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Aug.19 Genesis Study

Categories: Genesis Study,News

Genesis 32:1-32

Life’s struggle”

I.) Intro.

II. Vs. 1-12 Ready to surrender

III. Vs. 13-32 Pinning your “self” down

I.) Intro.


There is perhaps no greater chapter in all the Bible that illustrates the death of the old nature then the one before us. Three times in scripture Paul uses the phrase “old man” in reference to our flesh:

  1. Rom. 6:5-6 “For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.”

  2. Eph 4:21-24 “you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.”

  3. Col. 3:8-10 “But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him,”

Jacob in this story is a representation of the “old man” and that has nothing to do with his age being 90. It has everything to do with his fighting against the Lord, in this chapter he is going to lose the battle and in so doing he will win the war against himself! God is going to allow Jacob to wrestle, putting every effort imaginable to win. Yet God is going to cripple him so that Jacob would gain victory over himself and rule with God.

II. Vs. 1-12 Ready to surrender

Vs. 1-2 When Jacob was 70 he left home for the first time as a self-reliant man that had been defeat by his own schemes. Twenty years later he is returning as a wealthy man who has met the Lord twenty years earlier but he is still a self-reliant man. This is the third time that Jacob will encounter angels:

  1. 28:12 Twenty years when he first met the Lord at Bethel.

  2. 31:11 When the Lord spoke to him about going back to the land of promise.

  3. 32:1 Here Jacob comes back into the land he sees them again.

The common denominator in each of these three encounters is that each time God sends His angels to meet him and confirm the direction, God has him going. In a time of great uncertainty this was a needed thing.

It seems as though these angels just show up but what changed is not the angels but Jacob’s eyes being opened to them being there. Man what a great encouragement this must have been.

Vs. 3-6 It is interesting to see Jacob send out his messengers right after God had sent him His. It seems as though Jacob wants to make right the wrong he did 20 years earlier. Several things point to this:

  1. Thus your servant Jacob says”: Servant? My lord Esau? Twenty years earlier Esau had sworn to kill him and now Jacob humbles himself before his brother. Perhaps Jacob had gained insight from being a victim of Laban’s deceptions and now wanted to make it right.

  2. I have dwelt with Laban and stayed there until now. I have oxen, donkeys, flocks, and male and female servants”: In other words I’ve done my time and I am not coming back to claim what I stole from you, even though their father had given it to him.

Verse six tells us that the messengers come back with news that Esau is coming to meet him with 400 men. It is not difficult to see these words from Jacob’s eyes, Esau was a man of the sword and he has gathered 400 men of like mind to settle the score. Jacob had wanted to know if he had “found favor in Esau’s eyes” and the thought of 400 men coming with a man that swore to kill him seems to have answered the question. Mom had told him twenty years earlier in 27:45 that she would send word when Esau cooled down and she had never contacted him.

Now let’s put this back into the context of the angels encamped around him and the assurance of chapter 28:15 where the Lord had promised to never leave him and bring him back into the land of promise. We have two things that seem to be mutually exclusive and opposite.

  • God’s word and promise, which were just reinforced with angels, encamped around him

  • And the haunts of past failures seen in circumstances that look bad.

So which one do you believe God’s Word or the situation? Is it not amazing how we can be so assured of God and His Word one moment and completely overwhelmed in a situation the next?

Vs. 7-12 The word “distressed” here means to be tightly pressed. The squeeze was on the sleaze Jacob and he was buckling under it. So he decides on a twofold course of action:

  1. Vs. 7-8 He divides his camp: He splits in half the people and animals. His reasoning is worldly sound: If Esau attacks one camp then the other will have time to escape. The word for “two” in the Hebrew is the same word used to describe the angels in circling him. Perhaps he thought this was the point of the angels? It was not wrong to divide the camp but the motivation was fear and not faith, well did Shakespeare say, “Conscience does make cowards of us all!” How many of us are crippled by our past? We won’t believe that Jesus has really settled all our accounts?

  2. Vs. 9-12 He prays: When all else fails pray seems to be his motto. Instead it should have been “Pray, no matter what fails”. He has four parts to his prayer that ought to serve as a model:

  1. Vs. 9 He remembers God’s Word: Back in chapters 28:13-15 and 31:3 God had spoken these promises to him and now Jacob recites them back to God holding onto them. Much of our prayer ought to be scripture as we appropriate what God has already promised towards us. It is because we fail to do this that we are often in a panic over what is already our in Christ.

  2. Vs. 10 He is thankful: In chapter 31:42 Jacob had thought that he was blessed based upon his own effort now he sees himself as not worthy. Literally this reads, “I have always been too little and I still am”. It took something greater then himself for him to realize that he had always been little. Now Jacob is thankful for what God has done instead of thinking it was because of him it was now in spite of him. Jacob is approaching God not on his faithfulness but rather upon God’s faithfulness.

  3. Vs. 11 He is honest: Jacob’s prayer is spoken in honesty as he asks God to deliver him because he is afraid, there is no con, no sugar coating his words just honesty and confession. Hey, why not try telling God the truth when we pray, it’s not as if He doesn’t know the truth anyway!

  4. Vs. 12 He rests upon God’s Word: The bulkhead, the rock in which Jacob makes his stand is the promises God has made to him and his grandfather Abraham. By faith Jacob now appropriated them to himself. George Mueller was once asked what the most important part of prayer was, he answered, “The 15 minutes after I have said Amen!” No matter how great the prayer was, how much you spoke from your heart, no matter how much you believed it when the words were on your lips, the truth of what you believe is what you will do with what when you have stopped praying. Prayer always changes things and the first thing it ought to change is us!

III. Vs. 13-32 Pinning your “self” down

Vs. 13-20 At first glance this is a cleaver strategy as sending gifts in waves (verses 13-16) to Esau which no doubt was to send a message that he was a changed man. He was now a guy that would rather give then receive, serve rather than rule. All he wanted was to be a blessing and not to come and get blessed.

Yet as true as that is we can also see a lack of trust in the Lord. First off we have his own words in verse 20, “I will appease him with the present that goes before me, and afterward I will see his face; perhaps he will accept me.” Jacob’s concern is not with Esau accepting him rather it is in the fear that he won’t. If Jacob trusted the Lord as he had prayed where in this procession do you suppose he would have been, at the head of it or at the end of it? There is that wonderful old hymn “I surrender all” perhaps if Jacob wrote it one of the stances would have went, “I surrender all the goats, and if that is not enough I surrender all the sheep and if that is not enough I’ll surrender the camels as well!” That which needed to be surrendered was not what Jacob owned but rather the ownership of his heart!

Vs. 21-23 Jacob sends the presents over in waves then at night sends his wives and children over the river Jabbok which means “wrestler” which was taken from the event about to take place. The river is about 25 miles from where they camped and was only 30 feet wide and waste deep. Jacob is left all-alone with only himself and his fears.

Vs. 24-25 Notice the wording here carefully, who was it that wrestled with whom? It was a Man that wrestled with Jacob and not the other way around. So who was this man? Well we are told:

  1. Vs. 30 “I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.” Clearly Jacob believes that the Man who wrestled with him was God.

  2. Hosea 12:3-5 “He took his brother by the heel in the womb, and in his strength he struggled with God. Yes, he struggled with the Angel and prevailed; He wept, and sought favor from Him. He found Him in Bethel, and there He spoke to us; that is, the LORD God of hosts. The LORD is His memorable name.”

The only conclusion we can make is that the Man in whom Jacob wrestled was none other than a pre-incarnate manifestation of Jesus. One of the great tragedies in modern Christianity is all the effort we do in the energy of the flesh. We use techniques that our old nature is inclined to use. Far too often the Church does not pray and trust God to change hearts instead it tries to outmaneuver our opposition. The Prophet Zechariah spoke saying, “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts.” In verses 25-26 I see three ways to obtain spiritual victory:

  1. Vs. 25 Recognize our own inadequacy: From Jacob’s perspective he and the Lord were pretty evenly matched but that was in appearance only. Amazingly we wonder how Jacob was able to keep up his strength until day break but when we consider ourselves many of us have been wrestling with the Lord over areas of our lives for years. When the Lord just touched Jacob’s hip he was completely defeated and helpless. Notice that it says that the Lord “did not prevail” and not that He “could not prevail”. That means that God wanted to take the “fight” out of Jacob and get him to quit trying to do things in his own strength. The scene reminds me of wrestling with a three year old. Now they may think they are winning but the truth is at a second they are defeated. We obtain spiritual victory the moment we are at the end of ourselves, when we see the futility of using our own strength to obtain what can only be ours when we trust Him. Why was it Jacob’s hip? When the hip is out of place a person cannot stand. Paul would say in 1 Cor 10:12 “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”

  2. Vs. 26 Trust only in what God has promised: Jacob only asked what the Lord had promised which was to bless him. It was God’s word that Jacob wanted to claim.

  3. Vs. 26 Held onto to God: Jacob had come to the end of himself and was hopeless and helpless. So he did what we all must cling to the Lord. He was finally totally dependent upon the Lord and it only took 90 years to get there. It is of the greatest importance that we come to the place where we are conquered and broken by the Lord. Jacob now knew practically what he knew intellectually God was mightier than he. Hosea 12:4 tells us that Jacob sought God’s blessing as “He wept” he was defeated but because he had lost he won!

Vs. 27-32 God asks Jacob his name which forces he to deal with his own failures. “I’m a con-man, a sneak and a manipulator that’s who I am Lord.” For the first time in his life Jacob saw who his real enemy was, it was not his father or Esau nor was it Laban, it was the person who stared back at him in the mirror every day. Upon that confession God changes his name to Israel. In Hebrew this is the combining of two words “rule” and “God”, some versions make God the object of the verb “rule” instead of the subject but in the Hebrew it is not so. For instance Daniel is the combining of Judge and God but you would not interpret this Judges God rather God judges. So too here it ought not to be “rules with God” or as some have it “prince with God” instead it ought to be “God rules”! God changed Jacob’s name from Jacob rule to God rules! This is how Jacob “prevailed” he endured through the struggle until he was thoroughly whipped and in losing he won. We must never give up until we have lost! Jacob has two memorials one spiritual the other practical:

  1. The river where he was baptized into his own death and it was this death that caused him to know that he had seen the face of God

  2. Jacob was given a continual limp so that every step he would take the rest of his life would remind him that he needed to do so in God’s strength and not his own!