Jacob Wrestles With God: Important Lessons We Can Learn From This Story

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Published by Kimberly Wall

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Co-Founder, Disciple Group Leader, Author

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Sometimes, God withholds His rewards from us until after a period of prolonged, often painful, conflict with Him. Rebekah, the mother of Jacob, asked God why her two unborn children were fighting while she was carrying him and their fraternal twin Esau whom God hated (Genesis 25:22).

Biblical figure Jacob wrestles with God and shows His ability and grace to transform and renew. In the Bible, he is most famous for his cunning and dishonest behavior, particularly toward his twin brother Esau.

Jacob was given a new name and God’s blessings after falling short in a wrestling match against God. It tells us how to put humility and tolerance in place of arrogance. Proverbs 3:6 says, “Submit to him in all your ways, and he will make your pathways straight.”

Key Takeaways

  • Persistent seeking of God, even amidst struggles and doubts, can lead to transformative blessings and a deeper personal relationship with Him.
  • Acknowledging one’s flaws and total dependence on God is crucial for receiving His mercy and grace.
  • Humility and a willingness to confront personal shortcomings are essential for growing closer to God and experiencing His transformative power.

Did Jacob Wrestle With God?

After serving Laban[1] for several years, Jacob was about to return home to Canaan with his family when he heard that his brother, who had vowed to murder him for his previous duplicity, was coming to meet him (Genesis 32:6).

Jacob called on God for assistance. He sent his loved ones and belongings ahead of him to keep them safe. God found and called Jacob alone in his camp and engaged him in a wrestling match till dawn (Genesis 32:24–29).

God wanted a relationship with Jacob, but he could not do so until Jacob acknowledged his self-reliance, dishonesty, and cunning flaws. When Jacob refused to submit to God, a simple divine touch on his hip persuaded the young man to surrender and acknowledge his complete dependence on God (Genesis 25–26).

Jacob’s conflict with God represents his conflict with his inner self. Jacob’s identity was altered by his conflict with God. He was no longer to be associated with being blessed through deception. He prevailed with God this time by faith and obtained God’s blessing. In the end, through this struggle, God gave Jacob an incredibly generous gift of restoration.

Jacob Wrestles With God: The Reason

Knowing Jacob’s story enables one to understand the challenges that characterized his life. Jacob was a man full of doubts and anxieties, even though God had promised that through him would come a great country and a whole company of nations

Jacob had left Laban because he was fed up with how his father-in-law was treating him, only to run into his enraged brother, Esau. In an effort to appease his brother, Jacob devised a bribe and dispatched a caravan of goods across the Jabbok River with his women and children.

Running from his family’s past had been difficult enough, but fighting God was something else. That evening, Jacob received a visit from an angel. They fought all through the night until dawn, when the stranger struck Jacob’s hip, rendering him permanently incapacitated and causing him to walk with a limp. Jacob came to terms with what had occurred when he said, “I saw God face to face, yet my life was spared” (Genesis 32:30). 

Jacob ultimately takes the action that we all must. He saw the face of God while facing his shortcomings, faults, and everything else that was bothering him. Jacob wrestled with God all night. He was paralyzed as a result of the exhausting effort. Jacob did not get God’s blessing until he accepted God, stopped trying, and realized he could not continue without Him (Genesis 32:29).

man in red talking to a man in white robe and jacob wrestles with god

5 Significant Lessons From Jacob’s Wrestling With God

Jacob’s wrestling match also teaches us that Bible characters wrestled with God in ways other than just physically. There is nothing wrong with having concerns or wanting to learn more about the Bible. Christian faith is not irrational; instead, it is grounded in the ways that God has provided for us in the past. We can fight him and still come out with a new identity.

1We Need To Be Forgiven, And Only God’s Mercy Can Grant It

The fact that the wrestling fight took place at night is significant. The bustle of daily life might divert our attention during the day. The peace and seclusion of the night force us to confront our worries. Jacob needed to realize he could no longer rely solely on his power. It was beyond his control to grant him the forgiveness he needed to live.

If we want to follow God, we must eventually admit our shortcomings and wrongdoings. Only through God’s mercy and grace are we able to get forgiveness and make it through the night to the other side.

2. God Values Persistence, Particularly In Our Search for Him

Jacob showed two outstanding traits. One was of a sensitive spiritual nature. This was witnessed both when he ran away from his brother and saw the ladder to heaven and when he heeded the Lord’s voice instructing him to return to his country.

His determination was his second admirable trait. His dedication to Rachel and his patience in working with Laban to win her hand in marriage serve as examples of his perseverance. Jacob’s struggle with the enigmatic man is an excellent example of these traits. He was fighting God, and the fight did not stop until God blessed Jacob.

This was made much more potent by the moral repercussions Jacob had to deal with. Despite the fact that he did not deserve the blessing, Jacob was prepared to accept it by accepting whatever punishment or penalty was required.

3. We Are Defined By Christ

As we read more in Genesis, we observe that throughout Jacob’s life, his name alternates between his old and new ones. God once more informs Jacob of his new name in Genesis 35:10. With us, this frequently occurs. 

God bestows a new name on us—His beloved, a new creation in Him—but we quickly lose sight of it. After our battle with God, we must cling tenaciously to our transformed selves. Even though we may falter and lose sight of who we are, we can always return to the identity that God has given us.

4. God Desires For Us To Know Him Closely

God won Jacob’s heart during the wrestling match and became his personal God. Many people have heard about God, but they have never had a genuine, profound encounter with Him. Understanding what God has done for you differs from understanding what He has done for others. God is more concerned with the state of our hearts than with how successfully we appear to be living a good life.

Spending time with God is the only way to have a connection with Him. We develop a closer, more personal relationship with God as a result of reading the Bible, praying, and engaging in worship with our hearts and minds totally focused on God. The most significant barrier to spending time with God is often ourselves. Our priorities become mixed up.

5. Humility Is Required For Closeness To God

Humility appears to go against both culture and achievement in our world. But when we put our ego aside and trust in God, we improve as people. Not only Jacob in the Bible experienced God’s humility. Nobody wants to live with a condition that forces them to remain humble.

God is aware of our needs and understands that our greatest strength comes from our reliance on Him rather than on our abilities. Jacob was limping off as the light rose. In addition to his new illness, he also had a new name, identity, and level of connection with God.

Will You Wrestle With God?

Even if it seems that way at first, God is not unwilling to bless us when he makes us struggle for some blessings. This is so that He might bless us more through wrestling than without it. In your pain, anxiety, and uncertainty, God will meet you. However, he might not respond to you the way you anticipate or want. At first glance, your best ally could appear to be your enemy, leading you to engage in combat with him.

In wrestling, we have received God’s blessing. You might not require reassuring words, time to yourself, sleep, or even a healthy hip. The blessing of God is what you need. God invites you to receive his blessing when he calls you to engage in prayerful conflict with him.

Please do not give up and stick with Him. Until He gives you a blessing, do not let Him go. You will be changed as a result of having such tenacious faith, which God likes to bless.

two men talking over a bonfire and jacob wrestles with god

Summary

This incredible Jacob story teaches us that life is never supposed to be simple. This is especially true when we decide to challenge God and His plan for our lives on our own. We also discovered that, as Christians, God is always present in our struggles in this life, despite our difficulties, and that His blessing always follows the often messy and disorderly struggle. Real growth experiences are always accompanied by suffering and hardship.

Jacob’s wrestling match with God at the Jabbok that dark night serves as a reminder to us of this truth: as followers of Christ, we may struggle with Him through the solitude of the night, but His blessing will arrive by morning.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is The Story Of Jacob Wrestling With God?

The story of Jacob wrestling with God is a biblical account found in Genesis 32:24–32, where Jacob physically wrestles with a divine being (interpreted as God or an angel) throughout the night and receives a blessing and a new name, Israel, signifying his struggle and prevailing faith.

Why Did Jacob Wrestle With God?

Jacob wrestled with God as a pivotal moment of transformation in his life, symbolizing his struggle with his past actions, his identity, and his relationship with God, leading to a deeper understanding and a renewed covenant with the divine.

What Are The Key Lessons From Jacob’s Wrestling With God?

The key lessons from Jacob’s wrestling with God include the importance of perseverance in seeking God, acknowledging one’s own weaknesses and reliance on divine grace, and the transformative power of humility and facing one’s own inner conflicts.

How Did Jacob’s Encounter With God Change Him?

Jacob’s encounter with God changed him by leading him to recognize his limitations and depend fully on God’s strength and mercy, resulting in a new identity (Israel) and a lifelong physical reminder of his divine encounter, marked by a limp.

What Does Jacob’s New Name “Israel” Signify?

Jacob’s new name “Israel” signifies his struggle with God and with men and his ability to overcome. This name reflects both the struggle and the divine blessing, symbolizing a turning point in Jacob’s life and his role as the patriarch of the Israelites.

Why Is Jacob’s Wrestling With God Significant In Christian Faith?

Jacob’s wrestling with God is significant in Christian faith as it illustrates the transformative journey of faith, where struggles and challenges lead to spiritual growth, reliance on God’s grace, and the shaping of one’s character and destiny in accordance with divine will.

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