The latter portion of Genesis 32 contains the event of Jacob wrestling with God. It is a Sunday school story those of us who grew up in church know, but not one we understand. While it is what we might call a “cool” story it often leaves us a bit puzzled.
I think one of the problems is that we often read this story as if Jacob is the hero to be imitated. The best understanding we have of the story is that Jacob heroically held on to God with all his might and was darn tootin’ determined to be blessed by God. While there may be a bit of truth to that, if that’s the main point, we are whiffing a bit, and we feel it.
For starters I would not assert that this story is about how strong Jacob was, but rather about how weak he was. Yeah, I said it, weak.
To understand this we need to understand that this passage is actually not so much about Jacob, as it is about the other wrestler in the ring. This isn’t a story about how Jacob wrestled with God, but about how God wrestled with Jacob. The Divine Wrestler is the hero of the story.
Jacob had no physical strength with which to wrestle the almighty. But he had a fleshly will that struggled with God, that resisted God. He had a human nature that believed he was self-sufficient and was reliant on his own strength, not God.
But in Genesis 32 God came to deal with Jacob. The Divine Wrestler let Jacob struggle through the night to so that Jacob would come to the end of himself. Jacob was drained of all delusion of self-sufficiency and was left with nowhere to go but to hang on to God – to depend on His strength. With a touch, the Lord threw Jacob’s hip out of place, to strip him of his strength, so that Jacob would learn to lean on the Lord’s strength.
Jacob didn’t get what he wanted out of God, God got what he wanted out of Jacob.
Sometimes God wounds in order to bless. Sometimes God makes us weak so we can know His strength. Sometimes a limp from God is a blessing from God.
Let us learn to surrender to the almighty and cease the struggle against him. Let us not live in delusion about our own strength and depend upon the Lord’s strength. Let us realize that at the end of ourselves is a good place to be, for that is where the power of Christ begins.