Thursday 01 October 2015

Bible Book:

“Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.” (v. 24)

Genesis 32:22-32 Thursday 1 October 2015

Psalm: Psalm 101


Since yesterday's passage Jacob has married two sisters(daughters of his kinsman Laban) - after two dodgy seven-yearcontracts and a bit of a deceptive mix-up in the marriage bed! Hehas also slept with their maidservants, with permission from bothwives, and has produced in total (at last count) eleven sons andone daughter. Time to return to the home country! After a disputeover wages and lots of double-crossing between Jacob and hisfather-in-law over the family livelihood of sheep and goats, theyeventually part on good terms and Jacob & Co. are about toreturn to Canaan. Twenty years after he stole his blessing, Jacobmust face his brother again. So he sends messengers to try to buyEsau's forgiveness with gifts. News arrives that Esau is on his waywith 400 men. Five hundred animals are immediately sent recordeddelivery. Jacob is petrified at the thought of seeing his brotheragain. Here we go again!

The story of 'Wrestling Jacob' is oftenused as an example of how we mentally wrestle with the things ofGod, with our faith or doubt, or with prayer, or with certainissues. We often see God in these situations as the steadfast towerof strength who refuses to be moved, and in the end, we emergetired but transformed (usually for the better) by the experience.That's all an important part of Christian experience. But is thisreally the biblical point of the story?

Jacob was once again at a turning point,and about to face the very thing he'd been running from all theseyears. But, for all his time to reflect, had he really changed?Esau once sold his birthright for a bowl of soup - his daily breadmore important to him than status or wealth. But he was gutted whenhe lost his father's blessing. Jacob, meanwhile, had proven to be awily and conniving character, who would often stoop to great lowsfor personal gain and would run from responsibility (Harsh,perhaps! He wasn't all that bad!) Yet Jacob thought he could buyhis brother's favour with sheep and goats. A peace offering, butborne out of fear. Yet God was with him! Had he learned nothing?Would he refuse to change his ways?

So a man came and wrestled with him untildaybreak. And Jacob learned afterwards that the man was in factGod. So Jacob had seen God, and striven with him, and survived. Andhe limped off (with pride?), and with the new name of Israel. Godwas perhaps enacting the struggle God had with this man; this manwho was chosen to bear the name that would carry God's purposesdown the years. But not even God will change a person against theirwill. 

"Contented nowupon my thigh
I halt, till life's short journey end;
all helplessness, all weakness, I
on thee alone for strength depend;
nor have I power from thee to move:
thy nature and thy name is love."
(Charles Wesley) (StF 461)

To Ponder

  • Read on a bit to Genesis 33:4. Which other biblical story doesthat remind you of?
  • Are we equally resistant to the God who wrestles with us? Whenmight you have caused God frustration in your stubbornness orpride? And when have you yielded to God's love and werechanged?
  • Our free will is also a gift from God. God cannot (or refusesto) change our ways by force. How do you reflect on this in thelight of the world situation at the moment? Spend a bit of timewrestling with that!
  • In what way is Jesus, in his obedience to God's will, the TrueIsrael?
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