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Wrestling and Prevailing with God like Jacob Did
July 10, 2022

Wrestling and Prevailing with God

In Genesis 32:1-23 Jacob is heading home after his time with his uncle Laban. He is afraid of his brother Esau, so he sent his family ahead of him in two camps to appease his brother before he meets him. Now he is alone in camp, and the Bible says:

"Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak." (v. 24, HCSB)


Once we get over the weirdness of the whole situation, there is much to learn here. I'll just cover a couple verses, not in order.


"Jacob then named the place Peniel, 'For,' he said, 'I have seen God face to face, and I have been delivered.'" (v. 30)

Jacob believed the man he wrestled with to have been God appearing in human form. This is hardly an exceptional thing in the Old Testament. God appeared to Manoah and his wife, the parents of Samson, in Judges 13. In Exodus 24, Moses and seventy elders have a banquet and see God. And, of course, Abraham hosted God and two angels, all in the form of men, in Genesis 19.

I started this Bible study with verse 30 so that as we look at the previous verses we remember that Jacob was wrestling with God, not man. I believe all such appearances of God are really Jesus, the Word of God, before he was born as Jesus in Bethlehem, but that is for a different Bible study.


The "man" saw that he could defeat Jacob, so he struck Jacob's hip and put it out of socket (v. 25).

Another mystery. He could not win, but could put Jacob's hip out of socket. Generally speaking, if you put a man's hip out of socket while you are wrestling with him, you will have no problem winning the wrestling match.

There is nothing "general" about Jacob's situation, though. This is God wrestling. We must remember that Old Testament happenings were as much for our learning as they were experiences for the participants (Rom. 15:4). Jacob prevailed with God, but wound up limp. Verse 32 implies that Jacob was limp permanently because his descendants remembered this incident into the future, not eating the thigh muscle (of animals) at the hip socket because of it.

Hopefully, when we prevail with God in prayer, we too will become limp. This means not trusting ourselves, but depending on God to be our protector and our power, for being limp means to stop trusting in your own power. A limp man cannot run well. He cannot move well, and will surely lose in battle to a man who can move more freely. When we know we cannot win in our own power, we can trust God who defeats enemies "not my might, nor by power, but by his Spirit" (Zech. 4:6).


In verses 26-28, Jacob demands a blessing from the man, even though his hip is already out of socket. The man asks Jacob's name, then told him, "Your name will no longer be Jacob. ... It will be Israel because you have struggled with God and with men and have prevailed."

This is an interesting blessing, a new name that means "prevails with God." Since it is God giving him that name, we know it is a promise.

We know, too, that as long as the nation of Israel, Jacob's descendants, obeyed God and called upon him, they prevailed with God and men. They found his mercy, and they won all their battles.


Just as Jacob wrestled with God and never let go despite having his hip put out of socket, so we must never let go when we are wrestling with God in prayer. As pointed out earlier, Romans 15:4 says that "whatever" was written before was written for our instruction.

We, too, can wrestle with God when we come before him in prayer. We can stay before him and endure until we receive a blessing from him. Sometimes prayer is just a matter of faith, but sometimes prayer is a matter of appealing over and over like a widow pleading for justice at a judge's door at night (Luke 18:1- 8).

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