Lent 2022 Day 10
Sat 12 Mar
Gen 32:22-30 Israel
22 That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, ‘Let me go, for it is daybreak.’
But Jacob replied, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’
27 The man asked him, ‘What is your name?’ ‘Jacob,’ he answered.
28 Then the man said, ‘Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.’
29 Jacob said, ‘Please tell me your name.’ But he replied, ‘Why do you ask my name?’ Then he blessed him there. 30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, ‘It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.’
The story starts with Jacob sending his family and possessions on and being alone. Did he need time for thought, or did he just feel the need to stay – who knows?
So, what is God doing (for it is he), wrestling with Jacob all night? For how many hours of grappling, writhing, twisting and whatever did this strange encounter last? Was Jacob fighting for his life, or perhaps his honour? Did he realise who it was, that form-of-a-man appearance of the Almighty One, The God of Abraham and Isaac? I would imagine that if I were wrestling with God in this way, I’d know that it was more than a man.
Was there conversation (more grunting than talking, I’d imagine)? Did either party shout out or question the meaning of this encounter? Why did God want to spend the night with Jacob? Did they have a break between rounds? Had God restricted himself to human power in this appearance, because he appears not able to overcome Jacob, the man who’d stayed indoors most of the time, yet a little later he simply touches Jacob’s hip and leaves him permanently limp.
What an unpleasant thing to do, but then, didn’t the apostle Paul have a “thorn in his flesh” that God would not take away, telling him that his grace was sufficient for Paul? What’s going on?! Perhaps it has something to do with a reminder that God is in charge, and God will work his plan in his strength alone, and not in Jacob’s, or Paul’s. A limp is ever there to remind them both that God is not seeking their prowess, but their loving obedience, for God alone will be glorified in what he has achieved.
Earlier, God had pronounced a blessing over Jacob (Genesis 28:10-17). He’d appeared at the top of a heavenly ladder, and had made promises to Jacob that he and his descendants would prosper and flourish. Now Jacob gets a new name, one that’s known across the world – Israel.
How often do you wrestle with God? How often do you let go?
Has God ever come to you in disguise?
Father God, you spent a night with Jacob, in close contact, hearing his panting, feeling his grip and striving with him, intending to bless, rename him, but also to humble him lest he get above himself. You are with me always in Jesus, in whom I live and who lives in me. In Jesus you bless me, name me as your own, and by your all-sufficient grace I live my life. Thank you, Father. Amen.
The struggle, the submission: