22 The same night he arose and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven children,[e] and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 He took them and sent them across the stream, and everything else that he had. 24 And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. 25 When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28 Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel,[f] for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” 29 Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. 30 So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel,[g] saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” 31 The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip. 32 Therefore to this day the people of Israel do not eat the sinew of the thigh that is on the hip socket, because he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip on the sinew of the thigh.”
It was very dark. His entire family was far away across the water. He felt so alone. When he and his family had arrived in this new land, he had high hopes. He was following God’s lead to the best of his ability. Then it happened. Out of the blue, the struggle began. The assailant snuck up on him and took him by surprise. The worst part was that in the thick, black fog of this struggle, he couldn’t quite figure out who the assailant really was. Was it the Devil out to destroy him? Was it God out to test and strengthen him? Was is just a random no good thief passing through?
He fought with everything he had. When he started to grow tired, he would dig down deeper and keep going. He was not going down without a fight. The struggle seemed to go on forever. Daylight seemed to never come….Then it happened. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck his socket and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint. It hurt so bad. The man said, “Let me go!” Jacob was resilient! Persistent! He would not let go of his grasp.
He came to understand that he was wrestling with God in human form. And this didn’t make him cower back and release his grip. No, he grabbed on even tighter and with desperation in his eyes he said, “God, you have made promises to bless me and my family. You are a just God who doesn’t break his promises. You are for me and not against me, and so I am not letting go of you until you give me your word.” God knew that Jacob believed in Him, but Jacob needed to believe in himself. So God asked, “What is your name?” What He meant was, “What is your true identity in the Lord?” And then he gave him a new name, a name that would always remind him of this all night struggle, and his victory. He had striven with God, met him face to face, and not backed down, not given up. He had finished the race set before him. He had drank cup God gave him. He didn’t ask questions. He didn’t demand to know why the struggle was necessary. Moreover, the struggle left a permenant mark on him. He would never be the same. He walked away with a limp. His hip would never quite heal…. He still has a lot of questions, but what he knows for certain is that that all night struggle changed him, and he learned that God doesn’t mind being wrestled with. He can handle our toughest questions, our frustrated outbursts, our desperate moves. He just wants us to stay in the ring with Him.