Wrestling with God

Wrestling with God

Jacob . . . When he became a man, he wrestled with God. – Hosea 12:3

Genesis 32:24-31

 24 This left Jacob all alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break.

 25 When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket.

 26 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.”

 27 “What is your name?” the man asked. He replied, “Jacob.”

 28 “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.”

 30 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.”

 31 The sun was rising as Jacob left Peniel, and he was limping because of the injury to his hip.

Hercules is one of the best-known heroes in Greek and Roman mythology. He was best known for his super-human strength and heroic adventures. One of his 12 exploits was his mission to steal the apples of the Hesperides, the “Nymphs of the West.” On his way to accomplish this task he had to fight with Antaeus. Antaeus would challenge all passers-by to wrestling matches. He was undefeated. He had a secret, he remained invincible as long as he remained in contact with the ground. He always killed his opponents because he drew his strength from the earth.

Hercules took up the challenge, and began to wrestle with Antaeus in spite of his reputation. Hercules soon realized that Antaeus could not be defeated by throwing or pinning him to the ground. He came up with a new strategy. Hercules held him above the ground, and using his super-human strength, he crushed him to death with a powerful bear hug.

Wrestling with a very strong opponent is not the wisest choice. But attempting to wrestle with one who is undefeated seems foolhardy at best.

Jacob was on his way to have a very close encounter with his brother Esau. Jacob had greatly wronged Esau and feared that he would kill him in revenge. He had sent gifts and all the people that had accompanied him on ahead in an attempt to soften Esau’s heart. “It was the darkest night of Jacob’s life as he sat alone reflecting on the past and on what the sunlight might bring, alternately shivering in the mountain cold and trembling at the approach of Esau” (Hughes).

Jacob was alone in the darkness. Suddenly, someone with great strength grabbed him. He finds himself fighting with “the man.” Jacob may well have thought that Esau had sent an assassin to take him out. He was in the fight of his life. Jacob had no choice except to wrestle his challenger.

Apparently, Jacob could see nothing and his opponent said nothing. Jacob was also very strong and the two of them wrestled in the dark, for hours, through the night. The contest was a draw. As dawn began to break, his opponent spoke and asked Jacob to end the match, release him, and let him depart.

At some point, Jacob realized that his opponent was superior to him and therefore would be able to bless him. Perhaps he thought, could he be an angel? Jacob demanded to be blessed. At which point, the stranger spoke again and asked Jacob what his name was. Jacob replied and told him that his name was Jacob.

Genesis 32:28 “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.”

Jacob now puts it all together. His opponent was more than an angel. His opponent was God Himself. Earlier in Genesis 18:1-15, the Lord appeared to Abraham in human form accompanied by two angels. At first Abraham thought they were three men.

Genesis 32:30 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.”

Jacob had wrestled with God in bodily form (Hosea 12:3-4).

The Father allows His children to wrestle with Him. In fact sometimes He initiates it.

We do not face condemnation if we choose to wrestle with Him. But there are unanticipated consequences and outcomes. Jacob’s life was forever changed. He had a new name, Israel, which means “God fights” or “he fights with God.”

Jacob got what he asked for. He received a blessing. But there was collateral damage. He was injured and for the rest of his life he would walk with a limp. Obviously, the Father held back from using his unlimited strength. He could have crushed him at any moment. Perhaps Jacob was used to getting his own way and had never lost a wrestling match before much like Antaeus who fought Hercules.


It is one thing to be curious, it is quite another to be arrogantly argumentative.

Father it is part of human DNA to ask “Why?” Encourage us to be respectfully curious but not arrogantly condemnatory.


There are many ways to wrestle with the Father. As a matter of fact, the book of Habakkuk, an Old Testament prophet, is a verbal wrestling match between him and the Father. Habakkuk was not pleased with the way things were going and he complained and challenged the Father to do something about it. The southern kingdom of Judah was relishing living in sin. There was no justice in the land but rather violence.

Habakkuk 1:2-4

 2 How long, O LORD, must I call for help? But you do not listen! “Violence is everywhere!” I cry, but you do not come to save.

 3 Must I forever see these evil deeds? Why must I watch all this misery? Wherever I look, I see destruction and violence. I am surrounded by people who love to argue and fight.

 4 The law has become paralyzed, and there is no justice in the courts. The wicked far outnumber the righteous, so that justice has become perverted.

Sound familiar? The Father had a solution that would end their evil activities. But the cure was worse than the disease. The Babylonians were coming to conquer, destroy, and take the people captive.

Habakkuk cannot believe his ears. If Habakkuk was concerned and argumentative before, now he is livid. His complaints became white-hot. While the people Israel are bad and iniquitous, they are not as bad as the Babylonians who were brutal conquerors. On top of that, they were the chosen people, special, and the apple of His eye (Zechariah 2:8). Surely the Father is too good and just to allow such a thing to happen. Habakkuk becomes sullen and retreats into arrogant self-pity.

The Father confronts him and provides the ultimate answer for all incredulous, complaining, arrogant, whiners.

Habakkuk 2:4 The righteous shall live by his faith.

The Father is totally unfazed by our challenges, complaints, criticisms, and disputations.

It is perfectly okay to ask “why.” The answer we receive, if He chooses to answer at all, may be far more aggravating and disturbing than what we were concerned about to begin with.

Ultimately his answer is always the same, “trust Me.” Trust in My character and My plan. Live by faith, lose the attitude, and let go.


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