“And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, ‘Let me go, for the day has broken.’ But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” (Genesis 34:24b-26)
When Jacob went to meet his brother, he was quite fearful because he assumed Esau still bore a grudge and was going to kill him. He called upon the Lord for help and reminded him of His promise of great blessings. Nevertheless, he still did not trust that God would protect him. He divided up his family and servants with the rest of his goods and sent them ahead. He was willing to sacrifice all the things he held dear but his faith was still weak.
Jacob had a theophany: the Lord appeared as a man or angel who wrestled with him all night long. He hesitated to surrender himself totally to God, but the Lord forced him to submit to His will. He left Jacob lame but with a new name. He was no longer Jacob, the heel-grabber, the deceiver, but Israel, he who has prevailed in his struggle with God. Strengthened, he confronted his worst fear and the Lord blessed him, his family and Esau as well.
Jacob’s experience reveals that it is not easy to surrender ourselves and to put God first before all our possessions and relationships. It is not easy to submit our will to His. In our struggle we wrestle with God and He humbles us, leaving us broken and submissive. And yet, like Jacob it is we who prevail with God for in our struggle He grants us faith, forgiveness, and eternal life.