THE EXPERIENCE OF PENIEL
God met him that night. "Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him" (vv. 24-25). This place was called Peniel. It was the place where Jacob’s fleshly life was exhausted and dealt with.
God Wrestling with Jacob
In this place Jacob was not doing something; he was not praying or wrestling with God. Rather, God came and wrestled with Jacob; God came and subdued him.
What does it mean to wrestle? Wrestling means to press someone down. God wrestled with Jacob in order to subdue him, strip him of his strength, and pin him down so that he could not struggle any longer. The meaning of wrestling is to deplete someone of his strength, bring him down, and pin him down. It means to subdue someone and then to keep him down with power. The Bible shows us that God wrestled with Jacob and did not prevail over him. Jacob was indeed strong!
What is the significance of God being unable to prevail over Jacob? When we do not trust in God and when we contrive by ourselves and are satisfied with ourselves, we have to admit that God cannot prevail over us. When we try to do God’s will by our own strength and try to deliver ourselves by all kinds of natural means, we have to say that God has not prevailed over us. Many brothers and sisters have believed in the Lord for many years, but they have to admit that God has never prevailed over them. They are still very clever, strong, capable, and resourceful. God is not able to prevail over them. They have never been subdued by God and have never been defeated by Him. If they had been defeated by God, they would have said, "I cannot make it! God, I surrender!" It is unfortunate that many brothers and sisters have been under God’s discipline repeatedly and still are not defeated. They think that they did not plan well enough the first time, and that they have to design a better plan the second or third time. Such ones have never been defeated by God.
Jacob was a person who would never suffer a defeat. He knew that this was a critical moment for him, but he still had his own ways. He might have thought, "I know Esau very well. If I do this, there is a ninety-nine percent chance that I will succeed." Although he was afraid in his heart, he was still very resourceful.
Many people have repeatedly experienced God’s discipline, but their natural life has never been dealt with in a thorough way. As a result, they make God’s discipline their boast in a natural way. They think that by experiencing God’s discipline frequently, they are accumulating a rich spiritual history for themselves. If they had never been dealt with by the Lord, they would have nothing to say. They would not be able to take pride in any spiritual thing. The only thing they could take pride in would be the worldly things. But when they have had a little experience of fellowshipping with God and received some dealings, they adorn themselves with these fragmented dealings and use them as the basis for their spiritual boast and claim that they know God.
Brothers and sisters, perhaps God has been wrestling with you for five or ten years but has not yet prevailed over you. You have not yet been brought to the point where you say, "I am finished. I cannot stand up any longer. I cannot make it." This means that God has not yet prevailed over you.
(The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Chapter 10, by Watchman Nee)