From Richard Roberts:
So Jacob was left alone. Then a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he could not defeat Jacob, he struck the socket of his hip so the socket of Jacob's hip was dislocated while he wrestled with him. Then the man said, "Let me go, for the dawn is breaking." "I will not let you go," Jacob replied, "unless you bless me." The man asked him, "What is your name?" He answered, "Jacob." "No longer will your name be Jacob," the man told him, "but Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have prevailed." Then Jacob asked, "Please tell me your name." "Why do you ask my name?" the man replied. Then he blessed Jacob there. So Jacob named the place Peniel, explaining, "Certainly I have seen God face to face and have survived." The sun rose over him as he crossed over Penuel, but he was limping because of his hip.
Wrestling through towards brokenness. Jacob wrestled to win, but he only won by giving up asking for a blessing from the greater one, in clinging and not letting go. His hip was dislocated, but he clung to the Lord. He would not let go. He asked for the blessing of knowing him, of the intimacy, of hearing his name exchanged. Yet, God would not give him his name, but only the reality of his presence.
Jacob was changed in this painful brokenness of wrestling with God. The deceiver was defeated, yet won. The cheater and coward was promised by God to be a prevailer. His prayer concerning God’s covenant was answered by God Himself, through wrestling and the powerlessness of a heavy limp. So, he goes to meet his estranged brother with no power. Here is where the Lord works: in our brokenness in our confrontations with Him, so that He will be our answer, our all. His covenant promise is our food, His Word our bread, and His powerful presence our delightful wine. Only when we wrestle with Who He is and have him defeat our own self-impressed wisdom will we find the powerful presence of the Lord has lifted us up and emboldened us in joy, gratitude, and hope.
Wrestling is painful, exhausting, tireless work. You do not give a little when you wrestle, you give it everything you’ve got and you cannot give up until you get your desire. It is the same way when we wrestle with God. Are we giving everything that we’ve got in us to know Him? To really understand the revelation of Himself: the Word of God? Are we struggling to understand His Word so greatly that we could call it striving? Wrestling? Or, do we just define “who God is” based upon what is easiest for us to understand? Are we in danger of defining God the way that WE think He should be, rather than as He has revealed Himself to be in His Word?! I fear that we have! We do not want to wrestle, we would rather just let things go and “be at peace,” which isn’t really peace at all but merely an absence of conflict. For Jacob, the revelation was through the conflict, through the pain, through the suffering of the wrestling that He knew himself and His God. And his life was forever altered for his better.
Let’s not run from the wrestling. Let the Word of God conflict with our spirits until we KNOW HIM, truly KNOW Him as He has revealed Himself in Scripture. In the midst of this strange and evil time, of the slowness and the abnormal, let us wrestle together to know Him! Let’s debate and wrestle with Scripture together to know Him! Now, let’s not debate without Scripture, or wrestle on any other basis than Scripture, for that is nonsense and useless conflict. But, to wrestle to know God in His revealed Word…let’s do it. Why? Because I want to know God more and I hope that you do, too!
May it be that I am misunderstanding who God is because I have defined him and interpreted Him according to my own experience or comforts? Yes!! A resounding yes! I need you to challenge me with His Word! Bring me to the mat of His Word, where He will contend with my faulty understandings and bring His powerful and effective Word to bear upon my stubborn and sinful heart! I want to know, really know, the depth of His love, the hope of my calling, the glory of the riches of His heritage, and the surpassing greatness of His power!
We will come away from wrestling with Him with a limp, but we will come away having seen Him, known Him better, and loving Him more deeply. Isn’t this what you want?! This is really living, really resting, really worshipping. This is the clinging of the soul to the soul’s delight…God Himself.
My friends, as we wrestle together we will also learn to love each other. As we disagree with gentleness, compassion, grace, and contend with Scripture, we will deepen our understanding and affection for one another. We are all seeking the Lord together, to know Him and honor Him, to love Him and worship Him. We do not disagree with contempt, but rather with love. We speak the truth to one another in love. We set each other’s bones straight when we have wandered from the truth, for the purpose of healing and restoration, for seeing Jesus again. This is the purpose of our wrestling. Can we wrestle with each other like this? Wrestle, disagree with purpose and teamwork toward knowing God better, each of us realizing that neither of us has it all together, but that we both desperately need to know God more? To see Him more clearly and love Him more dearly? If we can agree on this, then we can wrestle together in love. Can we be humble in our pursuit of God and acknowledge that we have much yet to learn? Can we be bold enough to confront each other humbly where the Word speaks and then humble enough to leave each other with the Word and let God wrestle with the other? Can we do this? Can we reveal our messiness and glory in our Savior together? Can we let our own righteousness fall to the wayside and let the gracious and passive righteousness of Christ be our grounding, our rock, our security? Can we trust the Lord with our brokenness and failures and ignorance and pride?
The important thing is to cling to Jesus, to cling to Jesus together!
Pursue Him, run after Him, let Him contend with you. It’s for your good.