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He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with man, and have prevailed” Genesis 32:28. Jacob’s journey had almost reached its climax. He will either proceed to the Promised Land or perish, the inevitable Esau was at a striking distance. Jacob never feared death more than this day in all of his life. However, before Esau and his 400 men could meet him, someone met Jacob that night when he was all alone. The Bible says, it was God, He came down and wrestled with him until day break. The word “wrestle” also means to ‘strive’ or ‘struggle’, which gives us quite an interesting picture of God. He was literally fighting with Jacob, as in the act of wrestling both were trying to subdue each other. What was really happening between God and Jacob? Paul writes that we wrestle against the demonic forces but do we also wrestle with God?

This particular passage is quite intriguing and hard to understand because of the inadequacy of any explicit revelation as to what exactly happened between Jacob and God. In view of the conversation it seems even more confusing because Genesis 32:25, says, ‘When God saw that He did not prevail against him (Jacob), He(God) touched the socket of his Hip’ while Genesis 32:28 says, your name is Israel for you struggled with God and have prevailed. While there is a clear contradiction in the above statements, the crowning question remains, whether Jacob prevailed or God prevailed? Well the answer is both of them.

If God prevails then we also prevail. Though its seems paradoxical yet the truth remains impressive. There are two phrases we can pick up from the Bible which sheds a lot of light to this passage- ‘God wrestled with Jacob’ and ‘Jacob struggled with God’.  When God begins to wrestle with us, then our life becomes a struggle. Jacob was not willing to let God prevail over his plans, priorities and pretenses but all he wanted was a quick fix solution to get rid of Esau. God was wrestling with Jacob, who in his obstinacy was struggling till his last breath refusing to surrender his life to the Master. Jacob might have probably told God, ‘You just handle Esau, I will take care of the rest’. For some of us God is not interested in performing momentary miracles but looks for a total surrender. God could do it anyway and He did it by breaking a bone. He touched the socket of his hip and Jacob fell crashing to the ground. If a touch could break a bone, imagine what a blow could do. Still, God’s strongest blow to the outer man has always turned out to be a great blessing to the inner man. Now broken and bruised, his strength is finally subdued. God had prevailed over Jacob and that’s when He called him as Israel. When God prevailed, he looked at Jacob and said you have prevailed as well. In Christian life, we can taste victory only at the point of surrender. He breaks and only then blesses. He makes us weak so that His strength is made perfect. The secret lies in allowing God to rule over our lives.  If God in us prevails, then we in God will also prevail.
If we could understand the mind of God we can see that His promises are always conditional. The promise was made to ‘Israel’ and not to ‘Jacob’.  The chasm that existed between Jacob and his promise was his mere selfish nature that was bred in his bone from his mother’s womb. God wrestled with Jacob, broke that ‘bone of contention’; subdued his rebellious spirit and gave him a new name.

This was God’s promise and protection for him. No divination can stand against ‘Israel’ anymore, no friend or foe could destroy him, for he is chosen by God. The truth is, God is changing us in order to bless us! Jacob or Israel? Our future depends on who we really are!

Sheridon Vedhavinod

Sheridon Vedhavinod is a software professional who obeyed the call of God in his life to enter God’s ministry in 2003. He is a gifted Bible teacher, gospel singer and Senior Pastor of King of Glory Sanctuary, Chennai. He serves as the Executive Director in El-Bethel Endtime Missions. He is also a member of the gospel quartet - The New Covenant Singers.