Proper 13
Genesis 32:22-31

Some things in life are so obvious they need no explanation. Who would anticipate, for example, a hairdryer with these words: “Do not use while sleeping.” Or a pudding container that warns: “Product will be hot after heating.” And the frozen dinner that instructs: “Defrost?” Imagine an iron with the following label: “Do not iron clothes on body.” Why would a sleeping pill bear this solemn statement: “Warning may cause drowsiness?” Who needs these words affixed to a packet of peanuts: “Open packet, eat nuts?”

Maybe we’re more prone to turn a blind eye to the obvious than we care to admit. Thus, this paradox seldom sinks in immediately though it is completely biblical: “Power is perfected in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). In Philippians 3:10, the Apostle Paul expresses his desire to know God in “the power of His resurrection and ??the fellowship of His sufferings, being ??conformed to His death.”

Most of us do well with “the power of His resurrection,” but the “fellowship of His sufferings” is a bit more difficult to bear. No wonder Jacob wrestled with God. Through the culmination of several events, the patriarch is about to learn his greatest life lesson yet.

I. Life’s Most Difficult Moments May Be Your Greatest Hour

With Mesopotamia behind him and Jabbok before him, Jacob initiates reconciliation with his brother Esau. After years of separation and experiencing the pain of deception himself, he sends messengers to the land of Seir in the country of Edom in order to gain his brother’s favor (Genesis 32:3-5). Immediately, fear welled up in Jacob’s heart when he learned that Esau chose to meet him personally, along with four hundred other men (Genesis 32:6).

At first glance, this appears to be Jacob’s darkest, and perhaps, final hour. We must not miss the backdrop, for the desperation of his battle with the Lord is prompted by this “hopeless” scenario. God is always ready to work when we are His last resort.

II. The Blessings of God Are Reserved for the Weakest Recipients

Wrestling with God is a strange event to say the least. What purpose would it serve? Why is it recorded in the Bible? How can we learn from this narrative? The lesson of Jabbok simplifies to one principle: The blessings of God are reserved for the weakest recipients. Stated differently, James 4:6 asserts: “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

In hindsight we already know that Jacob wrestled with God in these verses, but the realization only came for him when the battle was nearly over. Alone and afraid, Jacob was about to face the greatest challenge of his life. Esau was not the predator; however, God determined that his disciple was nearly ready for the ultimate blessing. Parabolic of his life, Jacob spent the entire night grasping to retain control by forcing his adversary into submission (Genesis 32:24-25).

Different from his brother, his father and his father-in-law, this was a battle he could not win. Thus, after undergoing a crippling wound, Jacob is relieved by the prospective offer to end the feud and he helplessly cries out for a blessing (Genesis 32:26). Furthermore, admitting his name is a poignant admission of guilt as a deceiver (Genesis 32:27).

At that moment, God gives his project a new name because he finally came to his lowest point. Israel literally means “God fights” and it brought with it a profound insight. The way up is down. Our mission is not fighting for God with our strength because that is a battle we cannot win. To the contrary, God will only bless us when we yield to Him with our dependence.

Have you ever struggled to give God control of your life? Do you mistakenly assume that God will only bless you begrudgingly? The problem is not God’s refusal to bless us, but our unwillingness to rest fully in Him. Jacob did not win God’s blessing. He became weak enough to handle it.

Before his death, Adrian Rogers shared on numerous occasions of the remarkable moment in his life when this truth became precious. Desperate for God to use him, the young teenage boy went to the football field in his hometown in order to pray. As he walked to the middle of the gridiron, Adrian was pleading with God to use him. Sensing the need to get lower, he laid down face-first on the ground to humble himself to the best of his ability. Believing that was not quite low enough, he stuck his nose in the dirt. Overwhelmed by his own inadequacies, Rogers then dug a little hole in the dirt and pushed his face even lower. From the moment he was willing to be weak for God, this great pulpiteer had an unusual power in his life. May God make it so for each of us!

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