OceanSide church of Christ

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Victor M. Eskew


            This writer grew up in Memphis, Tennessee in the 60s and 70s.  One of the favorite sports in the city was wrestling.  Wrestling came on television every Saturday.  Every Monday night, wrestling matches were held at the Coliseum.  Some of the popular wrestlers were Tojo Yammamoto, Jerry Lawler, Jackie Fargo, Hulk Hogan, Spunik Monroe, Bill Goldberg, and Randy Savage.  The two main announcers in our area were Lance Russell and Dave Brown.  Wrestling continues to be very popular today.  There are matches on TV several times a week.  Wrestling still fills arenas with screaming fans. 

            Did you know that wrestling is mentioned four times in the Bible?  One was a literal wrestling match (Gen. 32:24).  Another wrestling match involved a relationship between two women (Gen. 30:8).  The other two places that mention wrestling involve spiritual battles:  against spiritual wickedness (Eph. 6:12) and against those who oppose the truth (Jude 3).  In this article, we will briefly examine the first two wrestling matches.

            This first wrestling match involved a patriarch named Jacob and an angel.  It is recorded in Genesis 32:22-30.  Jacob was returning to his home in Canaan after having been away many years.  As he traveled, he came to the ford Jabbok.  That afternoon, he sent his family across the ford, but he remained by himself.  “And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of day” (Gen. 32:24).  It was a long bout.  Many things happened during that night match.  When the angel did not prevail against Jacob, he touched the hollow of Jacob’s thigh “and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint” (Gen. 32:25).  Jacob would not let the messenger go until he received a blessing from him (Gen. 32:26).  Jacob’s name was changed from Jacob to Israel (Gen. 32:27-28).  Jacob had power with God and with men and prevailed that evening (Gen. 32:28).  Jacob received a blessing (Gen. 32:29).  Jacob named the place Peniel (Gen.  32:30).  He chose that name because he had “seen God face to face,” and his life was preserved” (Gen. 32:30). 

            In this wrestling match, we find a spiritual application to our prayer lives.  First, prayer can be likened unto a wrestling match.  We latch on to God and hold Him tightly as we pray.  We desire a blessing from Him and will not let Him go until He blesses us.  Second, prayer can take a toll on us.  We can spend long hours in prayer.  We wait for a response.  Before the response comes, we start to question and doubt.  We question God’s love for us.  We question our motives.  We question our faith.  It can also take a toll upon us because we do not always get the things for which we pray.  Third, when we pray we are changed into a different person.  Fourth, when we pray we are blessed.  Lastly, when we rise from prayer we, like Jacob, know that we have been in the very presence of God.

            The second wrestling match was a struggle between two women who were married to the same man.  The women are Leah and Rachel.  Their husband was Jacob.  Jacob originally desired Rachel to be his wife.  He labored seven years to obtain her.  However, the custom of the day demanded that the elder daughter be married first.  Thus, he first received Leah as a wife.  When he agreed to work another seven years, he was given Rachel also.

            The battle between these two sisters started when children were brought into the family.  Leah was able to conceive, but Rachel was not able at first.  Leah bore Jacob four sons initially:  Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah.  “And when Rachel saw she bare Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister…” (Gen. 30:1).  Rachel devised a plan whereby she could have children through her handmaid Bilhah.  “And she gave Bilhah her handmaid to wife:  and Jacob went in unto her” (Gen. 30:4).  Two sons were born to Bilhad, Dan and Naphtali.  It was Rachel who chose Naphtali’s name.  “And Rachel said, With great wrestlings have I wrestled with my sister, and I have prevailed:  and she called his name Naphtali” (Gen. 30:8).  The battle between these two sisters did not stop at that point.  They continued their struggle until eleven sons and one daughter were brought into the family. (NOTE:  Another son would be born later named Benjamin).  The years during which these children were being born were very tumultuous.  The struggles must have been difficult for all involved.  Remember, Rachel described the difficulties as “great wrestlings.”

            Most of us have had to face struggles in our relationships while we on earth.  There are all kinds of struggles that we must face.  Husband and wives struggle.  Parents and children wrestle with one another.  We wrestle with our friends.  We have bouts with our co-workers.  Wrestling matches can even happen in the church.  The members can be at odds with church leadership.  Members have their battles one with another.  Sometimes members of the church will find themselves fighting against a false teacher.  From time to time, we may have to do battle with those in the community.  Relationship struggles are some of the most difficult.  They often involve those closest to us and those whom we love deeply.  We work our way through those battles.  Sometimes we come out wounded on the other side of the conflict.  Sometimes, however, our relationships are strengthened.