Genesis 32: 22-31 (NIVUK)
22 That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, ‘Let me go, for it is daybreak.’
But Jacob replied, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’
27 The man asked him, ‘What is your name?’
‘Jacob,’ he answered.
28 Then the man said, ‘Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.’
29 Jacob said, ‘Please tell me your name.’
But he replied, ‘Why do you ask my name?’ Then he blessed him there.
30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, ‘It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.’
31 The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip.
When was the last time you wrestled?
And I mean, really wrestled.
I’m referring to the physical hand-to-hand type of combat that involves a lot of sweat and limbs forced into awkward positions. Oh, and did I mention the heavy breathing and gnashing of teeth as someone shouts, ‘WWE Smackdown, Batista takes it once again!’
Growing up we use to construct wrestling arenas by stacking multiple mattresses in our living room. It was exhilarating. We would spend hours emulating specific manoeuvres performed by our favourite wrestling characters on television.
Who would ever be able to forget Rey Mysterio’s infamous ‘619’ move? Do yourself a favour, Google it!
It’s ironic to only find out much later in life that we were busy with pretty spiritual stuff at such a tender age.
Wrestling is part of our DNA as followers of Jesus.
We do it all the time.
— ourselves and others for our lack of faith in God’s faithfulness.
The story of Jacob wrestling with the ‘angel’ in our Scripture passage hits close to home. It resonates with us because we wrestle with God - constantly. But it’s a ‘Holy Wrestle’ that always leads to a deeper understanding and awareness of who we are as God’s beloved children.
In the wrestling we get close to God. Interlocked, face to face with our Creator as we ask hard questions like:
‘It just doesn’t feel like I’ll ever be able to succeed?’
‘Lord, another miscarriage?’
‘How will the shortfall be covered, Lord?’
Isn’t it wonderful how Jacob’s name is changed to Israel? Meaning: he struggles with God. And here I was thinking that struggling will be far removed from those who seek God’s face!
And that’s the point. The sun WILL rise again. And often, only then do we get perspective; do we see how God was busy working, his way, shaping us, channelling us, using us for his Kingdom.
Wherever we are in our wrestles,
we remember: the natural borderland of daybreak is not far off.
God you are with us.