Gentlemen, excuse me for a minute while I talk to the ladies. Ladies, have you been guilty of using female biology as an excuse to disobey the second greatest commandment? Remember, lying is sin! 🙂
Today we’ll also talk about the importance of prevailing in prayer as we continue Jacob’s Bible saga and how our faithful God is willing to reassure us when we have doubts.
Genesis 31 & 32
Genesis 31 & 32:
Hormones & obedience
Today we’ll talk about Jacob and his divine wrestling match, but first, I want to comment on a couple of other passages. In Gen. 31.16-20 and 31.35 we see these two sisters, Jacob’s wives, express belief in God, “… whatever God has said to you, do it.” The next thing we know Rachel has stolen her father’s household gods—idols! It seems so ridiculous that once she knew the truth she could think there was any power in something made by man’s hands! And yet, don’t we come up with our own manmade solutions instead of waiting on and trusting God?
Maybe, she “kind of believed.” How else could she explain how Jacob prospered in spite Laban’s schemes? Maybe she found it hard to leave behind her family “traditions”? Remember many of the pagan people believed in many gods, not just one. Maybe she didn’t want to “burn any bridges” with those other “gods.”
Again, what about us? Do we say we trust God on the one hand, but “not burn our bridges” on the other? What are you hanging on to “just in case”?
And this one’s for us, ladies, verse 35, “And she said to her father, ‘Let it not displease my lord that I cannot rise before you, for the manner of women is with me.'” Rachel used the fact that it was “that time of the month” to cover her sin!
God knows we have hormonal issues. He created us that way, but He promised in 1 Corinthians 10.13, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man (or woman); but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”
God does not give us more than we can handle as long as we rely on His grace. He said, “you may be able to bear it!” The word “may” there is not tentative; it doesn’t mean “might.” It’s definite! PMS, menopause, none of it gives us a right or excuse to break God’s commandments. That means we can be patient and kind (1 Cor. 13.4), not use unwholesome speech (Eph. 4.29), and respond with grace instead of anger (Eph. 4.31-32), in spite of how we feel! Yet we sometimes struggle to obey the second greatest one, to love others (Matt. 22.39), when our hormones are going crazy.
Now to 32.24-32—Jacob’s wrestling match.
Jacob’s wrestling match
Jacob was on his way home. He had sent his wives and children ahead so that he could be alone. According to Matthew Henry (http://www.studylight.org/com/mhm/view.cgi?bk=0&ch=32), he was “full of care and fear” about this meeting with his brother. Remember he had fled from him in fear of his life twenty years ago. And, although there had been information exchanged (Jacob was aware that his father was still alive—31.18), he had not seen Esau since he fled.
While camped along the journey, Jacob wrestled with the “Angel of the Lord,” actually, the pre-incarnate Christ. God allowed Jacob to struggle in prayer and with tears, but notice even when it was hard, Jacob didn’t quit. Also realize that if God wanted to prevail against Jacob He could have crushed him like a bug. This was “a mild opposing” to build spiritual muscle, much like a sparring partner might when training a boxer. God was using the struggle to strengthen his faith.
Matthew Henry (http://www.studylight.org/com/mhm/view.cgi?bk=0&ch=32) says that God touched his hip and put it out of joint (32.25) to prove that He was indeed God. No one else could do that with just a touch. But that it was “a divine touch which wounded and healed at the same time.”
This is a great picture of prayer. Like Jacob, we need to be willing to continue in prayer, sometimes with tears, over an extended period of time. And sometimes we have “battle scars” because of it.
Even though Jacob had to wrestle through these things, it was God in him who would also strengthen him to prevail. Romans 8.26-27 says, “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.”
It was also important for Jacob to understand that it was God and God alone who was sovereignly working in all of this. Remember he had spent twenty years in the middle of a pagan culture. He needed to see his weakness and God’s greatness. Paul said, “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12.10).
This out of joint hip was to be a constant reminder to Jacob of his encounter with God and to remind him of the need to trust in and rely on God alone. In the same way, God gave Paul a thorn in the flesh, “Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself!” (2 Cor. 12.7). When we find success and receive blessing from God we can so easily get puffed up with pride, thinking it was because of something worthwhile in us.
So if you seem to be wrestling with God over something, stay faithful, persevere, know that God is working in you, as well as, through you. “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5.16b). Luke told us to always pray and not to faint, cave in or give up (Lk. 18.1).
Worthy of praise
Verse 9, “O LORD, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth!” God and God alone is worthy to receive all our praise!
All by His wisdom
Why is it so difficult for us at times to accept God’s wisdom as superior to our own? Think about these verses.
19 The LORD by wisdom founded the earth;
By understanding He established the heavens;
20 By His knowledge the depths were broken up,
And clouds drop down the dew.
The wisdom, which we sometimes reject, contains the thoughts and intents and purposes and understanding of the God who created the world and everything we see! “What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?” (Ps. 8.4). We should be amazed at His mercy and grace and patience with us!
When we need reassurance
I couldn’t help but think about the beautiful picture in verses 2-6 and how it fits with what we’ve been talking about in Genesis. Here faithful John the Baptist is in prison, probably tired and cold, maybe wondering if it’s all worth it and just wanting to be sure he’s not going through this for nothing. He sends two of his disciples to Jesus and asks, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” In other words are you really Him?
Notice that Jesus doesn’t scold him, but sends the messengers back to reassure him. He does so by using the truths of Scripture. He tells him what is happening outside the prison and how it is the fulfillment of prophecy. “Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Go and tell John the things which you hear and see. The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.’” (vv. 4-6).
Jesus goes on to tell the crowds, “Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist …” As we wait on God, we too can ask him for reassurance and confirmation and He will speak to our hearts, most often through His Word … if we will but read it with open hearts.
I’d like to comment on one more verse from this chapter. Verse 13, “For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.” Matthew Henry (http://www.studylight.org/com/mhm/view.cgi?bk=39&ch=11) says that, “John was as the loop that coupled the two Testaments.” Things had changed. Before John, God spoke through the Law and the Prophets. Both pointed to the need for a Savior. Now God would speak through Jesus His Living Word and through the written Word both the Old and New Testaments.
May God bless you as you read and study and, at times, wrestle in prayer and with tears,