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  • Writer's pictureAllison Wilcox


The same night (Jacob) got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the 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 is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.” The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip. Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the thigh muscle that is on the hip socket, because he struck Jacob on the hip socket at the thigh muscle. ~ Genesis 32:22-32

Jacob is one of the most interesting characters in the Old Testament for me.  There certainly is a wealth of story to choose from with him:  Jacob tricking Esau out of his birthright.  Jacob trying to win Rachel's hand from Laban.  Jacob's ladder.  Jacob's favoritism of Joseph leading to tragic consequences for the family.

But this is my favorite.  Jacob wrestling the angel.  Or, God?

It's what makes Jacob one of my favorite Old Testament characters.  

Like Noah, Jacob is a character that is best left unsanitized.  He's far from ideal. He's a trickster.  A liar.  A thief.

And yet....

And yet, in that moment of wrestling with God, I see more of my own faith life than I do with most Biblical characters.  Faith often feels like a wrestling match to me.  What I know vs. what God wants to tell me.  What I believe vs. what I feel.  What I want vs. what God wants.  And finally, perhaps most acutely, the actual process of growing in faith is every bit like wrestling:  holding onto the faith of my childhood when new ideas and growth comes can turn into a wrestling match; clinging to the old rather than letting go to move to where God is leading us to.

And from Jacob we learn God isn't afraid of a little wrestling.  Jacob was many things, but his tenacity to hold onto this visitor showed God that here was a man who was determined.  And one who knew the value of a real blessing.

Jacob - imperfect, trickster Jacob - became Israel.  God gave him the name that became the name of the very country that would come out of this tribe.

God continued to keep the promise to Abraham to spread blessing ever outward.

That blessing is still moving outward.  And sometimes a little wrestling helps it along.

God of blessing, remind me not to be afraid when a new idea or learning challenges my faith.  Hold me tight and comfort me while I wrestle with it, and sometimes even wrestle with you, so that I may continue to grow into the person you have created me to be.  Amen.

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