Wrestling with God
(c) grego 2016
While discussing intent, desire, and becoming perfect, I was reminded of Jacob wrestling with God:
Genesis 32:24 ¶ And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.
25 And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him.
26 And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.
27 And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob.
28 And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.
29 And Jacob asked him, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, thy name. And he said, Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name? And he blessed him there.
30 And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.
31 And as he passed over Penuel the sun rose upon him, and he halted upon his thigh.
32 Therefore the children of Israel eat not of the sinew which shrank, which is upon the hollow of the thigh, unto this day: because he touched the hollow of Jacob’s thigh in the sinew that shrank.
A stake leader said this was figurative, and that the wording in Enos brought out the true meaning:
Enos 1:1 BEHOLD, it came to pass that I, Enos, knowing my father that he was a just man—for he taught me in his language, and also in the nurture and admonition of the Lord—and blessed be the name of my God for it—
2 And I will tell you of the wrestle which I had before God, before I received a remission of my sins.
3 Behold, I went to hunt beasts in the forests; and the words which I had often heard my father speak concerning eternal life, and the joy of the saints, sunk deep into my heart.
4 And my soul hungered; and I kneeled down before my Maker, and I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul; and all the day long did I cry unto him; yea, and when the night came I did still raise my voice high that it reached the heavens.
This seems similar to Alma’s experience:
Alma 8:8 And it came to pass that when Alma had come to the city of Ammonihah he began to preach the word of God unto them.
9 Now Satan had gotten great hold upon the hearts of the people of the city of Ammonihah; therefore they would not hearken unto the words of Alma.
10 Nevertheless Alma labored much in the spirit, wrestling with God in mighty prayer, that he would pour out his Spirit upon the people who were in the city; that he would also grant that he might baptize them unto repentance.
But not really with Rachel’s:
Genesis 30:1 And when Rachel saw that she bare Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister; and said unto Jacob, Give me children, or else I die.
2 And Jacob’s anger was kindled against Rachel: and he said, Am I in God’s stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb?
3 And she said, Behold my maid Bilhah, go in unto her; and she shall bear upon my knees, that I may also have children by her.
4 And she gave him Bilhah her handmaid to wife: and Jacob went in unto her.
5 And Bilhah conceived, and bare Jacob a son.
6 And Rachel said, God hath judged me, and hath also heard my voice, and hath given me a son: therefore called she his name Dan.
7 And Bilhah Rachel’s maid conceived again, and bare Jacob a second son.
8 And Rachel said, With great wrestlings have I wrestled with my sister, and I have prevailed: and she called his name Naphtali.
9 When Leah saw that she had left bearing, she took Zilpah her maid, and gave her Jacob to wife.
While I understand the stake leader’s opinion, I currently believe that Jacob did wrestle with God.
This does go along with everything else, too. Jacob was likely wrestling with lots of things. He had just left Laban, with whom he had struggled for many years. He was about to meet his brother who had wanted to kill him; Jacob strongly desired–needed–blessings for reconciliation and more. The point of wrestling (depending on which type) is to throw, pin, or submit your opponent. Remember, “Say ‘uncle’ and I’ll let you up”? That is the point of wrestling–to force your opponent to give you a blessing. In the examples, Jacob, Enos, and Alma wrestle with God to claim blessings, answers to prayers, righteous desires of the heart.
Wrestling is intense. I have seen matches go into overtime where during the rest period the wrestlers were lying down, feet up on chairs, being fanned with towels, muscles being worked over, water poured in and out, skin all flushed red, chests heaving for breath, etc. It was interesting how noisy the gym was until the match started, and then most noises were tuned out–it had never happened in all the other sports I had played. Can you see stars, and still hold on? When your plans get frustrated over and over, can you come up with a new strategy? Is your intent to show up, to look cool, or to win? When you’ve got a pretty good feeling that you are going to lose, can you keep trying anyway, giving it all you have to the very end? Do you know how to win well? Do you know how to lose well? If God submits you, are you willing to obey? If you submit God, are you willing to ask right, and follow in faith?
Joseph Smith had a wrestle before the First Vision:
Joseph Smith–History 1:15 After I had retired to the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me, and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction.
16 But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction—not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being—just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.
17 It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound.
Was this a figurative struggle? Maybe in some ways, but it was definitely real, too. Do you think God knew Joseph’s limits? What was this about? Why did it happen like that? ;)