Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.” But he said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” He said, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed….” Now the sun rose upon him just as he crossed over Penuel, and he was limping on his thigh. Genesis 32:24-28, 31 (New American Standard Bible, NASB)
Jacob wrestled with God. Before God could do what He wanted for Jacob, He had to change Him. Jacob’s name meant trickster or deceiver; he was always trying to get things his way. God changed his name to Israel, which meant one who is trusted of God, or a prince with God. The Lord wanted him to rule in life, not through deceit, but with God.
When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob's hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Genesis 32:25 (English Standard Version, ESV)
God touched Jacob’s hip, causing a limp. God had to touch Jacob’s self-dependence, and cause him to depend on God instead. Jacob was empowered to rule over himself and his tendencies by his need to lean on God. Now his walk would be dependent on the Lord, getting what he needed from God and not from man or himself.
God has left weaknesses in all of us. Why? He does it so we are God-reliant and not self-reliant. God doesn’t send poverty, sickness, pain, or bad things to happen, but God will use our experiences to change us. Although Jacob had a limp, he also had a name change, which reflected a character change. Every time he heard his new name, it reinforced who God had made him to be. And as he said his own name, Israel, he was speaking forth who he was and what his destiny would be: one who wrestled with God and prevailed. With the Lord’s help, he prevailed over his weaknesses as trickster and deceiver. It was evident he had an encounter with God that changed his life, and it affected generations to come.
Jacob got a limp out the deal, but he also got a new identity and character. He was transformed from a deceiver to a prince with God, from one who trusted in himself to one who put his trust in God. God can do the same for anyone who is willing to yield to Him. As we turn away from self-reliance and submit to the leadership of God, we will be radically transformed and our lives will never be the same.