"So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” The man asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob,” he answered. Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.” Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.” But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.” The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip."
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Jacob was on his way to meet and appease his older brother Esau. This was the first time they would meet after Jacob’s deception, resulting in him taking Esau’s birthright (a blessing received by the firstborn son - see Genesis chapter 27). That’s some pretty serious deception! So you can imagine the state that Jacob was in, a state of mixed emotion – guilt over what he did, fear for what his brother might do to retaliate and anxiety upon hearing that Esau had four hundred men with him (Genesis 32:6-7).
The night before he is to face Esau, Jacob sends his family ahead of him while he hangs back. During this time alone, Jacob has an epic encounter with God, in the most unexpected and usual of ways.
Despite the unusualness of this supernatural encounter, there is so much that we can draw from it.
At a time which Jacob had probably set aside to prepare a game plan and plead with God, his plans are disrupted.
Disrupted with a wrestling match, what an inconvenience! Or so it would seem to be.
What may appear to be a distraction, was actually exactly what Jacob needed ahead of his meeting with Esau. This wrestle with God caused Jacob to focus on God rather than focus on the problem at hand. In the same way, what we may view as an “interruption” or a “distraction” may be God trying to get our attention and shift our focus to be on Him rather than our circumstance.
Though handicapped, Jacob continued to wrestle and refused to let go of God.
Wrestling God with a dislocated hip must have been an excruciatingly painful experience for Jacob. Yet, he was so determined to receive his blessing that he pressed on even in his weakness. All too often, we use our “weaknesses” (illness, loss of a loved one, financial or relationship breakdown) as an excuse, a reason to give up. Yet it’s in our weakness that God urges us to continue to “wrestle” with Him, to cling to Him and petition for the blessing He promises to give us as His children. If Jacob had received the blessing without the wrestle, would he still have glorified God? We’ll never know. What we do know, is that the more we are willing to wrestle with God for our blessings (healing, peace, restoration and more) the less likely we are to take them for granted when we do receive.
Though Jacob was physically weakened, his faith was strengthened.
After wrestling all night and copping a blow to his hip, Jacob no doubt was in a much weakened state. Not ideal considering he believed he was about to be attacked by Esau and his men! The thing is, he was more ready than ever to face his brother and the events that were to follow. Why? Because, although his physical condition was compromised, Jacob walked (or rather, limped) away with his faith strengthened. Due to his struggle, God had given Jacob a new name, Israel (meaning “struggled with God”). A covenant name which revealed his purpose. A historical marker of God’s original covenant with Abraham, Jacob’s grandfather (see Genesis chapter 17).
Post wrestle, Jacob gained a new identity, one which eventually became the identity of the people of God.
Jacob’s willingness and commitment to wrestling with God resulted in him playing a crucial part in the birth of the nation Israel. A nation through which God brought about His redemption plan for all of humanity.
When we cling to God to the point of overcoming, we position ourselves to be strengthened in faith and continue to move forward in His plans and purposes. We may receive scars or “dislocated hips” along the way, but it will be well worth it!
Have you had a season of wrestling with God? How did you walk through it? Please share your experience in the comments below!