During this strategic season, I feel the need to travel a little more than usual for on-location prayer, significant prayer services, etc. So today, I am using a post recorded for me by my friend, Dr. Greg Hood. I know it will be meaningful for you, and I’ll be back for tomorrow’s post. Here’s Greg:
Wrestling with God
Wrestling was a family tradition for Jacob’s family. His wife, Rachel, in Genesis 30:8, “wrestled” with her sister. He had a son named Naphtali, whose name actually means to wrestle. Jacob was tenacious and worked for 14 years for his two wives. He endured the constant scheming and trickery of his father-in-law, Laban, who changed his wages 10 times over their years together, and he constantly swapped out the good livestock with the poor livestock. Whenever Jacob would get the upper hand, which was frequently because God blessed him, Laban tried another means to rob him. Yet Jacob, through God, always prevailed.
Even though Jacob's name means “deceiver, supplanter, and manipulator,” he was able to take hold of something and hang on to it until he got what he wanted out of it. He even tricked his older brother, Esau, out of his birthright, something that would haunt him later in life.
After years of struggle with Laban, God told Jacob it was time to move on (see Genesis 31:13). Jacob’s new journey began at Bethel. The word Bethel means “house of God.” Jacob’s journey to the place of his birth was to get back to his true identity, and finding out who he was. It was also to erase his past. This would not be an easy journey; there would be many growth opportunities masquerading as challenges.
Scripture says we do not wrestle against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12), and this was true of Jacob on this journey. On his way to discover his identity, God spoke to him at Bethel. He heard God but had not yet encountered him. And yet, as we will see, entering the house of God was not enough for Jacob to obtain his identity, destiny, or purpose. It was not enough to qualify him to step into who God called him to be. And it is not enough for us today.
Of course, some people think that everybody is approved by God because “whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved” (see Romans 10:13), right? Yes, but that doesn’t always mean what we want it to mean. Scripture also says: “For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14). The Bible is telling us that while some choose to mature and grow up, many others want to be babies and get spoon-fed all their lives.
So yes, Jacob was on a journey through Bethel, the house of God, but there was really no change to him other than increasing his frustration and fear. His father-in-law, Laban, pursued him and Jacob had to make peace with him (see Genesis 31). He also encountered angels (Genesis 32:1). Yet there were bigger things in store for Jacob.
Wrestling With God
The house of God is a good place to find God, but finding him there in a corporate experience is not enough to change your name, find your purpose, encounter your destiny, and pull fear and religion out of your heart. You see, even at this time, Jacob was not sure who his God was going to be or what this God could do.
Genesis 28:20-22 (NASB)
Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will keep me on this journey that I take, and will give me food to eat and garments to wear, and I return to my father’s house in safety, then the Lord will be my God. This stone, which I have set up as a pillar, will be God’s house, and of all that You give me, I will surely give a tenth to You.”
“Then the Lord will be my God.” Really? I’m sure God was impressed that Jacob might one day give Him permission to be his God. Little did Jacob know, he was about to meet God in a big way. As is typical of life-changing encounters with God, it happened when he was alone.
Let's read Genesis 32:24-30 (NASB),
Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.” But he said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” He said, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him and said, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And he blessed him there. So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, “I have seen God face-to-face, yet my life has been preserved.”
The word “blessed" means many things. For one, it means “that in blessing me, you bless everybody.” It also means “to congratulate.” Think about the exchange between Jacob and God.
“Wait a minute. Your thigh is out of the socket. You are not who you were. You were losing the fight.”
“Yeah, but I am not letting you go until you congratulate me, and I get what I came for. You must bless me and bring me into a place where I am living as who I am supposed to be because I cannot go on like this any longer.”
So, “congratulate" also involves boasting. Can you imagine wrestling with God, and God says, “Look, I got to go. The sun is coming up. I am going to touch here. BOOM, You’re done.”
But you hang on and say, “I am not letting you go; congratulate me as the winner.” The passage we just read did say that Jacob prevailed.
This is amazing.
“Blessed” also means “to persist in blessing.” Jacob wanted God to speak over him. So he was saying: “I want my blessing. My grandfather had a blessing. My father had a blessing. I must have a blessing.”
Anytime you’re looking for promotion from God, He will first bring you back to your present reality before He promotes you into His reality—the place where His truth and your promotion reside.
God was asking many things of Jacob when He asked: “What is your name?” He was asking Jacob:
What are the defaming marks of your life?
What are the memorials that have been built up in your life?
What are the altars that have been built up in your life?
What are you renowned for?
Jacob had to answer some tough questions from God. Likewise, at key moments of our lives, each of us will have to answer the same questions. This is called qualification. It may not feel like it as we are shaking in our boots and wishing we brought a change of pants, but God has a purpose.
Jacob was caught between his identity, a rock, and who God wanted him to be. I can imagine his response to God’s question: “Who are you?” (Genesis 32:27)
Here’s my redneck paraphrase, “I am Jacob. I am a deceiver. I am a supplanter. I am a conman. I am a dysfunctional guy who stole my inheritance from my older brother, Esau. I deceived my father, wound up with a first wife I don’t love who is giving me more kids than the second wife who, incidentally, I do love. So, I’m spending more time with the first wife, and that is frustrating to the second wife. And just when things couldn’t get any more messed up, I took the maids of both of them and fathered children with each woman. Later, I had to run from my father-in-law, Laban, who had made cheating me an art form, and now I am running from my brother, Esau, who is seeking revenge. I am Jacob.”
Jacob was in a hard place. He had already been to the house of God - Bethel. He had already experienced God on some level, but he was still being pursued. Now, when you get to the house of God and experience God there, and those who want to kill you are still in hot pursuit, you have to get beyond the house of God and find God himself at a level that identifies your purpose. In doing so, you just may discover that it was God who orchestrated these events to bring you to the place where you sought him at a greater level—the level He wanted you to reach in Him all along.
Over the years, I have had to wrestle with God. And I looked over in the corner, but there was nobody to tag. That’s when I realized that this is not a team match. This is a one-on-one championship bout, and God had a better record than I did. But I reached a place where I could tell God: “Congratulate me. I am seeing this thing through.”
What is the lesson from this transformative event in Jacob’s life? It is that we have to hang on. We have to wrestle with God until the sun comes up and declare that we are coming back into our rightful place. So, God: bless me, congratulate me!
Pray with me:
Father, bring us to the place where we discover the Jacob within us. Give us the fortitude to hang on in this wrestling match with You until we are changed into who You have seen us be all along.
We decree that we are stepping past the House of God experience and we are coming into the place where we take hold of God personally, and He takes hold of us!
God Bless you, and go do business with the King today.
Most of the post today was taken from Dr. Hood’s book Rebuilding the Broken Altar, Awaking out of Chaos. You can learn more about Greg and his ministry here.
Click on the link below to watch the full video.