Life-Study of Genesisby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Genesis 32:22-32 relates a crucial experience in the life of Jacob, God's chosen one. This is truly an extraordinary portion of the Holy Word. It is unique, and there is no other passage in the Bible that is similar to it. However, due to the lack of experience, most Christians have not paid adequate attention to this part of Scripture. By the Lord's mercy, in this message we must consider this vital experience in Jacob's life and be helped by it.
Jacob's experience in this chapter is very practical, personal, and intimate. What could be more intimate than wrestling with someone for at least half a night? The Lord in the form of man wrestled with Jacob "until the breaking of the day" (v. 24). The Lord God would never wrestle with a stranger or with an unbelieving sinner. Notice that we are not told that the man "came" to wrestle with Jacob. There is no verse which says, "While Jacob remained there alone considering his trouble, the Lord came to wrestle with him." No, it simply says, "There wrestled a man with him," indicating that the man was already there and that there was no need for him to come. This reveals that the Lord had been with Jacob all the time.
Why did the Lord suddenly begin to wrestle with Jacob? There certainly must have been a reason for it. It was due to Jacob's background. As he was returning to his father's land, he had two problemsLaban behind him and Esau in front of him. Having been released from the usurping hand of Laban, he was now desperate as he faced the coming confrontation with his brother, Esau. It was at this time that the wrestling took place. Jacob's messengers had returned with the report that Esau was coming to meet Jacob with four hundred men. When Jacob heard this report, he was terrified. According to Jacob's understanding, if Esau was coming to welcome him, there would have been no need of the four hundred men. It seemed to him that Esau was like a captain coming with an army. Undoubtedly, Jacob thought that Esau was coming to smite him. Believing this, Jacob was forced to pray. After praying an excellent prayer, he divided his gift of cattle for Esau into nine droves. But he had no peace, because his problem was still directly in front of him. Therefore, as verses 22 and 23 say, "He rose up that night, and took his two wives, and his two womenservants, and his eleven sons, and passed over the ford Jabbok. And he took them, and sent them over the brook, and sent over that he had." After doing all this, Jacob was alone and was probably considering the situation further and wondering what to do in case Esau would attack him. Jacob's burden was heavy, his situation was serious, and he was desperate.
The Bible gives no indication that Jacob prayed when he was alone. Many times, when you are not troubled, you pray, but when you are deeply troubled, you do not pray. The more you are troubled, the less you pray. Because the trouble is difficult and the situation serious, you simply cannot pray. Why? Because you have not yet been knocked down. No matter how serious the problem is, you have not been knocked down. Like Jacob, on the one hand we cannot go on, but on the other hand we do not pray. Rather, we remain there and ponder the situation, asking ourselves what to do.
While Jacob was considering how to cope with his problem, much to his surprise, a man began to wrestle with him. I say again that we are not told that the man came and wrestled with him. The text simply says, "There wrestled a man with him." As we read this portion of the Word today, we immediately realize that this man was the Lord. But at the beginning of the wrestling, Jacob did not realize that the man was God. He might have thought that his assailant was one of Esau's four hundred men. When this man began to wrestle with him, Jacob refused to let him prevail. Perhaps Jacob said to himself, "This man has come to arrest me, but I will not let him do it."
At this point we need to ask four questions. First, why did the Lord as a man wrestle with Jacob? What was the need of this? When the Lord appeared to Abraham, He did so as the God of glory. But here we do not see that the Lord appeared to Jacob, but that He wrestled with him as a man. Second, why could the Lord, who is the Almighty, not prevail against Jacob, a little man? Third, why did the Lord wait so long before touching the hollow of Jacob's thigh? Why did He not do it at the very beginning? The Lord must have wrestled with Jacob for at least six hours, perhaps beginning at midnight and continuing until dawn. Why did the Lord tolerate this wrestling for so long? And fourth, why did the Lord refuse to tell Jacob His name? On many other occasions, the Lord revealed His name to people, telling them who He was. But here, after being asked by Jacob to reveal His name, He declined to tell him, keeping His name a secret. Although I do not claim to be able to give a complete answer to all these questions, we can, through our experience, at least partially answer them.
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