Bible Devotions

Have you ever wrestled with God?

on February 20, 2009

Read Genesis 32:24-31

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[c] the sun rose on him, and he limped on his hip.

If Jacob was alone, where did this Man come from? It was night time, so was Jacob sleeping and in a dream saw this man? Was He a physical man or figment of Jacob’s mind? Is this a picture representing a Man so we could comprehend what Jacob was going through? Was this a physical wrestling or a mental one? You know the kind of mental wrestling when we try to grasp the meaning of something?

Why did this Man touch Jacob’s hip to make it out of joint? Did Jacob need a reminder of this wrestling match? Was this to be a symbol for Jacob to try depending on God rather than his own efforts? Perhaps Jacob was trying to reach God through his own strength, because the story says Jacob would not let go of the Man when He asked. Could this be a “thorn” in Jacob’s flesh so he would remember to rely on God’s power? We read in other places God did not remove Paul’s thorn in the flesh so that God’s grace is magnified in Paul’s weakness.

When it talks about Jacob not letting go until the Man blesses him, it causes me to picture a small child clinging to his parent’s leg. The child holds on tightly saying I’ll not let go until you give me a hug. Like the child, does Jacob need reassurance? What about this blessing? Why would Jacob ask this Man to bless him? In that day people didn’t ask anyone to bless them. The father of the family would bless the children. Jacob knew this, because actually stole his brother’s blessing. Does Jacob realize he is wrestling with God the Father?

The Man then asks “what’s your name?” to which Jacob replies “Jacob.” The Man says not any more. Your new name is Israel for you struggled with God and men and you have prevailed. Is this an admission the Man was in fact God? Isn’t it interesting an encounter with God leads to a new identity? We have seen other examples of this when God changed Sarai’s name to Sarah and Abram’s name to Abraham. We who have trusted in Jesus Christ have a new name too – Christian.

Jacob says tell me your name. The Man replies why? Is this because what Jacob has just experienced should have been enough evidence for him to know the Man’s name without being told? Then the Man blessed him. What was the blessing? Was it something spoken over Jacob? Was it ceremonial? Or was it a revelation?

The next thing we read is Jacob naming the place Peniel for I have seen God face to face and my life is preserved. This makes me think the blessing was a revelation. It’s as if Jacob now knows for certain God visited with him face to face. When Jacob talked about his life being preserved, could he have meant not only being saved from the encounter with God but also preserved from the wrath of his brother Esau? Remember Jacob was about to meet his brother after trying to appease him with many presents. Perhaps this revelation showed him what was to come, for next we read he crossed over Peniel and the sun rose on him as he limped on his hip.

Have you ever wrestled with God as Jacob did? What was your experience like? Did you walk away with a reminder to rely on God rather than your strength? Did you receive a blessing through the encounter?

God Almighty Father above, thank you for loving us and wanting to have relationship with us. Thank you for sending Jesus to die in our place to make an intimate relationship with you possible. Thank you for saving us, giving us a new name. Thank you for your Word of Truth. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

©Elizabeth Marks has led small group Bible studies for almost a decade. Author of and websites she has a heart for encouraging others with God’s Word.

One response to “Have you ever wrestled with God?

  1. anna says:

    Great post. I’ve been pondering these same paragraphs for a while now.

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