Scripture: Genesis 32:22-31; Psalm 17:1-7
This Sunday for the last sermon in our series, Trending, we are focusing on Jacob wrestling with God. The story begins with Jacob fleeing from his brother, Esau. In an attempt to escape, Jacob splits his group in half, first sending his wives and children across the Jabbok River. By nightfall, Jacob was preparing to make the trip himself when a random man appears out of nowhere and begins to wrestle with Jacob.
The big question that everyone asks is, “Who is this man wrestling with Jacob?” Is it just a normal human being? An angel or, perhaps, God himself? Well, there are some clues in this story that let us know who the man might be. The story indicates that it’s so dark that Jacob cannot see the man’s face. But as the sun begins to rise, the man asks Jacob to let him go. This is because, by tradition, the Hebrews believed that anyone who saw the face of God would die immediately.
There’s a very clear distinction in the scriptures: humans are allowed to see angels, but they are not allowed to see God. Therefore, if this man was an angel, the fact that the sun was coming up would make no difference to him. By contrast, if this man was God, then it would make a huge difference.
Another clue is that when the wrestling match is over, the scripture says, “So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, ‘For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.’” That word Peniel in Hebrew means ‘the face of God’ and when Jacob says ‘I have seen God face to face’, the Hebrew word for God in his statement is Elohim, the same master of forces who created the universe in Genesis chapter one. Therefore, the correct interpretation of this story is Jacob is wrestling with God in human form.
Why did I just spend all this time interpreting this story? This Sunday I’m going to discuss how this series was one of the most difficult I’ve ever had to preach and why the scripture of Jacob wrestling with God helps bring into focus the issues I’ve been dealing with during this series. I look forward to seeing you on Sunday and bringing this series to close. Have a great weekend!