I felt like I was hanging on for my life as I was being thrown around like a rag doll! A few summers ago, I had the opportunity to go tubing behind a very large boat on the waters of Lake Huron. Unlike normal lakes, this Great Lake is very choppy and wavy. With the boat pulling me and another rider on a tube at ridiculously high speeds, we were literally hitting the waves and being thrown at least 5 feet into the air. I wasn’t just hanging on to the tube to have more fun, but I was hanging on for the sake of my life. I knew that hitting the water tubeless could mean an injured body, severe eye damage, or the risk of being eaten by a sea creature!
In Genesis 32:22-32 (please read), Jacob is doing the very same thing: hanging on for his very life. Jacob’s life is found between the pages of Genesis chapters 25-35, and it is characterized by wrestling. In the womb of Rebekah, Jacob was struggling with his brother Esau (25:22). In the midst of his birth, Jacob hung on to the heel of his older brother (25:26). Some years later, Jacob struggled with Esau to gain his blessing and birthright (25:33). Jacob wrestled with Laban to marry the woman of his dreams (ch. 29). Jacob’s wives grappled with each other over who Jacob would love most (chs. 29-30). Also, Jacob struggled with his father-in-law once again for his wife, children, and due possessions (Gen 30-31). Now, Jacob fears that he is about to enter the most fierce wrestling match of his life as he draws near to Esau after many years, but Jacob is wrong. His greatest wrestling match will be with God Himself (Gen 32:22-32).
Because he fears Esau’s grudging wrath from decades before, Jacob divides up his family and possessions into different groups while they travel closer to where Esau lives. Jacob didn’t want to lose everything. Gen 32:22-24 tells us that Jacob stays the night alone away from his family and begins wrestling with a man all night long. This man is obviously stronger than him as he even dislocates Jacob’s hip by merely his touch. Jacob’s wrestling quickly turns into clinging. Jacob hangs on to the man with everything in him for one reason: he desperately wants the blessing of God! The covenant blessing of God has been driving Jacob his whole life. His opponent pleads Jacob to let go since daybreak is approaching. Who is Jacob wrestling, and why does the unknown figure not want to be seen? The man is no other than God Himself, and Jacob could not look upon His face or He would die (32:30). Jacob clinches his fist and fights back his painful tears to hold onto God as tight as possible because He knows God’s covenant blessing is his only hope for his life to amount to anything good, worthy, and purposeful.
In the life of Christ we also see struggle and wrestling. In the wilderness, Christ wrestles the Tempter, and He walks away pure in every way. During His ministry, Christ wrestles with the Jews over His “Messiah-ship,” and continues to preach the Gospel concerning Himself. But Jesus’ greatest wrestling match came in the garden with His own Father as He begged God to go about things another way (Matt 26:36-46). We know that Jesus went willingly to the cross in full submission to His Father as He passionately hung onto God’s promise for His own exaltation.
Just like Jacob here is going through a transition into which he is owning his faith in God, so must we. He may not even remember, but I had a close friend (Jason Wood) who challenged me when I was 19 to believe and think for myself rather than to just repeat answers and verses that I had been spoon fed by my pastor, teachers, and parents. God used that night to change my life as I personally pursued His Son by His Spirit through His Word! You see, Jacob had come to terms that not only was the covenant his grandfather’s (Abraham), and his father’s (Isaac), but it was now passed onto him as prophesied (Gen 25:23). We too must be willing to take on Christ as our personal Lord and Savior, believe the Truth, defend the Truth, think according to the Truth, live the Truth, struggle for the cause of the Truth, study the Truth, and discuss the Truth. By hanging on to the covenant for his very life, Jacob was clinging to Christ. We too must hang on to the Person of Jesus Christ for our very lives!