This is the script of my Going Deeper With God daily devotions for today. You can watch the video here if you prefer.
Jacob Wrestles at Peniel
22 That same night Jacob got up, took his two wives, his two concubines, and his eleven children, and crossed the Jabbok River. 23 After he had sent them across, he also sent across all that he owned, 24 but he stayed behind, alone.
Then a man came and wrestled with him until just before daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he was not winning the struggle, he hit Jacob on the hip, and it was thrown out of joint. 26 The man said, “Let me go; daylight is coming.”
“I won’t, unless you bless me,” Jacob answered.
27 “What is your name?” the man asked.
“Jacob,” he answered.
28 The man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob. You have struggled with God and with men, and you have won; so your name will be Israel.”
29 Jacob said, “Now tell me your name.”
But he answered, “Why do you want to know my name?” Then he blessed Jacob.
30 Jacob said, “I have seen God face-to-face, and I am still alive”; so he named the place Peniel.31 The sun rose as Jacob was leaving Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip. 32 Even today the descendants of Israel do not eat the muscle which is on the hip joint, because it was on this muscle that Jacob was hit.
When I was a girl, our Saturday tea times were spent watching tv, eating bread and dripping and watching the wrestling on ITV. Think Giant Haystacks and Mick McManus. That was how life was, certainly in our corner of the world in the 1970s – we knew how to live!!
In those wrestling matches there was a lot of play acting, I suspect a lot of throwing the matches and it was more about the entertainment.
Today’s readings are of real struggles and a real wrestling with God. Particularly as we hear Jacob’s story. We’ve been following that story through the readings and now we come to the point of his wrestling with God.
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 limping. He has struggled with God and he bears the marks of his encounter.
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?
As I reflect on bible passages, I like to put myself in the story and hear the voice of the characters. So here is my voice in this.
trying to gain the upper hand.
for that blessing,
not the stolen one,
but God’s blessing
and my life.
And now you come,
I am marked,
by our struggle;
from now on
I am changed.
You call me by a new name,
a new purpose
a new me.
I have met God,
we have struggled,
I am renewed
and I am alive.
I wrestle with you Lord.
and I seek,
I long for you to touch me,
to change me
to make me new,
I come to you,
knowing that answers are not always easy,
faith is not always easily come by,
that sometimes I need to wrestle
– with my conscience,
my manipulative ways,
and even with you.
In the struggle Lord,
and reassure me.
Bless me Lord
Bless each one of us.
Meet us in our struggle,
and may we know we are alive in you.
My hymn suggestion for today is O Love That Will Not Let Me Go, such a beautiful hymn that ties together both Psalm 23 and Jacob’s struggles. It means so much to me of being able to trace God’s rainbow through the rain and the God whose love never lets us go, whatever the struggle. And this is a beautiful rendition of it: