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rosservice call /gazebo/set_model_configuration is way better than the solutions posted here so far, no plugin needed. Here is a complete example of how to achieve this from terminal:

rosservice call /gazebo/set_model_configuration "model_name: 'acrobat'
urdf_param_name: 'robot_description'
joint_names:
- 'joint1'
joint_positions:
- 3.3"

Tested on Gazebo 7, ROS kinetic and Ubuntu 16.04 with the acrobat robot

rosservice call /gazebo/set_model_configuration is way far better than the solutions posted here so far, no plugin needed. Here is a complete example of how to achieve this from terminal:

rosservice call /gazebo/set_model_configuration "model_name: 'acrobat'
urdf_param_name: 'robot_description'
joint_names:
- 'joint1'
joint_positions:
- 3.3"

Tested on Gazebo 7, ROS kinetic and Ubuntu 16.04 with the acrobat robot