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. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
Jacob was “greatly afraid and distressed” (Gen. 32:7). Esau, the brother Jacob had wronged, the brother who had vowed to kill Jacob, was coming to meet him with what seemed to be an army. Jacob defaulted to his pattern of scheming and made a plan to assuage Esau with gifts. But that night, when he was alone, God appeared in the form of a man and wrestled with Jacob for hours of agonizing conflict. With the threat of Esau’s revenge, Jacob knew his life of deceit was coming home to roost. He was helpless and hopeless and pleaded for God’s blessing and protection. In a one-on-one encounter, God graciously blessed Jacob and changed his name to Israel (“He strives with God”). But God didn’t stop with a name change. God “lamed [Jacob], putting his thigh out of joint to be a perpetual reminder in his flesh of his own spiritual weakness, and his need to lean always upon God, just as for the rest of his life he had to walk leaning on a stick . . . There was no particle of self-reliance left in Jacob by the time God finished with him.” (Packer, Knowing God, 95-96).
Like Jacob, self-reliance and past sins come home to roost. Our crafty schemes just make things worse. We end up with our backs against the wall in danger of losing everything we love, everything God has blessed us with. In these times prayer is not flowery language or religious platitudes (it never is) but desperate cries for help. We wrestle with God, pleading for his deliverance.
- Tell God how your sin of self-reliance has placed you in a desperate situation. Confess your helplessness and hopelessness without him. Plead for God’s deliverance and blessing.
- Wrestling with God is not a quick conversation. Schedule a block of time to have a serious talk with God.
And…keep wrestling with God to defeat self-love and pride.
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