The AMI QT Devotionals from December 25-31 are written by Phillip Chen, college pastor at Church of Southland. Philip, a graduate of University of California, San Diego, is currently studying at Talbot School of Theology. He is married to Esther.
Devotional Thoughts for Today
“Wrestling with God”
Genesis 32:22-29 (ESV)
The same night he arose and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 He took them and sent them across the stream, and everything else that he had. 24 And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. 25 When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28 Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel,[f] for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” 29 Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him.
Often times, we read this passage and we focus on Jacob’s tenacity and his unwillingness to let go of God until He has blessed him. We talk about how this applies to us and our approach in prayer, boldly and confidently wrestling with God until He has answered us. We talk about the perseverance, the grit, and the tenacity that Jacob had which we should emulate. Yes, we can learn a lot from Jacob and his desire to be blessed, but this morning, I’d like to focus on God’s willingness to wrestle with us.
I used to wrestle a lot with my dad as a child. There were many times when I thought I would almost beat him. We would wrestle for a while, and it would seem like we were both tied until the very end when he would pin me. Of course, looking back, I realize that my dad could have easily pinned me if he wanted to – but the continuation of his wrestling was an act of endearment towards me. In fact, the more I think about these wrestling matches, I realize that my dad had to harness his strength and power while exerting self-control to make it seem like he was trying without hurting me. There was actually a lot of love and tenderness in this father-son wrestling match.
This passage depicts Jacob wrestling with a man whom he encounters. We later finds out that this mysterious man is an angel of the Lord – or at least someone who caused Jacob to refer to as “seeing the face of God.” This is such a strange sight, because God actually comes down to wrestle with Jacob. Jacob is no match for God – but when I think of this scene in conjunction with the wrestling matches I had with my father, I am reminded of a father wrestling with his son and how endearing this scene would have been.
Many times, I think we can view God as someone with whom we have to wrestle, that His will is always opposing our sinful will. We can view God as a cosmic killjoy who is withholding blessing from us and wanting us to work to earn blessing from Him. If we don’t work hard enough, we don’t get the blessing. We see him as a stingy God who makes us work so hard to get so little. In our minds, we might see God as generous, but in our prayers and in our interactions with Him, we see Him as a distant and disengaged God who doesn’t want to really pour out blessings upon us. We think of Him as someone with whom we have to wrestle. Yet when I think of a father wrestling with his son, I see love and tenderness rather than stinginess and disengagement. Now when I read this story, I see a loving Father who wants to wrestle with one of His sons because He loves him so dearly. He comes face to face with Jacob to wrestle him for the sake of the interaction. I don’t think God’s intention was ever to withhold blessing from Jacob. This wrestling match wasn’t something that Jacob had to win on his own accord so that he could receive a blessing. The wrestling match itself was part of the blessing that God intended for Jacob. God was willing to come down in the form of man to wrestle with Jacob, and that itself shows us His desire to draw near to us and bless us.
As we reflect upon this past year, what are ways that you can see God ‘wrestling’ with you? May we be encouraged to know that you and I have a God who draws near to us and wrestles with us, ultimately so that we may partake of His abundant blessings.
Prayer: Father God, thank You for Your love for us. Thank You that You are not a distant God, but You are a God who draws near to us. Thank You that You don’t withhold blessing from us, but You actually seek us out so that You can pour out Your blessing upon us so lavishly. Help us to believe this truth, uprooting wrongful views we have of You. Even in the ways our earthly fathers have failed to accurately show this picture, help us to realize the goodness and the love of Your heart as our Father. We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: 1 Corinthians 13-14