That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two maidservants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
The man asked him, “What is your name?”
“Jacob,” he answered.
Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.”
Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”
But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.
So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”
The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip.
This is the story of Jacob’s encounter with God when he was on his way to meet his brother Esau whom he wasn’t on good terms with. On the way, one night, God appeared to Jacob in the form of a man and they wrestled until daybreak.
Church, I’d like to share with you a few things from this passage that have challenged the way I relate to God.
Firstly, note how the Bible says in verse 25 and 26 that Jacob couldn’t be overpowered and God had to tell him “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob answers back saying, “I will not let You go unless you bless me”.
This completely blows my mind away. I haven’t once had God ask me to let Him go because I guess I haven’t struggled or wrestled with him like Jacob did. Who knew one could that anyway? Our conversations with God are so civilised and protected. We love to say politically correct prayers. Often, we treat God like an entity that doesn’t relate to us on a human level. I’m not undermining His Sovereignty here. All I’m saying is, that we tend to forget that He is longing to relate with us like we do with people around us. He longs for us to shed our shenanigans and talk to Him like we do with our friends and family. But, for us to do that, our very fundamental idea of prayer must change. If we continue to treat prayer like an activity we must do to score brownie points with a God who sits in heaven who controls our lives, we are completely getting it wrong. Prayer is talking to God like a man. Prayer is letting Him talk back to you. Prayer is wrestling with God like Jacob did.
If we take our prayer to that level where we wrestle with God, where we strive to let Him know what we desire and persist in a way that He knows how badly we want what we want; there is no way we can have mediocre prayer lives. The problem is that we’re used to wrestling with the world, with things of the world and with our worldly desires so much that we’ve hardly considered doing that with God.
Friends, I want to challenge you today to take your prayer lives up a notch. Relate with God like you would with a close friend. Don’t let Him go without blessing you, without being close to you, without speaking to you.
Secondly, note that after they wrestle, God tells Jacob, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.”
Wow! God saw Jacob’s striving and persistence and changed His name from “Jacob” to “Israel”. God gave Him a name that would change the course of history. God gave him a name that would be the name of a nation. And what did Jacob do to deserve all this? He cheated his brother, he lied to his father — he was by no means a contender for a name like that!
However, just one night of wrestling with God and God knew that this man would father a nation. God knew that Jacob was a man that wouldn’t give up on things that he wanted. He hadn’t give up on the blessings that he knew were rightfully his brother’s. He hadn’t give up on his love, Rachel. And, he hadn’t give up on God. God simply trusted the guy’s determination!
We’ve become a very impatient generation. We hardly can wait for anything. Our microwave prayers take less than two minutes and then we wonder why God doesn’t move in our midst. I want to challenge you today to persist and see how God will move in your favour. If you want to make history and if you want to impact a nation, it isn’t going to come without a deep striving in your spirit with God.
Lastly, Jacob asked God what His name was, but God didn’t reveal it. Instead, He blessed him there. Jacob then called that place where he met with God Peniel which means Face to Face. He said, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”
Church, a striving and wrestling with God like that resulted in a deep longing in Jacob’s heart to know God more. He wanted to know His name. He saw Him face to face. He had an intimate encounter with God.
My final challenge to you today is to find your way to Peniel, to that place of knowing God face to face, to intimacy with your Maker. And that, doesn’t come by lying down comfortably and making convenient prayers. It comes with wrestling with God and not letting Him go without blessing you. If you want to impact a nation and do great things for God, you must cross Peniel.
Verse 31: “The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip.”
If you’ve passed Peniel, there’ll be a noticeable change in the way you walk.