“This left Jacob all alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break. (Genesis 32:24 NLT)
Jacob had been abundantly blessed by God. He was materially prosperous and blessed with a large family. His life was complete except for one thing. He was estranged from his twin brother Esau.
When their father Issac was near death Jacob deceived his blind father by posing as Esau and stole his brothers birthright. When Esau found out about his brother’s deception Jacob fled for his life. Years had passed and now Jacob was attempting to reconnect with his brother.
As Jacob was preparing to meet with Esau he sent part of his family ahead and he stayed in camp all alone. All of sudden, out of nowhere, a man appeared and began to physically wrestle with Jacob. Jacob and this man wrestled all night long. Just as dawn was beginning to appear the man realized he could not win and he touched Jacob in the hip socket and Jacob ceased his struggle. The Scripture records:
“When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket.” (Verse 25 NLT)
This story is a supernatural event which has application for us today. There are at least three elements of the story that are key to understanding this passage.
1. First the man doing the wrestling with Jacob is none other than the Lord Jesus. This is known as a Christophany. A Christophany is an Old Testament appearance of the Lord Jesus. This is one of several recorded instances of Jesus appearing in the Old Testament. Notice what Jacob said about the man.
“Jacob named the place Peniel (which means “face of God”), for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared.” (Verse 30 NLT)
2. The wrestling match was about breaking Jacob’s self-will. Even though it was a physical wrestling match the real battle was about surrender of the will. The passage says “When the man saw that he would not win the match he touched Jacob’s hip.“ If it was a typical match of strength all Jesus had to do was speak a word and Jacob would have been immobilized. It was about Jacob being unwilling to let go of his stronghold of living as a liar and deceiver.
3. When Jesus put his hip out of socket Jacob gave up the fight. This was Jacob’s brokenness moment which led to his repentance. His repentance from his deceptive ways changed his life. He was never the same again. To reflect this change in Jacob’s life God changed his name from Jacob ( liar, deceiver ) to Israel ( God fights).
“ Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” What is your name? the man asked. He replied, “Jacob”, the man told him, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, from now on you will be called Israel because you have fought with God and man and have won.”(Genesis 32:27-28 NLT)
This story holds valuable instruction for us today. God wants to deliver us from those things that keep us from being totally committed and fully obedient. There are at least three lessons we can learn from Jacobs wrestling match.
Lesson 1: Strongholds are those things that keep us from living out our God given destiny. Jacob’s birthright and destiny was to fulfill the promise given to Abraham of making a great nation. Jacob’s deception and lies kept him from fulfilling this destiny. His sin created a stronghold that caused him to miss God’s best for his life.
We also have a destiny and our strongholds keep us from realizing God’s purpose for our life. What is it in your life that keeps you from a life of freedom? What has God been wrestling with you about?
God might strive and wrestle with us for a while but in the end it is our choice to stop struggling, surrender and trust God.
Lesson 2: Notice that God had to injure Jacob in order to get his attention. If necessary, God would rather see us crushed rather than living an un-surrendered life. Are we sure that our dreams and plans are congruent with God’s plan?
God loves us unconditionally, but sometimes He is not content with us as we are. If we keep wrestling with Him and holding on to something He wants us to surrender, then He may have to bring us to the end of ourselves. He may bring us to a point that we have no place to run and no one to turn but to Him.
He wants to change us into His image. Brokenness is often God’s method of getting us to the end of ourselves. Jacob was running from his problems. He knew he had to make it right with his brother or he would never enjoy God’s full favor or blessing.
Jacob was full of fear until he was tired of wrestling with God. He finally gave up, repented and put His trust, and his life, in God’s hand. That’s all that God ask of us, to surrender every aspect of our life to Him and then learn to trust him fully.
Lesson 3: Sometimes the scars of our past is a good reminder that full surrender and abandonment is the best place to be. I don’t know how long Jacob limped after that event, maybe till his death. But I can imagine every time he had a hip pain it reminded him of the price he paid of doing life in his own strength.