There are times when our struggle is with persistent sin, a sin in our lives that takes more time than desired to overcome to victory. There are times when we seem to lose the peace of God. It is possible to have peace with God (Romans 5:1-2) but lack the peace of God (Philippians 4:6-9). There are times when we are having difficulty allowing the peace of God to rule us (Colossians ). Sometimes we just seem to have lost God’s peace. We struggle through sleepless nights. We feel anguish and anxiety and an unsettling isolation.
There is a person in the Old Testament named Jacob that had an epic struggle that we can learn a great deal from. Jacob’s name means heel-catcher. He was a selfish striver, a self-promoting, self-reliant conniver and manipulator. He relied on his own strength, his own wits and worldly wisdom. He got himself in a lot of trouble because of the way he lived. He was the master of the short cut, a man who lived by the ends justifying the means. He cut corners and bent the rules. If someone was an obstacle to getting what he wanted, they and their feelings were expendable. What made this all the more troubling was that Jacob was chosen by God, a child of God. And what makes that tragic for us is that when we look at him, we unfortunately too often see too much of ourselves.
People who live like Jacob lived, cutting corners, living by worldly dog eat dog standards, and there is always a price to be paid. God’s word tells us we reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7). If you reap to your flesh, or self effort the result is corruption. If you reap to the Spirit, the result is everlasting life, and I would add, the peace of God (Galatians 6:8). Jacob’s ways left a wake of brokenness and bitterness on the waters of his family. Broken relationships, broken dreams and broken hearts were what Jacob’s ways wrought. All the while he showed no sincere remorse or repentance for the devastation he created. And there was a price to pay for this. In Genesis 32 it all came to a head.
Jacob had cheated his brother Esau first out of his birthright (Genesis 25). Then out of his father’s blessing (Genesis27), and for this Esau hated Jacob (27:41). Jacob had to leave home because of his manipulations. He met God along the way and things began to change for him (Genesis 28). First God allowed him to experience manipulation from the receiving end by way of his uncle Laban (Genesis 29). Jacob grew prosperous, but his prosperity led to adversity with Laban’s servants and again he has to flee (Genesis 30). God defends Jacob and makes a way for him to escape with his family from the pursuit of Laban (Genesis 31). But in chapter 32, with an angry father in law behind him, he discovers that his brother Esau is coming up ahead of him, with four hundred men! (Genesis 32:6). Something had to give. Jacob was blocked from retreat and was totally outnumbered in front.
Jacob’s life had become a wrestling match. But the opponent was not Laban or Esau, it was the LORD! Jacob had been living his life his way and his way had led to quite a mess. Now, in the night, he would struggle with the LORD in a very real way. The struggle was for rulership of his life. The battle was over who would rule, him or the LORD. That is a struggle every person goes through. It is a daily struggle in some ways. But there is a time in a person’s life where things come to a head and they have to make the final decision, they have to wrestle through the question, “Who will rule in my life, me or God?” Who wins that match determines whether or not a person can experience personal revival. Those who enter the ring for the first time to determine for the first time if they will yield to God at all, these are the ones who give their lives to Jesus as Savior. But even after being saved from sin, the believer comes to a point where they have to wrestle through the rule and lordship of their hearts and lives. Who will rule in the trials and hardships? Who will call the shots in life’s decisions? Who will guide you through life’s unexpected struggles? Who will you rely on in the night, when you fear, when all seems lost? Who will rule, you or God? That is the battle.
It takes the struggles of life to pin us down and expose our weakness and weaknesses. It takes the consequences of self-efforts to reveal to us our utter unworthiness and lack of strength. It takes the reality of the chaos caused by godless living and the fearful anxiety of decisions gone wrong to show us we need help. It takes the unexpected infiltration of trials into our lives to show us we need to depend on One who is always ready. It takes all of this, all of this struggle, all of this wrestling to drive home the point that we can’t live on our own, we need God and He must be our Lord. It takes all of this to tap our strength dry to show believer, yes the believer, that the LORD must rule our lives if peace is to be experienced. There are words for this process in life. When the Christian is put down and fatigued by the struggles in life and their spirit drained it is time for refreshing, it is time for personal revival.
In Genesis 32 we have a pivotal point in Jacob’s life. With Laban in the rear and Esau in the front, Jacob was boxed in; he was right where God wanted him. The way God deals with Jacob reveals to us how God can use the struggles, the wrestling matches in our lives to bring about change for the better in us. What do we learn from Jacob’s wrestling match?
Genesis 32:1-6 - So Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. 2 When Jacob saw them, he said, “This is God’s camp.” And he called the name of that place Mahanaim. 3 Then Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother in the
Here we see the fleshly selfish, self-reliant nature of Jacob. He knows he can’t retreat because Laban will oppose him. Therefore, his brother Esau is an obstacle he must overcome. How does he go about doing this? In an attempt to appease Esau he sends gifts ahead of him. In other words, Jacob is saying, “How much will it take to make things right?” He attempts to buy off his brother. There are those that think that money can fix anything. But that is not always the case. There are some things money can’t fix. How much will it cost to repair a broken heart, a stolen dream, a severed relationship? Jacob’s gifts couldn’t fix the apparent rift between himself and his brother because even after Jacob’s servant’s had brought the appeasing gift to Esau, they came back with news that he was still coming on, and with four hundred men! This was a situation Jacob couldn’t buy his way out of. In fact, Jacob may have even made things worse by trying to pay off his estranged brother.
Genesis 32:7a - 7 So Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed; . . .
Fear and distress were the results of Jacob’s efforts to fix this situation. There’s nothing worse than feeling a sense of fear and distress. He was beginning to recognize the consequences of the way he had been living his life. The consequence of life lived under self-rule was becoming apparent to him and it was scary. It’s scary to come face to face with the consequences of your sinful conduct. All of this was the consequence of Jacob’s relying on his own personal resources, efforts, his fleshly wisdom and ways.
When you rely on your flesh (i.e. limited sinful selfish self oriented reasoning and resources) it always results in problems. What is scary is that you can be walking along in the Spirit and lapse just once to acting in your flesh, and the consequences can be very damaging and cause great hardship and pain to you and those around you. Christian, guard against your flesh and being drawn into reacting or acting in that nature. It will only cause you struggles and strife (James 4:1-10). It only takes one such fleshly lapse to let Satan get his foot in the door of your life to reap havoc (Ephesians -27).
Genesis 32:7b-8 - . . . ; and he divided the people that were with him, and the flocks and herds and camels, into two companies. 8 And he said, “If Esau comes to the one company and attacks it, then the other company which is left will escape.”
Jacob was responding to his situation in a humanly logical way. Notice that his response was that he “divided the people that were with him.” When you rely on your flesh and human wisdom it always leads to division of some kind (1 Corinthians 3:1-4).
Genesis 32:9 - 9 Then Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, the Lord who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your family, and I will deal well with you’:
Here is the first step in personal revival, turning to God. Here is where Jacob begins to turn the corner toward blessing. He is finally beginning to see that his way is not the right way. He is finally turning to God for help rather than trying to connive and manipulate his way out of trouble. He is beginning to see the mess he’s caused. He’s beginning to turn to God because there is nowhere else to turn. That is the place God brings us; to a place where we are boxed into an alley of struggle and the only way out is to be lifted out by Him. Jacob isn’t perfect and he still has some self to rely on, but he is turning to God. Turning to God is always the first and best step to take in a struggling situation.
Notice too that Jacob refers to God as, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac . . .” Jacob is remembering better times. In a crisis we sometimes dream of better bygone days when all was well and we weren’t in the fix we are in at that moment. We close our eyes and dream of peaceful times. But we have to wake up at some point, and dreaming doesn’t do away with reality. This is why the sinner turns to drugs. Drugs and mind altering substances won’t heal or deal with problems; it will only make them worse because as a person is in their stupor and fails to act, things decline further. But the one who turns to God in prayer, that person God will bring through to victory.
Genesis 32:10 - 10 I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies and of all the truth which You have shown Your servant; for I crossed over this Jordan with my staff, and now I have become two companies.
The first step in personal revival is turning to God. The second step is realizing your own personal unworthiness before God. This is the major revelation that God is bringing Jacob to, his unworthiness. Jacob sees his unworthiness. He sees how merciful God has been to this point, even though he didn’t really appreciate it before. The “truth” Jacob refers to here is the truth of his unworthiness and the truth of the consequence of his fleshly ways. God is really turning the light on in his head. God is really speaking to Jacob’s heart. This is a sincere admission, a humble admission. And such humility is always the beginning of a personal revival. God oppose the proud, but gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5). God must bring us to a point of humility before He can exalt us (1 Peter 5:6). That humility is the point where we cast all our cares on Him because we realize they are too much for us and that God cares for us and is the One we need to turn to (1 Peter 5:7). This expression of unworthiness is evidence of what God is doing on the inside of this fleshly man. Man’s extremities are God’s opportunities and God is seizing the day.
You see in Jacob’s previous meeting with God he had demonstrated pride. Jacob was met by God in a dream where God revealed Himself to Jacob and told him of the great blessing and purpose He had for him (Genesis 28:10-17). Jacob was initially afraid in God’s presence, but when he awoke from his dream, he responded to God’s revelation buy putting conditions on God (Genesis 28:18-22). That is not the way you should respond to God. We don’t’ deal with God on our terms, but on His terms. People often try to manipulate God by saying, “God, if you give me that, I’ll follow You.” Or they say, “Lord, if you answer my prayer this way, I’ll follow You.” We act as though we are some great prize catch for the Lord. Rubbish! God is the prize not us. We do Him no favor by following Him. We are unworthy! He could vaporize us and make another human far better than us. But because of His love and patience He chooses to work with us, to work in us, and for that we are unworthy and should be forever grateful (e.g. Luke ; 18:9-14). Jacob was turning the corner because now he was not responding to God in pride, but in humility. He was calling to God not with conditions, but in desperation and a clear understanding that without God, he was nothing.
When we come to God we should not come with proud conditions, by a humble heart. We shouldn’t come to God only because of what we can get out of Him. We don’t come to God because of who we are but because of who we are not. We are not God, He is, and so we come to Him.
Genesis 32:11-12 - 11 Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, lest he come and attack me and the mother with the children. 12 For You said, ‘I will surely treat you well, and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.’ ”
Jacob’s heart is changing. He did split up his resources into two groups, a last ditch effort of his flesh to escape the consequences of his sinful conduct. But he does now wee that God is His Deliverer. Only God can make things right. Jacob is coming to God and he is coming to God on the basis of what “You said,” or on the basis of God’s word. That is always the best way to come to God. God is faithful to His word, always. Jacob knows his faithless ways have failed. Now he goes to God on the basis of His faithfulness to His word and that will always lead from failure to victory.
Genesis 32:13-23 - 13 So he lodged there that same night, and took what came to his hand as a present for Esau his brother: 14 two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, 15 thirty milk camels with their colts, forty cows and ten bulls, twenty female donkeys and ten foals. 16 Then he delivered them to the hand of his servants, every drove by itself, and said to his servants, “Pass over before me, and put some distance between successive droves.” 17 And he commanded the first one, saying, “When Esau my brother meets you and asks you, saying, ‘To whom do you belong, and where are you going? Whose are these in front of you?’ 18 then you shall say, ‘They are your servant Jacob’s. It is a present sent to my lord Esau; and behold, he also is behind us.’ ” 19 So he commanded the second, the third, and all who followed the droves, saying, “In this manner you shall speak to Esau when you find him; 20 and also say, ‘Behold, your servant Jacob is behind us.’ ” For he said, “I will appease him with the present that goes before me, and afterward I will see his face; perhaps he will accept me.” 21 So the present went on over before him, but he himself lodged that night in the camp. 22 And he arose that night and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven sons, and crossed over the ford of Jabbok. 23 He took them, sent them over the brook, and sent over what he had.
Sometimes there are some last traces of the flesh that show themselves and this is what we see here with Jacob. Sometimes our actions lag behind our words. Our hearts are deceitful above all things and we don’t’ understand it, but God does (Jeremiah 17:9-10). We rationalize our situation and get our hands in it where we have no business being.
Jacob had gone to God seeking deliverance, but just in case he is taking some further steps to help God along. That’s what we do too isn’t it. We tell God, “God, I’ll wait on You to deliver me, to answer me.” Then we say, “Lord, I waited an hour and you didn’t act, so let me help You along a bit,” and we resort to our fleshly ways again. We say, “Lord, I waited a day and You didn’t act, so let me help You a long a bit.” We say, “Lord, I waited a week . . . Lord, I waited a month . . . Lord, I waited a year . . . Lord, I waited . . .” and then we try to help God out and it never works. Abraham and Sarah waited for God’s promised child until they exhausted their fleshly attempts to help God (Genesis 16) and until they were beyond childbearing years (Romans 4; Galatians 4) and then and only then did God bless them with the promised child Isaac (Genesis 21). How long does God make us wait? Until we are totally surrendered and dependent upon Him. God will allow us to exhaust our fleshly attempts to help Him before He acts in our lives. He does this to show unmistakably that the work is from Him not us. He does this to humble us and get us to learn to depend on Him. He does this to build our faith and establish His lordship in our hearts and lives.
Jacob had gone to God and invited Him into the situation. God had started to work in Jacob’s heart and He would keep going until the work had been firmly established. Fear and the drive for personal preservation are powerful drives in us and these drives had moved Jacob to his last ditch fleshly effort to protect himself. But when we invite God into our life circumstances, what He does is not always what we expect or want, but He knows what is best and we would be wise to surrender to His will.
Genesis 32:24a - 24 Then Jacob was left alone; . . .
“Alone” is where God does some of His best work. Ever been alone or felt alone? You can be in a crowd and still be alone. Unmarried people do not have the exclusive rights to loneliness. You can be married and still alone. Sometimes no one else can understand us but God alone. We are at times alone in the sense that only we, and God, can understand what we’re feeling and going through. God allows such loneliness, because He desires to be alone with us. He wants personal private time with us.
When was the last time you spent time alone with God? Maybe you don’t think you have anything to say to God. Maybe you think He has nothing to say to you. But you’re wrong, you need to get alone with God and pour out your heart before Him. You need to get alone to God and listen (Psalm 46). When we are alone with God distractions are at a minimum and the environment is conducive to hearing what He has to say to us in and through His word or by way of impressions on our heart (remember: He will never contradict His word with such impressions). When was the last time you spent an a day, an hour, half and hour, fifteen minutes alone with God? Jacob was alone because God wanted it that way. Loneliness is not necessarily a bad thing.
Genesis 32:24b - . . . ; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day.
Who was this “man” who wrestled Jacob? In verse thirty Jacob tells us, “For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.” This was Jesus, a pre-incarnate manifestation of the Lord referred to as a Christophany or Theophany. There are numerous places where Jesus appears in the Old Testament (e.g. Genesis 18; Joshua 5). This is because Jesus is eternal and unchanging and at work even in the Old Testament.
Jacob and Jesus wrestled throughout the night. This wrestling match would end in exhaustion.
Genesis 32:25 - 25 Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him.
If Jesus is eternal, is he omnipotent? If He couldn’t prevail against Jacob, does that show He was not omnipotent? The point to be taken here is not that Jesus did not physically prevail against Jacob; it was that Jacob was strong physically and would not give up relying on his physical strength. Therefore Jesus helped him along by putting his hip out of joint. Your hip is vital to walking or running. Jesus is in control of this wrestling match throughout its duration. It wasn’t like Jesus was in danger of being beaten by Jacob. Jacob is merely hanging on for dear life. It’s as though Jacob is in a match where he is simply outclassed by his opponent. He had no business in the same ring with Jesus. Jesus could snap His fingers and poof! Jacob would be smoked. But Jesus arranged this match and had a purpose for it.
Genesis 32:26 - 26 And He said, “Let Me go, for the day breaks.” But he said, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!”
Jesus then feigns leaving much the same as He had done with the disciples on the
Too often we pray little anemic prayers. This is not to say our prayers must be long. Our prayers are not effective based on their length or wordiness (see Matthew 6). But there is something to be said for prevailing in prayer. Jesus taught persistence in prayer (Luke 18:1-8). E.M Bounds, a great minister of prayer, once wrote:
“To say prayers in a decent, delicate way is not heavy work. But to pray really, to pray till hell feels the ponderous stroke, to pray till the iron gates of difficulty are opened, till the mountains of obstacles are removed, till the mists are exhaled and the clouds are lifted, and the sunshine of cloudless day brightens – this is hard work, but it is God’s work and man’s best labor.” 
“The men who have done mighty things for God have always been mighty in prayer, have well understood the possibilities of prayer, and made most of these possibilities . . . . It is the effectual, fervent prayer that influences God. . . . When prayer fails, the world prevails. When prayer fails the Church loses its Divine characteristics, its Divine power; the Church is swallowed up by a proud ecclesiasticism, and the world scoffs at its obvious impotence.” 
Are you willing to spend time with God, enough time for Him to bless you? By asking this I do not intend to reduce prayer to a work that secures the blessing of God. Too often we misinterpret God’s grace to mean we need put no effort into following Him. Paul said he was who he was by God’s grace, but he also added, “I labor all the more” (1 Corinthians ). The depth and length of our prayer is not to coax or manipulate God into blessing us. God has a deep desire to bless us and He sent His only Son Jesus to die for us to prove it (Romans 5:8; -32). But our brief prayers that only skim the surface of the waters of God need to slow down and sink in to the depths of God. We need the length of prayers to get our heart right with God. It’s not God who needs us to pray long and hard, it is us. We need to pray fervently with all our heart so that His work can be done in us. We are the ones who cause the delay, not God.
Jesus said to “Abide in Me” and if we do we would bear lasting fruit (John 15). We are too much in a hurry. We rush around and miss the blessing God desires to give. It’s as though we are running in a race and God is standing on the side of the road wanting to give us something to refresh us, to quench our spiritual thirst. But we are too busy running to take what He sis offering. And what He is offering is necessary to complete the race. Without God’s drink, we’ll cramp up and find ourselves crumpled on the side of the road unable to finish well. We need to prayerfully study His word until we can hear what He is saying to us. We need to decide to stay with God until what we are seeking Him about is dealt with. We need to hang on in prayer until that sinful habit is defeated. We need to hang on in prayer until that aspect of our sinful nature is defeated. We need to hang on in prayer until our heart is cleansed and healed of those sinful thoughts or attitudes. We need to hang on in prayer until Gold helps us with our fears. We need to hang on in prayer until God changes our hearts. We miss the blessing of God because we only snack at His table when we should be feasting and fellowshipping with Him. We miss the blessing because we settle for a commercial rather than watch the entire program He is showing. Christian, we need to hang on in prayer in committed faith that says, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!”
Genesis 32:27-29 - 27 So He said to him, “What is your name?” He said, “Jacob.” 28 And He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but
Jesus didn’t ask Jacob his name because He didn’t know it; He asked him his name so that Jacob would be confronted with it. This was the point of change. Jacob was brought face to face with himself, his sinful nature. Names in the Bible are connected to the nature of those they represent. God’s names point to an aspect of His holy nature. The names of people point to an aspect of their nature too. Jacob was a heel catcher, a manipulator. Jesus changed Jacob and changed his name to “
Jacob would now live with God as his master. You obey a master, you don’t disregard a master. Jacob would now experience a new life of obedience to God. He would not be perfect, but he would be more trusting and dedicated to God. Jacob would become a worshipper of God (Genesis 33:17-20).
Why did Jacob ask for the name of the One who he wrestled with? Maybe there was a trace of uncertainty in his heart about who it was he had wrestled with. Jesus said to Philip in the New Testament, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; . . . .” (John 14:9). Maybe Jacob just wanted to hear it from the mouth of Jesus. For whatever reason, Jesus did not disclose His name at that point. But Jesus says the same thing to us. “Have I answered so many of your prayers, helped you in so many situations in life, solved your problems and answered your questions, and you still do not know Me?” We need to take notice of what God has done in our lives and be built up in our faith in Him.
Genesis 32:30-32 - 30 So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: “For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.” 31 Just as he crossed over Penuel the sun rose on him, and he limped on his hip. 32 Therefore to this day the children of
That Jacob had a good idea of Who it was he had wrestled with is seen in the name he gave to that place, “Peniel” the face of God. Jacob knew he had encountered God. Jesus is God in the flesh and He showed Himself Peniel (Colossians -20; Hebrews 1).
And Jacob left that place with a lasting reminder of his human weakness, a dislocated hip joint. No longer would he rely on his own ability to run from trouble or manipulate or buy his way out of sticky situations. Now, limping away, he knew He would have to depend on God. That is exactly the revelation and truth God wants to communicate to us and that leads to personal revival.
Paul prayed three times for a thorn to be removed, but God kept it there. Why? Because when he was weakened, then he would have to rely on Jesus and that would make him strong in the Lord (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). It is only through our weaknesses that we can learn the sufficiency of God’s grace. Our weaknesses are not necessarily a bad thing. Physical disabilities and the numerous types of impairments we encounter in life can serve to move us closer to God and that is the good God brings from them (Romans ). Jacob walked away a changed man because he had been made a limping man. That puts an entirely different perspective on our human frailties doesn’t it? In light of that, maybe we should be thanking God for whatever part of us is “out of joint” for it is through such things that we learn to go to God, lean on Him and experience personal revival. Personal revival is learning not to run in our own strength and learning to appreciate the limps in our lives that cause us to be governed by God.