Wrestling Jacob

Jacob wrestles with God in Genesis 32.

Then Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, the Lord who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your family, and I will deal well with you’: 10 I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies and of all the truth which You have shown Your servant; for I crossed over this Jordan with my staff, and now I have become two companies. 11 Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, lest he come and attack me and the mother with the children. 12 For You said, ‘I will surely treat you well, and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.’ ”

22 And he arose that night and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven sons, and crossed over the ford of Jabbok. 23 He took them, sent them over the brook, and sent over what he had. 24 Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. 25 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. 26 And He said, “Let Me go, for the day breaks.”

But he said, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!”

27 So He said to him, “What is your name?”

He said, “Jacob.”

28 And He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.”

29 Then Jacob asked, saying, “Tell me Your name, I pray.”

And He said, “Why is it that you ask about My name?” And He blessed him there.

30 So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: “For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.” 31 Just as he crossed over Penuel the sun rose on him, and he limped on his hip. 32 Therefore to this day the children of Israel do not eat the muscle that shrank, which is on the hip socket, because He touched the socket of Jacob’s hip in the muscle that shrank.

Genesis 32:9-12, 22-32

Jacob was desperate. God had told him to go in a certain direction and it seemed to him like certain death and loss to do so. He had obeyed and now, it was the night before he was to die, he thought. But God appeared to him and he held Him tight until God saw he couldn’t win the wrestling contest and so He permanently weakened him. However Jacob still held on and would not let Him go.

Many years ago Charles Wesley, similarly reliving the experience of the war of the flesh against the spirit, wrote a wonderful hymn that captures the whole process in emotive, experiential detail. The next time you are striving with sin that seems to be the very essence of who you are maybe you also will find this hymn helpful.

As it turned out Jacob didn’t die. But he never did walk the same way again. This event was the pivotal point in a process that changed him from a schemer to a prince.