Why did Jacob wrestle with God?

photo credit: Sarah Sitkin via photopin cc
photo credit: Sarah Sitkin via photopin cc

Genesis 32:22-32– Just ten verses mark Jacob’s transformation from “heel-grabber” (i.e. trickster) to “God fights,” a man who has surrendered to God.

I had to pull down the big books today to figure out why Jacob was fighting with God and what it all meant. Would you want to meet God by yourself in the dark and have to fight Him, even in His man shape? I sure wouldn’t! Knowing the significance behind the story allows us avoid wrestling with God ourselves.

At this point in his life, Jacob has succeeded through trickery. He tricked his brother out of his birthright/blessing (i.e. God’s covenant promise and God’s covenant blessing). He tricked his father into blessing him. He then tricked his father-in-law out of his best livestock (not that he didn’t deserve it). Now, Jacob is ready to re-enter the Promise Land and confront his brother again. It’s at this point that God steps in. The trickster must realize that he needs to put his faith in God, not in his own abilities.

24 This left Jacob all alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break. 25 When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket. 26 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.”

~Genesis 32:24-26

Could the man (God) really not win the match? I don’t think that’s the intent of the verse. It’s more likely that God saw that Jacob was not going to give up and surrender to Him, so He put Jacob’s hip out of socket to get his attention. Dawn was coming, and fighting God in the dark when His face couldn’t be seen was one thing, but seeing God’s face in daylight? People don’t survive that sort of thing.

Up until the point his hip was dislocated, Jacob probably hadn’t even realized he was wrestling with God. Then he goes from wrestling to clinging. He doesn’t want to let go until God blesses Him. That shows how important God’s blessing was to Jacob. So, Jacob gets the blessing directly from God. Not because he won the wrestling match, but because he finally realized that the person he was fighting the whole time (his whole life) was God. By renaming Jacob to Israel “God fights,” it showed that God was going to fight (be in control) of Israel from that day forth. The man and the country. Trickery wasn’t what Jacob needed; putting his trust in God was what he needed. God gave him all night to figure it out, but it wasn’t until his hip was dislocated that Jacob realized he needed to surrender, not fight.

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc
photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

We have all wrestled with this. It’s not until we realize that we need a Savior that we allow Jesus to save us. Once He has, we have to figure out what it means for Him to be Lord of our lives. Lordship means letting Him call all the shots. Going to Him when we have questions, when we need direction. Not relying on our own power to get by. Those of us that can surrender without having to wrestle don’t need our hips dislocated (figuratively).

Unfortunately for me, I was the wrestling sort. I had to get to a place where my life was broken before I realized that I need God to run my life for me. I still bear the scars of “dislocation,” but they were a small price to pay to figure out the only way my life was ever going to work was with God in control of it.

What about you? Are you wrestling with God? Can you submit before your hip has to be dislocated? Or have you been through a painful dislocation and lived to tell the tale?

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