‘When the man saw that he could not overpower him…’ (Genesis 32:25 NIV)
Jacob wrestled throughout the night with a mysterious figure who appeared as a man
(Genesis 32:24), called the place of this encounter Peniel because he had seen God face to face
(Genesis 32:30), and yet the text tells us that God could not overpower Jacob. Of course, God could have overpowered Jacob, just a gentle touch of his hip disabled him
(Genesis 32:25), so what is going on here?
It reminds me of a time when my son was very little and we would wrestle. How does a man in his 30’s weighing over 160 pounds wrestle with a 4 year toddler without killing him? Quite simply I couldn’t use all of my weight, so I would lie on my back removing any possibility of getting on top of him. In other words by taking all my weight off of my son I made myself weak. I could have easily overpowered a 4 year old, but I didn’t because I was on my back. And God made himself weak so that he failed to overpower Jacob. If God had used his full weight, all the power that is at the disposal of the Creator of the universe, he could have incinerated Jacob and won the wrestling match, but he would not have got what he wanted. What God wanted from Jacob was a changed heart and so he failed to win this wrestling match in order to win Jacob’s heart.
This points to the ultimate place where God won through not winning; where he triumphed through defeat. On the cross Jesus wrestled in weakness. The all-powerful God could have called more than 12 legions of angels to rescue him and achieve victory over those who were putting him to death
(Matthew 26:53). Instead
‘he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!’ (Philippians 2:8).
Jesus made himself weak to take the full force of humanities evil, with the intention of changing our hearts towards him.
In Jesus God became weak for us, and there is nothing more loving than a ‘weak’ God: A God who would empty himself of his power and greatness, live a life of a servant and die on the cross for us.
It is only when we see him being weak for us, when we understand that we have a God who loves and values us so much, that he was willing to go through all this for us that our hearts melt and it changes us. It’s then that the weakness of God becomes the power of God to salvation
(1 Corinthians 1:18–31).
Jacob was privileged to see
‘God face to face, and yet [his] life was spared’ (Genesis 32:30). At the cross we see God face to face and our life too is spared.
Father, may we encounter the weakness of Jesus at the cross and be changed by his unfailing love for us.
Have a good week looking to the weakness of Jesus.