The story of Jacob wrestling with God is told in Genesis 32. The ESV translation uses the term “striven” which means “to struggle”. I am sure that many people would admit that they have wrestled or struggled with God at times during their life.
The quick backstory on Jacob is that he was already a bit of a mess before we get to this particular story in the Bible. You see, Jacob was to carry on the title of his father Isaac, as one of the forefathers of God’s chosen nation Israel, but Jacob had some fairly ugly heart issues. He was a mama’s boy with a habit of lying and deceiving others to get his way. Not a super appealing combination of character traits!
When we begin reading in Genesis, we already know that God has chosen Jacob to do great things because He tells us so in Genesis 25:23. We continue reading about Jacob and see all the deceit that surrounds him. It is easy to wonder why in the world God chose him. By the time we get to Genesis 32, we are almost fed up with Jacob. Then something big happens that changes everything about Jacob. He encounters God. He wrestles and struggles with God and he leaves that place a different man with a different name. Jacob goes into this encounter with God as a man who is full of pride, arrogance, and deceit and he literally limps away as a man full of humility ready to be who God called him to be.
God left Jacob with a limp after the struggle. Can you relate? Have you ever met with God, really wrestled with Him and walked away with an emotional limp? I have, but it never dawned on me until I started thinking about this Old Testament gem.
When we have an encounter with God, we should walk away changed. In fact, it is impossible not to. It reminds me of Exodus 34:29 when Moses literally meets with God to get the Ten Commandments. This Scripture tells us that when Moses came down from the mountain, his face shone because he had been “talking to God”. Moses was so full of God’s glory from just meeting with Him that he had to wear a veil.
When we meet with God, He changes us. Might we come away with a limp? Possibly. But, would you have it any other way? God takes us through difficult situations in life so He can transform us. If He has brought you to it, trust Him enough to take you through it.
God has taken me through difficult times and when I am reminded of my emotional limp I have because of encountering Him, the only thing to do is turn back and praise Him. Why? Because He changed me. He gave me a new name. My emotional limp causes me to depend on the only One who is truly dependable. When we meet with Him, we are becoming more and more of who He created us to be. He made a liar and cheat into one of the humble forefathers of His great and chosen nation. He changed His name from Jacob to Israel. Has he changed your name? Before I encountered Jesus, my name might as well have been “Anxious mess”. I met with Jesus and realized I am now “Child of God”. You are too. I still get anxious sometimes, but this is my limp and I’m thankful for it because it reminds me to turn back to my God who keeps me in perfect peace, my Jehovah Shalom.
Who is He calling you to be? If you have met with Him and you recognize how He changed you, turn back and praise Him. If you are not sure what His plan is for you, meet with Him. Seek Him through prayer and His Word. Watch and see how how He transforms you with His glory! You may even come away with a new name!
Genesis 32:28 “Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.”