So to set the scene, Jacob is a schemer and when he left Canaan he burned his bridges with his brother Esau, kind of like a sad country song with all the drama of a soapie episode and now he’s on his way back and Esau is coming to meet him with 400 men.
And the 400 men are not there to provide moral support, and they’re not singing minstrels or comedians.
That’s the context of Genesis 32. And Jacob is in the middle of all of this and he doesn’t see a way out but he’s trying to work the angles and curry favour with the long lost brother he swindled out of a birth right.
Not to forget the 400 men.
Jacob has no more angles to play and he prays to God, as he refers to Him, the ‘God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac’ (verse 9). And left alone, looking over the ford of the river Jabbok, God wrestles with him until daybreak.
So, perhaps Jacob was a smooth talker and a canny operator and had never been confronted with his mortality or his relationship to God. He referred to God as the God of his father Abraham and father Isaac. God has an established relationship with Jacob’s father and grand-father but here Jacob is and there’s no more angles.
Daybreak approaches and Jacob won’t let go unless God gives him a blessing. Now Jacob was already blessed as we think about the flocks of farm animals he sent on ahead to pacify Esau (and his 400 men), and Jacob was almost certainly aware of God’s promise to the family of Jacob’s fathers but now here Jacob is wrestling with God and Jacob wants a blessing from the Source.
Jacob is not merely content with the blessing without knowing the One behind the blessing. And so he insists, and God could easily have escaped his grasp, but it’s almost like He’s pleased with Jacob’s effort and rewards it.
From that time on, God has met with Jacob face to face and given him His blessing, and for his part Jacob is changed: God gives him a new name, Israel and Jacob now calls God his God too, not merely the God of Abraham and Isaac.
And he also has a hip out of joint. But he goes on to meet Esau and his posse head on with a sort of confidence that comes from having wrestled with God.
Now for the pivot, and the application: the world is filled with issues and people find themselves on one side or the other: Trump or Clinton, Green energy or ‘drill-baby-drill’, pro-choice or pro-life, in rugby: South Africa or New Zealand and we can wrestle on one side or the other and try to convince people that our view is right. Some people wrestle with the whole world and see everybody else against them: wild conspiracy theories about world government, Communist aggression, and entrenched racism in Europe.
I have issues that capture my attention but have come to realise that these are mere side-shows. If you wrestle with the world you become worldly. If you wrestle with God (or let him wrestle with you) then you become godly, because you encounter Him.
Obviously this doesn’t refer to being antagonistic towards God, it’s relating to Him even if you disagree with His methods or will. After all, who doesn’t want the blessing of God?