Gen. 32:28 And He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.”
The narrative of Jacob wrestling with God is one of the most challenging in all of Scripture. We are initially puzzled by how such a thing is even possible. How can God manifest himself as a man? Why isn’t the passage clearer as to the identity of the wrestler? How could Jacob win?
Jacob had always been a fighter. He fought in the womb. He fought his brother. He fought his father. He fought his father-in-law. Finally, he fought God.
A lot of this is because of the Fall. That is true. Fighting God, however, seems to go beyond that. After all, God could have just squashed Jacob. If Jacob is fighting God because of sin, then it makes no sense for him to prevail.
Indeed, God wants Jacob to fight. God’s desire is for Jacob to wrestle and grow, and every Jew bore Jacob’s new name. All of Israel identified with this wrestling.
And this is true of us all in a way. We have to wrestle with God and man. Salvation itself is a death and resurrection. The life of sanctification is a struggle.
Jesus said that the violent men take the kingdom by force, and it seems that we take all things by force. Learning how to do this is the challenge.