In previous posts about Jacob’s story of transformation, we’ve been talking about how God, the Master Sculptor, was at work chiseling away in his life. One of the most mysterious encounters in the Bible is when Jacob wrestled with the strange “man” (God)! Genesis 32:24ff… Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 25 When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.” But he said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.”28 He said, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.”
Israel- because you have striven/fought with God and men and have… wait a minute… did he say, “prevailed?” Totally exhausted, crippled, in great pain, and Esau and his army of 400 is still out there waiting… Never could winning have felt more like losing! So how was this a win for Jacob??? The “win” for Jacob was in finally arriving at the point of completely surrendering his life to God’s purpose! Jacob gets a new identity because He finally submitted to God’s chisel, He finally let the Master Sculptor- sculpt Him into a new person!
Interestingly enough, the name, Israel, can also mean, “God struggles.” God… struggles? What does God struggle with? It’s not what, it’s WHO! He struggles with you and with me. God struggles much more with us than we do with Him! Because, there is so much in us that He wants to chisel away so that He can bless US, too! But, unlike a stone that passively allows the sculptor to chip away wherever the sculptor desires, we stubbornly resist! So God has to struggle with us. He struggles to get us to be willing to humbly submit to every change He wants to make in our lives to make us more like Christ! The bigger story of Jacob’s life was not HIS struggle, but God’s struggle with HIM!
Can you find yourself in Jacob’s story? I suspect you know where God has been wrestling with you in your life! Are you ready to win by surrendering? Are you ready to stop resisting and submit to Him?
As the story concludes we are left with this one, final, amazing scene in Gen. 32: 30-31, Jacob named the place Peniel (which means “face of God”), for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared.” 31 The sun was rising as Jacob left Peniel, and he was limping because of the injury to his hip. What a poignant picture. The sun is rising in Jacob’s life. And, in the dawn’s early light, you can see his silhouette on the horizon as he limps away to his meeting with Esau.
Why do you think the Bible makes specific mention of the limp? The thigh muscle is the strongest muscle in the human body. By touching Jacob there, God was saying, “you’re not going to rely on your own strength any more, you’re going to rely on ME and MY power!” In other words, Jacob is emerging from this experience both weaker and stronger. Weaker physically, but he was much, much stronger spiritually!
The people that God has used the most in this life have always walked with a limp- maybe a physical limp, an emotional limp, a relational limp… some kind of limp. A limp that is always there as a reminder to allow his transforming work to continue… to set aside my self- sufficiency and my own devices and my own pride… and lean instead upon God.