The Jabbok Encounter

The Jabbok Encounter

(Author’s Note:

This is the 2nd blog entry I submitted to Act Like A Man

I learned this lesson, when I was going through what I consider the most painful event in my life: Losing the girl I planned to marry. But God used that event to teach me something I never thought I would have learned.. or even wanted to learn at all.)

Credits to owner: flickr/thecreaturedave

Do you know what Jabbok is? I hope after reading this blog, Jabbok will have a more profound meaning in your faith walk.

The Jabbok is a tributary of the Jordan (a tributary is a stream that drains water into a river). It’s Hebrew name is derived either from the root meaning “to drain or empty itself ” or from a sound imitating the noise of water flowing over pebbles. (source:

When I first read about it in Genesis 32:22-32, I said to myself: “what a wonderful thing for Jacob to encounter God and wrestle with Him”. After all, it was the closest and most physical that a human being can ever get with God. Imagine skin to skin, head to head brawling with the Angel of God all night long? You could hear him grunt, smell his breath, taste his sweat, feel his power — who wouldn’t want that? And Jacob left that place with a new name and blessings from God himself — who wouldn’t want that?

The Jabbok of Jacob

But to Jacob, brawling with a stranger who came out of nowhere was the last thing he’d ever wish for that night after he crossed the Jabbok ford.

Picture this:

Jacob was alone. All he had was gone–Family, servants, wealth, livestock.

Jacob was tired. He spent the whole day mentally and physically planning against an imminent bloodshed.
Jacob was distressed and terrified to death. Esau, the brother he had cheated birthright from, was coming towards his direction with 400 men.

Jacob was devastated. His soul is so weary, that he was mentally conditioned for a 50% chance of survival (v.7-8).
And just when he was about to get a much needed rest,  an unknown antagonist came and wrestled with him — until DAYBREAK!

Wow! Without commercial breaks, a 12-round boxing match lasts less than 1 hour, while a mixed martial arts championship is roughly 30 minutes. But this unknown man wrestled with Jacob for hours until daybreak.

The Jabbok of Every Believer

But let me show you what must happen at Jabbok, and more importantly, why this very thing that happened to Jacob needs to happen to every believer.

Jabbok is a place of emptying of one’s self. The name of the place, “to empty itself”, is not a coincidence; indeed God really doesn’t leave things to chances. It is a place where God drains our human strengths, the place where God first allows us to struggle to the point of exhaustion while we are relying on our own abilities, talents and skills.

When human strength ends, the power of God excels — Kenneth Copeland

Jabbok is a place of crossing. And it must be crossed alone. You might have crossed your “Red Sea” in a conference or retreat, along with a group of new believers as you leave your “Egypt”. Or other believers cheered and celebrated with your victory as you cross your “Jordan River” in that water baptism event. But you will cross your Jabbok alone! No support groups, no counselors, no friends. This is your private war – between you and the Lord alone. If the Christian would be strong in the Lord, he first needs to find himself alone with the Lord.

Jabbok is a place of brokenness. By daybreak, Jacob was no longer fighting — only clinging. In our Jabbok encounter, God will eventually bring us to a point of utter brokenness and dependence where we no longer fight, but just hold on to Him. He knows exactly where to touch your life to get your attention.

You will never know that God is all you need, until God is all you’ve got. — Rick Warren, Purpose Driven Life.

Jabbok is a place of surrender. Jacob represents the man of the flesh. He represents that person who lives carnally despite having an earlier encounter with God at Bethel. The truth is many of us are just like Jacob in our carnality — stubborn, unyielding, fighting, self-sufficient, in spite of having spiritual encounters and open heaven moments in our Christian lives.

But Jabbok is a place of surrender. It is a place where the Jacob in us is given a crippling blow. It is where God deals with us not only about who we were, but who we will be. Not just about our sins, but about our very character and identity.

You are not ready for Jabbok until you are desperate! You have to come to the end of yourself.

Jabbok is a place of transformation. Here we have seen a Rite of Passage. In Jabbok, Jacob was ushered into his new identity. It is where he made his total surrender to God. It is where he got his new character, and new name. He is no longer Jacob the “trickster” or “cheater”. He is now Israel, the “prince with God”.

Jabbok is a place of God-given victory.  We all knew Jacob lose the fight. But surprisingly, God called him Israel — for he has “struggled with God and with men, and have PREVAILED”.

Here, another great paradox is revealed: when we surrender to God’s power and will, He gives us the victory.

And so if we want to emerge victorious from our Jabbok encounter, we ought to surrender. It is the place where our carnality is to suffer a glorious defeat at the hands of the Almighty. It is the place where in sweet surrender, we will win our greatest victory.

Have you encountered your Jabbok? If not, then get yourself prepared. Every believer, every man of God that He has prepared for mighty and good works, has to go through his Jabbok experience alone.

I just did.

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