Genesis 32:[9-13] 22-30 Jacob Wrestles God
Here we catch up to Jacob as he is about to head home. He has been on a long trip from home. His father sent him to find a wife among the extended family, which he has done, indeed, he has found two wives, 11 children, and been away from home for a while. Remember that Jacob had to labor 7 years to be allowed to married Rachel, and then got Leah instead, and then had to do another 7 years to be allowed to marry Rachel, and he has 11 children between 2 wives and 2 maids. But, he’s coming home to a brother that he stole from and embarrassed, and that makes him nervous.
So we come to this place, where Jacob sends bribes ahead to his brother. He waits, having sent all his stuff, all his people, away. Jacob starts this encounter with prayer. It is different from the prayer that he starts this journey with after seeing God in his sleep at Bethel. This one is not conditional. It reflects his state, his hopes, and his request. He recounts God’s blessings, and God’s promises, and asks God to deliver him.
Again at night he encounters God, this time in a wrestling match. They wrestle all day, and neither one wins. At daybreak, the stranger needs to go, and the stranger dislocates Jacob’s hip, and then says that he must go. Jacob will not let him go until he blesses Jacob. He asks for Jacob’s name, gives him a new name, Israel, for he has striven with God and with humans, and has prevailed. Jacob asks for the man’s name, doesn’t get it, and names the place Peniel, for he had seen God face to face.
While we focus on the wrestling match at the end, that really isn’t Jacob’s struggle. In the 20+ years of his sojourn, he has gone from questioning if God would follow through to knowing that God has made him who he is, and that God has been with him far from home. He comes back knowing that God is the one to ask for help. This is a 20 + year struggle. Think about to your own journey. When and where, from Bethel to Peniel, did you know that God was in this place or face to face? Over the long struggle, how have we seen God?