“Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day” (Genesis 32:24).

Wrestling is considered one of the oldest sports on earth. Cave drawings in France show pictures of wrestlers, and Babylonian reliefs depict wrestling matches with competitors using the same types of holds used in the modern-day sport. Shuai jiao is a wresting style more than four thousand years old, originating in China.

Wrestling was also one of the original sports in the ancient Olympic Games going back to 776 BC. The games were held, in part, to create the Olympic Truce that would replace deadly combat with competition among the city-states. Athletes could travel from their country in safety to participate. The Truce lasted for 293 consecutive Olympics, spanning nearly 1,200 years (776 BC–AD 336), making it the longest peace accord in human history.

Jacob participated in a wrestling match like none other in all human history. He wrestled with God. After leaving Haran to return to Canaan with his family, he faced the prospect of meeting his angry brother. Twenty years had passed since he deceived Esau to gain the birthright. Dividing his family into two groups, he crossed the waters of Jabbok at night and then found a solitary place to reflect and pray.

The patriarch had no peace as he thought of his sins. As Jacob wrestled in prayer, he soon found himself wrestling with Another. The powerful shepherd was no match for this Angel of the Lord, Christ Himself. Though crippled by pain, the deceiver clung to the Man and begged for His blessing. In that moment, God changed Jacob’s name to Israel, “for you have struggled with God and with men and have prevailed” (Genesis 32:28).

Peace will never come when we face our enemies in our own strength. When Jacob acknowledged his sin and pleaded for divine mercy, the Lord blessed him. Losing is the only way to win in this wrestling match.

O Lord, I cling to You and ask for Your blessing today. Forgive me for relying on my own power to conquer sin.

For Further Study: Genesis 32:22–32; Hosea 12:2–6; Luke 18:7, 8

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