God with Us, Limping Along Genesis 32:22-32

Genesis 32:22-32

Advent series—God With Us, Immanuel (probably should have said that last week)

Special emphasis on the difficult circumstances God uses to shape our lives and shape us in it, which he does by being with us

  • Last week—providence
  • This week—still providence (everything is providence), focusing in on when God’s presence leaves us with a limp

Jacob—the father of the twelve tribes of Israel

  • Abraham his grandfather
  • Isaac his father
  • Each receives the covenant promises
    • Gen 12:1-3 Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” 
      • People, Place, Presence, Program
    • Gen. 26: 1-5  People Place Presence Program
    • Gen. 28:13-15  you guessed it, People Place Presence Program

Jacob’s a little different than dad and grandpa, though

  • Abraham the father of the faithful
  • Isaac his promised son
  • Both largely faithful and obedient
  • Not really that way for Jacob
    • He was never opposed to using less than scrupulous means to get his way
      • Traded Esau some stew for his birthright
      • Tricked Isaac into getting Esau’s blessing
  • Which brings us to Genesis 32:22 why is Jacob in the middle of the wilderness, all by himself

He left Mom and Dad (Rebekkah and Isaac) after tricking Dad into giving him Esau’s blessing.  Big bro was mad!

  • Worked for Uncle Laban for 14 years, gained two wives, two concubines, eleven children, and a huge herd of goats and sheep
  • But, now that he’s on his way back to Canaan—the promised land, he has a problem
    • He has to cross through Edom, where Esau lived,
    • Jacob was scared
    • 32:6 Esau was coming with 400 men
      • That’s a huge force—Grandpa Abraham only had 318 to defeat the five kings who kidnapped Lot a couple generations ago (Genesis 14)
    • So Jacob split the family into two camps
      • If Esau was angry at least one camp would get away
    • And he sent servants and animals ahead as gifts to Esau,
      • 32:13-21 
    • And that’s how Jacob ended up alone in the wilderness that night—he was afraid of big brother Esau because of his former sins. 

It’s into this situation that God inserts himself, but not without a price to Jacob.   1. Striving with God; 2. Uncomfortable Grace; 3. Limping Along–Remember your limp, don’t ignore it

  1. Striving with God
    1. This is weird—to think a person could wrestle with God
      1. Children’s Catechism:  What is God? “God is a spirit and does not have a body like man”
        1. But he takes on bodily form
      1. V. 24. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him.
    1. Jacob was really strong—29:10 rolled the stone off the well for Rachel
      1. But this is God—the only explanation for Jacob winning is that God’s plan was to let Jacob win
    1. V. 26 the man said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 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.”
      1. Jacob’s name is changed to Israel, which literally means strive with God
        1. In v. 24 it says the man wrestled with Jacob, but in v. 28 God uses the word “strive” purposely
        1. God applies the metaphorical meaning of their encounter and uses it for Jacob’s new name
      1. Two senses of striving with God and both of them play out in the history of God’s people
        1. As in that night—striving against God, wrestling with him, trying to beat him into a blessing
        1. And in other times, striving alongside God, working with him, obeying, following, finding contentment in God’s plan
      1. This becomes the pattern of OT Israel and the NT Church—sometimes we fight against God and sometimes we find contentment in Him
        1. Both are part of God’s purpose in visiting his people
        1. Both are sanctifying because sanctification is from God, but one kind of striving is eminently more comfortable
  2. Uncomfortable Grace—we tend to think of grace as something we like and enjoy
    1. A lot of grace is enjoyable, but not all of it
      1. Paul Tripp, “You are tempted to think that because you’re God’s child, your life should be easier, more predictable, and definitely more comfortable. But that’s not what the Bible teaches. Instead, it reveals that struggles are part of God’s plan for you. This means that if you’re God’s child, you must never allow yourself to think that the hard things you are now going through are failures of God’s character, promises, power, or plan. You must not allow yourself to think that God has turned his back on you. You must not let yourself begin to buy into the possibility that God is not as trustworthy as you thought him to be. You must not let yourself do any of these things, because when you begin to doubt God’s goodness, you quit going to him for help. You see, you don’t run for help to those characters you have come to doubt.”[1]
    1. 32:29-31  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.” The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.
      1. Grace—seeing God face to face and living through it, being blessed because of it
        1. Pen—face;  El—God
        1. Im—with, man—us, el—God
        1. The U is often a connecting letter
      1. Uncomfortable grace—Jacob will limp forever
        1. There’s a lot of healing that happens in this world—after all, all things are possible with God
        1. But sometimes God’s purpose isn’t to heal, at least not completely, or in the way we expect healing to look.
    1. Some of us have a limp that will be with us forever
      1. Not a physical thing, but spiritual (some might have physical problems that also have a spiritual impact)
      1. Emotional hurt too—we’re made as a connected whole
      1. Divorce
      1. Trauma—encounters with narcissists, people with anger problems, or the never ending string of passive aggressives
      1. Deaths—Miss Nona (sister as a child, mother, two husbands, still going strong…)
      1. Betrayal—a school or work situation in which someone who should have been truthful wasn’t.  or someone who should have stuck up for you didn’t.
      1. Too many to name
      1. Oftentimes these limps don’t feel like a good thing—and the truth is we can’t just look at them from a different angle and say “oh, that’s why it’s good”
        1. These are bad things, they result from sin and the curse
          1. There’s no way to spin it
        1. Jacob won’t ever move without some pain in his hip again
        1. He won’t be as useful to the family business as he was
    1. But the limp is a grace—not in its effect, but in its inner working in your soul
      1. The approach
      1. Paul clearly didn’t see his thorn in the flesh as “good” in and of itself, otherwise he wouldn’t have asked for its removal
      1. God’s intention, the purpose for this uncomfortable grace, was to make Paul know that he is always relying on the sufficient grace of Christ alone
      1. It’s that word SUFFICIENT that is so important—is what God has given us enough?
        1. The answer has to be yes
      1. The follow up question:  does that mean what God has given us feels like its enough? Or even good?
        1. That answer is often “No”
    1. Uncomfortable grace isn’t what we want or would choose even after we’ve experienced it, but it’s what God often gives his children for our good.
    1. We need more than just a reminder to look on the bright side and see that God’s grace is enough. 
  3. Limping along—remember your limp, don’t ignore it—looking on the bright side of life is ignoring the situation.  The Bible tells us to embrace it.
    1. 32:32 Therefore to this day the people of Israel do not eat the sinew of the thigh that is on the hip socket, because he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip on the sinew of the thigh.
      1. Moses wrote Genesis in the wilderness on Israel’s way to the Promised Land—he’s relating an Israelite custom here that was still practiced at that time.
      1. V.32  isn’t God’s law.  God didn’t command Israel not to eat the sinew of the thigh meat, this was just something Israel did as a remembrance of one fateful night in Penuel when Jacob wrestled with God.
    1. They remembered Jacob’s permanent handicap as their own. 
      1. Ceremonial eating is a way of entering into the experience of the universal, invisible, church.
      1. Like we do in the Lord’s Supper—we eat with the cloud of witnesses of saints from the past and we take part in our future state as we eat a heavenly hors d’oeuvre from the marriage supper of the Lamb.
      1. Israel didn’t try to ignore the injury that God had caused, they remembered it, in their daily bread and in their yearly feasts.
      1. They didn’t lean on it like a crutch either, pointing to it like a badge of their victimhood.
      1. Both of those responses:  pretending its not there or victimhood are ungodly.
        1. The first ignores God’s clear work in inflicting pain that he had a reason for.
          1. John Currid writes in Gen. 32, “ Jacob is about to meet Esau, who is coming with 400 men. . .  The wrestling match is an attempt to break Jacob of his self-reliant attitude. . . God fights with Jacob to show him that the blessings of God come only through the gracious provision of God, and not from anything else.[2]
          1. The Limp reminds Israel of their insufficiency
          1. And God’s sufficiency
          1. And God’s grace in his appearance to Jacob and them, and God’s grace in allowing Jacob to live and even to win after striving against God.
        1. The second, seeing yourself as a victim, doesn’t see God’s work in moving forward—he might not fully heal you, but the pain God inflicts isn’t meant to keep us pinned to the ground,
          1. Remember Jacob ultimately won the wrestling match
          1.  Our limps remind us that “his grace is sufficient in our weaknesses” and that “we can rely on God who raises the dead”.
          1. The victim never embraces God’s work in moving forward. 
          1. Christ as the ultimate victim—the Paschal Lamb slain for our sins is the perfect picture of God’s uncomfortable and redemptive grace, because without the healing of the resurrection the agony of the cross would be meaningless.
          1. But even then, Jesus appeared to the eleven with scars on his hands, his side, and his feet.
      1. Limping along isn’t our answer, we should think about it as a life-long process.
        1. The process begins with mourning.
        1. What we should do is acknowledge our pain and be sad because of it.
          1. We mourn over pain and suffering because it came from sin—Eve did more than curse God in her sin.  She brought God’s curse on the world by sinning.
          1. Psalm 30: 8-12  To you, O LORD, I cry, and to the Lord I plead for mercy: “What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness? Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me! O LORD, be my helper!” You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever!
            1. In Psalm 30:8 Crying to the Lord isn’t out of delight in his goodness, its from despair over his frowning providence.
            1. “what profit is there in my death?” is a gut-wrenching, agonized, plea for answers
            1. God’s answer is in his presence—“you have turned for me my mourning into dancing”
            1. That doesn’t mean dancing will come today or tomorrow or any time soon, but it does mean God will be with you and one day you will dance.
          1. There’s no magic answer, no trick of psychology here—it’s simply reminding ourselves to mourn sin as the cause of all pain and turn to the one who is in charge of everything, even in charge of inflicting the pain of sin. 
          1. Like Jesus on the cross we mourn over sin and then we turn to God and say “into your hands I commit my spirit”.
    1. Remembering Jacob’s hip
      1. It wasn’t that it was such a wonderful thing God did for Jacob—to make him limp for the rest of his life
      1. It was simply remembering that God did it to Jacob
      1. THAT…GOD…DID IT
      1. God was with him and it’s better to be with God than to be away from God, even if he gives you a limp.

NICENE CREED

57 Hallelujah Praise Jehovah O My Soul

The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to the gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that has now been disclosed to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.


[1] Paul D. Tripp, “You Need a Theology of Uncomfortable Grace”, https://www.crossway.org/articles/you-need-a-theology-of-uncomfortable-grace/ accessed 12/10/23 7:52 a.m.

[2] John D. Currid, A Study Commentary on Genesis: Genesis 25:19–50:26, vol. 2, EP Study Commentary (Darlington, England; Carlisle, PA: Evangelical Press, 2003), 139.