Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.
Genesis 32:24 (NRSV)
Sometimes the only way to get out of a dark night is through a dark night. Sometimes, the only way out of difficulty is through difficulty.
Sometimes, the only way to a great triumph is through a great trial. Sometimes, the only way to a great blessing is through a great wrestling.
Therefore, I’ve come by today to bring to your remembrance or understanding, three pillows upon which a weary head might take comfort. First, we need to accept the fact that invariably, we all will have a dark, lonely night of serious wrestling in our lives and in our souls.
Secondly, may we never forget that it is in our persevering through the night that we come to the daybreak of our greatest blessings. Lastly, after the bruising, battering and blessing from our wrestling, the sun of God’s mercy and grace shall rise upon us.
Invariably, we all will have a dark, lonely, and difficult nighttime experience in our lives. In our text, it was at night that Jacob found himself all alone.
There was an earlier time in, which Jacob was surrounded by so many people. There was a time when the grandchildren danced happily around Jacob.
There was a time when uncles and cousins dropped by for a cup of coffee and to share fond memories. There was an earlier time when friends and family were on every hand.
But, night fell. The sun settled into its bed beyond the western hills. The unstoppable night came creeping into Jacob’s life. At night, he found himself, alone.
Jacob, in the night, came to the hard realization that there was an issue that he had to face alone. He had to meet his brother Esau, who was angry and dangerous. Therefore, he took his wives, children, maids and all that he had and sent them across the river Jabbok.
Having sent his family and possessions ahead of him, Jacob settled down on the rocky banks of the river for a nights rest. It was a dark and lonely night.
It was a kind of darkness and aloneness that makes silence seem so loud. There, in the impenetrable darkness, weak and worn, troubled and torn, Jacob came to the end of a long and difficult journey.
Now, it was time for a well-needed rest, for tomorrow would bring challenges sufficient for the day. But, now, tonight, rest and rejuvenation were on the agenda.
But, it was not rest that Jacob found. It was not resting, but it was wrestling that awaited Jacob.
Alone, Jacob encountered a man who grabbed him with a ferocious grip. Alone, Jacob encountered a man who turned him everyway but loose. Alone, Jacob fought with a man, he fought with a problem, he fought with a situation, he fought with a man that he couldn’t quite recognize.
Jacob did not really know with whom, or what, he was wrestling. But, he wrestled all through the long, dark and dangerous night, until daybreak.
Be ever mindful, o child of God that it is in our persevering through the night that we come to the daybreak of our greatest blessings. Jacob wrestled, fought for dear life, with the man as daybreak approached.
The man with whom Jacob wrestled knew that Jacob was serious and determined. Therefore, he had to strike him on the hip socket in an attempt to break free from Jacob; and so it was that Jacob was injured through his wrestling.
And, so it is, my people, whenever we have a wrestling going on in the nighttime of our lives, whenever we keep on fighting for dear life, whenever we keep on struggling to survive and succeed, we will be bruised by the battle.
You can’t get in the ring of life and go a 15-round title fight with reality and come out un-bruised. A fight, a struggle of any kind, by its very nature means that we will suffer some physical or spiritual or emotional bumps and bruises.
Still, fight on. Still, struggle on through the night until your daybreak.
Jacob wrestled, tired though he was. Jacob wrestled, afraid though he was. Jacob battled this man, though the combat was fierce.
Jacob wrestled all through the dark and lonely and hard night. But, he was not about to give up now. Jacob sensed a breakthrough at daybreak was just around the corner.
The man with whom Jacob had locked horns and butted heads argued for an end to the battle. But, Jacob refused to quit. Jacob declared his determination, not just with his mouth, but also with his actions.
Jacob refused to let the struggle end until he received a blessing. He declared that if he had to wrestle, if he had to fight, if he had to hurt, if he had to struggle, if he had to endure all of that, then he was not going to quit until he got a blessing out of the wrestling.
Many of us are just one struggle away from succeeding. Many of us are only one more prayer away from getting over the hump. But we give up too soon. Too many of us give up the fight just when daybreak was coming with a blessing that has our name on it.
Too often, people lose the great blessing that can be theirs because they
quit too soon. They don’t endure the struggle, the fight or the wearisome
wrestling match that often precedes bountiful blessings.
But, that’s not Jacob’s story. No, Jacob, finished what had been started. He did not quit. He endured.
And, know this, ye saints of the Lord. God is pleased when we refuse to give up a worthwhile battle. God is pleased when we struggle for right and good.
Jacob may not have fully understood what great blessing God had in store for him. But, he knew that the blessing he was wrestling for was not like the blessing he stole from Esau.
It was not like the blessing he tricked out of old man Isaac. Jacob wrestled for his own blessing. He endured so that he might have what God had for him.
And, because he refused to quit when the going got tough, because he didn’t get out of the kitchen when the kitchen got hot, because he didn’t thin out when things got thick and sticky, Jacob received a new name from the Lord almighty.
Likewise, my beloved, in our wrestling until daybreak, in our perseverance when commonsense says enough is enough, in our fighting against seemingly insurmountable obstacles, when we wrestle till daybreak and don’t quit, we acquire a new name from him who has a name above every name.
Yesterday, somebody called us losers. But now that we wrestled till daybreak, we are not losers. We are now winners. Yesterday, somebody called us cowards, but that was before we held onto our adversary in battle and got us a new name.
We got a new name now and it’s not coward, but conqueror. There is a new name, a new identity, a new you and a new me that develops out of wrestling till daybreak.
Oh, how wonderful, oh how marvelous it is when the Lord gives to you and to me, a new name. And, if we just hold on through the night, if we just keep on struggling with those most difficult issues that confront us, if we just keep on wrestling with those burdens we can’t seem to bear, if we just keep on keeping on, the Lord surely will give us a new name.
Jacob wrestled through the night, till daybreak; and, he got a new name for a new life. But, that’s not how the story ends. Not only did Jacob receive a new name, he also received the great blessing that he sought most of his wandering life.
Jacob was a man who had always been looking for something; always trying to obtain what belonged to somebody else. He was always trying to get what other folk were blessed with. Jacob was a man always seeking for some thing, some blessing and some advantage.
He did not know just what the blessing was that he was seeking; but, he knew that the one with whom he wrestled till daybreak was able to bless his life, his soul, his present and his future in utterly amazing ways.
Because Jacob, now Israel, persevered, because he refused to quit the battle,
he received a blessing that was truly his own.
Once, he sought and stole his brother Esau’s blessing. Once, he tricked his frail and feeble father, Isaac, for a blessing that wasn’t rightfully his. But, those blessings left him unfulfilled and anxiety-ridden.
But, now, after wrestling with divine and human beings, after contending with man and God in the night, after wrestling till daybreak, Jacob received the blessing that was his.
He received, not Esau’s blessings, not Isaac’s blessings, he received the blessing that God had for him. And, this blessing was far greater than anything he could ever ask, think or imagine. But, it only came after an intense struggle through the night.
At the very place of struggle, Jacob was blessed. At the very place where he was hurt, Jacob was blessed. At the very spot where he was almost crushed and stuffed into oblivion, Jacob was blessed. On the spot, where he almost lost his life in a midnight struggle, when daybreak came, Jacob was blessed.
At the place in our lives where we refuse to quit, God will bless us. Whenever we hold on for dear life, even when nobody would blame us for giving up, God will bless us.
In the moment that you decide that persevering through school is worth it, God will bless you. Whenever you wrestle through foolishness, gossip and backbiting on your job, God will bless you. Whenever you wrestle with the decision to turn off the TV and you turn on bible study at the church, God will bless you.
At the very place of struggle, Jacob was blessed. And, God is still faithful and true. God still blesses the faithful ones who endures to the end.
In fact, the word of God says, only they who endure to the end shall be saved. Therefore, my beloved, I encourage you, I urge you, I plead with you to keep on wrestling with the issues of your life. Keep on wrestling with the spirit and the will of God.
Keep on wrestling with who you are today so that you might be who God wants you to be tomorrow. In the very place of your wrestling, at daybreak, God will grant you a blessing. Bruised and battered though we might be from our wrestling, the sunlight of God’s mercy and grace shall rise upon us.
Having wrestled till daybreak, Jacob received his blessing. He found that life was worthwhile after all. Jacobs came to realize that what he thought were mountains were really molehills when seen through the eyes of faith.
Having received his great blessings, the word of the Lord says in Genesis 32:31 that “the sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel,” which means, the place where I saw the face of God.
Weak and weary one, though thou must endure a lonesome night of wrestling with no human help in sight, the sun will rise again in your life. Your life may be hard and void of all hope, sometime. But, the sun will rise again.
Maybe you have been wrestling all night long and you are about to throw in
the towel. Hold up! Don’t you give up! Your greatest blessing is on the
way. The sun will rise again.
We may, in this life, be troubled on every side, but we need not be in distress, for we know that the sun will rise again. By day and by night we may be perplexed, but we need not be in despair, for we know that God is in everything working out our good.
Yes, we may even be persecuted by our most ferocious foes, but he who rules heaven and earth has not forsaken us. Surely, we will all be cast down in the great struggles of life. But, this thing I know. We may be cast down. But, we are never, never, never destroyed.
For we have found that there is a blessing in our wrestling. There is a blessing in our pressing. When your way grows drear and the storms are near. Fret not, oh little flock, know that there is a blessing in wrestling till daybreak.
When your soul begins to buckle and your courage is almost through and the night draweth nigh and the battles rageth strong and you don’t know what to do or where to go. Just remember this: take, take, take the name of Jesus with you, child of sorrow and of woe. It will joy and comfort give you-take it then wherever, in every battle, wherever, in every struggle, wherever you go.
Take the name of Jesus with you. Precious name, O how sweet! Hope of earth and joy of heaven.
Precious, precious, precious name of Jesus, O how sweet, take it, take the name of Jesus with you in your night, and he will be your light. Take the name of Jesus with you in your night and he will see you through and the sun will rise, rise, rise in your world and in your life, time after time after time after time.
© Clarence W. Davis 2004, Used by permission BlackandChristian.com
Rev. Clarence W. Davis is the pastor of Friendship Missionary Baptist Churchin Colorado Springs, Colorado. A frequent contributor to BlackandChristian.com, Davis earned a Master of Divinity and Master of Theology degrees from Harvard Divinity School.