The Wrestler

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(Jacob) sent across whatever he had. Then he was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. And when he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him” (Genesis 32:23b-25).

God had revealed Himself to Jacob several times during his lifetime. The first time — the memorable “Jacob’s ladder” dream —  he awoke and exclaimed, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it…How awesome is this place!” (Genesis 28:16-17). The second was another God-revealing dream, this time directing him to return home (Genesis 31:13). God then sent angels to meet Jacob as he neared the inevitable encounter with his twin brother, Esau. (Did these angels give Jacob direction on how to appease the decades of tension which had existed between the two men? Genesis 32:1-2)

Now, in this defining moment of Jacob’s life, he doesn’t merely dream about God or encounter His messengers. This time, Jacob lays hold of God and won’t let Him go (Genesis 32:28). Despite being desperate and alone, Jacob was spiritually aggressive. What made the difference?

First, Jacob was alone. Solitude often gives the best opportunity to ponder our lives and discover God. Evidently, he’d been alone during the other times that he had God encounters. Maybe we should begin seeing loneliness as an opportunity, rather than a disadvantage.

Secondly, Jacob emptied himself of all he had. Even his location on the bank of the Jabbok grants insight. In Hebrew, the translation of this river is “an emptying.” He had left his home of twenty years and now sent away both his family and his livelihood. How often am I willing to open my hand of all I have in order to truly encounter God?

Lastly, Jacob prayed an anguished petition. The scripture says that he was “greatly afraid and distressed” and fearful of an attack (Genesis 32:7,11). Possibly Jacob had cried out to God desperately before, but now he did so with humility. “I am unworthy of all the lovingkindness and of all the faithfulness with Thou has shown to Thy servant” (Genesis 32:10).

Jacob’s hardships with Laban in Paddan-aram worked insight and endurance into his life. The very conniving behavior Jacob used on his brother was now done unto him (Genesis 29:21-30). Now this man who had been named “the supplanter” (literally: “layer of snares”) was ready to become Israel — “the one who strives with God” (Genesis 32:28). He had always possessed passion. Now, the desperation and endurance drove him to use that passion where it counts: in prevailing prayer. Jacob would never walk the same (Genesis 32:31).

How often has Jesus approached me and I have passively allowed Him to pass by? Grappling with God must be an exercise of my whole body, soul, and spirit. Jesus said we “ought to pray at all times and not lose heart’ (Luke 18:1-8). Am I whining passively about my situation or praying aggressively over it? Could it be that the adversity in my life was allowed purposefully to strengthen my resolve and drive me to prayer?

Arthur Matthews says, “We have confined our living and interest to earth and have ignored our responsibilities in the heavens.”

“May it not be, O Lord. Make us bold with strength in our souls (Psalm 138:3). Give us the wrestling spirit of Jacob that takes hold of You and won’t let go, even if it takes emptiness, desperation and weakness. May Your strength be evident (2 Corinthians 12:9). In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”