Wrestling For Grace

“So you, by the help of your God, return,
hold fast to love and justice,
and wait continually for your God.” — Hosea 12:6

In our last post we learned that we face a daily battle against sin. Every single day, we must be killing sin, or it will be killing us. But there’s another battle that’s equally easy to forget: wrestling for grace. When I encounter trials, or when life is good, I tend to ease up not only on my battle with indwelling sin, but also with pressing into God for his grace. I forget that I need the gospel every day. I forget that what God has done for me in Christ Jesus, sending his only Son into the world to die so that I could be forgiven and redeemed and brought into fellowship with him, is the most magnificent news in all the world! My identity is no longer “sinner deserving God’s wrath.” My identity is now “beloved child of God, saved by grace”! When I forget these truths, in good times and bad, I need to wrestle against my unbelief and hold tight to God in faith.

Throughout the entire book of Hosea, we have seen that Israel also forgot the glorious grace of their identity as God’s people. When they encountered trials—or prosperity—they didn’t hold fast to God for answers; they didn’t wrestle in faith for God’s grace. When Israel had the least question, they ran to their pagan neighbors and the Baals. When God blessed them, they gave credit to their idols. When they had questions, they didn’t seek God in prayer, they sought answers from the culture around them.

In today’s passage, Hosea tells the Israelites that they need to be like their father Jacob and hold fast to God the way Jacob did when he wrestled with the angel of the Lord. Hosea makes it clear that Jacob was wrestling for God’s grace (He strove with the angel and prevailed; he wept and sought his favor. 12:4b). But surely it can’t be grace if we must wrestle it from God. Grace is a gift—not to be earned or taken by force—freely given by God because of his love. And how in the world could Jacob, a mere mortal, overcome God in a wrestling match?

First, the situation: Jacob has lied and schemed himself into fleeing for his life—twice—and is now fleeing his angry father-in-law whilst running straight back towards the brother who, last time he saw him, vowed to kill him. Jacob has nowhere else to turn. So when the Angel of the Lord shows up he wrestles with him all night long. “Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me’” (Gen. 32:26, emphasis mine).

Commenting on this, Tim Chester writes:

“The idea of wrestling with God captures the urgency, the passion, and the fervour of our need of and desire for and love for grace. We are to be people who fervently seek God’s grace and who are passionate about His grace.”

But we do so in God’s power. God fought against Jacob, but He also empowered Jacob’s victory! Our longing for God is evidence of His work in us. Our seeking after God is proof of God’s work in us.[1]

Be Encouraged

The whole conundrum of earning versus receiving grace is about our salvation. Jacob wasn’t wrestling for God’s salvific grace; he was wrestling for the grace he needed to face the impossible situation before him. Jacob was chosen by God before he was born; God had already given him unmerited favor for salvation. We who are in Christ have been elected to salvation before the foundation of the world and saved by the gift of grace through faith (Eph. 2:4-9). Beloved, we are saved by grace, but we need grace for every day. Goodness, some days I need grace simply to get out of bed and face this hurtful, discouraging, fallen world. This is the grace for which we must hold fast to God, wrestling until he blesses us.

Just like our battle with indwelling sin, we need to wrestle for grace when life is good. We also must wrestle when we just aren’t feeling passionate or fervent for God, times when faith feels flat. But like Jacob, we sometimes face impossible situations. So I think this wrestling applies especially to those times when our faith is in crisis. When trials come or depression hits or questions arise, our faith may be brought to the breaking point. What do we do when the only prayer we can choke out is, “Lord, why?” or “God, help my unbelief?”

Hear Tim Chester’s answer with a grateful heart:

“The answer is, You fight! You fight for God’s blessing. You fight for His favour. Pray until God moves you. Search His Word until it blesses you. Think of yourself as wrestling in prayer for God’s blessing. But know this: when you wrestle with God and win His blessing God has not only fought against you, He has also fought for you. He has empowered your longing. Why? Because He wants a relationship with you. He wants you to pursue Him, to long for, to seek Him and in this seeking to find Him and know Him and love Him.” [2]

Pray With Me

Father God, Open my eyes to my daily need for your grace. When trials come, help me to hold fast to your love and wait for you continually. Give me the strength to pursue you, to long for, to seek you and in this seeking to find you and know you and love you! Amen.

[1] Tim Chester, Hosea: The Passion of God (Scotland, UK: 2014) 195

[2] Ibid., 195-196.

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