The Wrestling Match
with Both Sides Winning
Pastor Arn Buck
Heart Song Worship Center
"God's will is hard only when it comes up against our stubbornness, then it is as cruel as a ploughshare and as devastating as an earthquake." Oswald Chambers (1874-1917)
Watchman Nee was a very influential church leader and writer in China during the 20th Century. He was also the founder of many indigenous Chinese churches. He spent a third of his life in prison for his faith and was martyred in 1972. The following quotation is taken from the first chapter of his book entitled Spiritual Knowledge.
"Currently the children of God who really seek after Him are divided into two classes: one class knows the Bible but knows little of God's power; the other does not know much of the Bible yet knows the power of God. Very seldom are Christians well balanced in both points. I shall not speak on the relative importance of these two principles; I intend, rather, to say to all that it is not enough just to know the Bible but that we must also know the power of God. Allow me to view you all as those who understand the Scriptures, that I may draw your attention to this matter of the way we know God. Knowledge of the Scriptures alone is not sufficient; we must know God himself. But to know Him requires dealings with God and dealings by God. We will not come to the knowledge of God if we do not deal with Him and expect to be dealt with by Him. For the pathway to the knowledge of God is through such dealings. There is no other way. This each one of us needs to take to heart."
The "dealings by God" is a difficult but critical element in our development as Christians. We all have issues that keep us from being closer to God. We often need God's help to resolve these issues. We can either seek His help on our own initiative or wait for Him to deal with us. Often God lovingly prefers to deal with us in a gentle and quite manner. But at times because of our reluctance to face the truth about ourselves or our resistance to His will, God sometimes has to allows us to end up in difficult situations. This is when we are most likely to concede to him in return for His deliverance from the situation.
Jacob Wrestles With God
One of the most significant examples of God dealing with a man is found just as Jacob was preparing to meet his brother Esau after fleeing from him twenty years earlier. Esau had clearly stated his intentions to kill Jacob for stealing his birthright. Jacob was probably quite fearful about how his brother would react to his return. Then his fear turned to terror as he was informed that Esau was on his way to meet him with an army of 400 men. Jacob was absolutely desperate and God was waiting for him.
Genesis 32:22-32 (NLT) During the night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two servant wives, and his eleven sons and crossed the Jabbok River with them. After taking them to the other side, he sent over all his possessions. This left Jacob all alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break. When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob's hip and wrenched it out of its socket. Then the man said, "Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!" But Jacob said, "I will not let you go unless you bless me. "What is your name?" the man asked. He replied, "Jacob. "Your name will no longer be Jacob," the man told him. "From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won." "Please tell me your name," Jacob said. "Why do you want to know my name?" the man replied. Then he blessed Jacob there. Jacob named the place Peniel (which means "face of God"), for he said, "I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared." The sun was rising as Jacob left Peniel, and he was limping because of the injury to his hip. (Even today the people of Israel don't eat the tendon near the hip socket because of what happened that night when the man strained the tendon of Jacob's hip.)
This example shows how God used Jacob's desperate situations to deal with him. Keep in mind that God was not responsible for circumstances that now brought such terror to Jacob. It was Jacob's actions that incited Esau. But God was ready to use the stage that was set to deal with Jacob.
This passage is a good example because it shows the engagement had both a physical dimension and a spiritual dimension. The former is seen as God met Jacob in physical form as a man. The latter is seen in Jacob's weeping and pleading with God as shown in the account of the struggle found in Hosea 12:3-5.
Hosea 12:3-5 (NLT) Even in the womb, Jacob struggled with his brother; when he became a man, he even fought with God. Yes, he wrestled with the angel and won. He wept and pleaded for a blessing from him. There at Bethel he met God face to face, and God spoke to him the LORD God of Heaven's Armies, the LORD is his name!
Often our dealings by God involve the physical and spiritual. He is often taking away our physical cravings, worldly ambitions, and worldly values and replacing them with spiritual and Godly counterparts. God was using the situation to mold Jacob into the man that He wanted Him to be. Many Biblical scholars believe that the injury to Jacob's hip was God releasing him from his reliance on scheming and craftiness to get his way and replacing it with greater dependence on God's provision.
Notice that Jacob was absolutely determined to get God's blessing. This is a good example of preserving with God. Somethings that we seek from God take time. An example of this might be healing of deep emotional wounds or the liberation from an habitual sin. What Jacob was specifically seeking is not defined. It might have a re-assurance that God had truly accepted him as the rightful heir to the inheritance that he stole from Esau.
Although Jacob's fears about Esau's revenge proved to be false, God used the situation to change Jacob. Jacob was returning to the land of his forefathers and God was preparing Jacob to be the recipient of the great covenant that He made with Abraham. This event took place as Jacob, following the Lord's instruction, returned to Bethel.
Genesis 35:11-13 (NLT) Then God said, "I am El-Shaddai-'God Almighty.' Be fruitful and multiply. You will become a great nation, even many nations. Kings will be among your descendants! And I will give you the land I once gave to Abraham and Isaac. Yes, I will give it to you and your descendants after you." Then God went up from the place where he had spoken to Jacob.
Defusing A Bomb Before It Explodes
In 1987 my wife and I joined church start-up that ended up having a tremendously positive influence on us. The pastor was a sincere man of God, a clear and precise teacher, and an inspirational leader. It was the first time that we had seen a church that had a good balance between doctrinal accuracy and the exposure of its members to the experiential knowledge of God's power. The pastor was always a talented keyboardist, singer, writer, and arranger. After attended for several months I was offered an opportunity to play bass in the worship team. Prior to doing this the the pastor he gave me tapes of the worship service each Sunday for me to practice with. I really put my heart into it and developed some intricate and complex parts. I would practice these for many hours each week to get them just right. These were certain to impress the pastor.
Finally the worship team had their first practice. During the first song I played my part as skillfully as possible. Less than half way through the song the pastor stopped the band to discuss my part. I was awaiting kudos instead I hear, "That part doesn't fit my vision for the song. Why don't you play this instead?" He then showed me a very simple and basic part that I was to play in place of the part I worked so hard to develop. Then we went on to the next song. I was certain that this part would blow his socks off! Again he stopped the song and replaced my part with his. The same happened for every song. Not only did I feel that he stuck a knife through my heart but I felt that he kept twisting it.
I was boiling inside and about to explode. No one had ever insulted me like that before. Other musicians were usually quite impressed with my parts. Before becoming a Christian I had played lead guitar in one of the most technically respected club bands in the area. Audiences used to go wild during my solos. Who does he think he is to make me play these parts that a baby could play?
This went on week after week. If I changed a part during worship on Sunday, the pastor would always notice it, bring it to my attention and ask me not to do that. It was really getting to me. One night in bed it really came to a head. I could not continue to put up his criticism any longer. Something had to give. I would either have to leave the church or continue playing the bass parts that bothered me. Somehow I knew that this decision was important and that it would likely impact the rest of my life. It took hours of tossing and turning and discussing it with my wife. In reality it wasn't between the pastor and myself. It was between God and me. My ego was getting in the way of learning to submit the God ordained authority of the pastor. Fortunately I decided to submit. After that everything changed. As adopted my style to match what the pastor was looking for, he gave me more and more latitude to develop my own parts. It ended up being a wonderful blessing to be part of the worship team there.
There were two winners in the wrestling match between Jacob and God. Although Jacob claimed himself as the victor of the wrestling match, God was also the victor because He had successfully dealt with Jacob. This is true whenever we are dealt with by God.
Often when God deals with us in such a matter, He is desiring to take someone from us that is hindering our relationship with Him. He has the upper hand when we need Him to save us from a bad situation. It is so important that we learn to see Him and surrender to Him at these times. Watchman Nee said, "Many Christians carelessly let difficulties or problems pass by without receiving dealings from God." As we remain humble we are teachable. He will instruct us and make us victorious in our walk with Him.
Psalms 149:4-5 (NLT) For the LORD delights in his people; he crowns the humble with victory. Let the faithful rejoice that he honors them.