Genesis 32:22-32 – Jacob Wrestling with God
“That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” —2 Corinthians 12:10
The strange story of Jacob wrestling with “a Man” in Genesis 32 has long been a personal favorite. Knowing this, God used it in 2001 to confirm answering my prayers in surprising fashion.
Jacob found himself in a jam, having first tricked brother Esau out of his birthright (Genesis 25) and later deceiving father Isaac into giving him Esau’s blessing (Genesis 27). After Esau vowed vengeance, Jacob fled and subsequently worked 20 years under swindling Uncle Laban, amassing wives, children and wealth (Genesis 29-31). Subsequent to fleeing Laban with family intact, Jacob learned that Esau and his 400 men were coming to meet him. Jacob desperately needed rest the night before the feared confrontation. Instead, he got an all-night wrestling match with “a Man”—whom he correctly deduced was God Himself. Moreover, God crippled Jacob’s hip before releasing, renaming (to Israel, “governed by God”), and blessing the sleepless patriarch.
I’d had a successful 20-year career within a Fortune 500 company, eventually promoted to its Chief Marketing Officer, which featured great compensation, a corner office and terrific colleagues. Within months, however, I recognized my misery in transitioning from hands-on line leadership to a cushy senior staff position … but I was reluctant to move on. So, I started praying, “Father, if it is Your will that I should leave, please let me know or somehow intervene.”
One morning after a run, I felt an intense pain in my hip that I hadn’t experienced before (or since). When I got to my office, the corporation’s most senior HR executive was there (without an appointment). He stated, “We’ve decided to eliminate your position.” God had answered my prayer. If I’d had any doubt, my aching hip (like Jacob’s, per Genesis 32:25) confirmed that this was God’s response.
God answers prayers, always for our good (Romans 8:28), though often differently than expected. “Frederick Buechner … characterizes Jacob’s [nightlong wrestling match with God] as the ‘magnificent defeat of the human soul at the hands of God.’… Our lives are never meant to be easy … especially [when we] wrestle with God and His will. … Despite our trials and tribulations … [God is present] and His blessing inevitably follows.” (GotQuestions?org)
How had Jacob’s earlier trickery come back to haunt him? Why did “the Man” cripple Jacob before renaming him “Israel”? How did God use my knowledge of this story?
Prayers for David Woo
David Woo, retired pastor of San Gabriel Presbyterian Church, has been teaching part-time for 16 years in Southeast Asia under the sponsorship of Ethnos Asia Ministries. He goes to Asia four times a year to teach in Bible schools in Thailand, Myanmar, and other countries. Pray for safe travels this week.
John 1:12 – My Identity
“But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.” —John 1:12
This world is loud. There are many voices telling us who we need to be, that we aren’t enough, that we are falling short or failing. As Christians, at times we can feel inadequate or unworthy to be used by God. Maybe you feel God nudging you to step up in a ministry … but you think, “Not me!”
Remember Moses? He had trouble speaking and didn’t think he could be used to talk to Pharaoh and lead his people out of Egypt, but God chose him anyway. He was in good company throughout the Bible: Gideon was afraid; Rahab was a prostitute; David committed murder; Jonah ran from God; Peter denied Christ three times; Martha worried a lot; Paul was a Pharisee who persecuted Christians before becoming one. Still in all of these lives, God used these individuals in mighty ways. Jesus can use flawed people to bring hope and build the kingdom. Because of Jesus, the Father sees us restored.
How do we begin believing this ourselves and gain stability and confidence? We learn to stand on Truth. In the Word of God, you’ll find what He says about who you are.
I have redemption and forgiveness (Ephesians 1:7). I am chosen (John 15:16). I am no longer a slave to sin (Romans 6:6). I am a citizen of heaven (Philippians 3:20). I am created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). I am formed before birth, known and set apart (Jeremiah 1:5). I am more than a conqueror through Him who loves me (Romans 8:37). I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). When I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:10). In Christ I am a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). I am clothed in a robe of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10).
Music Artist, Lauren Daigle wrote the song, “You Say,” that is played often on pop radio stations and has remained on Billboards Top 100 for over 45 weeks. She wrote her beautiful ballad to remind herself of what God says of her. Her lyrics resonate with the masses, proving the desire for God’s love and assurance is in each of us. Lauren shares the reason behind the song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XPDmjNXt_K4.
Remind yourself daily of who Christ says you are. When the world rocks you, be reminded of Truth. Stand firm as you allow God to reveal your identity and truth to permeate your soul.
Look up Scriptures about who you are in Christ. Read them each day this week.
Prayers for David Woo
David will teach in Mandalay, Myanmar, this week, Monday – Friday. The class will have about 30 students; some are pastors and others are lay church workers. He will teach three hours a day. Pray that he will have the stamina to teach with his fullest strength in spite of the tropical heat.
“My sheep hear My voice; I know them, and they follow Me.” —John 10:27
Dallas Willard, in his book Hearing God, says the most basic and fundamental way we hear God’s voice is through the Bible—God’s Word. Dusty Sanderson recently observed in a sermon: “Until the Holy Spirit touches our hearts, we cannot receive God’s Word as God’s Word” (7/7/19). For me, the Bible was like a “dead” book until my faith in Jesus came alive. After that, it was like the words leapt off the page.
I remember kicking myself for not having memorized more Scripture verses in Sunday School. Memorizing verses had been like installing light bulbs. How was I to know that one day the Holy Spirit would turn on the switch and the lights would come on. I think that’s what happened on Pentecost—God turned the power on.
Scripture verses have been God’s voice at key transition points in my life. When I joined the U.S. Air Force, people asked me how I knew God was leading me. Already God had prepared me by showing me Joshua 1:9: “Have I not commanded you, be strong and of good courage, be not afraid, neither be dismayed, for the Lord your God goes with you wherever you go.” I would reply, “I don’t know if God is taking me or if I’m taking Him. But in either case, we will be together.” And I would find myself repeating this verse over and over during those years.
When I changed careers, the verse that helped me was Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Once again, over and over, the verse came to mind at times of stress and doubt.
When I retired, we sold our home and moved to Virginia for one year. And again, a verse got me through that year, Psalm 37:23: “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way.”
As His disciples/sheep, we need to hear Jesus’ voice for encouragement and instruction. And He needs to hear our voice in prayer. Jesus checked in with His Father constantly throughout His time on earth.
What verse is getting you through what you are facing right now?
Prayers for David Woo
Pray for the Bible school students that they will be attentive, have a hunger for the Word, and be willing to put into practice in their personal lives what the Lord will be teaching them this week. Pray that they will be doer of the Word and not hearers only.
Exodus 28 – The Glory of the Lord
“Have Aaron your brother brought to you from among the
Israelites … so [he] may serve Me as [a priest.]” —Exodus 28:1
I wonder how Moses must have felt when the Lord said, “Have Aaron your brother brought to you…” (Exodus 28:1). After all, wasn’t Moses the person God had called to lead the Israelites from Egypt to Israel? Wasn’t Moses the friend whom God spoke to “face to face” (Exodus 33:11)? And now Aaron is to be the conduit between God and the nation of people, the Israelites.
Not only is Moses to have a brother who is the high priest, but consider the grandeur and richness of the clothes that Aaron and his sons were to wear—sacred garments, an ephod of gold, a breastplate of gold with precious stones. Didn’t God remember that these were oppressed laborers from Egypt? And then, why Aaron, why his sons? Didn’t God promise Moses on Mount Sinai that “… you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6)? There must be some mistake!
But as in the unfolding of this holy priesthood (and fortunately for us), God does not make mistakes, and this is exactly what a large nation needed at that time, for that time. The people of Israel needed to see and know that they were directly connected to God, a God they could trust, a God who was worthy of much splendor and magnificence.
Today we as believers are privileged; through the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we no longer need a priest to know God. We have the perfect and only high priest, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 14), through whom we have the absolute freedom to know and to worship God—without the need for an intermediary earthly priest.
We no longer need priests and priestly garments, but instead we are required as believers in Christ to each put on the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10) with the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, and the sword of the Spirit.
Are you prepared to take on the “armor of God” and go out into the world sharing His life and His Word? Consider this as your dress code for today, and relish in the comfort that we no longer need priests as we have Jesus as our Lord and Advocate before Almighty God.
How does our putting on the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, and the sword of the Spirit enable us to share in and show God’s glory to the world?
Prayers for David Woo
Pray for David that he will be sensitive to the Spirit’s promptings as he teaches, that he will be open and flexible to making adjustments as he discerns the Spirit’s leading and the responsiveness of the students. That the work of the Spirit will be clearly visible among the students.
Jeremiah 29:11 – Holding On
“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. ” —Jeremiah 29:11
I remember when this use to be my favorite verse. In the midst of difficulties and seemingly dead ends, I would hold on to this verse. I remember telling myself over and over again, “God has great things in store; they are just around the corner. This bad situation is not His will.” And then I read the context. God’s promise to Israel of a hope and a future came after 70 years of exile. God’s promise of prosperity was not just around the corner; it was 70 years down the road—70 years of living in an uncomfortable situation. Maybe I needed another verse.
And so, I turned to Lamentations 3:22-24: “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him.’”
This was how the Israelites were to spend their 70 years in exile, waiting on the Lord, trusting that in the midst of the worst of times they would survive because the Lord would be with them; He would be their portion. I remember day after day telling myself, “Hang on. Just get through today. The Lord promises new mercies tomorrow morning. Hang on, allow the Lord to fulfill your needs, allow Him to be your portion. Is He not enough?”
As I learned to wait on the Lord, I was given a verse I hang on to today: Zephaniah 3:16-17. “Do not fear, Zion; do not let your hands hang limp. The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in His love He will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” Wow, rather than look at my circumstances, I am to stand tall for it is the Lord who fights for me. I am to let Him do the fighting, realizing that He does not look at my past, nor my former defeats. But instead He takes great delight in me. He rejoices over me. Now I wait on Him to fight. I wait listening for His singing. I rest in His pleasure for me.
How have your favorite verses changed over the years? Can you rest in the certainty of God’s pleasure with you, waiting on Him to fight your battles?
Prayers for David Woo
Pray for the Lord’s protection over the students as they return to their homes. Protection from the persecution of the authorities. Protection over their families. Boldness in living out their faith and serving the Lord in the Spirit’s power wherever they live. Being effective in making disciples and multiplying churches.
- GotQuestions?org quotes can be found at https://www.gotquestions.org/Jacob-wrestling-
- Lauren Daigle’s song, “You Say,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XPDmjNXt_K4
- Dusty Sanderson’s sermon can be found at https://www.glenkirkchurch.org/sermon/july-7-2019-in-common-our-common-authority/