Monday, September 26, 2016

Wrestling with God

Today's Reading: 
Genesis 32:13-34:31
Luke 8:4-21
Psalms 12:1-8
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Focus Verses: Genesis 32:24-28
24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob's hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, "Let me go, for it is daybreak." But Jacob replied, "I will not let you go unless you bless me." 27 The man asked him, "What is your name?" "Jacob," he answered. 28 Then the man said, "Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome."

Jacob was afraid to face his brother, Esau, because he had stolen his blessing by deceiving their father, Isaac. Many years earlier, when Jacob had gone to his father to steal the blessing, his father, Isaac, asked him, "Who is it?"

Jacob lied to his father and said, "It's your son, Esau." That lie and the bitterness it caused made it necessary for Jacob to run for his life. Esau wanted to kill him and probably would have if Jacob had not fled.

In today's reading, we see an older and wiser Jacob returning to his homeland and preparing himself for the awful necessity of facing Esau once again. In his dread, Jacob spends a sleepless night wrestling with God—a struggle to submit to God and to trust God's promise to bless him.

As Jacob wrestled with the man (some sort of vision or representation of God), he said, "I won't let go unless you bless me." The man said, "What is your name?"

Remember, that years ago when his aged and failing father had asked the same question, Jacob lied to him. This time, when the angel of the Lord asked the same question, he answered, "Jacob." In so doing, Jacob owned his true identity. He admitted that he was indeed a "schemer" and a "heel grabber" who had pushed and pulled with God and men his whole life.

God knocked Jacob's hip out of joint and gave him a new name, Israel, which means "one who struggles with God." This is the great struggle we all face – faith in God vs. faith in self. Jacob discovered that walking with a limp actually made it easier for him to walk by faith.

Response and Action:
I need to be honest about who I am. What are the ways I struggle with God? What am I trying to do in my own strength and my own wisdom? How is that struggle keeping me from truly living by faith in God? What strengths are getting in the way of trust? I need to earnestly seek and believe he rewards those who seek him. I need to recognize my need for God and surrender my life to his care and guidance.

O God, help me to be honest with you and with myself. Help me to trust you with all my heart and not lean on my own understanding. Help me to acknowledge you in all my ways. If my strengths get in the way of my faith, O God, by your grace and mercy I ask you to turn them to weakness. Better still, give me the humility to see every strength as a gift from you to be used for your purposes and for your glory. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

 Spiritual Formation Verses: Hebrews 12:11-12
11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. 12 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.

Wrestling with God: Loving the God We Don't Understand
by James Emery White

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