Jacob and the Angel: Wrestling God

jacob wrestles godTITLE: Wrestling God

SUBJECT: Humility/Growth/Moral Development

PROPOSITION: We are wrestling God too. What does it mean to wrestle with God, and how do we win?: 1) We are wrestling God when we seek to impose our will on others and God. 2) We are wrestling God and He with us through life’s troubles. 3) We can win our wrestling match with God by humbling ourselves and trusting in Him.

OBJECTIVE: Wrestling God is a good thing if we learn to humble ourselves and trust in God.


1. Read: Genesis 32:24-30

2. About the Text:

1) It had been twenty years since Jacob had last seen his brother Esau and he was scared.

2) “I hate you and I’m gonna kill you” was the attitude that Esau had last displayed toward his brother according to Genesis 27:41.

3) Jacob’s mother, Rebekah, had believed that that was exactly what Esau intended to do.

4) In her motherly worry, she had sent Jacob away to her brother Laban.

5) Jacob was marching right into the middle of Esau’s territory and had no reason to think Esau had changed.

6) In fact, the latest report was that he was coming to meet him with 400 men.

7) Jacob knew that he was powerless against such a force and so he did what he could:

a. He sent gifts ahead of his convoy.

b. He placed his servants and family in a defensive position.

c. And he prayed: Read Genesis 32:9-11.

8) It is after this that he wrestles with God and God changes his name from Jacob, a supplanter, to Israel, a prince who has power with God and men.

9) What brought Jacob to this point?

10) Why does God change his name?

11) What can we learn from Jacob’s encounter with God today?

3. Ref. to S, T, P, O, and A.


I.   We are wrestling God when we seek to impose our will on others and God.

1. Jacob wrestled with God by imposing his will on others.

1) Consider Jacob’s attitude in Genesis 25:29-34 when he took Esau’s birthright.

a. He took advantage of his brother’s weakness.

b. He withheld from his brother basic human needs.

c. He manipulated Esau to get what he desired out of him.

2) Consider Jacob’s attitude in Genesis 27 when he took Esau’s blessing.

a. He took advantage of his father’s blindness.

b. He lied to his father.

3) Through manipulation and deceit, he imposed his will upon his brother and father.

2. Jacob the supplanter.

1) Jacob and Esau’s birth was accompanied with a prophecy. Genesis 25:23 says, “Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.”

2) It was God’s intention for the nation that would spring from Jacob to be greater than that which came from Esau and that the elder would serve the younger.

3) Jacob, however, sought to accomplish God’s will through his own strength.

4) In so doing, he became a supplanter—one who forces his will on others.

5) It was for these reasons that Esau said, “Is not he rightly named Jacob? for he hath supplanted me these two times: he took away my birthright; and, behold, now he hath taken away my blessing” (Genesis 27:36).

6) In Jacob’s youth, he had power, but it was the power of his own will, not the power of God.

7) This exercise of power resulted in his father’s disappointment, his brother’s murderous hatred, and estrangement from his only advocate, his mother.

3. Do we try to force our will on others today? How about God?

II.  God wrestles with us by giving us the trials and troubles of life.

1. Life will teach some lessons whether you want to learn or not; some refer to this as the school of hard knocks.

2. Because Jacob’s forced his will on others, he had to leave Isaac and Rebekah.

1) Genesis 27:41 says that Esau determined to kill Jacob when Isaac died.

2) Rebekah told Jacob to flee to Haran where her brother Laban lived (Gen.27:43).

3) Jacob went to Haran with practically nothing but the clothes on his back (Gen.28:10).

4) But God promised to be with him and bring him back (Gen.28:15).

3. In Haran, Jacob had the opportunity to learn and grow.

1) He learned what it meant to work for a living. Genesis 29:15-18 says that Jacob promised to work seven years for the hand of Rachel in marriage.

2) He learned what it meant to truly love another person. Genesis 29:20 “And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her.”

4. Jacob the supplanted.

1) Jacob then got a taste of his own medicine.

2) Genesis 29:21-24 records that Laban sent Leah into Jacob’s tent instead of Rachel.

3) Jacob did not know about this until the next morning. Genesis 29:25 “And it came to pass, that in the morning, behold, it was Leah: and he said to Laban, What is this thou hast done unto me? did not I serve with thee for Rachel? wherefore then hast thou beguiled me?”

4) Jacob was committed to serving another seven years for Leah (Genesis 29:27).

5) During this time, Rachel and Leah competed with one another for children, even on one occasion treating Jacob like a commodity and selling his personal services for mandrakes (Genesis 30:14-16).

6) Jacob decides it is time to leave and go back to Canaan, but Laban is not ready for him to go yet.

7) Genesis 30:27 “And Laban said unto him, I pray thee, if I have found favour in thine eyes, tarry: for I have learned by experience that the LORD hath blessed me for thy sake”

5. Only with God’s help, does Jacob supplant Laban.

1) Laban convinces Jacob to stay and promises the speckled of the flock as wages.

2) Six more years, Jacob serves Laban, but he puts a three day journey between their houses (Gen.30:36).

3) At the end of the six years, the LORD tells Jacob to leave (Gen.31:3).

4) Even though Laban had sought to supplant Jacob, the Lord blessed Jacob.

5) Genesis 31:6-7 “And ye know that with all my power I have served your father. And your father hath deceived me, and changed my wages ten times; but God suffered him not to hurt me.”

6) Jacob attributed his success in animal husbandry to the Lord. “Thus God hath taken away the cattle of your father, and given them to me.” (Genesis 31:9).

7) Jacob’s wives are also put out with their father Laban (Gen.31:14-15).

8) Genesis 31:14-15 “And Rachel and Leah answered and said unto him, Is there yet any portion or inheritance for us in our father’s house? Are we not counted of him strangers? for he hath sold us, and hath quite devoured also our money.”

9) Jacob leaves, but Laban comes after him (Gen.31:23).

10) God visits Laban and tells him to let Jacob go back to Canaan. In Genesis 31:29 Laban says, “It is in the power of my hand to do you hurt: but the God of your father spake unto me yesternight, saying, Take thou heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad.”

11) Jacob can take no more of Laban’s abuse. Read Genesis 31:36-42.

12) Laban still has the audacity to say that these things belong to him (Genesis 31:43).

13) Nevertheless, they make a covenant and Jacob cannot go back (Gen.31:52).

14) Jacob has now learned what it is like to be supplanted.

6. Have you had trials and troubles in life? God is trying to teach you something.

III. We will win our wrestling match with God by humbling ourselves and trusting in God.

1. Can you pick a fight with God and win?

1) God is omnipotent; you can’t win in a wrestling match with God.

2) The only way you can win is if God lets you win.

2. Humility is the only way to win a wrestling match with God.

1) Jacob has been gone from Canaan for twenty years.

2) The last time Jacob saw his brother, he had wanted to kill him.

3) Upon reentering the land, he sends messengers to his brother Esau (Gen.32:3).

4) The servants return with the message: Esau is coming with 400 men (Gen.32:6).

5) Jacob sends a group of servants with a present to Esau (Gen.32:13-20).

6) Jacob sent his family to the other side of the Jabbok river (Gen.32:22-23).

7) Jacob prays to God. Read Genesis 32:9-12.

3. Jacob wrestles with God.

1) Read Genesis 32:24-30.

2) His name is changed from Jacob to Israel – Wrestler with God.

3) Hosea 12:3-4 “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.”

4. Jacob won his wrestling match with God by humbling himself.

1) Psalm 51:17 “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.”

2) Psalm 34:18 “The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.”

3) Isaiah 57:15 “For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.”

4) Isaiah 66:1-2 “Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.”

5. We can win our wrestling match with God when we humble ourselves before Him.


1. Consider these great lessons . . .

1) We wrestle with God when we seek to impose our own will on others and God.

2) God wrestles with us when we go through the trials and troubles of life.

3) We will win our wrestling match with God when we humble ourselves and trust in God.

2. Invitation

1) John 1:12-13 “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

2) Humble yourself before your God today and have power with God through the blood of Jesus Christ.