The sun was rising as Jacob left Peniel, and he was limping because of the injury to his hip (Genesis 32:31 NLT).
Up until that night beside the Jabbok River, Jacob had been able to get anything he wanted. Sometimes he had had to work around the obstacles, as with Rachel, but in the end, he had gotten it all. Now it looked like he was going to do it again.
To be sure, he was definitely in a tight spot. He had been on his way back to Canaan with all the family and wealth he had acquired during his 20 years in Syria. Maybe he thought that his brother Esau would have forgotten how he had cheated him, but now the word had come that Esau was coming to meet him with 400 armed men. Jacob, forever looking out for himself, had put his family and his flocks and herds between himself and Esau, and now he was left alone to wrestle with the Man who was clearly God.
But Mr. Tough Guy Jacob appeared to be winning. He was going to force God to bless him. Foolish thought! God simply reached out and touched Jacob’s hip, throwing it out of joint. In that moment Jacob saw all his dreams of making God do his will go glimmering. All he could do was to cling to God and beg for the divine blessing that he now knew he could not do without. But this is something our gracious God longs to do, and he gave it freely.
But then what? Jacob went out limping to meet his enemy brother. Wasn’t that cruel of God? If he was going to bless Jacob, why didn’t he heal him? Oh, I don’t think it was cruel at all. The rest of his life I think Jacob blessed God for the reminder with every step: I can’t, but God can; I can’t, but God can. That is the understanding every one of us must come to, especially those of us who have always been successful: I can’t, but God can. If God has given you some reminder of your weakness (as he did Jacob – and Paul [2 Cor 12:9]), don’t pity yourself, but thank God for it. You can’t, but he can!