Even though Jacob had had a couple of really powerful encounters with God at this point (look at chapter 28 and the beginning of chapter 32), he was still pretty self-reliant. He sent all of his family and possessions ahead and he stayed alone, possibly in an attempt to further protect them. At this point, he’d done everything that he could to make the meeting go as smoothly as possible. For a person of action, this is the roughest time of all – the waiting.
God had been working all along on Jacob’s heart and character. When we first met him, we saw him as a lying cheat who would go to great lengths to gain what he wanted. Jacob had wrestled with God and with others all of his life, always striving to get the upper hand. Even though God showed him so vividly how much He was with him and was for him, Jacob continued to wrestle. Now the wrestling occurred physically, as opposed to relationally or spiritually, and Jacob continued to try to defeat until his hip was wrenched by a single touch.
For many of us, it takes coming to the end of ourselves before we can meet God.
Independence and self-reliance can be useful things except when they keep us from relying fully on the only One who is capable of truly saving us, and that’s Jesus. Sometimes it takes running out of our own strength before we open ourselves up to Jesus’ limitless strength.
Jacob walked away from his encounter with God with a limp, but what he gained was far more valuable: God’s favor and blessing. Jacob’s name was changed to Israel and God’s plan to build a nation continued to unfurl. As unlikely as it appeared at first, Jacob will have a prominent role. An important take away for us is that no one is beyond God’s power to change, no matter what they have done or where they have come from.
Kim Feld Director of Small Group Ministry