I’ve no idea why, it was just what we did, but to watch two men (because it always was men – think Giant Haystacks and Mick McManus) tussling and scuffling to see who came out on top. There was of course lots of showmanship and play acting, but you get the idea.
Genesis 32:22-32 (MSG)
22-23 But during the night he got up and took his two wives, his two maidservants, and his eleven children and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He got them safely across the brook along with all his possessions.
24-25 But Jacob stayed behind by himself, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he couldn’t get the best of Jacob as they wrestled, he deliberately threw Jacob’s hip out of joint.
26 The man said, “Let me go; it’s daybreak.”
Jacob said, “I’m not letting you go ’til you bless me.”
27 The man said, “What’s your name?”
He answered, “Jacob.”
28 The man said, “But no longer. Your name is no longer Jacob. From now on it’s Israel (God-Wrestler); you’ve wrestled with God and you’ve come through.”
29 Jacob asked, “And what’s your name?”
The man said, “Why do you want to know my name?” And then, right then and there, he blessed him.
30 Jacob named the place Peniel (God’s Face) because, he said, “I saw God face-to-face and lived to tell the story!”
31-32 The sun came up as he left Peniel, limping because of his hip. (This is why Israelites to this day don’t eat the hip muscle; because Jacob’s hip was thrown out of joint.)
This is Jacob the trickster. He has misled and taken advantage of his brother, his father and his uncle. Perhaps he is feeling he is about to get his comeuppance…
Jacob has taken his wives, servants, children and all his worldly possessions across the river. But for now he is alone – Just him and God – and a struggle ensues.
Jacob comes out of the encounter wounded.
Is this because he struggled? Because he wouldn’t give in and let go? Because he insisted on receiving a blessing? As a payback for all his tricks?
Is Jacob wounded as such, or just changed by his meeting with God? By seeing his face and wrestling with him? He has struggled with God and he bears the marks of his encounter.
This video has some interesting thoughts:
Are we up for wrestling with God? Or would we rather have everything simple and straightforward – no struggle required? I think faith worth having is a faith we’ve struggled with. Until we have wrestled with what it’s all about and what it means to us, it remains an inherited faith, not one that will stand up under pressure. It is very easy to trot out trite platitudes, but until we have wrestled we do not know if they stand up or not.
It’s unlikely that we will come away from a true struggle with God unmarked. It is in the struggles that we are changed, that we are stretched, in the facing up to the realities of our lives. There is nothing wrong with wrestling with God, having an honest conversation, admitting our fears, where we are going…
Don’t be afraid of the struggle, for in that we will be formed. Jacob came away not just with a dislocated hip, but also with a new name. It was at that point he became Israel – and the rest, as they say, is history. But without his willingness to wrestle with God – who knows.
Am I willing to struggle with God? To wrestle over who is in charge? How God will bless me? What I need to let go of? What I ought to be doing? To let God touch me, challenge me, humble me and equip me? Will I receive his blessing, his new name, his future?
I come to you,
knowing that answers are not always easy,
faith is easily come by,
that sometimes we need to wrestle
– with our consciences,
our manipulative ways,
and even with you.
In the struggle Lord,
and reassure me.