“22 That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, ‘Let me go, for it is daybreak.’But Jacob replied, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’27 The man asked him, ‘What is your name?’‘Jacob,’ he answered.28 Then the man said, ‘Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel,because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.’29 Jacob said, ‘Please tell me your name.’But he replied, ‘Why do you ask my name?’ Then he blessed him there.30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, ‘It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.’31 The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip. 32 Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip, because the socket of Jacob’s hip was touched near the tendon.” NIV
‘’So Jacob was left alone…’’ (24)
Over many years of reading the Bible, I have regularly come back to this well-known story. For me, there has always been something of a mystery about it, and to a degree it remains mysterious. But I suppose any encounter with God will inevitably be so. However, here are one or two things I feel I can say about it:
- Jacob’s experience has been paralleled in the lives of numerous believers. We can be on our pilgrimage for many a long year, and then, definitely and dramatically, we encounter God and are significantly changed. Jacob saw God and lived (30), but I dare say there were things in him that died too – things which needed to die. He came out of the meeting with God alive, but not unscathed. He walked with a limp. We may be too strong. God might have to weaken us, or cause us to feel our weakness, in order to use us as He desires. Our strength must be in Him alone;
- Prayer can be a struggle. Okay, many days you may say your prayers, and it’s meaningful, but you feel very little. But there may also be occasions where you find yourself in an elevated place of prayer. You have a heightened intensity. It may be a prolonged period of prayer. ‘Pray until you pray’ someone said. Maybe you can identify with that? You know from experience what that feels like. You have been in Jacob’s shoes, feeling something like desperation (26b). Anyone who enrols in Christ’s school of prayer will take modules in the battle element. They will attend classes in wrestling. There can be something akin to ‘labour’ and ‘bringing forth’ in prayer. In Colossians 4:12 Paul writes ‘’Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.’’ Prayer can be very hard work;
- There is something about time alone with God for which there is no substitute. On a night when Jacob must have felt alone, and possibly lonely (22-24), he was to have a life-changing run-in with his Lord. So I encourage you, turn off the devices; get into a quiet place, and try to give God your undivided attention. I can’t guarantee you will like all that He does in and to you. Ideally I would prefer not to limp! But the world will benefit from the changes God brings about – and so will you.