Jacob was on his way to meet and appease his older brother Esau. This was the first time they would meet after Jacob’s deception, resulting in him taking Esau’s birthright (a blessing received by the firstborn son – see Genesis chapter 27).
That’s some pretty serious deception! So you can imagine the state that Jacob was in, a state of mixed emotion – guilt over what he did, fear for what his brother might do to retaliate and anxiety upon hearing that Esau had four hundred men with him (Genesis 32:6-7).
The night before he is to face Esau, Jacob sends his family ahead of him while he hangs back. During this time alone, Jacob has an epic encounter with God, in the most unexpected and usual of ways.
Despite the unusualness of this supernatural encounter, there is so much that we can draw from it.
Disrupted with a wrestling match, what an inconvenience! Or so it would seem to be.
What may appear to be a distraction, was actually exactly what Jacob needed ahead of his meeting with Esau. This wrestle with God caused Jacob to focus on God rather than focus on the problem at hand. In the same way, what we may view as an “interruption” or a “distraction” may be God trying to get our attention and shift our focus to be on Him rather than our circumstance.
Wrestling God with a dislocated hip must have been an excruciatingly painful experience for Jacob. Yet, he was so determined to receive his blessing that he pressed on even in his weakness.
All too often, we use our “weaknesses” (illness, loss of a loved one, financial or relationship breakdown) as an excuse, a reason to give up. Yet it’s in our weakness that God urges us to continue to “wrestle” with Him, to cling to Him and petition for the blessing He promises to give us as His children.
If Jacob had received the blessing without the wrestle, would he still have glorified God? We’ll never know. What we do know, is that the more we are willing to wrestle with God for our blessings (healing, peace, restoration and more) the less likely we are to take them for granted when we do receive.
After wrestling all night and copping a blow to his hip, Jacob no doubt was in a much weakened state. Not ideal considering he believed he was about to be attacked by Esau and his men!
The thing is, he was more ready than ever to face his brother and the events that were to follow. Why? Because, although his physical condition was compromised, Jacob walked (or rather, limped) away with his faith strengthened. Due to his struggle, God had given Jacob a new name, Israel (meaning “struggled with God”). A covenant name which revealed his purpose. A historical marker of God’s original covenant with Abraham, Jacob’s grandfather (see Genesis chapter 17).
Post wrestle, Jacob gained a new identity, one which eventually became the identity of the people of God.