2014-08-22 - Extremem Wrestling
This has been a gimpy summer for my household. I rolled my ankle in late May. Jordan was out of commission for more than three weeks with a sprained ankle in late July. Then I turned around and sprained mine July 19, as Jordan was healing up. Three days later, the daily devotional in a magazine I read, was entitled "Where's Your Limp?" So it really grabbed my attention. That devotional discussed a passage in the Bible, that I want to share with you today. So let me tell you the story about an extreme wrestling match in the Bible, that left one man permanently injured. But first a side note or, as I like to call them, a squirrel to chase.
I poke fun at Southern accents, although I have one, but I found out there is a difference between wrestling and rasslin'. I had hoped to find some jab about us Southerners but instead, i found out that there is a real difference. Rasslin' refers to a Southern style of professional wrestling which emphasizes staged "reality," with fewer squash matches and generally longer feuds. It was synonymous with the NWA-affiliated promotions. Rasslin' included TV tapings at smaller venues, as compared to the larger and more well-known arenas utilized by northern U.S. promotions such as the AWA and WWF. The term is derived from a phonetic spelling of how the word "wrestling" sounds, when spoken with a heavy Southern accent. It is also commonly used in a derogatory manner by non-Southern wrestling fans, to describe that style of wrestling. When Ted Turner purchased Jim Crockett Promotions in 1988, he allegedly called Vince McMahon to tell him that he was now in the"rasslin'" business. McMahon allegedly differentiated his company's style by responding, "That's great, Ted. I'm in the entertainment business."
So now, let me tell you the story about an extreme wrestling match in the Bible, that left one man permanently injured. In the first corner, we have Jacob. Jacob had tricked his brother Esau and father out of the birthright and blessing. To say Esau was miffed would be putting it lightly so Jacob high-tailed it out of town, and moved faraway, when his father passed away. He had done very well over the years, and now God told him in Genesis 31, "Return to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you." So Jacob was heading back, but he was scared. He sent some messengers ahead, and they come back in Genesis 32, reporting that "Esau is coming out to meet you with 400 men." It's starting to sound like some serious smack-down battle-royale is about to happen, as two rival gangs throw down or something. I imagine Jacob's really scared by now, so he cooks up a plan. He splits all his possessions up with a few groups of servants, who are going out before him with sheep and cows, to give them to Esau as presents. Then he and his family will follow them all, and hopefully all will be well, by the time sheep and servants have buttered him up. With the plan in place, Jacob lies down for the night, and that's when the wrestling match begins.
It is not against his brother; the fight is Jacob against God. Jacob and God physically fight. Let's read the story, over in Genesis 32.
Genesis 32:22-32 (NASB) 22 Now he arose that same night and took his two wives and his two maids and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 He took them and sent them across the stream. And he sent across whatever he had. 24 Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. [Author's Note: A brief pause here to say the man is the pre-incarnate Jesus unbeknownst to Jacob.] 25 When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob's thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, "Let me go, for the dawn is breaking." But he said, "I will not let you go unless you bless me." 27 So he said to him, "What is your name?" And he said, "Jacob." 28 He said, "Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed." 29 Then Jacob asked him and said, "Please tell me your name." But he said, "Why is it that you ask my name?" And he blessed him there. 30 So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, "I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved." 31 Now the sun rose upon him just as he crossed over Penuel, and he was limping on his thigh. 32 Therefore, to this day the sons of Israel do not eat the sinew of the hip which is on the socket of the thigh, because he touched the socket of Jacob's thigh in the sinew of the hip.
There are three things I want us to see about this encounter with God, things that I believe are applicable to us as well.
First, God initiated the contact. In my mind, Jacob is scared, and God has come down in person, to encourage him. Maybe God startled Jacob, and he jumps up, defending himself. I don't know ,but God initiating the contact is the first point. God cares how we feel. God initiates the contact with us. This is an encounter with God in the flesh, the preincarnate Jesus. Jesus came down to the world, but the world wrestled with him. We do not go to him he comes to us. He cares enough to come to us. In other religions, we have to work to make it to the heavens, but Christianity says we cannot possibly work hard enough, so he brings the heavens to us.
Second, Jacob escalated the encounter. We want things our way in our time. God started it but Jacob I think escalated it; he turned it into the wrestling match. God may have come for a chat but he startled Jacob so he started wrestling with him; that's just what Jacob knew to do. He was a wrestler. It had begun when he was in the womb with his twin according to Genesis 25:22. Jacob's family was dysfunctional each parent strongly favored a different twin and he fought for position. He tricked and was tricked. He was a con artist, a liar, and a manipulator doing whatever it took to make his way through life. He fought for what he had. In fact, the name Jacob means "deceiver" and more literally "heel grabber". He grabbed his brother's heel coming out at birth as you may recall. Hosea 12:4 records, "Yes, he wrestled with the angel and prevailed; He wept and sought His favor." Frederick Buechner calls this match the "magnificent defeat of the human soul at the hands of God". At some point, I think he realized whom he was wrestling but he kept it up, as he was demanding a blessing from God. God you'll do it my way or I'm going to get you. That sounds ridiculous doesn't it?
In the end, God's still gonna do what God's gonna do. That brings me to the third point; God ended the encounter. God's going to end it. With both Jacob's appearance and the later Bethlehem appearance - in the end - God still accomplished what he wanted to do. He had to hurt Jacob to get him to let go, but he still assured him that things would be okay. Christ was killed but, even in death and subsequent resurrection, he assures us that it will be okay. God blessed him, but also hurt his leg, to serve as a reminder of his encounter and his need to yield to God. We must likewise yield to God.
As Charles Swindoll puts it, "We must cease striving and must trust God to provide what he thinks is best, and in whatever time He chooses to make it available. But this kind of trusting doesn't come naturally. It's a spiritual crisis of the will, in which we must choose to exercise faith."
I don't remember where I snagged this quote from, now, but I liked it. "Though we may fight God and His will for us, in truth, God is so very good. As believers in Christ, we may well struggle with Him through the loneliness of night, but by daybreak His blessing will come." Every dark Friday night has a bright Sunday morning just around the corner. Jacob, the old man, wrestled with God and others, for everything he wanted. Then he encountered God, and his life changed forever. Israel, the new man, realized God would provide and would keep his promises. Do you depend on God, or do you depend on yourself? Don't make God take you to the mat, to learn his goodness.
All scripture references are from the KJV unless otherwise noted.