The Wrenched Socket

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Instead of wrestling with God, we must cling to God.

Genesis(102) (Part of the Origins(100) series)
by Stuart Johns(233) on December 4, 2022 (Sunday Morning(349))

Cling(1), Concede(1), Confession(14), Salvation(84)


The Wrenched Socket

(Genesis 32:22-32)



“NYU professor Adam Alter has observed the power names have to shape destiny. The technical name is ‘nominative determinism,’ which literally means ‘name-driven outcome.’ Alter points to the following examples: The current Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales is Justice Igor Judge. His colleague, Lord Justice Laws, is a judge in the Court of Appeals. In the realm of athletic pursuits, Anna Smashnova is a professional Israeli tennis player. Layne Beachley is a seven-time world champion surfer. Derek Kickett was an Australian Rules footballer. Stephen Rowbotham was an Olympic rower for Britain. Usain Bolt currently reigns as the fastest man in the world over the 100 meter and 200 meter distances.


Other examples include Daniel Snowman, the author of a book about the Arctic and Antarctica; Christopher Coke, a notorious Jamaican drug dealer; the rapper Black Rob who was sentenced to seven years in prison for grand larceny, and Dr. A.J. Splatt, a doctor of urology.


Are all of these examples just coincidences? For instance, would Usain Bolt run just as fast if his name was Usain Plod? Alter concludes, ‘Researchers have shown that our names take root deep within our mental worlds, drawing us magnetically towards the concepts they embody.’”


Source: Adam Alter, "Would Usain Bolt Run More Slowly with the Name Usain Plod?" Science Friday (4-4-13).





  • ME

    • Names

        • Our oldest son got his first name from my middle name

        • Our middle son got his middle name from my Father and brother (it is the family middle name)

        • Our youngest son got one of his two middle names from my wife’s father’s first name

        • Names are important and they carry significance and meaning

    • Wrenched

        • When our boys were younger, I would get on the floor and wrestle with them

          • On one occasion I had our middle son over my shoulder and our oldest son pinned on the floor

          • While I was wrestling our oldest son on the floor our middle son started to fall off my shoulder

          • Had I not caught him, he would have landed head-first on the floor

          • So that would not happen, I tightened my grip on him and my shoulder got wrenched – I am certain that I injured my rotator cuff at that point

          • It took many years and many prayers for it to finally be healed

        • Busted knuckles

          • There have been several times when I have been working on a car that I have busted my knuckles trying to loosen a bolt

          • I a putting all my strength into trying to turn the bolt or plug when it finally gives way or the socket slips off the bolt or nut and I slam my knuckles into the frame of the car

          • That is never fun

          • That is definitely a wrenched socket


  • WE

    • Family names

        • How many of us have names that are significant to our families?

        • Perhaps our names have meaning because of when we were born or circumstances around our birth

    • Wrenched

        • How many of us have wrenched our shoulder, knee, back, ankle, etc.?

        • How many of us have busted our knuckles working on a vehicle or some other project?


Jacob is preparing to meet his brother Esau, but the Lord needs to do a work in his life prior to that meeting. ​​ Jacob is not able to sleep, so he moves his family across the Jabbok River and remains on the northern side by himself. ​​ This is just what the Lord needed in order to confront Jacob alone. ​​ As we will see, a wrestling match ensues and eventually Jacob concedes and clings to the Lord. ​​ What the author of Genesis wants us to understand from this passage is that . . .


BIG IDEA – Instead of wrestling with God, we must cling to God.


Let’s pray


  • GOD (Genesis 32:22-32)

    • Wrenched (vv. 22-26)

        • Insomnia

          • I do not blame Jacob for not being able to sleep

          • He has not seen his brother, Esau, for 20 years

          • He left 20 years before at the prompting of his mother, because Esau wanted to kill him

          • As we saw last week, the messengers that Jacob sent to Esau, returned with the message that Esau was coming to meet Jacob with 400 men

          • I think I would have a hard time sleeping too

          • He had already prayed

          • Now he was making himself busy as he waited for the next day to dawn

        • River crossing

          • Jacob took his two wives, two maidservants, and his eleven sons and crossed the Jabbok [yab-boke’] River

          • After they crossed, he sent all of his possessions across the Jabbok

          • Jabbok River

            • “This river in eastern Canaan flows through deep-cut canyons into the Jordan about 23 miles north of the Dead Sea. ​​ It is approximately 50 miles long and descends from its source at 1900 feet above sea level to about 115 feet below sea level where it meets the Jordan.” ​​ [Hamilton, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 18-50, 328]

            • It flows from east to west about halfway between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea

            • The modern name for it is the Wady es Zerka, meaning “the blue” or “Blue River”

            • It ancient times, it was “the boundary between the kingdoms of Sihon of Heshbon and Og of Bashan.” [Keil & Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, Volume 1, The Pentateuch, 195]

          • I believe this river crossing was significant and by God’s design, so Jacob would be alone

          • “British essayist Walter Savage Landor called solitude “the audience-chamber of God.” ​​ [Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Pentateuch, 133]

          • God had some work to do with Jacob before he returned to Canaan and before he saw Esau

        • Wrestling match

          • With Jacob alone, a man now comes and wrestles with him until daybreak

          • The man is not identified until verse 30, where we find out that it is God

          • When the man saw that he could not overpower Jacob, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip and probably popped it out of joint

            • Some significant thoughts

              • “Humbling himself, God has come to Jacob on some type of even terms.” ​​ [Waltke, Genesis: A Commentary, 446]

              • Jacob is 97 years old [Walton, The NIV Application Commentary, Genesis, 605]

              • Jacob was no weakling – if you remember he rolled the stone away from the mouth of the well and watered Laban’s sheep in the presence of Rachel (Genesis 29:10)

            • “A mere touch of the divine conquers Jacob.” ​​ [Waltke, 446]

          • PRINCIPLE #1 – With God, we have to lose to win. ​​ [Walton, 606]

            • “The Lord cannot fully bless a man until He has first conquered him.” ​​ [A.W. Tozer cited by Wiersbe, 133]

            • How many of us have wrestled with God in the past?

              • Perhaps it over a relationship

              • Maybe it was concerning a job or career path

              • Many of us have probably wrestled with God about a financial decision

              • All of us have wrestled with God, before becoming a follower of Jesus Christ

              • Did God have to weaken you in some way in order for you to submit or concede to Him?

              • What was the result of submitting/conceding to Him?

            • How many of us are currently wrestling with God about something in our lives?

              • Is it relational, financial, physical, emotional, and/or spiritual?

              • Will it require God weakening you in some way in order for you to submit or concede?

              • Are you willing to submit to Him right now?

              • God is sovereign, eternal, all-knowing, all-powerful, loving, merciful, and so much more

              • He has your best interests at heart and knows you better than you know yourself

              • What He wants for you will be what is best for you

            • #1 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Concede my wrestling match with the Lord and allow Him to guide and direct my life.

          • While Jacob has conceded the wrestling match, he still clings to the man (God)

        • Clinging to God

          • The wrestling match moves from the physical to the spiritual

          • The man asks Jacob to let him go, because it was daybreak

          • Jacob replies that he will not let go unless the man blesses him

          • “Jacob prevails with prayer, not with natural strength.” ​​ [Waltke, 446]

          • “That night, as Jacob stood alone by the river Jabbok, God met him. ​​ There were hours of desperate, agonized conflict, spiritual and, as it seemed to Jacob, physical also. ​​ Jacob had hold of God; he wanted a blessing, an assurance of divine favour and protection in this crisis, but he could not get what he sought. ​​ Instead, he grew ever more conscious of his own state—utterly helpless and, without God, utterly hopeless. ​​ He felt the full bitterness of his unscrupulous, cynical ways, now coming home to roost. ​​ He had hitherto been self-reliant, believing himself to be more than a match for anything that might come, but now he felt his complete inability to handle things, and knew with blinding, blazing certainty that never again dare he trust himself to look after himself and to carve out his destiny. ​​ Never again dare he try to live by his wits. . . . The nature of Jacob’s ‘prevailing’ with God was simply that he held on to God while God weakened him, and wrought in him the spirit of submission and self-distrust; that he had desired God’s blessing so much that he clung to God through all his painful humbling, till he came low enough for God to raise him up by speaking peace to him and assuring him that he need not fear about Esau any more.” ​​ [J. I. Packer cited by Walton, 611]

          • In our weakness, are we clinging to God?

            • In your wrestling match with God has He had to weaken you in some way

            • When He has weakened you, have you let go and walked away from Him or have you hung on for dear life?

            • I want to encourage you to cling to the Lord when He touches you and weakens you as you wrestle with Him

            • #2 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Cling to the Lord through my weakened state instead of letting go of Him.

            • Instead of wrestling with God, we must cling to God.

        • The transformation of Jacob is about to happen

    • Renamed (vv. 27-32)

        • Old name (v. 27)

          • The man asked him, “What is your name?”

            • We know that the man is God, so He already knows his name

            • The man is not seeking information, but rather transformation

            • “‘What is your name?’ meant, ‘Are you going to continue living up to your name, deceiving yourself and others; or will you admit what you are and let Me change you?’” ​​ [Wiersbe, 133]

            • We see that Jacob owns up to his past

          • He answered with his name, Jacob

            • Jacob is admitting that he had been deceptive in the past

            • He had been deceptive with his brother, father, and Laban

            • For Jacob’s transformation to take place, he had to acknowledge who he had been

            • The same is true for us

          • PRINCIPLE #2 – Spiritual metamorphosis can happen when we acknowledge our sin.

            • Unbelievers

              • It is more than just believing in God

              • It is more than just being a good person (good person test)

              • Romans 3:23; 6:23; 5:8

              • 1 Corinthians 15:3-4

              • Romans 10:9-10

              • #3 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Be saved by confessing Jesus with my mouth and believing in Him with my heart.

            • Believers

              • Perhaps you feel like your spiritual life has plateaued

              • Maybe there is unconfessed sin in your life (1 John 1:9)

              • You can jump start your spiritual life once again, by confessing (agreeing with God about) your sin

              • #4 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Agree with God about my sin and receive His forgiveness and purification.

          • Jacob had to own up to who he was before God could transform him

        • New name (v. 28)

          • The man told Jacob that his name would no longer be Jacob, but Israel

            • “In the Bible, receiving a new name signifies making a new beginning (17:4-5, 15; Num. 13:16; John 1:40-42), and this was Jacob’s opportunity to make a fresh start in life.” ​​ [Wiersbe, 133]

            • His name was changed from “deceiver” to “he struggles with God”

            • In Hebrew, it literally reads “they shall say no more” or “it shall be said no more” [Weinfeld cited by Hamilton, 333 and Waltke, 446]

            • A spiritual metamorphosis is taking place in Jacob’s life

            • People will no longer refer to him as a deceiver or a supplanter, but rather as a prevailer and overcomer [Waltke, 446]

          • It is not that Jacob’s desire to prevail has changed, but rather how he prevails that has changed – no longer by manipulation and deception, but through God’s power

          • Jacob has been transformed from just believing in God to submitting his life completely to God

            • “If [Since] God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s house, [then] the Lord will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.” (Genesis 28:20-22)

            • That was when Jacob believed in God

            • Now, he is following Him with his whole life (sanctification, spiritual maturity)

            • That was a 20 year process for Jacob

            • I accepted the Lord as the age of 4, but it was not until I was 36 years old that I really submitted my entire life to Him

            • Have you submitted your whole life to the Lord? (it is more than just believing in Him)

              • Read Luke 14:25-33

              • Read Philippians 3:8-11

          • Today can be the day that a spiritual metamorphosis will take place in your life

          • Since Jacob had shared his name, he asks the man for His name

        • No name (v. 29)

          • The man does not give Jacob His name, but rather asks him a question

          • “Why do you ask my name?”

          • The author immediately states that the man blessed him there

          • No name is given for the man

            • In Judges 13:17-18 we see Manoah, Samson’s father, asking the angel of Yahweh the same question

            • The angel’s responds the same way, but with an explanation – “Why do you ask my name? ​​ It is beyond understanding.”

            • “In both instances the silence, the hesitancy, of the other being, begins to produce within Jacob/Manoah a realization of the supernatural status of that being. ​​ One wonders if ‘Why is it that you inquire about my name?’ is another way of asking, ‘Jacob, don’t you realize who I am?’” [Hamilton, 336]

          • The author continues with Jacob’s naming of the place

        • Place name (v. 30)

          • He calls the place Peniel (pen-oo-ale’) which means “face of God” or “I have seen God face to face”

          • It is here that Jacob acknowledges whom he has been wrestling with – it is God!

          • We can perhaps return to God’s request that Jacob let Him go because it is daybreak

          • Jacob may have simply seen the form of God and not the face of God

          • His encounter with God was person-to-person without an intermediary [Hamilton, 336]

        • Tendon tradition (vv. 31-32)

          • The man has departed at this point, since the sun rose above Jacob

          • Jacob passed by Peniel on his way to cross the Jabbok River and rejoin his family

          • Jacob has a visible limp because of having his hip wrenched in the wrestling match

          • The author gives us a history lesson about the Israelites and their eating habits

            • The Israelites do not eat the tendon that is attached to the socket of the hip

            • The reason given is because of what happened to Jacob’s hip socket in this narrative

        • We are going to see how this spiritual metamorphosis will empower Jacob for the future

        • PRINCIPLE #3 – “When God rules our lives, then He can trust us with His power; for only those who are under His authority have the right to exercise His authority.” ​​ [Wiersbe, 134]


  • YOU

    • Are you wrestling with the Lord right now and do you need to concede?

    • Do you need to cling to the Lord in your weakened state?

    • Is spiritual metamorphosis something you are ready to embrace either for the first time or as a renewal of your faith?

    • Are you ready to submit your life completely to the Lord?


  • WE

    • We can help those who are currently wrestling with the Lord by encouraging them to cling to the Lord as He brings spiritual metamorphosis


“On March 10, 1974, Lt. Hiroo Onada was the last World War II Japanese soldier to surrender.


Onada had been left on the island Lubang in the Philippines on December 25, 1944, with the command to ‘carry on the mission even if Japan surrenders.’ Four other Japanese soldiers were left on the island as Japan evacuated Lubang. One soldier surrendered in 1950. Another was killed in a skirmish with local police in 1954. Another was killed in 1972. Onada continued his war alone.


All efforts to convince him to surrender or to capture him failed. He ignored messages from loudspeakers announcing Japan's surrender and that Japan was now an ally of the United States. Leaflets were dropped over the jungle begging him to surrender so he could return to Japan. He refused to believe or surrender.


Over the years he lived off the land and raided the fields and gardens of local citizens. He was responsible for killing at least 30 nationals during his 29 year personal war. Almost a half million dollars was spent trying to locate and convince him to surrender. 13,000 men were used to try to locate him.


Finally, on March 10, 1974, almost 30 years after World War II ended, Onada surrendered his rusty sword after receiving a personal command from his former superior officer, who read the terms of the cease-fire order. Onada handed his sword to President Marcos, who pardoned him. The war was over.


Onada was 22-years-old when left on the island. He returned a prematurely aged man of 52. Onada stated, ‘Nothing pleasant happened in the 29 years in the jungle.’


Like Onada, many people are fighting a lonely battle against the God who is offering reconciliation and peace.”


Source: Summarized from a 1974 story in Newsweek.