New Connexions Free Church

Fisticuffs with God?

So we left Jacob last week, having had a really wow spiritual experience, not only had God spoken to him in a dream, but He’d promised Jacob the most amazing things.


And this week we’re going to fast-forward over a period of twenty years which is full of  serious action, things like:

Love, frustration, hard work, wheeling and dealing, deceitfulness, murder, rape, bigamy, and then we’ll pop back to look at another unusual nighttime meeting that Jacob has with God.


But before we get into the nitty-gritty, I wonder if you ever feel like you’re struggling with God, almost fighting with him, are there times when you feel like that, times when life feels too desperate or too lonely, or times when you find yourself saying to God yes, OK I know you want me to do this, but I want to do that…


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So we’ll flick through those next twenty years and eight chapters with the briefest of bullet points, and I hope that it’ll whet your appetite enough for you to read it to yourself at home (if anyone hasn’t got a bible, just let me know and I’ll find you one for next week).

  • So after the dream, Jacob gets up and hurries as fast as he can to see his Uncle Laban up north in Haran;
  • Now when he gets there he finds that Laban’s got a really cracking daughter called Rachael – a serious contender for Miss Middle East. Young Jacob’s eyes almost pop out when he see her and he thinks to himself, wow, now that is just what I came for, and so he strikes a bargain with Her dad – all Jacob has to do is work for him for 7 years then he can marry Rachael
  • So 7 years later there’s a wedding, but at this point the story starts to look more like an episode of  east enders, cos on the wedding night Uncle Laban swaps the seriously attractive Rachael, for the plain older sister Leah....
  • How Jacob managed to sleep with her without noticing is a good question, but that’s what he does.
  • Never mind says Laban, I tell you what we’ll do, if you promise to work for me for another 7 years you can have Rachael as well, think of it as buy one get one free.
  • In the end he marries both sisters, and ends up with a whole lot of children.
  • This is followed by a whole lot more wheeling and dealing between Laban and Jacob, and finally after 20 years and a bit of a barney Jacob, his huge family, livestock and servants head off back to Bethel where he came from.
  • Now going back home is great except it means that Jacob is going to have to face his brother Esau, the one he’d conned so badly that he’d had to scarper in the first place
  • But after a bit of drama it all turns out OK and the two brothers meet again as friends
  • Then just when you think oh good he’s nearly home he stops of at a town called schechem and has some more bother that would make east enders look like teletubbies, I’ll leave you to read about it but, i can tell you that it involves more deceit, rape and, a spot of mass murder.
  • But then we can breath a sigh of relief, because by the time we get to chapter 36 they’re settled at home ready for us to join them again next week, and find out a bit about Joseph and his Technicolor dream coat.


But for this week let’s turn back to something that happened to Jacob on his journey

Page 27 Gen 32: 23-31

23 After taking them to the other side, he sent over all his possessions. 24 This left Jacob all alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break. 25 When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”  27 “What is your name?” the man asked. He replied, “Jacob.” 28 “Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the man told him. “From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.”  29 “Please tell me your name,” Jacob said. “Why do you want to know my name?” the man replied. Then he blessed Jacob there. 30 Jacob named the place Peniel (which means “face of God”), for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared.” 31 The sun was rising as Jacob left Peniel, and he was limping because of the injury to his hip.


It’s the night before Jacob’s about to face the brother who was ready to tear him limb from limb 20 years ago and the poor old boy is absolutely petrified. He’s been doing his usual scheming and planning to try and stop the possible fisticuffs, he’s been busy working out what he can do... somehow he seems to have forgotten that what God had promised him in that dream, God had promised him that he would bless him and look after him.

But despite that you can see that Jacob is still ‘his own man’, he wants control, he wants to be boss, to do things his way and rely on his own quick thinking. I’m not saying he wasn’t serious about God, no he was happy to serve God; it’s just that most of the time, he only wants to serve him in an advisory capacity – is that the way you serve God sometimes?

Anyhow, Jacob is out in the middle of the country side at night, all alone, anxious, worried, uncertain, he’s all alone just him and his thoughts.

And then we read that, Jacob had a nightlong wrestling match with God. And if that’s not weird enough Jacob’s opponent is described as both a man and God – where have you ever heard that description of anyone before? Yes Jesus 100% man and 100% God...

And then even more oddly it looks like God loses, doesn’t it, look at verse 25 “when He saw He wouldn’t win”....


Well excuse me for being dense, but how can God possibly loose, I mean He’s God, so He’s more powerful than the whole universe put together!

Let’s just have a step back and look at this again...

Verse 24 says Jacob was all alone in the middle of the night; he’d just left behind him the recent trouble with Laban and ahead of him was his past come back to haunt him.

That’s where God met him, in the place where Jacob was alone, it was then that God got his attention. God’s trying to get your attention right here and right now, what is it that is crowding God out of your life? What is it that God is having to compete with, to wrestle with – Jacob wanted it both ways he wanted a celestial insurance policy and he wanted to be in charge. But in this experience God showed him what it was all about; God faced Jacob with the truth of who Jacob really was. Do you really want to let God be God in your life – do you really, or do you still want to be in control?

To sort Jacob out God wrestled with him until daybreak, I’ll ask you again, have you ever wrestled with God?

You know God will wrestle with you in order to get you to let go of those things which are causing you harm,

  • He’ll wrestle with you to chip away at all those rough edges
  • He’ll wrestle with you to pull up all those weeds that spring up in your life
  • He’ll wrestle with you to deal with your pride
  • He’ll wrestle with you to deal with your addictions
  • He’ll wrestle with you to deal with your self-centredness, your selfishness
  • He’ll wrestle with you to deal with your lack of commitment
  • He’ll wrestle with you to deal with your laziness
  • He’ll wrestle with you to deal with your whinging
  • He’ll wrestle with you to get you to see that He alone can rescue you from the abuse you’ve suffered, from the fear, from the pain, from the loneliness you cling to
  • He will wrestle with you until you get to the point where you know yourself so well that you cling to Him and say forgive me Jesus, I’ve been trying to live life as if you don’t matter, as if you don’t care, Lord please bless me and help me to be the person you made me to be...
  • And you know that after all that wrestling Jacob ended up with another blessing, and not only that but a new name a new description of who he really is, you see Jacob’s mum and dad had given him the name Jacob, a name which means “deceiver.”

But now, at this point when eventually Jacob has realised that He needs to keep hold of God and let go of himself, God gives him a new name, no longer is Jacob to be known as Jacob a schemer and deceiver, no now he is to be known as Israel, Israel means Prince of God, it means, God preserves, it means the power of God…


But God did something else to Jacob, before Jacob eventually saw sense; God wrenched his hip out of joint.

Why did He do that? Well because sometimes we are so sure of ourselves that God has to do something drastic to get our attention.

God has one aim with you and me and that is to help us to be the people He made us to be, to be someone who loves Him and knows that He loves you, and He will wrestles with you when He has to and if necessary He’ll leave you with an ongoing reminder to keep your focus in the right place…

I wonder has God got your attention yet?

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John Leaux

So why do people call their children Jacob??