"When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob's hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, 'Let me go, for the day has broken.' But Jacob said, 'I will not let you go unless you bless me.'"
When you see a child cling to a parent's leg, it's usually done for three reasons. Sometimes, they're just having fun, wanting to hold on and giggle as a giant in their life stomps around. When it's less playful, they might cling and hide behind a parent's leg in fear of something going on. Or in other cases, they do it because of poor behavior. They haven't received something they've asked for or they know they've done something wrong and are holding on in shame.
No matter what the case is, it's a position of vulnerability and dependence. Children cling to you because, in that moment, you're the only one who can supply the joy they desire or grant them the forgiveness and comfort they need.
This was the same position Jacob found himself in as he wrestled with this mysterious stranger. All night, the match went back and forth, with no clear advantage being gained until this stranger touched his hip and it became wrenched. It was then that Jacob realized that he was dealing with someone far greater than an average man.
And so he held on. Despite his injury, he clung on and he begged for blessing. He gripped tight and cried out for help. Jacob's name meant "supplanter" and "underminer". He embodied the saying, "The ends justifies the means," never asking for help but doing whatever he needed in order to get ahead. Yet with a looming showdown with the brother he had deceived and the dark loneliness that surrounded him in the cold desert, a disabled Jacob begged for blessing from one he knew was greater than him. A man who had spent his life deceiving and fooling others had no place left to hide. No more tricks up his sleeve, no more deceptions to pull. From now on, he was to find blessing at the hands of someone else and not himself.
Sinclair Ferguson has shared, "The saving purposes of God ordinarily begin in the hidden, sovereign, and sometimes dark providences of God." Some of you may find yourself in a moment, a season, a lifetime of this. All hell has broken loose in your life and you have no idea what's really happened. Maybe you've been hacking away at a big piece of rock, hoping to fashion a statue of glory, pride, and power in what you've accomplished but taken a step back and realized you've only carved out a poisonous idol and a spiritual tombstone. Or maybe you think it's God Himself who is to blame for your current circumstances. He's the one who didn't take away cancer. He's the one who bankrupted you.
Understand that for God's people, He never breaks down without planning to rebuild. He demolishes only so that He might redeem, re-create, and renew. It's the modus operandi of our God, who gives both law which condemns and gospel which sets free. It's His economy, where He loves those who finally realize how unlovable they really are and saves those who finally realize how helpless they really are. For us to reach these points in our lives and be dependent on grace alone through faith alone, to cling to the Father's leg like the children we are, often requires a realization of how debilitating and devastating our spiritual handicaps are in a life functionally operating apart from the gospel.
This is most gloriously displayed at the cross by Jesus Himself as He wrestled with His own Father. Crippled, shamed, whipped, scourged, spat upon, crucified, crushed by the weight of our sin and guilt, Jesus continued to cling to God to secure blessing for you and me. The one Jacob foreshadowed, the true Israel, Jesus wrestled with God, with man, with death, with all earthly and universal powers, and emerged victorious for our sake.
The blessing and promise of the gospel has never been perfect fulfillment, peace, and comfort for our earthly desires and passions or our moments of darkness, loneliness, and struggle. We will still wrestle with God, we will have our doubts, fears, and worries. But know that the promise of God's presence with us in these moments remains true. Remember that Jesus' has won eternal blessing for us that surpasses and outshines all our momentary afflictions. In your wrestling with God, be comforted knowing that He is not working against you but for your blessing and good in Christ.
"Once an old woman at my church said the secret is that God loves us exactly the way we are and that He loves us too much to let us stay like this, and I'm just trying to trust that." - Anne Lamott