So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 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. Then the man said, "Let me go, for it is daybreak." But Jacob replied, "I will not let you go unless you bless me." The man asked him, "What is your name?" "Jacob," he answered. Then the man said, "Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.”
- Genesis 32: 24-28
I recently gave a sermon on persisting in prayer with God. I called it, "The Struggle is Real". I know, I couldn't help it. The sermon was based on the struggle Jacob had with God before the dreaded rendezvous with his big brother, Esau. In fear and at the end of his wit Jacob found himself alone and desperate realizing that it was only in God that he would find peace and true blessing. So when given the opportunity, Jacob was wise and did not take Princess Elsa’s advice, instead he held on tight and did not let go.
“So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.” - Genesis 32: 24
What boggles my mind is that Jacob was able to overcome this man, this “angel”, God. How is it that this frail, conniving, cowardice man was able to overpower anyone? Jesus taught that if we have faith we could move mountains. But what kind of faith overcomes a mountain, overcomes an angel, overcomes God? Perhaps the point is not just in believing but how we believe. In wrestling with God, Jacob taught us how to believe.
Believe in God alone.
Believe enough to hold onto God till “daybreak”.
Believe with all earnestness, humility, desperation.
And believe enough to repeat, again and again.
The “how” in faith is found in the art of supplication. In this wrestling match we are shown what supplication looks like. Supplication is, “the action of asking or begging for something earnestly or humbly.”
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” - Philippians 4: 6
Think about it.
The angel could have “wrenched” his hip at any time. The “man” was strong enough to end the struggle at will. Why didn’t the angel do so? What kept him engaged, wrestling, struggling with Jacob?
Could it be that the "mountain" that needed moving was Jacob himself, his sin, his insidious nature, and all that results from it?
Could this be why the “man” asks for his name? As if to invite him to a confessional? Jacob fesses up, “I am Jacob”, as if to say, I am that conniving man, that sinner, that insidious and cunning trickster. And in doing so, the wrestling match reaches its climax with the sign of ultimate earnestness and humility; confession and brokenness.
Could it be that this brokenness is what moved God?
In Psalm 51 we find that the sacrifices that move God are not the ones we burn outwardly, but brokenness and contriteness that burns within.
”For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” - Psalm 51: 16-17
So we find, that what moves God was and is humble supplication.
Because Jacob believed,
because he believed enough to wrestle God,
because of this kind of faith
and “Israel” (the promise)
And it is here with the help of this story we discover that with faith nothing, truly nothing,
Then the man said, "Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.”