Category Archives: comfort

The Day The Lord Wrestled A Man

Jacob was alone and afraid and distressed (Gen. 32:24-32). He had sent his family on before him to safety. All of his possessions he had divided into two camps so that at least one group might survive. The desperate sound of his prayer to God had earlier ascended up before Jehovah’s Throne as he beseeched the Almighty for deliverance from the hand of his brother. Soon, he would face his brother, from whom he had taken birthright and blessing, and offer himself upon his mercy and God’s. But before this, Jacob was left alone. Almost alone.

We are not privy to the circumstances initiating the encounter, but sometime during that night before Jacob would meet his estranged brother, Jacob encountered a mysterious figure, “a man.” This was not a quiet encounter for the Sacred Record tells us that Jacob wrestled with this “man” until the breaking of day. This scuffle was fairly equal until the stranger “touched” Jacob’s thigh and it came out of joint. He demanded to be let go before day break but Jacob, even though he must have been in pain and very much afraid, refused to set the “man” free until he blessed him.

It seems fairly certain that Jacob, by this point, must have recognized that his opponent was more than a mere man, otherwise he would not have sought a blessing from Him (Heb. 7:7). This “man” then lifted the veil from Jacob’s bewildered mind when He told him that his name would be changed from Jacob to Israel, because, “as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed” (Gen. 32:28). His opponent was no mere man but was, in fact, God in the form of a man. Jacob realized in all this, “I have seen God face to face” (32:30).

This was not the first time the Lord had appeared to man as a man. He had so appeared to Abraham, Jacob’s grandfather, in the plains of Mamre (Gen. 18:1,22,23, 33). It would not be the last time He appeared. One like the Son of man appeared to Daniel and the three Hebrew children in the fiery furnace (Dan. 3:25). Of course, God was with us in the flesh (Is. 7:14; Matt. 1:23). But this was the only time a man literally wrestled the Lord!

This encounter gave Israel new hope. Not only had he seen God face to face, he had wrestled Him all night and his life was preserved (Gen. 32:30). Now he was prepared to face his brother, Esau, who was coming to meet him with four hundred men. But instead of confrontation, Jacob found reconciliation, for Esau “ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him: and they wept” (Gen. 33:4). Esau had apparently forgiven and forgotten his brother’s affronts and perhaps had seen the hand of God in them all.

He did not leave the night without scars. He halted upon his thigh, the one which had been touched and came out of joint. Who knows if this lameness followed him all the rest of the days of his life, but it is possible. It is certain, however, when we face spiritual battles in this life, we do not come out of them without wounds. Paul stated, “From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus” (Gal. 6:17). After Paul had faced opposition in Athens he came into Corinth “in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling” (I Corinthians 2:3). But the Lord told Paul, “in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city” (Acts 18:9,10).

There may be times in our lives when we feel alone and afraid and distressed. Sometimes we are seemingly left alone to face great problems in life. We need to know that it is the Lord who will make us stronger and better prepared for the uncertainties of life. The Lord “hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (Heb. 13:5-6).

Eric L. Padgett
* The following hymn, written by Charles Wesley, describes the encounter of Jacob with God. I offer it for your consideration.
Come, O thou Traveler unknown,
Whom still I hold, but cannot see!
My company before is gone,
And I am left alone with Thee;
With Thee all night I mean to stay,
And wrestle till the break of day.

I need not tell Thee who I am,
My misery and sin declare;
Thyself hast called me by my name,
Look on Thy hands, and read it there;
But who, I ask Thee, who art Thou?
Tell me Thy name, and tell me now.

In vain Thou strugglest to get free,
I never will unloose my hold!
Art Thou the Man that died for me?
The secret of Thy love unfold;
Wrestling, I will not let Thee go,
Till I Thy name, Thy nature know.

Wilt Thou not yet to me reveal
Thy new, unutterable Name?
Tell me, I still beseech Thee, tell;
To know it now resolved I am;
Wrestling, I will not let Thee go,
Till I Thy Name, Thy nature know.

’Tis all in vain to hold Thy tongue
Or touch the hollow of my thigh;
Though every sinew be unstrung,
Out of my arms Thou shalt not fly;
Wrestling I will not let Thee go
Till I Thy name, Thy nature know.

What though my shrinking flesh complain,
And murmur to contend so long?
I rise superior to my pain,
When I am weak, then I am strong
And when my all of strength shall fail,
I shall with the God-man prevail.

My strength is gone, my nature dies,
I sink beneath Thy weighty hand,
Faint to revive, and fall to rise;
I fall, and yet by faith I stand;
I stand and will not let Thee go
Till I Thy Name, Thy nature know.

Yield to me now, for I am weak,
But confident in self-despair;
Speak to my heart, in blessings speak,
Be conquered by my instant prayer;
Speak, or Thou never hence shalt move,
And tell me if Thy Name is Love.

’Tis Love! ’tis Love! Thou diedst for me!
I hear Thy whisper in my heart;
The morning breaks, the shadows flee,
Pure, universal love Thou art;
To me, to all, Thy bowels move;
Thy nature and Thy Name is Love.

My prayer hath power with God; the grace
Unspeakable I now receive;
Through faith I see Thee face to face,
I see Thee face to face, and live!
In vain I have not wept and strove;
Thy nature and Thy Name is Love.

I know Thee, Savior, who Thou art.
Jesus, the feeble sinner’s friend;
Nor wilt Thou with the night depart.
But stay and love me to the end,
Thy mercies never shall remove;
Thy nature and Thy Name is Love.

The Sun of righteousness on me
Hath rose with healing in His wings,
Withered my nature’s strength; from Thee
My soul its life and succor brings;
My help is all laid up above;
Thy nature and Thy Name is Love.

Contented now upon my thigh
I halt, till life’s short journey end;
All helplessness, all weakness I
On Thee alone for strength depend;
Nor have I power from Thee to move:
Thy nature, and Thy name is Love.

Lame as I am, I take the prey,
Hell, earth, and sin, with ease o’ercome;
I leap for joy, pursue my way,
And as a bounding hart fly home,
Through all eternity to prove
Thy nature and Thy Name is Love.