Jacob is following God’s command and returning to the land of his father, and God sends His angels to meet and encourage Jacob of His presence, (32:1-2).
Jacob makes his plans to appease his brother, but is absolutely terrified of what the end result may be. “Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed,” (32:7). Jacob acknowledges his unworthiness and God’s lovingkindness, prays for deliverance, and once again admits his fear, (32:9-11). Then he reminds the LORD of what He said, “For You said, ‘I will surely prosper you and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which is too great to be numbered,’” (32:12).
Up to this point, all his actions and even his prayers are driven by fear. But then, Jacob comes face to face with God and wrestles with Him all night, refusing to let go until he receives His blessing. Jacob was “greatly afraid and distressed,” of his brother, a mere man, but bold enough to grab hold and wrestle with God. “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved,” (32:30). Desperation sometimes generates bravery!
God had demonstrated His lovingkindness to Jacob; He had prospered him and had communicated His purpose for Jacob and his descendants. Jacob experienced His lovingkindness through what the Lord had accomplished and what He had promised. But Jacob was still walking in fear. In his desperation, he grabbed hold of God and God allowed Jacob to strive with Him all night.
Why did God touch Jacob’s socket to leave him with a forever limp? Perhaps, as a result, Jacob understood that with just one touch he could have been annihilated, but was spared. Was the Lord reminding Jacob through this wrestling match, that His lovingkindness is tangible; that since God not only allowed him to survive, but also blessed him, Jacob had no need to walk in fear? We may be left with some questions, but as we consider Him in Genesis 32, may we be changed and strengthened by the encounter.
Consider Him Who Wrestles
- He allows us to strive with Him. “Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak… Then he said, ‘Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.’ But he said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me,’” (32:24, 26).
- He touches us, so as to impart a perpetual impact that is far reaching. “When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him… Now the sun rose upon him just as he crossed over Penuel, and he was limping on his thigh. 32 Therefore, to this day the sons of Israel do not eat the sinew of the hip which is on the socket of the thigh, because he touched the socket of Jacob’s thigh in the sinew of the hip,” (32:25, 31-32).
- He changes us. “So he said to him, ‘What is your name?’ And he said, ‘Jacob.’ 28 He said, ‘Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed,’” (32:27-28).
- He blesses us. “Then Jacob asked him and said, ‘Please tell me your name.’ But he said, ‘Why is it that you ask my name?’ And he blessed him there,” (32:29).
How do we respond to Him Who Wrestles?
- Let us deliberately strive to recount the tangible displays of His lovingkindness. Reminding ourselves of His promises strengthen our weary and fear-filled souls. We are invited to come and cling to Him. He will not turn us away. Situations, circumstances, pain, loss, illness; all these threaten to loosen our grip. It’s a wrestling match to cling, to refuse to let go until He blesses. But because of Jesus, we can have the confidence to do so.
- Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need, (Hebrews 4:16).
- Striving sometimes hurts; we sometimes get put out of joint. And though we strive to love Him and become more like Him, this life leaves us with scars. I love the words I heard from one of my Bible Study Fellowship teachers, “Scars are our family resemblance.” And if we resemble Jesus, His impact through us will be far reaching. Let us not let go, even when it hurts!
- For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, (Philippians 1:29).
- Jacob’s name was changed. In the Hebrew culture a name represented the one bearing that name. Jacob was changed from one who supplants and deceives (even in his preparations to meet up with Esau, we see him conniving and scheming) to one who strives with God, one who refuses to let go until he’s blessed. If we have placed our faith in Christ, He has changed us. Let us hold on by faith, striving against the voice of the accuser while clinging to the truth: we have been changed!
- Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come, (2 Corinthians 5:17).
- He blesses us. When Jacob asks His name, this answer comes, “Why do you ask my name?” Was He saying like He said to Philip,
- “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me?” (John 14:9).
What greater possible blessing is there than to know the Father by faith, to see Him as He has revealed Himself in His Son and in His Word? Let us take hold of His truth and not be swayed by doubt. Let us strive to stand strong in what we know, that which He has promised in His Word and has accomplished in our world.
May we be content to leave our questions with Him, trusting, that in His time and way, we will receive all the answers we need. In the meantime, may we walk in faith; faith always prevails over fear!