Wrestling with God

“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.’”—Genesis 32:24–30 (NIV)

“I can do this all day.” This became the signature line of Captain America representing his unrelenting spirit and inability to back down. When I read today’s passage, I picture Jacob as Captain America wrestling the man who dislocates his hip while he holds on, saying, “I can do this all day, until you bless me!”

So, what’s happening here? Well, after running away from Laban and being commanded by God to return to the land of his fathers, he sent a messenger with gifts to his brother Esau. Genesis 32:6–7 (NLT) says, “After delivering the message, the messengers returned to Jacob and reported, ‘We met your brother, Esau, and he is already on his way to meet you—with an army of 400 men!’ Jacob was terrified at the news.”

While Esau was close to tracking him down, Jacob found himself alone, wrestling a man—only it wasn’t a man, it was actually the pre-incarnate Jesus! He wrestled with Jacob in order to bring him to a place of submission. But then we’re told something strange: “the man saw that he could not overpower him.” Does this mean Jesus was not strong enough to take down Jacob? Obviously, He was. John Gill explained “that the Son of God in the form of man, prevailed not against Jacob, by casting him to the ground, or causing him to desist and leave off wrestling with him; not because he could not, but because he would not, being willing to encourage the faith of Jacob against future trials and exercises, and especially under his present one.”

So, in order to transform him, Jesus knocked his hip out of socket. Why? Well, Jacob had a tendency to lean on his own strength. But now, with a hip out of joint, Jacob could no longer run or lean on his own power. From this point forward, he would have to lean on God.

And to drive the point home even further, the Lord gives Jacob a new name, Israel, which means “governed by God.” The days of running and relying on himself were over. For Israel, the time for standing in faith had finally come, just as it had for his fathers before him. What a picture of the work God wants to do in each of our lives! He wants us to move from being a Jacob to being an Israel, where we’re “governed by God.”

Jesus gave us the perfect example of how to accomplish this (John 5:30; 8:27–28; Luke 22:43–44). Today, we can look to Jesus, “the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2 NKJV) and lean into the Spirit (John 14:26; 16:30). It may be a painful process to get there, but the result is a change in character that also happens to be our greatest need.

DIG: What was God trying to teach Jacob?

DISCOVER: How has God dislocated your hip in the past?

DO: Is there an area in your life you’re wrestling with God for control? Submit! Let Him take that hip out of its socket and give Him control and governance over it and you!