Tuesday, September 12, 2006

#63 "Wounded Wrestlers"

September 12, 2006
"So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob's hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, "Let me go, for it is daybreak." But Jacob replied, I will not let you go unless you bless me." (Genesis 32: 24-26)

I had ringside seats a lot of years ago to a WWF wrestling match. We got to see our favorite wrestlers up close and personal. The old adage, "that's gotta hurt" was very real that day as we watched the wrestlers throw each other around the ring and twist body parts in positions that God never intended. Sweat flew, crowds screamed. Being up that close amplified the sound of bodies slamming on the ring. Okay, you don't have to tell me that it's fake. I know that. But it doesn't lessen the fact that it hurts.

Today, let's take a ringside seat at an ancient wrestling match between God and Jacob. "The Deceiver" was at the threshold of the promised land. He was afraid and uncertain about crossing over into his brother Esau's territory because, you see, many years before he had cheated his brother out of both a birthright and a blessing. He wasn't really sure that he would get a great reception. Messengers told him that Esau was on his way with 400 other men. Didn't sound promising. He prayed to God for safety at his brother's hands but still continued to manipulate the situation instead of trusting that God heard his prayer. He sent an astounding number of gifts on ahead of him and also, coward that he was, he sent his wives, maidservants and sons on ahead of him. By name and by nature Jacob has for a long time walked the road of his own choosing, the road of self will, selfish goals, the road of his own strength and resources. Now that road leads past the Jabbok River, a name which means "wrestling."

So we find Jacob alone. And here comes the opponent. A man who some say was an angel but most believe was the pre-incarnate Christ. (Genesis 32:28 and Genesis 32: 30) And they wrestled until daybreak. It was a long night of wrestling with God but I'd like to say that the match had been going on for most of his life. In the Old Testament, one's name was linked to one's character. Jacob's name meant, "deceiver, heel-catcher, conniver, cheater." He was always struggling and scheming to get his own way. He had family problems. He was fearful and unsure of his destiny and felt the need to do it his way, to make things happen whether they were God's will or not. He wanted what he wanted and would do anything to achieve his goal.

This was "Summer Slam", "King of the Ring" and "Wrestlemania" all rolled into one deciding match. The championship belt was on the line after a long season of doing his own thing, in his own way. The bell rings and the fight begins. He wrestled for what he wanted. Safety, a destiny that he had planned for his life. Blessing over his own plans, not necessarily God's. He tried to use all of his moves that he had used all of his life. A half-Nelson here, a choke hold there. A body slam. A throw against the ropes. But he was soon to learn that you can't struggle against God. The man let him wrestle him all night long but then, enough was enough. At times, Jake even thought that he was winning. It's like when we wrestle with our kids. We let them wrestle a while and think they're winning before we end the match. Well, it was time for God's signature move. The "Tombstone", the "Pile Driver", "The Sharp Shooter", "The Stone Cold Stunner." That signature move that ends the match once and for all. The Bible says that the man touched the socket of Jacob's hip and it was wrenched. He dislocated the ball-and-socket joint of his thigh. And then He told him to let go. All of Jacob's old moves were useless. It was useless to struggle against God. Self-confidence, stubbornness and pride didn't work anymore.

Jacob wouldn't let go. He was wracked with pain but would not let the man go. He said, "I will not let you go unless you bless me." Ahh, he says, "YOU". Not, "I will get the blessing on my own." Not, "I'll do it my way." Instead he clings to God and asks for HIM to work on his behalf. One author says that Jacob goes from wrestling to clinging. Wrestle means to contend and fight for dominance. To cling means to hold on to and to grasp in desperation. He now was admitting that all of his plans, his self-sufficiency and his pride were useless. He needed God and only God. He was desperate for God to take control of his life. Therein lies the blessing.

At the moment he yielded to God, he became a new man who could receive the blessings of God and assume his place in God's plan for his life. God begins by giving him a new name, "Israel". This new name suggests royalty and power and sovereignty among men. Instead of being an unscrupulous conniver he would now be a God-governed man. Jacob couldn't enter the promised land as a conniver. He had to have God's divine blessing. No more self-sufficiency, no more prideful plans. God was the owner of the land promised to Abraham's seed and Jacob had to be changed to enter it. But because he was so stubborn, he had to be injured in the process. But he was now ready for the blessing.

Are you wrestling with God today? Has he told you to be obedient in some area and you are refusing, with all your excuses? Why you can't break the habit. Why you can't forgive. Why you can't stop playing the victim. Why you can't let go of your past. Has He asked you to give something up? A destructive relationship. A gossiping tongue. The pornography on your computer. Are you trying to change people when you know that only God can change hearts? Are you manipulating situations to get your own way? Are you bounding out ahead of God in ministry, thinking you're doing His will with no indication that it's anything other than your own bright idea? Remember, when God ordains, God supplies. Are you stubbornly holding onto something that God does not want you to have or do? Are you going through doors that God has shut and going out the doors where He wants you to stay a while? Remember, "don't despise the day of small beginnings." (Zechariah 4: 10)

Stop wrestling. Stop struggling and striving with God. Cling. Abide. You're going to lose anyway. The championship belt has already been won by the Ultimate Champion...Jesus Christ. He has the victory over death, hell and the grave and over your life. He'll give you a new name. He'll change your heart. Pray. Confess your true nature to Him. Don't let go until you know you've heard from Him. Be desperate for Him and only Him. You may be wounded from all of your wrestling. God may have to wound you to make you stop your striving. Jacob was wounded. For the rest of his life he would be crippled, yet his limp would always be a reminder of Who was in control.

Get alone with God. Have your own encounter. Walk into your promised land. Jacob never walked the same again after his encounter with God and neither will you.

Limping, but on my way,

Donna Schultz

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