24 Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. 25 Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him. 26 And He said, “Let Me go, for the day breaks.” But he said, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!” Genesis 32:14-26
As Jacob wrestled with God he seemed to be prevailing for some time in the struggle, then the antagonist shows his real strength by touching his side and putting his hip out of joint. This causes a great change in Jacob’s purposes in this match. The match starts as Jacob is trying to subdue the assailant and protect himself from him, but after realizing who He was, his desire changes from resisting to clinging to the assailant and not letting him go.
If we see this struggle primarily as Jacob trying to get something out of God then we have missed the point. This passage is about God getting something out of Jacob. What God was getting out of Jacob was for Jacob to cling to him in order to bless him. God is faithful and just to complete the work he has started in us, and one of the main works He does in us is to get us to stop placing confidence in ourselves and to place our trust in Him.
He does this first in his work of regeneration and justification. The first thing God does is to show us our utter hopelessness and helplessness through the law. As long as we hold to our own righteousness, all we can hope to face is judgment, but when we realize our spiritual poverty and place our hope in Christ’s completed work, ours will be the kingdom of heaven.
He then continues His work in our sanctification. Even as justified Christians our hearts are tied to this world and its comforts with iron clad bonds. In order to make us more like Him, he engages us in a struggle where it may seem that we are able to contend for ourselves, but then he shows His strength by providentially allowing us to go through times we cannot handle on our own. These times hurt and can cause manifold heaviness, but they also break our reliance upon ourselves and upon the comforts of this world.
In these struggles we are made weak, and like Jacob we may limp for the rest of our lives. But in our brokenness we are made strong, because we now cling to Christ from whom all blessing flow. The world may say, how can a man or woman who limps and appears to be so weak, be so strong? And the answer is clear, it is because God has wrestled with them, broken them, and made them to prevail with Him in His strength. Because of it they now have power with God, which also gives them power with men.