It was one of those mornings where I read a passage and thought “I really want to understand this.” I prayed for understanding and dug in. The story of Jacob wrestling with God in Genesis 32:22-32 seems so bizarre and out of place, that is until you dig into it, of course.
For context, Jacob has separated from Laban where he has lived for many years, he has his family, his herd, all of his belongings and is now on his way to a head on encounter with his brother Esau, whom he hasn’t seen in many years, but when they last met, Esau’s mission was to kill Jacob for how he deceived him. Now Jacob begins to fear, and separates and sends everyone on for operational security, he is alone. Very alone. In a very quiet desolate place.
The bizzaro enters when in Gen 32:24 we out of no where see Jacob wrestling a man, the wrestling match continues all night. The man is soon to be understood to be God himself, or possibly his angel – who ends up dislocating Jacob’s leg in an attempt to bring this cage match to an end. Jacob wrestles on, but has an important realization – he realizes who he is fighting against.
His whole life he has been scheming, weaseling, deceiving – seeking (and stealing) other’s blessings like his brother Esau, but now he realizes thru this wound and revelation of who he is fighting against, that the fighting with God must stop and he must seek to be blessed by him and cease trying to prevail in his own strength. God gave him a divine wound in dislocating his leg that snapped him out of it.
In the margin of one of my Bibles, I have written “Jacob’s 9/11 Moment”. For me, Sept 11th was the moment, the divine wound, that made me realize it was time for me to stop fighting against God and doing things in my own strength and to turn over my life to him, live the life pleasing to him, end the sin cycle, and stop the deception.
Name changes in the Bible are significant, and here Jacob is renamed to Israel. “Jacob” the cunning deceiver is renamed to “Israel”. The old has gone the new has come. Ultimately, this is fulfilled for us in Jesus Christ – the Messiah who will come out of the line of Jacob/Israel – to save us from our own wrestling and sin, give us new life, a new inheritance and a new future.
Eventually, there comes a time where the wrestling must end. Sometimes that is thru the grace of a divine wound, and the the healer sets us free.