One of the most mysterious stories in the Bible is Jacob’s all-night wrestling match with God. “This left Jacob all alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break. When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket.” Genesis 32:24-25 (NLT) It was just a touch, not a huge blow or a wrenching twist… the wrestling man just touched it. And when he did, it immediately felt to Jacob like his hip was splitting open. Searing pain shot all the way down his leg and Jacob cried out as it completely gave way. Now he clung to the man, not to defeat him, but for support. Who is such a man that can cripple another with merely a touch??? God!
So what does it mean when it says “the man saw that he would not win the match”? How could God not win a wrestling match with a man? God had been in a wrestling match with Jacob for his entire life! And even though he had come close a couple of times, God had never really won that spiritual wrestling match in Jacob’s heart. Understand, God could have easily won that match- remember, all it took was a simple touch to physically cripple Jacob. God could have chosen to touch Jacob’s spiritual heart in the same way. But that’s not God’s nature. He loves us so much that He gives us the freedom to choose. He never forces us. He always awaits our surrender.
I never wrestled competitively, but I did wrestle with my cousins when I was growing up. When we wrestled, there was not a clear winner until one of us cried… what? “Uncle!” You wouldn’t think about letting them up until they cried uncle! You might have him pinned, but sometimes you’d have to inflict a little extra pain before they’d finally cry uncle!
How long has God been striving to pin you down? Trying to wrestle you toward making a commitment to follow Christ? Or, as a Christ-follower, trying to pin you down in some area of your life you have stubbornly refused to surrender to Him- some part of your life with which you have wanted to maintain all the control and decision-making? In your relationships or family or work? Perhaps this is the day you will cry, “uncle!” and commit to let God chip away at those chunks of your life you know need to be removed so that the masterpiece of Christ will be more revealed?
The “man” finally spoke… V. 26a, 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!” A strange request, unless its coming from the One who had said that no one can see the face of God and live. Jacob didn’t completely understand, but whether this was an angel or a manifestation of the Son of God Himself, he knew that he had been wrestling… with God! And now, this man/ angel/ Son of God is about to break away and leave and take Jacob’s blessing with Him. And Jacob finally cried, “uncle!” Hosea the prophet tells us that Jacob is weeping and begging at this point as he cries out, V. 26b, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
God’s blessing had been Jacob’s lifelong dream… but he had always sought to get it in his way and on his terms. But now, his hip is on fire and his strength is gone. He had no more tricks up his sleeve, all his scheming and planning had been exhausted. Finally, his enormous will and self- sufficiency collapsed into a pile of beggar’s tears.
Jacob is finally making that next step down the path of transformation and recovery: Consciously choose to commit all my life and will to Christ’s care and control. This choice is where WE finally cry uncle, give up the reins of our life, and commit to let God go to work in our lives. Like Jacob, we say, “I really DO want your blessing in my life. I really DO want to commit to your will and your plan, Lord- and I am going to persist- I am going to hold on until I see that blessing!” For the first time ever it appears, Jacob is ready to fully submit his heart to God’s demands in every aspect of his life.
Is there any way in which you continue to struggle with God in your life? Does God have control of every area of your life? Is there anything with which you’re wrestling with Him to maintain the control and decision-making? It will be those very things where God wants to do His work in making you more like Christ! Maybe it’s regarding some relationship? Or perhaps it’s with your career? Maybe it’s your finances? Where is God wanting to work in your life?