I still remember one of my first wrestling matches for two reasons. First, I lost big time. I went all three rounds without getting pinned, but never scored a single point. I think the score was somewhere around 13-0. Just picture that in your mind (it’s okay to laugh). Second, I will never forget how exhausted I was after the match. I had only wrestled for 9 minutes but it seemed like every single muscle in my body was spent. I felt like a wet noodle. It took me a long time to recover as I sat on the bleacher hunched over. I didn’t want to talk to anybody. I wanted to forfeit my next match. It was just that bad. Even to this day I have never experienced that same level of exhaustion as that one wrestling match.
But my wrestling match is much different than the one that Jacob encountered that night on the banks of the Jabbok River. Jacob must have known he was not wrestling a mere man. The struggle went on for hours into the night. Like a father wrestling with his children, God parried every move Jacob threw at him.
Seeing that Jacob would not give up, God, in his amazing power, gently touched his finger to Jacob’s hip. Feeling the immediate agony spread throughout his body Jacob collapsed in God’s arms. For his hip was just wretched from its socket. As he fell he slid down, pressed against God’s body. His sweat and mud smeared His clothing. Gasping for air, he desperately clung tighter. As he did this God said to him, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking”. Jacob, bracing his back and straining his neck in an effort to look up, cried out, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me!” Something came over him that night. Jacob the ‘supplanter’ recognized that this man was greater than him.
Seeing Jacob’s desperation, God looked down and asked “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” He said, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.” It’s an amazing story. God had come and received the very thing he wanted from Jacob. It is the very same thing he wants from you and me.
What was God searching for as he wrestled Jacob? He was searching for Jacob’s heart. He’s saying, ‘give me your heart Jacob, that’s all I want’. He doesn’t want the sacrificial offerings from Jacob. No, something more powerful, something more intimate. Dr. Sinclair Ferguson states it best:
“In order to have Jacob’s heart, God is prepared to dislocate Jacob’s hip. Now that could be the most important word God could ever speak to you. That the way to your heart is by the divine dislocation of something that makes you strong.”
As we look into our lives we can relate to what happened to Jacob. God may have touched the very thing you have depended on most your of life and took it away from you. Perhaps you walk with the same limp that Jacob carried with him for the rest of his life. If this is true, consider that a blessing.
The story of Jacob wrestling God is a spiritual principle that resonates with all of us. If you’re like me, at times you see yourself as Jacob. Wandering in this world, only out for myself. Continuously searching for more blessings in life. Maybe you hold fast to your extrinsic blessings such as your occupation, your family, your education level, your marriage, and your savings account. It could be more subtle ideals such as wisdom or your status in the world. In the end all these items are temporary. But we know this…don’t we?
But what’s more powerful is that this spiritual principle takes hold of our hearts when we read and understand the Gospel. For another struggled in a dark place. This time it was with his heavenly father. He limped as he carried the cross to Cavalry. As he was nailed to the cross he suffered shame and humiliation. But even in all this hatred shown to him he cried out, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.” He became the curse we deserved so God’s blessing might come to us. His name is Jesus Christ.