Wrestling Jacob

Jacob wrestles with God in Genesis 32.

Then Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, the Lord who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your family, and I will deal well with you’: 10 I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies and of all the truth which You have shown Your servant; for I crossed over this Jordan with my staff, and now I have become two companies. 11 Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, lest he come and attack me and the mother with the children. 12 For You said, ‘I will surely treat you well, and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.’ ”

22 And he arose that night and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven sons, and crossed over the ford of Jabbok. 23 He took them, sent them over the brook, and sent over what he had. 24 Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. 25 Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him. 26 And He said, “Let Me go, for the day breaks.”

But he said, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!”

27 So He said to him, “What is your name?”

He said, “Jacob.”

28 And He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.”

29 Then Jacob asked, saying, “Tell me Your name, I pray.”

And He said, “Why is it that you ask about My name?” And He blessed him there.

30 So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: “For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.” 31 Just as he crossed over Penuel the sun rose on him, and he limped on his hip. 32 Therefore to this day the children of Israel do not eat the muscle that shrank, which is on the hip socket, because He touched the socket of Jacob’s hip in the muscle that shrank.

Genesis 32:9-12, 22-32

Jacob was desperate. God had told him to go in a certain direction and it seemed to him like certain death and loss to do so. He had obeyed and now, it was the night before he was to die, he thought. But God appeared to him and he held Him tight until God saw he couldn’t win the wrestling contest and so He permanently weakened him. However Jacob still held on and would not let Him go.

Many years ago Charles Wesley, similarly reliving the experience of the war of the flesh against the spirit, wrote a wonderful hymn that captures the whole process in emotive, experiential detail. The next time you are striving with sin that seems to be the very essence of who you are maybe you also will find this hymn helpful.

As it turned out Jacob didn’t die. But he never did walk the same way again. This event was the pivotal point in a process that changed him from a schemer to a prince.

The Word of God and the Salvation of our Spirit, Soul and Body

The Power of the Word of God

Jesus is the Word of God (John 1:1). It is His word that saves us (Matthew 8, Mark 4 and Luke 12) as it is sown into our lives by those who preach the gospel to us (Romans 10:14-17).  It is His DNA that is in His word so that when it is sown in our lives it grows up into Christ in us, our hope of glory (Col. 1:27).

The Tripartite Nature of Man

Like God, whom we are made in the image of (Gen. 1:27), we have three parts to our being: spirit, soul and body (1 Thess. 5:23).  Each of them is saved in a different way according to the Scriptures.  The salvation of all of them is brought about by the action of the Word of God in our lives.

The Salvation of the Spirit (Past)

We are born again by the Word of God (1 Peter 1:23-25).  That is, our spirit is made alive and we are a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17).  Our spirit is eternal and once united with the Spirit of God is imperishable or indestructible (1 Peter 1:23-25).  So our spirit is saved the moment God’s spirit, or the word of God, is conceived in us (John 3:7).  This is the sense in which Paul says we have been transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of His Son (Col. 1:13).  Wherever it talks about salvation in an instant sense you can take it that the Scripture writers are referring to the salvation of the spirit of a person.  The spirit of a man is in the very centre of a man, in his heart.  Because our spirits are made alive when we are born again we can worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24) and truly eat His flesh and drink His blood (John 6:53, 63).  The salvation of our Spirit is the down payment or promise of the salvation of the rest of us (Eph. 1: 13-14).  To be saved you must be born again (or born from above, John 3:3,7).

The Salvation of the Soul (Present)

Whenever the scriptures speak of working out your salvation (Phil. 2:12) – or salvation being an ongoing work – they are referring to the work of the word of God growing through the soul.  The word of God is living and active and divides between the spirit and the soul so you can tell the difference (Heb. 4:12). The fact that our soul needs to be saved is evident in the struggle between the flesh and the spirit that goes on in it (Gal. 5:17, Rom. 8:5-13).  It is in the salvation of our soul that our decisions matter and this affects our eternal destiny. Being conformed to God’s image by beholding the glory of the Lord (2 Cor. 3:18) takes a definite turning to Him and refers to the salvation of the soul.  And there are many Scriptures like that.  In fact our whole life on this earth from the time we are born again until the time we “fall asleep” or, in other words, when this mortal flesh returns to dust, is taken up with the salvation of our soul.  We must work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12).

The Salvation of the Body (Future)

Jesus is the first born from the dead (Col. 1:18), the first to have a bodily resurrection.  No one else has been raised bodily yet, we either have to physically die first or be able to look Him in the eye when He returns (1 John 3:2).  When that happens our bodies are transformed from this one of flesh and blood (where the perishable life is in the blood Deut. 12:23) to one of flesh and bone (where the eternal life is in the spirit). Jesus’ resurrected body had flesh and bone and he could eat (Luke 24:36-43) and so will we when our bodies are saved.  We live in hope of this though our outward man is decaying day by day (2 Cor. 4:16).  The whole process by which our bodies are saved is described in detail in 1 Cor. 15.

A Blessing

Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again.

1 Thessalonians 5:23.