Sports in the Bible – Wrestling – Genesis 32.22-30

This is the first message in my series of Sports in the Bible that I am sharing with the AWANA Sparks group (k-2).  As this is a new series, I want to focus this first post on the word “New” (It applied to them because it was the start of a new year in AWANA).

Our story, and the first example of Sports in the Bible that I am going to share is taken from Genesis, 32

It is the story of Jacob.  Now Jacob had a twin brother – Esau.  Esau was older, by about a minute.  In fact, the bible tells us that Jacob was born holding the foot of Esau.  And they had a typical brotherly relationship.

The Bible tells us that Esau was a great hunter, and Jacob was a good cook.  One day Esau is hungry after a hunting trip.  He asks Jacob for some stew that he has made, Jacob offers the stew in exchange for Esau’s “birthright” (a special status that went to the oldest in each family.  Esau did it, and it became an issue as Esau hated his birthright.

Next, we see Jacob tricking his father into blessing him instead of Esau. Again, this involved food, as well as deception, covering his body with fur to seem like his harrier brother. Esau came back to find that his father’s blessing had been given to Jacob.  He held a grudge against Jacob and planned to kill him.  Jacob fled and that is where things stood between them when we get to Genesis 32.

Years go by, and the time has come when the two brothers will meet face to face again.  Jacob is nervous, and sends gifts and gifts ahead of him to try and make peace with Esau. “And Jacob was alone…” the bible tells us.

And that’s where the sporting begins.  The bible tells us that Jacob wrestled a man (later on the Man is referred to as an angel of God) And they grapples and wrestled until morning light began to break through the dark night.

The man asks to be released, Jacob says “not until you bless me”

Then the man asks a strange question – “Who are you”.  The answer is given “Jacob”  And that is how I’d always heard the story.  But then someone read it for me in the Amplified Bible.  Here is what it says:

27 [The Man] asked him, What is your name? And [in shock of realization, whispering] he said, Jacob [supplanter, schemer, trickster, swindler]!

Jacob realizes who he is.  He is a trickster, swindler, deceiver.  He realizes that he is not a good guy.  He has hurt others, including his brother, who he is getting ready to meet.  The other wrestler says…

No longer will you be Jacob, now you will be called Israel28 And He said, Your name shall be called no more Jacob [supplanter], but Israel [contender with God]; for you have contended and have power with God and with men and have prevailed.

Jacob is given a new identity.  His old ways are forgotten and his new identity is left.  Now read 2 Corinthians 5.17

17 Anyone who belongs to Christ is a new person. The past is forgotten, and everything is new.

God has offered each of us a new start, just like Jacob.  When we realize who we are without God, we are in shock, too, like Jacob.  But through Jesus, God is able to forget our past and make us new again.  He has created a way for our old self to be forgotten and a new identity created.

Praise God for making all things new!  Let’s be excited about this new person God makes us.




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