In my Bible reading this morning, I came across a fascinating story … when God took a human form and wrestled with a man! Here is the narrative of Genesis 32:22-32 in the New Living Translation:
22 During the night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two servant wives, and his eleven sons and crossed the Jabbok River with them. 23 After taking them to the other side, he sent over all his possessions.
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.”
27 “What is your name?” the man asked.
He replied, “Jacob.”
28 “Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the man told him. “From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.”
29 “Please tell me your name,” Jacob said.
“Why do you want to know my name?” the man replied. Then he blessed Jacob there.
30 Jacob named the place Peniel (which means “face of God”), for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared.” 31 The sun was rising as Jacob left Peniel, and he was limping because of the injury to his hip. 32 (Even today the people of Israel don’t eat the tendon near the hip socket because of what happened that night when the man strained the tendon of Jacob’s hip.)
There is so much that we can learn from this short story but let me focus on only one point. It is this: There will be times when God “wrestles” with us. And He has good reason for doing so.
Up to this point, Jacob had lived up to his name. The name “Jacob” meant “heel-catcher” or “deceiver.” He was a man that lived by his own wits. There wasn’t a problem that could come his way that he couldn’t handle. He was self-confident … and unusable to God because of it.
In order to be usable to God, we must be confident but not “self-” confident. We must be confident in Him. And that is the reason for the wrestling match in Genesis 22. God set out to show Jacob that while he was good at what he did, he wasn’t good enough. With a touch, God could render him completely incapable of winning a struggle. So, instead of depending upon himself, God pointed out that Jacob would do well to depend upon the God who can do anything He wills to do.
That lesson applies to us as well. Often, God brings trials into our lives for the same reason He wrestled with Jacob. God wants to strip us of our self-reliance. He wants to break us so that He can rebuild us (our military knows the benefits of breaking and rebuilding new recruits). God wants us to be confident but that confidence needs to be rooted in who He is and what He can do in our life.
Who do you depend on to get you through the moments of each day? If there is any chance at all that God could have great plans for you, you must learn the joys of trusting in Him. Lose your self-confidence and learn the joys of trusting in Him. If you are God’s child and you haven’t yet learned this lesson, God may wrestle with you by bringing difficulties into your life.
But, what you learn in those times is well worth the experience!