Formations lesson for Aug. 24: Face to Face - Wrestling with God
August 7 2003 by Tommy Bratton , Genesis 32:22-32; 33:1-10

Formations lesson for Aug. 24: Face to Face - Wrestling with God | Thursday, Aug. 7, 2003

Thursday, Aug. 7, 2003

Formations lesson for Aug. 24: Face to Face - Wrestling with God

By Tommy Bratton Genesis 32:22-32; 33:1-10

When I think back on my faith journey, the times I have experienced God most powerfully are times I have struggled with worry. In times of sickness, of relationship problems, of work-related stress, my prayers have been more real and my confession more urgent. Crisis prompts our wrestling with God.

The Encounter with God

(Genesis 32:22-26)

The text for today continues the story of Jacob on the way to meet his estranged brother Esau. Jacob encountered God in the form of a mysterious man who wrestled him throughout the night. Jacob had sent his family and his possessions across the stream of the Jabbok, while he remained behind. Though Jacob was left alone, he was not alone for long. The scripture says that a man wrestled with Jacob, but was unable to prevail against him. However, the man injured Jacob and all Jacob could do was hold on to his opponent. Jacob told the faceless man that he would let go only if the man blessed him.

Jacob's wrestling with God mirrors our own story of wrestling with the divine. When we look deep within ourselves, we are confronted with our frantic need for forgiveness. We recognize that we have often taken God's blessings for granted. We have manipulated others to gain the benefits of God's promise. We have treated God's grace as cheap, believing that we may act as we please.

In these times of crisis, we realize as Jacob did that the blessing of God can be obtained solely from God, and it can only be done in complete dependence, hanging on with all the strength we have, desperate for the blessing and the forgiveness that God alone can give.

In wrestling with God for God's blessing, Jacob proved that he cared about God's promises. He showed that he cared about his relationship with God, that he expected God to answer his prayer and to protect him and forgive him. He would not take no for an answer.

Wrestling with God always changes us; we are never the same again. Jacob took on a new name and was left with both a blessing and a limp. The limp was a reminder to him that when you have a confrontation with God, you will never walk the same way again.

From Trickster to Blessed

(Genesis 32:27-32)

"I will not let you go until you bless me," Jacob demanded of his opponent. But before blessing Jacob, the man changed Jacob's name to "Israel." The name Jacob meant "supplanter," and Jacob had lived up to his name by tricking Esau and Isaac in order to obtain the birthright and the blessing. Now, the man called him Israel, meaning "he struggled with God."

Following the confrontation, Jacob reflected on the struggle, amazed that he has seen the face of God. Nowhere in the text are we told that Jacob saw the man's face. In fact, the man desired to leave before daylight. But Jacob recognized the divine nature of his encounter. God had blessed him, forgiven him and promised to be his protection. Jacob has seen God in a new way.

The Encounter with Esau

The morning after the encounter with God, Jacob and Esau moved toward a tension-filled meeting. Jacob approached his brother, bowing down seven times with humility reminiscent of the prodigal son coming before his father. Esau, like the prodigal son's father, ran to meet Jacob, embraced and kissed him. What relief they both must have felt!

Jacob offered presents to Esau to seek his favor. Esau politely refused but Jacob insisted, saying, "Truly to see your face is like seeing the face of God." In the encounter with God, there is a parallel of the estranged brother. And in the forgiveness of Esau, there is something akin to the blessing God bestowed.


The love of God and love of brother belong together. God and Jacob were brought together. Jacob and Esau were brought together. It was not easy. There was conflict and pain, but there was also reconciliation and blessing.

Kyle Matthews has a song with these words: "Love that comes easy will easily give up. When we fail love, we've got to trust the love that won't fail us." May we trust in God's love to restore us to one another.

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8/7/2003 12:00:00 AM by Tommy Bratton , Genesis 32:22-32; 33:1-10 | with 0 comments
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