(Genesis 32:24–25) Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him.Jacob was always wrestling with someone... He tricked his brother, Esau, deceived his father, Isaac, and was tricked by his uncle, Laban. His brother wanted to kill him. His father sent him away. His family life was characterized by disharmony. Laban kept trying to cheat him by changing his wages. Laban's sons hated Jacob because of his success. (Genesis 25:20-31:2)
Just before Jacob's famous wrestling match with God, he has narrowly escaped from his uncle Laban, who had pursued him with a force of men - but who was warned off by God. (Genesis 31:22-25) Then Jacob sends messengers to his brother Esau, who responds by coming to meet him with an army of 400 men. (Genesis 32:3-6)
Jacob is sure he is going to be attacked - and rightfully so. Remember Esau said he would kill him and the army with him was ominous. (Soldiers in those days joined in expeditions so they could share in the spoils of war. They didn't travel like this just to help carry a hallmark greeting card of welcome.) (Genesis 32:7-8)
Jacob is in a jam. Finally humbled, he calls on God in prayer. (Genesis 32:9-12) What does he pray? "I am not worthy. I cannot save myself. I need you to intervene and save me."
That night he sends everyone across the brook ahead of him, but finds himself in a wrestling match with a stranger.
How did this start? When did Jacob know that this man was really divine? Why did Jacob insist he would not let go until he received a blessing? Why would God allow a mere mortal to hold Him down in such a match? God dislocated Jacob's one hip - but certainly He could have crushed him completely. What are we supposed to learn from this passage?
I believe God allows Jacob to wrestle with Him as both a test and a lesson.
Jacob had prayed that he wanted God's blessing and deliverance. But how badly does he want it? Bad enough to struggle all through the night with this fierce stranger? Bad enough to keep on struggling even after his hip is out of joint? Bad enough to stay focused on the stranger's blessing rather than losing his temper? Who won?
It raises questions for us:
Are we struggling with God or just struggling? How long will we wrestle with God in pursuit of His blessings? What dislocations would it take to shake us loose in our struggle? How will we know when we have been blessed?
God blessed Jacob by changing his name to Israel (Literally: he strives with God). Naming someone was a sign of sovereignty. God was saying, "OK, Jacob, I own you. I am your Lord and Master." What a blessing to be God's own servant. Who would you rather serve? Whose side would you rather be on?
Jacob's limp was also a blessing. I think that limp was a reminder that God patiently allowed Jacob to wrestle with Him... and now Jacob's fighting days are over. Now he will be trusting God rather than his own strength. It is a blessing to have been conquered by God. We are blessed when we can trust in God's sovereign goodness and not think we need to bear all of the burdens of our lives ourselves.
God patiently waits and allows us to wrestle with Him. He is willing to teach us what we need to learn, so that even our limp will be a blessing. Hang on for dear life - don't give up - don't let go.