Broken But Blessed

Derek Kidner on Jacob wrestling with God in Genesis 32:

The conflict brought to a head the battling and groping of a lifetime, and Jacob’s desperate embrace vividly expressed his ambivalent attitude to God, of love and enmity, defiance and dependence. It was against him, not Esau or Laban, that he had been pitting his strength, as he now discovered; yet the initiative had been God’s, as it was this night, to chasten his pride and challenge his tenacity. ‘With the cunning thou dost wrestle’ (Ps. 18:26; cf. AVmg). The crippling and the naming show that God’s ends were still the same: He would have all of Jacob’s will to win, to attain and obtain, yet purged of self-sufficiency and redirected to the proper object of man’s love, God himself.

It was defeat and victory in one. Hosea again illuminates it: ‘He strove with the angel and prevailed’ – this is the language of strength; ‘he wept and sought his favour’ – the language of weakness. After the maiming, combativeness had turned to a dogged dependence, and Jacob emerged broken, named and blessed. His limping would be a lasting proof of the reality of the struggle: it had been no dream, and there was sharp judgment in it. The new name would attest his new standing: it was both a mark of grace, wiping out an old reproach, and an accolade to live up to. The blessing, this time, was untarnished, both in the taking and in the giving: it was his own, uncontrived and unmediated.