Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the three-year lectionary.
In our Old Testament passage this week, from Genesis 32:22-30, we find Jacob gathering the courage to seek reconciliation with his brother. He has approached Esau’s territory and has information that he can expect to see his brother soon.
Presumably because of the old animosity which he remembers, Jacob fears this encounter. When he last saw his brother, his life was threatened. Jacob divides his family, his flocks, his herds, and his servants, as well as scattering his personal possessions, sending them all ahead of him. His intention is to arrive last, once he decides it is safe to arrive.
In the evening, Jacob is met by “the angel of the Lord,” who wrestles with him through the night. If we remember anything at all about angelic beings it is that they are of immense power. There is no need on the part of the angel to struggle with Jacob. If we have studied much theology at all, we realize that when the term “the” angel of the Lord is used, it is often taken to mean God the Son.
What is happening in this passage? Surely Jacob is learning that his plans will not actually prevail. He is approximately as unable to create his destiny as he thought. All the blessing, riches, and power he will ever have come from the hands of God.
Something else happens, though. At this time of divine intervention, Jacob, whose name means approximately “deceiver,” is given a name of great promise, “Israel.” While in his own ability Jacob would try to manipulate his life to meet his own desires, Israel becomes the man, the tribe, even the nation of divine promise.
What are God’s promises in Christ? They are his promises for all his people. Promises such as forgiveness, life, and salvation. These are eternal and unshakable promises. They will not be ruined no matter how we wrestle against them. In Jesus there is forgiveness, grace, and guidance.
Jacob is restored to his family. He continues in the promise made to Abraham. God is still at work.
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