And Jacob lifted up his eyes and looked and behold, Esau was coming, and four hundred men with him. ― Genesis 33:1 (ESV)
If all that we did was read this verse by itself we would just see it as a quick description in the narrative of Jacob and Esau meeting after so many years. But the whole chapter before it puts it in its context.
Jacob was TERRIFIED about the fact that Esau was coming, with four hundred men, to meet him. He started scrambling around, making plans in case Esau attacked him. He cried out to God, reminding God of what he said, so that God would keep his end of the bargain and protect him. He ran around frantically trying to survive. He was terrified. And then it gets interesting.
And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. 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. ― Genesis 32:24-25 (ESV)
He wrestled with a man all night. He was sitting by himself and a wrestling match breaks out. But notice that Jacob did not give in. Jacob was a worthy opponent for this man. The man did not prevail over Jacob. However, the superiority of the man over Jacob was obvious in that he touched Jacob’s hip and put it out of the socket, resulting in Jacob limping along for the rest of his life. But even with Jacob laying there in pain, he would not let the man leave without blessing him (32:26). Jacob was still in the fight. And what does this man say to Jacob?
“Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” ― Genesis 32:28 (ESV)
Can you imagine the look on Jacob’s face? “I have striven with God and with men…?” And then Jacob, realizing who is standing before him asks for the man to give him his name. The man doesn’t give Jacob his name. And then Jacob’s next statement shows us that he knew who he was wrestling with.
So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” ― Genesis 32:30 (ESV)
He knew that he had wrestled with God, face to face, and been delivered. Delivered from what? Fear. How so? Because when you’ve wrestled with God and prevailed, walking away with only a limp, you can face anything else that comes your way.
So then we come back to Genesis 33:1 and we see Jacob looking up and seeing his brother and his brother’s four-hundred men (and others I’m sure) coming toward him. And what was his response? He divided his family into groups as he lead them to meet Esau. He wasn’t frantic. He wasn’t crying out to God, begging and pleading for deliverance. He was calm. He was at peace. And he walked straight toward Esau, this time with a limp.
God will wrestle with us. It’s part of the process. God wants to prepare and grow us to face what comes our way, not as victims but as people who are more than conquerors. So as circumstances and people come up in our lives that terrify or frustrate us, God will wrestle with us first. And the thing is: we need to wrestle to win. I think God respects the fight. I know that I won’t win, but I wrestle as if I will. Why? Because if I can wrestle with God and not lose the match, then I can face anything that comes my way, not by myself but with the same God who delivered Jacob.
So if you’re terrified of something going on right now, get alone. And as you get alone, wrestle it out with Jesus. And don’t just sit and “lose,” but wrestle to win. It’s how we develop. It’s how we grow. And in the end, you may have a limp. But trust me, as one who is limping right alongside you: the limp is worth it.
Love you more than you know,