Tag Archives: Jacob

Wrestling With God

When I was a girl, Saturday tea times were spent eating bread and dripping and watching the wrestling on tv (Oh yes, we knew how to live :))

I’ve no idea why, it was just what we did, but to watch two men (because it always was men – think Giant Haystacks and Mick McManus) tussling and scuffling to see who came out on top.  There was of course lots of showmanship and play acting, but you get the idea.

Genesis 32:22-32 (MSG)

22-23 But during the night he got up and took his two wives, his two maidservants, and his eleven children and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He got them safely across the brook along with all his possessions.
24-25 But Jacob stayed behind by himself, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he couldn’t get the best of Jacob as they wrestled, he deliberately threw Jacob’s hip out of joint.
26 The man said, “Let me go; it’s daybreak.”
Jacob said, “I’m not letting you go ’til you bless me.”
27 The man said, “What’s your name?”
He answered, “Jacob.”
28 The man said, “But no longer. Your name is no longer Jacob. From now on it’s Israel (God-Wrestler); you’ve wrestled with God and you’ve come through.”
29 Jacob asked, “And what’s your name?”
The man said, “Why do you want to know my name?” And then, right then and there, he blessed him.
30 Jacob named the place Peniel (God’s Face) because, he said, “I saw God face-to-face and lived to tell the story!”

31-32 The sun came up as he left Peniel, limping because of his hip. (This is why Israelites to this day don’t eat the hip muscle; because Jacob’s hip was thrown out of joint.)

This is Jacob the trickster.  He has misled and taken advantage of his brother, his father and his uncle.  Perhaps he is feeling he is about to get his comeuppance…

Jacob has taken his wives, servants, children and all his worldly possessions across the river.  But for now he is alone – Just him and God – and a struggle ensues.

Jacob comes out of the encounter wounded.

Is this because he struggled?  Because he wouldn’t give in and let go?  Because he insisted on receiving a blessing?  As a payback for all his tricks?

Is Jacob wounded as such, or just changed by his meeting with God?  By seeing his face and wrestling with him?  He has struggled with God and he bears the marks of his encounter.

This video has some interesting thoughts:

Are we up for wrestling with God?  Or would we rather have everything simple and straightforward – no struggle required?  I think faith worth having is a faith we’ve struggled with.  Until we have wrestled with what it’s all about and what it means to us, it remains an inherited faith, not one that will stand up under pressure.  It is very easy to trot out trite platitudes, but until we have wrestled we do not know if they stand up or not.

It’s unlikely that we will come away from a true struggle with God unmarked.  It is in the struggles that we are changed, that we are stretched, in the facing up to the realities of our lives. There is nothing wrong with wrestling with God, having an honest conversation, admitting our fears, where we are going…

Don’t be afraid of the struggle, for in that we will be formed.  Jacob came away not just with a dislocated hip, but also with a new name.  It was at that point he became Israel – and the rest, as they say, is history.  But without his willingness to wrestle with God – who knows.

Am I willing to struggle with God?  To wrestle over who is in charge?  How God will bless me?  What I need to let go of?  What I ought to be doing?  To let God touch me, challenge me, humble me and equip me?  Will I receive his blessing, his new name, his future?

Lord,
I come to you,
knowing that answers are not always easy,
faith is easily come by,
that sometimes we need to wrestle
– with our consciences,
our selfishness,
our manipulative ways,
our wants
and even with you.

In the struggle Lord,
re-form me,
renew me,
rename me,
re-purpose me
and reassure me.

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Forgiveness in Action

I’m sure many of us are familiar with the musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (No idea why it uses that spelling of colour, but there you go!).  Many of us have probably sung it in some form or other – we used to sing it in music lessons at school.

The musical ends at the point of Joseph’s joyful reunion with his father, Jacob

(and who can ever resist some Donny Osmond!)

But this weeks Old Testament passage picks up after that, after Jacob has died:

Genesis 50:15-21

Joseph Reassures His Brothers

 15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?” 16 So they sent word to Joseph, saying, “Your father left these instructions before he died: 17‘This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” When their message came to him, Joseph wept.

 18 His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said.

 19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21 So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.

The brothers are worried that now their father has died, Joseph will get his own back on them for all the terrible things they did to him, and so they beg him to forgive them.

I’m not sure I could have been so generous, but Joseph sees the bigger picture, and he sees the God who holds it.  He is able to see how God has worked, despite what has happened to him.

He realises that he is no one to judge them.  Perhaps he remembers the things he has got wrong in his own life…

He lives out the forgiveness that he knows in his own life by letting go of those things that his brothers have done wrong against him.

Can we?

By the Providence Lithograph Company (http://thebiblerevival.com/clipart/1907/gen45.jpg) [Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons”]

Lord,

help me to let go

of all those wrongs

I feel have been done to me.

Help me to see you,

and feel your forgiveness in my life,

and live out that forgiveness

towards others