Tag Archives: Genesis 32:22-31

Wrestling With God

Rembrandt – Jacob Wrestling With the Angel

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.

Genesis 32:22-31

still grappling,
trying to gain the upper hand.

to be.

Still yearning
for that blessing,
not the stolen one,
but God’s blessing
on me
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.

I search
and I seek,
I long for you to touch me,
to change me
to make me new,
in you.

Bless me Lord
I pray.
Bless each one of us.
Meet us in our struggle,
touch us,
renew us
and may we know we are alive in you.

This is such a beautiful hymn. 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:

For another take of mine on this passage, see Scarred for Life

Wrestling With God

When I was a girl, Saturday tea times were spent eating bread and dripping and watching the wrestling on tv (Oh yes, we knew how to live :))

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 selfishness,
our manipulative ways,
our wants
and even with you.

In the struggle Lord,
re-form me,
renew me,
rename me,
re-purpose me
and reassure me.

Scarred for life

My skin is rubbish at healing.  I have all kinds of scars from stupid mishaps, and operation scars that look horrible because they just haven’t healed well.  But those scars and what they represent, are part of what make me who I am.

Scars are a sign that something has happened to our bodies. A scar is defined as a mark left, or a lasting after effect.  We are different from how we were before.  Scars are not just physical, they can be emotional too, and can effect us in all kinds of ways.

There are many on the internet offering scar removal – but that may just remove the visible mark, it doesn’t effect the fact that something has happened in our lives.

In Genesis, Jacob is involved in a fight, a struggle, a wrestling match.   Jacobs has been a troubled life.  Now he is on his way to be reunited with his brother Esau.

He is spending the night alone. During that night a man appears and wrestles with him.  This struggle lasts until almost daybreak.

Jacob is scarred in this encounter, but also changed and blessed.  His name is changed, he is given a new start.  He has wrestled with God and he is no longer the man he was before.  And the final act before the man leaves – to bless the newly named Israel – what Jacob had asked for.

“Stuff” happens in life.  Life as a Christian does not get rid of all the bad things that happen.  We are not immune to tragedy and hardship.  God does not lift us from the life that everyone has to live.  That would not be fair – and I don’t think it would be good for us.  I don’t think it does anyone any good to have their life made easy for them.  Great enjoy the smooth bits, but don’t expect it all the time.   There are things we have to grapple with. There will be tragedy and pain that happen to us.  We all carry scars of some kind.


I suppose the difference is what we do with those scars.  Do we pick at them, so they never get a chance to even begin to heal?  Are we aware of our own scars, and those of others, and be gentle where it’s tender?  Do we learn to live with them, and allow them to change us and the way we behave?  Are we willing to let God touch us and leave his mark?

There will be times when we will need to wrestle with God.  Times to ask questions, work out who he is, what he means to us.

There may be circumstances in life we have to wrestle with.  There may be scars we are left with that challenge us – but as God touches our lives, so he blesses us.

Scars are horrible, but when they begin to heal they can change us.  They are not to beat us down or destroy us, but they help to shape us and equip us for our calling in life.  Scars make us more sensitive.  Being touched by God can change our lives.   Wrestling with him brings his blessing.

Do we wrestle with God?  Are we willing to let him touch us and change us?  Will we let him bless us?  Can our scars help make us someone new?


I’ve been musing about what I was trying to say about this passage all week, and then today, Day 14, in The Methodist Prayer Handbook 2010/2011, Martyn Atkins shares this prayer, which seems to sum it up:

God does not always lead by the shortest route,

because some things are best learned on long journeys.

God sometimes leads us into the wilderness,

as well as by still waters,

because some destinations are reached with scars as well as smiles.

God urges us to travel light,

but also to take things of our precious past with us,

because some things remind us

where we’ve come from

and bring hope of a future.

God guides in different ways,

sometimes half-hidden, as in a grey cloud,

sometimes blazingly clear

because God’s people are called to travel

as God guides them,

and there is never a time

when God’s guidance fails or ceases.

As Jesus said, “I am with you always.”  Amen

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