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.
It’s amazing how quickly we can forget the context of a situation. In Genesis 32, Jacob wrestles with “a man” whom he later recognizes in some way as God. Most Christian commentators have taken this to be God the Son, the pre-incarnate Christ. Jacob wrestled with God all night. He wouldn’t let go. He wouldn’t surrender, even after his hip was disjointed.
We forget the context really quickly. What was Jacob doing there, alone? He had sent his livestock, his wives, and his children ahead of him because he was expecting to encounter Esau, the brother he had gravely offended. Jacob wanted to appease Esau. Just in case, Jacob wanted Esau to wage war with or take captive all his family and possessions before Jacob himself would meet up with Esau. That way Jacob could run away if he needed to.
Yes, Jacob wanted to be well positioned to flee and abandon his family if he was threatened. How did we go and make him brave? I have no idea.
What else do we see about Jacob’s frailty? He is wrestling all night. He’s wrestling with God. His hip comes out of joint when God the Son touched it and caused it to come apart. Do we really think for a moment that Jacob was the one who was preventing God from leaving? Do we actually think Jacob could do anything at all to confound God? No, it seems apparent that God wasn’t really fighting very hard. Jacob was in the battle of his life, but God was not.
What was the outcome of the wrestling match? God changed Jacob’s name to be the one who wrestles with God and man and who prevails. That’s what Israel means. But, truth be told, Jacob could never prevail against God and he had a pretty poor track record prevailing against humans as well. He was fleeing both his brother and his father in law. He was not brave by any stretch of the imagination.
We pause, then, and realize that it is the work of God to make us what we are. He has called Jacob the one who prevails, therefore Jacob is exactly the one who prevails. He has called Christians a faultless bride of Christ. That is exactly what we are. He has called us eternal, holy, godly people. That is what we are. Do we fail to look it? Yes, just as Jacob seems more like Jacob (the deceiver) than like Israel (the overcomer). At the same time we are saint and sinner, mighty and powerless. All we have, all we are, is because our Lord Jesus has worked in us according to His good pleasure. We thought we were wrestling with sin, and we were, but it is Jesus who won the battle against sin. We thought we were doing mighty things, but we did them only through the grace of God working in us.
Thanks be to God who calls us his people, and we are.
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