Summary: God brings Jacob to Peniel to bless him but not before he has struggled all night with God. Limps are reminders from God.
JACOB AND THE STRUGGLE WITH GOD.
If I were to say the letters WWF would you know what it meant? My immediate answer to that is World Wildlife Fund. Ask the children and you will probably get World Wresting Federation. I am not a great fan of wrestling but I know a lot of the children, especially the boys, are. In the OT lesson this morning we have a wrestling match – probably the most famous wrestling match ever. It is between Jacob and ‘the angel of the Lord.’ Turn with me to Genesis 32.23-32.
Let me put this in context for you. Jacob is the younger twin son of Isaac and Rebecca. He is returning home after being away for some 14 years. With him are his wives Leah and Rachel. Jacob is about to cross over into the Promised Land and encounter his brother Esau – however he is fearful what this encounter might entail. He had tricked Esau out of his birthright and then with the help of his mother he had tricked his father, Isaac, into blessing him instead of Esau. Having done so he then fled to his mother’s brother Laban, whose daughters he married. He also deceived Laban. So the whole of Jacob’s life till this point has been one of deception and deceiving people. If you look at verses 9-12 of chapter 32 you will see Jacob’s prayer concerning this moment in his life. He turns to God and prays for deliverance from Esau and claims God’s promise to bless and prosper him and his seed. So that is the context of this night beside the river Jabbok in the valley of Peniel.
JACOB ALONE – VERSE 24.
Jacob has sent his two wives and the rest of the camp across the Jabbok and then verse 24 says ‘so Jacob was left alone…’ we could pass that phrase by as an incidental piece of information but it is significant. Jacob is alone – all the things he had previously depended upon, valued, treasured have gone – there is only him in the valley of Peniel. He is alone before the night and alone to encounter God. Solitude with God is important. It is good, important and vital that we have fellowship with others but there comes a time, a moment, a God-ordained moment in time, when it is necessary for us to be alone with God. This was just such a moment in the life of Jacob. All his life he had manoeuvred and manipulated situations and people to get what he wanted but now he is alone. He is alone in the darkness of the night which only reflects the darkness of the situation before him. Jacob thought he was alone but the next sentence tells us more: ‘and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.’
Again, a simple statement which is full of significance. ‘A man wrestled with him till daybreak.’ Here is a battle of the soul. A battle to and fro for authority, for superiority and for control of Jacob’s life. It is significant that when the new day dawns, when the light shatters the darkness that Jacob is defeated. The symbolism of the darkness of Jacob’s soul being shattered by the light of the angel of the Lord is reflected the darkness of the night being overcome by the dawn of a new day. (Similar imagery to that of Nicodemus in John 3 – coming to Jesus the light of the world under the cover of darkness). Jacob had wrestled, he had struggled all night. Refusing to submit until it was unavoidable – due to the dislocation of his hip. A doctor will tell you that it takes immense force to dislocate a hip and their can be long term consequences as a result. The angel of the Lord touches Jacob’s hip and he is rendered defenceless and yet even in defeat he will not let go of the one with whom he has struggled. If he must submit and admit defeat he wishes for a blessing from the champion. Jacob refuses to let go (verse 26) of the one with whom he has done battle throughout the night. He will only release his grip when he has been blessed. The greater always blesses the lesser. Jacob bows in submission to the greater, to the one who has touched his hip, rendered him helpless and seeks his blessing. Then what follows will change Jacob’s life forever.
JACOB BLESSED – VERSES 27-28.
The man (the angel of the Lord) asks Jacob his name and then proceeds to give him a new name. His name is changed from ‘Deceiver’ to ‘God Strives (for him), Israel. He is given a new name, along with his new walk (he limped the rest of his life). The night that he was crippled became the night of his greatest blessing. The night he was crippled was the night he entered upon a new relationship with God which flowed into a new relationship with his brother Esau. Every step Jacob took from this moment forward reminded him of the night he wrestled with the angel of the Lord at Peniel and how God blessed him through the pain of a dislocated hip.