Genesis 32:22-30 - The same night he (Jacob) arose and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream, and everything else that he had. And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob's hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, "Let me go, for the day has broken." But Jacob said, "I will not let you go unless you bless me." And he said to him, "What is your name?" And he said, "Jacob." Then he said, "Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed." Then Jacob asked him, "Please tell me your name." But he said, "Why is it that you ask my name?" And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, "For I have seen God face-to-face, and yet my life has been delivered."
I love this story of Jacob wrestling with God. That is who Jacob was wrestling with, you know—this is one of the Old Testament appearances of Christ before His incarnation, one of the mysterious times when God showed up bodily to talk with one of His people—or in this case, to fight with him.
Why would God wrestle with Jacob? I don't know, but in a sense I think it was a kindness. That night Jacob was desperately worried. Long ago, Jacob had cheated his brother Esau, and he had good reason to think Esau might want to kill him out of revenge. And now here Jacob was, about to meet his brother again for the first time in years, out in the wilderness with a family full of women and children to protect. Jacob sent his family across the stream for whatever protection that might provide, and sat up by himself in the darkness, waiting. And God showed up to fight with him.
There was no more worrying then! There is no time for worrying when a stranger is at your throat. Jacob gave it everything he had, but he could not win. The stranger didn't seem to be winning, either. And then something strange happened. As the sun was coming up, the stranger reached out and touched Jacob's hip—just touched it, nothing more forceful—and put it out of joint. But more to the point, who was this man, who could do something like that with just a touch? If Jacob didn't know the man before, he probably figured it out then.
And God said, "Let Me go, for the day has broken." What?! Jacob is in no shape to stop a kitten from escaping, let alone God. But nevertheless God asks. Jacob refuses, until God blesses him—and declares him the winner.
No doubt you have had your own wrestling matches with God, during the darkest nights of your life. And you probably carry the scars, just as Jacob did. That's okay. Our apparent enemy is actually our Savior, as we find out when dawn breaks. His wrestling with us turns out to be our blessing. And because He loves us, and has named us His own, we don't need to worry about Him escaping us. He who saved us through His own death and resurrection will keep us safely as His own forever.
THE PRAYER: Lord, bring me safely through the dark times when I wrestle with You, until dawn breaks and I see Your face. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Kari Vo.
1. Have you ever wrestled or boxed with someone?
2. When was a dark time in your life when you were wrestling with God?
3. How did God end that dark time?
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