Jacob Wrestles with God | Genesis 32

Week 8 | Study Guide & Sermon

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” (Genesis 32:28-30)

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

OPENING THOUGHT

Jacob’s entire life was one big wrestling match. First, he wrestled with his brother for the firstborn birthright, and he overcame Esau by deceiving their father into thinking that Jacob was actually Esau. Jacob was then forced to flee from Esau’s murderous anger, so he traveled long way to his mother’s homeland. There he found his wife, Rachel, whom he loved greatly, but he was also tricked by his father-in-law, Laban, into marrying Rachel’s less attractive older sister, Leah. Polygamous family drama ensued, but eventually, Jacob resigned to leave Laban and return to his father’s land. After much conflict with Laban, Jacob was finally free to return home.

But Jacob knew that his homecoming would not be pleasant. Even after twenty years, he still feared his brother’s wrath. As we will read today, Esau coming to meet Jacob with 400 men behind him did nothing to calm Jacob’s anxiety. Jacob prays for God’s deliverance, and then he sends more than 550 animals in five waves as gifts for Esau, hoping to appease his brother’s anger. Finally, after Jacob has sent his livestock, servants, children, and wives across the river, he is left alone for the night to prepare for meeting his brother in the morning. But Jacob gets no sleep because he spends all night wrestling an unknown assailant.

This wrestling match plot twist is the clear highlight of this chapter, especially when Jacob realizes that he wrestled with God. It marks the most dramatic moment of Jacob’s life. With Laban behind him and Esau before him, Jacob was surrounded by enemies. He could no longer simply run away from conflicts. He would need to confront them. And God tops it off by physically fighting Jacob throughout the night. Displaying incredible perseverance, Jacob demands that God bless him, but lest we think that Jacob “beat” God, the LORD with a touch knocks Jacob’s hip out of joint. And after realizing who his opponent was, Jacob concludes that he is alive only by God’s mercy. Having encountered God, Jacob leaves limping and weakened but with a new name and a deeper faith in the One whose power is made perfect in our weakness.

Read verses 1-21 and discuss the following.

  1. After learning that Esau is approaching with 400 men, Jacob’s responds by praying for God’s protection. What might we able to learn from Jacob’s fearful, but God-honoring, prayer in verses 9-12?
  2. In hopes of appeasing his brother, Jacob sends drove after drove of animals (550 in total) as gifts for Esau. Did Jacob do this out of fear or faith? Why is it important that we do everything from faith?

Read verses 22-32 and discuss the following.

  1. God appears and begins wrestling with Jacob only when Jacob is alone. Why are silence and solitude important? What most hinders you from taking time to be alone with God?
  2. Even though Jacob appears to prevail in the fight, the mysterious wrestler is able to dislocate Jacob’s hip with a mere touch. Jacob survived only because of the mercy of God, and he walked away with a limp and a new name. Like Jacob’s limp, why is it important for God to reveal the depth of our weakness? What is the significance of receiving a new name?

ACTIONS TO CONSIDER

  • Obey. Just like God found Jacob when he was alone, schedule out time this week to spend in solitude with God, praying and reading the Scriptures.
  • Pray. Take cues from Jacob’s prayer in verses 9-12. Spend a few minutes acknowledging God and then a few moments confessing sin and weakness. Next, take your anxieties and requests to the Father in prayer, knowing that He is faithful and just to hear us.
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