….it could be that Jacob began to pray that night. In the agony of his soul, he cried out to God. He began perhaps for the first time in his life, to earnestly wrestle in prayer. It was as though he sensed that God was really present with him. God’s presence and purpose became more and more real to him until, suddenly, He was real! His uplifted arms were actually clinging to God, Himself! There God was, …flesh to flesh, …bone to bone, …in human form!
Jacob in his desperation realized the precious opportunity before him. If he let go, then God would leave with his needs unmet, his prayers unanswered! So, Jacob WRESTLED WITH GOD, back and forth, a head lock here, an arm hold there, the struggle perhaps went on for hours. God in His grace and mercy allowed Jacob to wrestle, …to work out his fleshly nature and anxiety, …for in his struggle, …in his wrestling, his faith and understanding was growing! The turning point came when God touched Jacob in the hollow of his thigh dislocating the ball-and-socket joint of his thigh. Suddenly he was weakened and immobilized. Jacob yelled out in pain, “Ahhhhh,” as he stopped wrestling and started clinging!
There is a difference between wrestling and clinging. To “wrestle” is to contend and fight for dominance. However, to “cling” is to hold on to, to grasp in desperation. The pre- incarnate Christ knew that morning light was breaking, and instructed Jacob to let him go. Jacob responded in verse 26, “I will not let thee go, except Thou bless me.” He was persistent in his prayer; persistent in his plea; serious in his request from God, even though his body was racked with pain. I believe God knew the change which had transpired in Jacob’s heart. Jacob was now holding on in faith, rather than wrestling in fear. God was moved by the persistence of Jacob.
It is the same for us! We are to “wrestle” in prayer. In Colossians 4:12, Paul writes, “Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.” The word “labouring” in the Greek is agonizomai (ag-o-nid’-zom-ahee) and it means to contend in the gymnastic games, to contend with adversaries, to fight and struggle so to obtain. The Lord desires our prayers to be fervent and persistent. Jesus said, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.”
God blessed Jacob, not because He had to or was forced to, but because Jacob was ( NOW ) ready to receive the blessing. What a blessing! “What is your name?” God asked. What He was really asking Jacob was, “Who are you?” As Jacob hung on to Him in pain, he answered, “I’m Jacob, the schemer, the one who grabs from behind, the scared mama’s boy, the con-man, the self-centered, self- serving, self-sufficient one!” Then God said, “Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.” God was saying, “This is who you were, from now on you are the one who prevails with God, not wrestles without Him!”
God’s blessing to Jacob was a new name, a new nature. His name was not just a new label on the jar, but a whole new shape to the jar itself! From now on God would help Jacob fight and conquer the baser elements in his character. The old tendencies no doubt would assert themselves again, but with God’s help they would never dominate his life! God had touched Jacob to the bone, to the nerve, yea to the innermost part of his heart.
As Jacob released God, he walked with a limp, a weaker man, yet stronger. And we hear the words of Paul in II Corinthians 12:9, “for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” He went on to say, “for when I am weak, then am I strong.”