Question text: Why did God wrestle with Jacob in Genesis 32? What was the point?
Answer text: You have a very good question. Many well meaning Christians do not understand the logic of prayer. They say, rightly so, that God is loving and almighty and He knows all our needs even before we ask Him. No loving parent who knows the need of children would ever wait for children to ask. But Jesus, after telling that our father knows before we ask goes on to say, “Therefore pray in this way “(Mt.6:9). Please note the last phrase of the verse in Mt. 7:11. “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father in Heaven give good things to those who ask Him?” (Matthew 7:11). And James says, “you have not… because you ask not” (Js.4:2).
The Bible contains what is known as progressive revelation. For example, if the Book of Revelation was not there, we would not have known who that serpent was who came to the garden of Eden to deceive Eve. But Rev.12:9 makes it clear that it was the Devil who was that old servant. Now, the OT can be understood only in the light of the NT. While OT is the shadow of things to come, NT makes things explicit. In OT we read about men praying. The NT makes it clear that with out prayer God would not do any thing spiritual in the world today (Mt.7:7; Js.4:2). The NT also goes on to say that the will of God is achieved only through striving in prayer (Rom.15:30-32). Striving in prayer is essential not because God is unwilling to fulfill His promises but because Satan is against us enjoying God’s best for us.
One of the greatest truths of the Bible is that God does NOT fight the devil! How can the infinite God fight against his own finite creature who rebelled against Him? After all, when God became man in Christ our Lord, He asked us to love our enemies. How could He Himself fight against His own enemy? Satan knows it and He prevents man from enjoying God’s best for them. But we can resist the devil and remove Satanic hindrance for us to enter into the perfect will of God.
This is the truth that is exemplified in the life of Jacob. At Bethel God promised Jacob that He would bless him (Gen.28). Jacob, after 20 years of his sojourn, became more miserable and helpless. But then at Peniel (ch.32) Jaocb wrestles with the Lord and enters into the blessing that was promised at Bethel. His name was changed now. So wrestling in prayer is not trying to move an unwilling God but rather it is resisting against the devil to remove his hindrance to obtain the promises of God.
Again this truth is exemplified in the life of Daniel. In ch.9 Daniel learns that the captivity was to come to an end at the end of 70 years. Living at the end of 70 years Daniel turns his face to God in fasting and in prayer asking God to fulfill His promises for His people. In the tenth chapter of Daniel we see that Daniel had to fast and pray for 21 days (or wrestle in prayer) to remove Satanic hindrance before he could get answer from the Lord (Dan.10:2,3 cf.vv.12,13).
Let us learn this truth clearly that all promises of God remain promises unless they are claimed in prayer. There are areas where Satanic hindrance is heavy and we need to strive in prayer before we can enter into the promises of God. May the Lord help us to learn this truth and may He give us grace to strive in prayer against Satan and his viles. If interested please read my small book on prayer from www.mathewpaul.org/category/book-on-prayer . God bless