Wrestling with God
I have reached that point in Rachel's story (current work-in-progress) where Jacob wrestles with a man all through the night. During the process, Jacob is injured and he walks with a limp the rest of his life. (Read the story in Genesis 32.) Some commentators think that the man Jacob wrestled with was an angel, others suggest some kind of magical being. But the man told Jacob, "Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” And Hosea 12:3-4 reminds us, "In the womb he took his brother by the heel, and in his manhood he strove with God. He strove with the angel and prevailed; he wept and sought his favor."
So based on what the Scripture tells us, I side with those who believed he wrestled with God.
Jacob's experience in Scripture is unique. There is no other recorded instance (to my knowledge) of a man or woman physically wrestling with an angel or the angel of God. What was that like? As I envisioned the scene, I imagined a modern wrestling match. But when I read Hosea, it says Jacob wept and sought the angel's favor. (Jacob would not release the man until the man blessed him.) But to weep for it?
I can imagine a lot of emotion that went on in that wrestling. And in that I can relate.
It seems interesting to me that the people of Scripture are not so different than we are today. They faced similar struggles. And as with Jacob, some of us spend our whole lives grappling for that next thing, striving to achieve, scheming to get our way, or maybe just doing everything we can to please other people. Perhaps, like Jacob, we longed for a parent's approval, but took second best to a sibling. (Hazard of parents playing favorites.) Or perhaps we faced issues with our in-laws or had to match wits with someone who knew how to grapple and scheme and strive better than we did.
Whatever the case, we all know what it means to struggle. Sometimes life smacks us in the face and we are put in positions that overwhelm us and are completely beyond our control. (Think Jacob and Esau's reunion.) We have no where to turn but God. And we have no guarantees that God will do as we ask. The truth is, Jacob wept and sought God's favor, and God granted it. But Hebrews tells us that Esau also wept and sought to regain the blessing he'd lost, but despite his tears did not receive it.
"See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears." (Hebrews 12:16-17)
Perhaps the difference in the response to these two came as a result of their heart attitudes. Jacob sought God's favor. Despite his past and his deceptive ways, he recognized his need of a Savior. He knew he needed God, and though it may have taken that wrestling match to bring him to fully realize it, he did, he wept, and he admitted his need.
Esau didn't see his need for God. (Hebrews calls him godless.) He only wept over the consequences of his actions and wanted to escape them. He lost the birthright and the blessing and wanted them back. He represents the one who gets caught and is sorry he got caught not repentant of the actions that brought him there.
Jacob wrestled with God over sin, over his need of God's favor and blessing. He saw himself for who he was, and he knew he didn't measure up to God's standards. Esau did not wrestle with anything, at least not anything recorded, rather he gave into his appetites and pleasures with little thought to the future.
The apostle Paul sums up this struggle in different words in Ephesians 6:12 when he says, "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places."
And that was the real test of Jacob's versus Esau's struggle. In this present darkness, we wrestle. And God will meet us there when we do.