be able to know what is the good, and acceptable, and perfect Will of God. But, as long as we struggle within ourselves, trying to work it out ourselves, we won’t find out the truth, we won’t come to the answer, we won’t solve the problem, we won’t find the solution.
God has the answer. He knew it before it happened. He knew it from the foundation of the world. He already had the answer. He wants you to hear Him. Seek God. Pray to Him. Come before him and listen. We sometimes say that the ministry needs to come into deeper prayer. Brethren, not just the ministers, but every saint, every one of us is going to have to go through our own things. We’re going to make it or not make it on our own merit. As they say, every tub has got to sit on its own bottom, and we’re going to have to get together with God, and I love that verse: I found him whom my soul loveth, and I held him. Don’t let go of God. Hold onto Him. Don’t hold on to problems; hold on to God.
Here is a beautiful song in Haitian Creole:
Non mwen pa prale Seye
Jiskaske w’ beni mwen
Nenpot sa koute
Kraze volonte m’
Seye rekreye mwen
Pran nati m’, chanje nonm
Transfome lavi m’
Paske me’ pap ate Seye
Jiskake w’ beni mwen
No, I will not go, Lord
‘Till you bless me
Whatever it takes, break my will
Lord, remake me
Take my nature, change my name
Transform my life
‘Cause I won’t let you go, Lord
‘Till you bless me.
Dennis Moel was born in 1941 and raised a Jew in Frankfort, Kentucky but his knowledge of Judaism and of the Bible was miniscule. Coming to Christ at the age of 28 transformed his life. While serving as a pastor and family counselor, he has also devoted himself to espousing the riches of God’s Word. His three children appear in illustrations in the books he has authored.