The wrestler

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Prepare by finding some space to be alone today. Try and get rid of the distractions – the mobile phone and the radio – to be alone with God.

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Bible passage: Genesis 32:22–32

Jacob Wrestles With God
 22 That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two maidservants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 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. 26 Then the man said, "Let me go, for it is daybreak."
      But Jacob replied, "I will not let you go unless you bless me."

 27 The man asked him, "What is your name?"
      "Jacob," he answered.

 28 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."

 29 Jacob said, "Please tell me your name."
      But he replied, "Why do you ask my name?" Then he blessed him there.

 30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, "It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared."

 31 The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip. 32 Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip, because the socket of Jacob's hip was touched near the tendon.

New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Audio Bible passage

The audio version of the passage is taken from the Contemporary English Version (CEV).

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Wrestling with God
It’s interesting that Jacob has two of his most intimate experiences of God when he is alone (see also 28:10–17).

Jacob knows where he must go in the morning. He will face his brother. He knows that his brother might seek revenge. His life and the lives of his family are in the balance. And so he spends the night wrestling with God asking for a blessing. Jacob’s desperation is shown in his refusal to let go of the ‘man’ until he is blessed.

Pursuing God
This story foreshadows Jesus’ anguished wrestling with God in Gethsemane, which blessed us through his decision to go to the cross. Many of us hesitate to argue, or wrestle with God. But being a follower of Jesus is not just about being saved but about pursuing God, in prayer.

After this encounter with God, Jacob is left physically weaker with a bust hip but he is in fact stronger, having been blessed by God. He goes back to his family and his responsibilities, ready to face the music, knowing God’s favour.


Perhaps this passage is a challenge to wrestle in prayer over something in your life, asking for a blessing, or a break-through, or simply the courage to press on. Perhaps you could pray while using a punchbag!

Andy Frost

Deeper Bible study

In these few verses we find Jacob being taught a key lesson. It is God who held Jacob’s destiny in his hands, however much Jacob tried to do things his way. ‘We too face the need for radical realignment of our lives. There is a call, which will never go away, to work consciously against the “me first” mentality which is so ingrained in our human living, and to align our hearts instead with a deeper sense of gravity, who is God, our only solid ground.’1

This well-known wrestling match reveals a God who engages with us intimately, face to face, with sweat and effort and relentless purposefulness. It points us forward in time to the crucifixion, where God himself bleeds, sweats and feels intense pain in the intentional pursuit of our salvation. However, because we don’t see or touch God physically we can have an image of him as a remote and somewhat emotionally reserved figure. Familiarity with our faith – and the sometimes colourless expression of it in Western Protestant church services – can reinforce this distorted image. Scripture, on the other hand, often describes God in visceral terms – as a God of passion, who feels deep emotion about his people (Hosea 11; John 11:33–36; Luke 13:34), and works through the earthy reality of the world he created.

Take a few moments to imagine you are observing this wrestling match. What do you see? Now imagine you are Jacob. As the bout continues, how do your feelings and perception of the one with whom you are wrestling, change? As with Jacob, God creates opportunities for us to choose not merely to wrestle with him – and some of us need to risk doing that (!) – but also to recognise afresh our absolute dependence upon him as the one who holds our destiny in his hands.

Fran Beckett


1 Margaret Silf, Wayfaring: A Gospel Journey into Life, Darton, Longman and Todd, 2012, p47

Bible in a year

Read the Bible in a year:

Job 18,19

Luke 19


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Back to the start (God's great dance floor)
Performed by: Martin Smith
Written by: Martin Smith, Nick Herbert Jonas Myrin & Tim Hughes
Copyright: © 2012 Gloworks Ltd, Kingsway Thankyou Music, Shout Publishing/BMI
Buy this and other great songs here

I've dreamed my life a thousand days (Rain)
Performed by Y Friday
Written by: Ken Riley
Copyright © 2001 Thankyou Music

  • Rachael Hampton | Tuesday, 26 July 2016

    We know, as Jacob knew, that God is with us. We have His promise and like Jacob, have seen the evidence. Yet, like him, when faced with big things that will or could change our lives, we find ourselves needing to wrestle with God for assurance of His blessing. Praying for all in this situation today, and also for those who feel too weak to wrestle. May you have faithful pray-ers who can contend for you, and encourage you to hold on to this amazing compassionate God Who cares enough to be wrestled with!

  • Rachael Hampton | Tuesday, 26 July 2016

    It sounds as though you've had a lonely time of it EILEEN. So good to hear from you. We pray you will keep improving and become more stable in your health.

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